There is a kind of liberalism that doesn’t care, and it is represented by Jamie Gorelick. Gorelick is a high-powered Washington lawyer, so-called progressive, and the current counsel for Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. They hired her to watch their back during the Russia investigation. In a different world, Gorelick could have been on Hillary’s cabinet. Andrew Romano for Yahoo News wrote “If Hillary Clinton were president right now, Jamie Gorelick might have been her attorney general.” The law has two loves: hypotheticals and profit.
Consider how such a person is labeled a liberal, and is somehow allowed to keep that descriptor. In additional to repping for Hillary, Gorelick sits in the board of Amazon.com. She is partner at the five-named Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr law firm in D.C. She defended British Petroleum during the spill, advocated against Student Loan reform in the Obama years, was Vice Chairman of Fannie Mae during their accounting scandal, sat on Daschle’s 9/11 commission, and probably twenty thousand other unknown endeavors which we plebs know nothing about. And now, she stands for Kushner and by extension the entire golden racket of brand Trump:
“Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry,” said Jamie Gorelick, one of his attorneys.
That Gorelick herself could go from Hillary’s possible A.G. to the Kushner-Trump family’s lawyer tells you everything you need to know about how the Beltway operates and how serious these people are about progressive politics.
Annie Karni of Politico gives it straight:
Attorney Jamie Gorelick had just finished vetting potential Cabinet secretaries for Hillary Clinton — and raising money for the failed 2016 Democratic nominee — when Jared Kushner called her last year, seeking legal counsel. Gorelick, who served as deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton and a former member of the 9/11 Commission, was recommended to Kushner by former News Corp. executive Joel Klein, who now serves as chief strategy officer at Oscar, the health insurance company co-founded by Kushner’s younger brother, Josh. Klein told Jared Kushner he needed a real lawyer to sort through nepotism and conflict-of-interest concerns that could bar him from working in the White House for his father-in-law, President Donald Trump.
Karni describes the whole sordid courtship between the powerful agent and their soon-to-be-well-reimbursed law-slinger. The most staggering sentence, one almost past the point of satire—we’re talking bad lawyer-joke territory, here—comes later:
Gorelick, widely rumored to have been Hillary Clinton’s front-runner for attorney general, hesitated before agreeing to represent someone who served as the de facto campaign manager for a candidate who encouraged chants of “Lock Her Up” at rallies. “At the time, I was grieving for Hillary Clinton,” she said. “This was not the transition I was contemplating working on — at all. And I didn’t know Jared Kushner. And I did think twice about it.”
Consider the world where this can happen, where loyalty turns on a dime. Has there ever been anything more like Washington?
Why am I picking on Gorelick? Because she stands for a type. If she should retreat into the woods tomorrow, the Gorelicks of the world would continue to exist, and sell their services in Washington. There will always be scavengers in every ecosystem. What I object to is their being called progressives, and their association with the Democratic party.
Gorelickism is progressivism for hire. It is refined neoliberalism, much as non-alcoholic beer is a refinement of actual booze. Neoliberalism’s single redeeming virtue is that it sincerely loves social justice. That is its only saving grace. Neoliberalism does not confront authoritarianism or pursue the economic justice which social righteousness requires.
Gorelickism is the non-alcoholic version of neoliberalism. It is the most content-free form of progressive belief, like being a hired gun who nods whenever he drives by his home church.
The Democratic Party is filled with Gorelickians. They are so devoid of political attachment, you’d think they were designed to discredit the Democratic Party, simply by association. In this party you have your Lawrence Summerses, your Lloyd Blankfeins, your Robert Rubins, your Zbigniew Brzezinskis. Gorelickism is the official ideology of the smiling soul-crushers from good schools, what British Richard Seymour memorably called ” ‘spads’ – members of the gilded generation of elite educated special advisors, technocrats from the hard centre moulded in the early days of New Labour.” Seymour described one of their number as having the “faux sympathetic demeanour of a human resources manager firing you,” which sounds about right. In a Post article about Gorelick, Marc Fisher noted that
In a quintessentially D.C. move, some longtime friends of Gorelick contacted for this article offered complimentary comments about her on the record, and then, after asking if they could make other remarks without attribution, bashed their colleague to smithereens. Those people will not be quoted in this article, by name or anonymously, as one tiny bulwark against outright awfulness. ... Her clients were fine with the division between what Gorelick does in her day job and what she does as a political activist. Some of her friends, not so much. And that, Gorelick said, “has been hurtful. I’m not an advocate for the Trump administration; I take hard cases.”
And is well paid for them! There have always been faux-progressives, who would sell themselves as packhorses to the 1%. But those people at least make a pretense of uniting act with awareness.
Even Matthew Yglesias, who handwaved workers being crushed by a factory, has a kind of shame. But the Gorelicks of the world know no such restraint. The liberal cynicism on display is breathtaking. I have been writing about the Democratic party for a very long time. Still, there are moments when, frankly speaking, you have no explanation for what is happening beyond the shameless, hustling self-interest which governs the left edge of the ruling class.
Gorelick, if she is a liberal, should not represent this family. The Trumps are potent plutocrats, and will have whatever helpers they wish. But no progressive should be among them. If we let the Gorelicks of the world get away with fawning upon the strong, then the bar is lowered. This way cannot be made straight.
Defenders of Gorelick keep using this term “pure.” Fisher again:
“It wouldn’t occur to anyone to criticize someone who goes to work on behalf of indigent clients,” said Judith Lichtman, a longtime friend of Gorelick and for many years president of the National Partnership for Women and Families. “I’m the purest girl around, but what I believe is pure is different from what somebody else does. Jamie is holding her principles near and dear, because she is always honest and ethical and she devotes herself not only to her paying clients, but to people who are unserved by the legal profession.”
And Gorelick again:
“We rejected calling what happened a ‘clash of civilizations,’” Gorelick said. “We rejected any notion of a ‘war on Islam.’ That all came from what I would call the sensible middle. How are you ever going to get that in an environment where people insist on a kind of political purity?”
What a funny, convenient world these Washington lawyers live in. How odd it is, that their morality coincides with profitability. What a neat co-happenstance. How fortunate, that what they think is right happens to be that which is enriching to them personally. What a surprising circumstance. How kind of God, to arrange the world and right and wrong for their effortless fucking convenience.
Let us ignore that Ms. Lichtman has just compared the lament of billionaires to the indigent. It is possible Lichtman actually believes the Kushners and the homeless are treated equally in the eyes of the law. If so, good luck to her in Vegas; I hear the house gives every gambler a fair shake.
“Pure.” What do Lichtman and Gorelick mean by that? As if insisting on a minimal moral standard were some kind of cleanness test! I am not talking about purity. Nor is anyone else. I am talking about simple moral principle. You cannot be a progressive and serve this man. Gorelick’s “sensible middle” has nothing to it. It is the law-chopping talk of a mercenary.
If you have power at all, you have a choice. Nobody is asking for perfection; nobody can. What reformers want are for people to resist corrupt power. If you have yourself have power, then your obligation to resist is increased.
We all live in this world, and none of us are pure. Every April, my federal taxes are paid to a government which helps bomb the children of Yemen. My state taxes go to Georgia, which loves convict labor. Before I lived in Atlanta, my state taxes went to Texas: home of the Death House in Huntsville—crown jewel of the Lone Star prison empire, which the largest in America. Our own streams mingle in the river of life, and none are clean. But we still have a choice. There is always a choice.
If you live in America, where we are relatively free and prosperous, you have a choice.
If you live in an important city, and know many persons of influence, you have a choice.
If you can afford to not take a case, you have a choice.
And if you yourself have wealth and power, if you have sat at the right hand of a President, and have in fact helped run the law in your country, then you have a choice. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only.