The People in the Room

Consider an invitation-only meeting, before a public one, in which appointed officials and perhaps a few corporate executives meet to discuss public financing of a deal mostly benefiting a few.  

One can say two things, with reasonable confidence, about a meeting like that.  First, no one attends a meeting of that kind to dissuade others from pursuing a deal.  Those who attend typically expect others in the room to accede to their demands.    

Second, as those who attend a ‘stakeholders’ meeting like this often learn later, there are no certainties of mutual aid no matter how reassuringly promised beforehand.  One may attend with the idea that everyone in the room is ‘in this together,’ but afterward it becomes clear that some of the parties really don’t give a damn about others’ needs.

Similar to when parties form a cartel (in some ways, but different in others), some have an incentive to act against a supposed, mutual understanding.  As the parties often have no true principle in common, and some believing that they are more important than others, the bigger ones have no reticence in cheating or otherwise betraying the smaller ones.

One can sit in that room, and try to make that deal, but one cannot do so with the assurance that it will be thereafter honored.  

Whitewater’s last decade is littered with projects like this, where a few huddled privately, and everyone was so sure, and so supportive, until it became clear that the parties missed major steps, ignored fundamental tasks, and had no idea of the consequences of their ill-considered (but grandiose) plans.