NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE www.nationalreview.com
July 19, 2013 12:00 AM
Al Sharpton, Posh Populist
Living large among the 1 percenters.
By Jonah Goldberg
If Tom Wolfe were writing The Bonfire of the Vanities today, hed need a scene in the Grand Havana Room in New York City. Its an Olympian den fit for what Wolfe called the Masters of the Universe the super-rich gods of finance who today go by the name the 1 percent. Taking up the penthouse floor of 666 Fifth Avenue, the Grand Havana Room is a private, invitation-only cigar club and four-star restaurant. Through its windows, you can see the toiling salary men 39 floors below as they scurry about like ants, some furtively smoking in doorways, ever fearful of Nanny Bloombergs All-Seeing Eye.
Named by Business Insider as one of the 11 exclusive clubs Wall Streeters are dying to get into, the Grand Havana Room is where power brokers and celebrities hobnob with captains of industry in one of the last places where its still legal to smoke in the Big Apple.
Immune as I am to the seductions of class resentment and Jacobin envy, I will admit it: I love the place. If invited, and if I could afford it, Id join.
The one question I have is: Whos paying for Al Sharptons membership?
The Rev is an omnipresent member of the club. After his MSNBC show, hell swing by for dinner and cigars amid the other Masters of the Universe. I couldnt confirm that he repaired there after he broadcast his radio show, Keeping It Real, from Zuccotti Park to show his solidarity with the 99-percenters.
The reason I ask whos paying for his membership is that Sharptons relationship with money has always been complicated. When he claimed he didnt have the resources to pay damages in a defamation suit he lost, Sharpton was asked in a deposition how he could afford his suits. He didnt own them, he replied, someone else did. He was merely granted access to the garments as needed. The same went for his TV, silverware, etc.
Theres a metaphor in there somewhere. In our overly therapeutic culture, we talk a lot about enabling pathologies, self-destructive behavior, etc. Well, Sharpton is a pathology enabled by the very system he loathes.
In a healthy society, Sharpton might be on parole now not the must-get guest for Meet the Press and Today on issues of racial justice. He was a ringleader in perpetuating the evil Tawana Brawley hoax, in which he and two corrupt lawyers (now disbarred) falsely accused assistant district attorney Steven Pagones and others of gang-raping a 15-year-old girl in a racist attack (Brawley claimed that shed been smeared with feces and had had racist epithets written on her body). No person of any ideological stripe could doubt it was a fraud except, that is, for the unrepentant Sharpton, who recently insisted something happened.
If hed been locked up for that, he might not have helped incite the Crown Heights riots in 1991. After a tragic car accident in the New York neighborhood in which a Jewish driver accidentally struck and killed a black child named Gavin Cato, Sharpton stoked anti-Semitic rage. At the funeral for Cato, amid shouts from the crowd of Heil Hitler! (one banner read, Hitler did not do the job), Sharpton didnt call for reconciliation; he inveighed against diamond dealers. During the riots Jews were beaten in the street, and eventually a Hasidic tourist from Australia, Yankel Rosenbaum, was stabbed to death.
Perhaps if Sharpton had been shunned for his role in that, he might not have encouraged yet more violence in 1995, when he led protests against the eviction of a black-owned record store. Sharpton fueled rage on his radio show and at rallies to the point where one of the protesters ran into a Jewish-owned store whose owner was wrongly blamed for the eviction, shot several people, and then burned the place down, killing seven (mostly Hispanic) occupants.