Why did Fyre Festival make the news this week? I guess because a federal judge sent the promoter, Billy McFarland, to jail for six years because he bilked his customers out of a lot of money. Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for Manhattan, crowed:
Today, McFarland found out the hard way that empty promises don’t lead to jet-setting, champagne and extravagant parties – they lead to federal prison.
I like that. I suppose if you rip off, piss off, and disappoint rich people, as McFarland did, you can expect prison time. If, however, you are already rich and powerful, and you defraud, assault, or otherwise take advantage of poor people, you can get away with whatever you want. The Donald and Slick Willie rode their strongman ways to the White House, not prison. Humorless Hillary, not able to brandish a swagger stick due to her gender, provokes chants of “Lock her up! Lock her up!” at every Trump and now Republican rally, for everyday political corruption, insincerity, and mistakes.
Whenever prosecutors speak with satisfaction to the press about how they put the latest scam artist, fraudster, or otherwise shady character in jail, they should think about the powerful people they excused because one way or another, those criminals were untouchable. Kamala Harris has even started off her campaign with the prosecutor’s phrase, “For the people.” Good luck, Kamala. We know how your colleagues in the courthouse operate. You look like a run-of-the-mill district attorney, filled up with power and self-satisfaction.
‘For the people.’ ‘You better put something on that lip.’ ‘If you drag a hundred dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.’
We have Donald the con man, Hillary the woman we like to hate, and now Billy McFarland, who put his guests out in the rain with empty tents and soggy mattresses. Yet none of these scams compares with sexual assault, practiced by crude characters like Harvey Weinstein, and semen-in-his-veins Bill Clinton. Sexual harrassment is rampant and bothersome, but sexual assault is a crime. Yet how many young men, often black, are dismissed from college for consensual sex, whereas powerful, well-protected figures like Clinton engage in forcible rape? Then as Clinton leaves the hotel room, he casually advises his victim over his shoulder, “You better put something on that lip.”
As if the injustice that powerful men visit on powerless women were not enough, recall James Carville’s casual, cruel defense of Clinton, meant to discredit Clinton’s accusers, Paula Jones in particular: “If you drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.” Carville made this remark about a politician we already knew as a skirt chaser, but when you enter the circle of power, who knows what you might say? Gradually we learned that the president’s accusers told the truth, that Clinton took advantage of women and consistently got away with it. Even his impeachment was just more theater.
If Carville wanted to invoke the trope of trailer trash, by 2000 we could see the term applied to the president, not to his accusers. Ask Monica Lewinsky what happens when a powerful man with boorish sexual habits unzips his pants. If Lewinsky and Clinton had any doubts about keeping their liaison secret, Clinton might have cautioned, “Remember what happened to Paula Jones.” Let’s see if Kamala Harris has more humility and discretion than James Carville. Do empty promises lead to the White House? Do lies work when you have power? Of course they do.