The Clintons and Trump in the New York of the 1 Percent
In an essay in The New York Times Magazine, columnist Maureen Dowd sheds light on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s climb through New York’s high society.
“We are in the final days of the first presidential contest between two New Yorkers in 72 years,” Dowd writes. “On election night, the party and the wake will both be held in Manhattan. Hillary will hold hers at the Javits Convention Center, with its literal glass ceiling.”
Dowd examines the Clintons’ move from Washington, D.C., to New York after Bill left the presidency:
With Hillary’s Senate bid underway, the Clintons held out their tin cup. They had been fund-raising in the city nonstop since 1990, but the asks intensified as they started their foundation in 2001 and rubbed shoulders with all the new wealth on Wall Street, which was driven by hedge funds and technology funds. With book deals and lucrative speeches and Bill’s role as an adviser to Ronald Burkle’s private-equity firm, Yucaipa, the Clintons worked their way out of the debt accrued by legal bills from a cascade of federal investigations to earn an estimated $230 million in the next 15 years.
As the Clintons fashioned a new life in New York, Trump was transforming himself as well — from a risk-taking developer facing bankruptcy to a low-risk licenser of his name for other people’s projects, from a brazen builder to a gilded reality-TV star on “The Apprentice.” He had come out of Queens, a pushy New York kid with family money but no social tools to climb the society ladder. “Even stuck out on Avenue Z, his head was always in Manhattan,” says Wayne Barrett, author of the biography “Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth.” Gwenda Blair, author of “The Trumps,” says Trump, resplendent in the ’70s in his three-piece burgundy suit with matching shoes and matching limo, recalled “this strapping lad from the provinces who comes to the city, like a figure out of Balzac’s ‘Lost Illusions.’?”
The New York society scene was set by the Rockefellers and the Astors with a tradition of civility, philanthropy and the arts at its heart. Even those who make money the rough way — especially them — adopt this genteel facade. Michael Bloomberg is the quintessential emblem of this model and Donald Trump is the quintessential raspberry to it. One top New York foundation official who requested anonymity — many people will only speak anonymously about the Trumps and the Clintons, because both clans are known to be vindictive — notes that “in the community of plutocrats and superachievers who come to New York, Donald Trump is seen as persona non grata. He’s not a civic leader.” New York, this person says, is a place where private-equity C.E.O.s like Henry Kravis and Stephen Schwarzman see themselves making commitments to the public good. Their status doesn’t come only from being in charge of powerful corporations. “It also comes from some attachment to a hospital or university or cultural center. Trump was never part of that ecosystem.” When the tightfisted Trump hosts a charity event for veterans or a charity golf tournament, it is dismissed as something to polish the Trump brand. Trump has turned off many people in the worlds of real estate, banking and law with his strong-arming, fee-shaving or stiffing, bankruptcies and litigiousness. “Most real estate guys won’t go near him,” a leading New York financial executive says. “You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.”
Trump thumps his chest about money, acting as if he’s Bloomberg-wealthy, while the Clintons pretend they have less than they do. Trump wants to belong, to get more legitimacy by elbowing his way into the power crowd, while the Clintons passed that threshold of belonging after two terms in the White House. A top media mogul dismisses all three as outsiders: “No one here thinks of the Clintons as New Yorkers, and Donald is a bridge-and-tunnel person. He’s always been a poseur in New York.”
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly
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