So Are We Now Judging Elected Officials By Who They’ll Talk to on the Phone?

What we’re hearing from many people is that the fact that Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin accepted a call from a clearly pretty hilarious and smart reporter pretending to be billionaire industrialist David Koch tells us something important about the Walker administration. (What saddens me is that I suspect Ian Murphy is already plotting his escape from Buffalo as I type this, but perhaps he’s a true Buffalo loyalist.) It’s an interesting theory. What it definitely tells us is that Walker doesn’t know Koch, and that he’s willing to talk to a campaign donor.

I hate to tell you this, but I’m pretty sure that virtually all elected officials are willing to talk to campaign donors, rich people, and celebrities. Think about it. You’re basically the kind of person who ran for student body president, and suddenly really, really important people want to talk to you. Imagine how thrilling that must be! It should go without saying that this is completely pathetic. This is a big part of why we right-wingers think that politicians should have very narrow, circumscribed powers. They’re not an attractive bunch. Speaking only for myself, the politicians I come closest to admiring are the bona fide nerds who’d rather hang out at a diner in rural Indiana than talk to billionaires or celebrities. 

My guess is that, say, Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, is more likely to talk a call from Barbra Streisand than a Republican assemblyman from Oswego County. We have a bit of a problem here — attention Heisenberg fans! — in that no governor is going to so cavalierly take phone calls from people claiming to be billionaires or celebrities ever again, so this is a hard proposition to test.

But here’s a question: Might a president of the United States who ordered a two-year wage freeze and imposed it on public workers who don’t have any say in the matter actually travel across the country to have dinner in the house of a prominent venture capitalist who has solicited federal funds for green technology (including at least some of his own investments)? And do you think said president might invite celebrity CEOs to join in the fun? The president’s time is pretty precious.

Given the extraordinary wealth Al Gore has amassed since leaving office, it is easy to imagine any president, and indeed any elected official, leaping at the chance to surround herself with such prominent figures. It might help secure a more prosperous and more glamorous post-presidential future, flying around the world in high style, founding global initiatives, and generally being awesome. 

Or we could choose to be a little less cynical. I’m cool either way.

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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