Between launching four astronauts and 54 satellites into orbit, unveiling an electric freight truck and closing in on taking over Twitter this month, Elon Musk made time to offer unsolicited peace plans for Taiwan and Ukraine, antagonizing those countries’ leaders and irking Washington, too.
Musk, the richest man in the world, then irritated some Pentagon officials by announcing he didn’t want to keep paying for his private satellite service in Ukraine, before later walking back the threat.
As Musk, 51, inserts himself into volatile geopolitical issues, many Washington policymakers worry from the sidelines as he bypasses them.
A two-decade partnership between Musk and the federal government helped the United States return to global dominance in space and shift to electric cars, and made the tech geek an internationally famous CEO. But many in Washington, even as they praise his work in areas of national security, now see Musk as too powerful and too reckless.
Citing Musk’s public ridicule of those who snub him — the billionaire has called President Biden a “damp sock puppet” and said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) reminds him of “my friend’s angry mom” — many of the two dozen top government officials interviewed for this article would only speak about Musk on the condition of anonymity. But nearly all described him as being as erratic and arrogant as he is brilliant.
“Elon, The Everywhere” is what one White House official called him. “He believes he is such a gift to mankind that he doesn’t need any guardrails, that he knows best.”
“He sees himself as above the presidency,” said Jill Lepore, a Harvard historian who hosted podcasts on Musk.
Musk declined to comment for this story, but he says he weighs in on important problems and described his mission as “enhancing the future of humanity.” He said his Ukraine plan could avert possible nuclear war, and that his Taiwan proposal could ease dangerous regional tensions.
But Musk’s freelance diplomacy is angering allies at the same time he bids $44 billion to take over a media platform with hundreds of millions of users.
“The bottom line is that people hang on his every word because he has delivered so many times,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.). “I hope he shows some respect for that responsibility.”
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) called Musk’s plan for Ukraine an “affront” to its people, and even suggested federal subsidies that help electric carmakers might be better spent.
Musk’s relationship with Washington started out strong. “I love you!” Musk blurted out when a NASA official called to tell him in 2008 that he got a $1.6 billion contract at a time when he was heavily in debt. Washington then poured billions more into Musk’s company as it developed its rockets and space capsule. SpaceX delivered, rebuilding the flagging U.S. space program.
His bipartisan efforts once helped him win over Washington. He dined with President Barack Obama and joined President Donald Trump’s economic councils. He donated to candidates of both parties. Now, he bashes Biden and says he plans to vote for a Republican president in 2024.
These days, the eccentric entrepreneur rarely visits Washington and is increasingly critical of the federal government. He does talk to foreign presidents and prime ministers, according to people who work directly with him. Musk sells his state-of-the-art rockets and aerospace technology to South Korea, Turkey and a growing list of other countries. He has Tesla factories in Germany and China. He also owns and controls more than 3,000 satellites circling the Earth — far more than any nation, including the United States.
In May, Brazilian officials said Musk met with Jair Bolsonaro, the Brazilian president who is described in Latin America as a right-wing ultranationalist. Musk said he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin 18 months ago, but denied a report that he talked to Putin just before offering his Ukrainian peace plan that was widely condemned as pro-Russian.
Though Musk needs Washington less now that he is global powerhouse, Washington continues to depend on him. The U.S. military uses his rockets and satellite communications services for its drones, ships and aircraft. NASA currently has no way to get American astronauts to the International Space Station without his space capsule. And, at a time when climate change is a top White House priority, he has more electric cars on U.S. roads than any other manufacturer.
Several top government officials said they are working on decreasing their reliance on Musk, including partnering with and nurturing competitors with government contracts and subsidies. “There’s not just SpaceX. There are other entities that we can certainly partner with when it comes to providing Ukraine what they need on the battlefield,” Sabrina Singh, deputy Pentagon press secretary, told reporters last week.
A key concern if Musk buys Twitter is his web of overseas holdings and foreign investors, including his massive Tesla factory in China, and possible leverage others could have over Musk if he controls a platform where some users have spread misinformation and ratcheted up political divisiveness. As a U.S. defense contractor, Musk has been vetted, but several top officials said they wanted a more thorough review, including any expansion plans in Russia and China. Warren and others have called his Twitter purchase a “danger to democracy.”
Washington has dealt before with powerful tycoons who dominated railroads, oil or a key economic sector, said Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “But what’s a bit different here is Musk’s ability to project his political agenda and the fact that now that we have technology and media that allows individuals to essentially become their own network or channel,” Haass said.
Because Musk has business investments in China, and, according to Russian and other news reports, said last year at a Kremlin-sponsored event for students that he was planning one in Russia, several top U.S. government officials wonder if Musk’s business interests affect his views on foreign affairs.
The economic turmoil since the Ukraine war began has dented the fortunes of many people including Musk, whose personal wealth dropped by tens of billions, to about $210 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index.
Two people who know him well said Musk is impulsive and that makes him say things that harm his own interests — a tendency that makes it difficult for government officials to count on Musk. Musk himself has said he has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, and no one should expect him to be a “chill, normal dude.”
“He shoots himself in the foot all the time. He should not be getting into politics,” said one person who has worked with him for years.
“I have been as shocked as anyone these last few months at some of the things he has waded into,” said Lori Garver, former deputy administrator at NASA. She worries about the consequences. SpaceX restored U.S. leadership in space, but his politically charged comments attract critics who are starting to ask, “Why is taxpayer money going to this billionaire?”
“It’s disappointing,” she said.
Exactly, why taxpayers money is going to this man⁉️
His disability is not an excuse for his behavior.
…is what one White House official called him. “He believes he is such a gift to mankind that he doesn’t need any guardrails, that he knows best.
Yeah, and the idiot fasco-Marxists who had to fake votes to get into office are the real gift. Or so they say.
Not sure about Elon M, but congress is throwing stones from well overpaid (by hook or by crook) positions in glass offices. What I have learned as an old guy (in general): you must be wary of charismatic and wealthy individuals like Elon or “The Donald” and you certainly cannot trust the three branches of the US Government or any of the unelected bureaucrats like the Dept of Justice. This coming election might be a red storm, but if so, the Elephant Party will continue the march to centralized global, techno government.
I cannot believe that those who CLAIM to be AWAKE, think that ALL of this ‘Elon’ schitt is REAL! IT……IS……NOT! It’s ALLLLLLLLL THEATRE! A SHOW, put ON, JUST FOR YOU!
You don’t have to go back too far to find another Super-Duper Smart Guy that was ALSO erratic and arrogant to the core: Bill Gates! When are we going to finally “get it”? “Smart” and “High IQ” do NOT mean Intelligent, or Wise, or Informed. The only good part of the whole article was Leon calling Biden a “Damp Sock Puppet”!!!
IMHO Musk is a walking, talking False Flag provocateur. Just read Musk’s history and you cannot help but conclude he is bought and sold intel asset working for and with the usual suspects. He is the richest shill on earth but not even close in wealth to the people for whom he works
Interesting how the author wrote this for the Washington Post which is owned Jeff Bezos, And a rival of Elon Musk. As well, I don’t feel sorry at all for the politicians who all made it possible for Elon Musk to do what he has done and are now scared of the monster they have created. Maybe they should do a better job of serving the people they were elected to serve.
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Why on earth is this independent site republishing an obvious MSM hit job on Musk? The sources cited all reek of swamp, so much so that I’m more inclined than ever to suspect Musk has dumped the WEF gang.
Because Musk is a Technocrat and this article is about Musk. TN is not endorsing this, but you need to pay attention what others are saying.
Musk is still the most humane of the technocrats. Shall we prefer the king of counterfeit products Bezos, whose paper published this article? How about Gates who tried to kill billions of us with his virus and shots? Or what about China Zuckerberg? The list is unfortunately endless. I say give him a chance and let’s see if he keeps his word with shutting down illegal censorship on twitter. He’ll get a gold star from me if he actually does it.