Obama sits at the pinnacle of the American caste. Ivy educated, cosmopolitan, a millionaire and celebrity with a global outlook who is careful not to rock the boat even as he repeats clichés on the topic of the day, Obama is without question the biggest winner of the last five years. But he is not one of a kind. From strivers in the upper-middle class to billionaires who stalk the globe like Bloomberg, Gates, and Buffett, from Republicans who say their party must diversify and moderate in order to win, to Democrats who move from criticizing hedge funds in government to flacking for hedge funds when they are out, from reporters who fetishize the concept of “objectivity” on the one hand while making snarky and petty comments about social inferiors on the other, the caste is composed of all of the winners in the postmodern economic Powerball. You see them in the coffee shops and chic restaurants, in the gentrifying neighborhoods of coastal cities, you hear them discuss their latest trips overseas, you read their food and politics blogs and oh so clever twitter feeds. They are the leaners in, the up-and-comers, the bright young things (and a few dim old ones) whose smarminess is like an ID badge.
Mike Allen’s Politico Playbook is their bulletin board. Must reading, Playbook is where one learns of General David Petraeus’s new gig at private equity firm KKR; of Christiane Amanpour and James P. Rubin, “who have been renting on Manhattan’s Upper West Side,” but who “leave for Europe next week with their 13-year-old son, Darius,” returning to “a house they have rented out in the Kensington/Notting Hill neighborhood of London, which they left at the end of 2007 after a decompression period.” This is where one learns of outgoing Columbia Journalism School dean Nicholas Lemann’s presentation of the Mike Berger Award for Outstanding Human Interest Reporting to Dr. Sheri Fink of ProPublica, the left-leaning journalism outfit to which IRS employees leaked classified tax information; of the engagement of “Today Show” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie to Michael Feldman of the Democratic consultancy Glover Park Group; and of Glover Park’s Alec Gerlach’s move to the State Department’s Public Affairs Bureau. Filled with in-jokes and Easter Eggs, self-promotion and self-congratulation, Playbook is a sort of Rosetta stone through which one learns the rhetoric of the caste.