Why Elon Musk worries power in Washington

Why Elon Musk worries power in Washington

Brilliant, whimsical and arrogant: the boss of Tesla, SpaceX and now Twitter is a little too out of control in the eyes of many American politicians. But they dare to criticize his interference in geopolitical issues only on condition of anonymity, notes the “Washington Post”.

In October, between the takeover of Twitter, the launch of four astronauts and a new salvo of 54 satellites into space and the presentation of an electric semi-trailer, Elon Musk still found time to offer peace plans for Taiwan and Ukraine, alienating the leaders of these countries while drawing the ire of Washington.

The richest man in the world also annoyed the Pentagon by announcing that he did not want to continue to pay out of pocket for his satellite Internet access service [Starlink] in Ukraine, before turning around. Behind the scenes, many Washington officials are concerned that the 51-year-old billionaire is meddling in explosive geopolitical issues without consulting them.

For twenty years, a partnership between Elon Musk and the federal government has certainly enabled the United States to regain its dominant position in space and to electrify the American automobile fleet, sealing at the same time its international reputation as a technological genius. . But today, many in Washington find the big boss too powerful and inconsequential.

Of the 20 or so senior government officials interviewed for this article, many spoke of the ease with which Elon Musk publicly taunts his critics – he called President Biden a “loose cloth” and said Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren reminded him “a friend’s angry mother” –, only agreed to speak about it on condition of anonymity. Almost everyone agrees that he is as whimsical and arrogant as he is brilliant.

Convinced of being a benefactor of humanity

“Elon, the omnipresent”, according to a senior White House official, “is so convinced of being a benefactor of humanity that he feels he needs no safeguards and knows everything better than everyone else.”

“He considers himself above the presidency”, adds Jill Lepore, historian at Harvard and author of a series of podcasts on Elon Musk.

Elon Musk did not wish to answer us for this article, but he assures us that he has an informed opinion on the major problems of our time and that it is his duty to“to improve the future of humanity”. He is convinced that his peace plan for Ukraine could prevent a possible nuclear war and that his proposal for Taiwan would be able to ease dangerous regional tensions.

This parallel diplomacy is infuriating some allies, just as Elon Musk puts in $44 billion [45 milliards d’euros] on the table to buy a strong media platform with hundreds of millions of users.

For Richard J. Durbin, Democratic Senator from Illinois, “the fact is that people follow closely every statement he makes, because he has so often achieved what he announced”. Fellow South Carolina Republican Lindsey O. Graham calls his plan for Ukraine a“affront” to this people.

Holder of more satellites than any country

Elon Musk’s relations with Washington had however started under the best auspices. “I like You !” had he let go when, in 2008, when he was crumbling under debt, a NASA official [l’agence spatiale américaine] had called to tell him that he had just landed a contract worth 1.6 billion dollars. Washington subsequently pumped billions more into its rocket and space capsule business. SpaceX has lived up to expectations, rebuilding a fluttering US space program.

His bipartisan initiatives once helped him win over Washington. He dined with President Barack Obama and joined President Donald Trump’s team of economic advisers. He funded candidates from both parties. Today, he does not have enough words for Joe Biden and claims that he will vote for a Republican in 2024.

The eccentric entrepreneur who now rarely goes to Washington is increasingly critical of the federal government. He speaks to foreign heads of state and government, sells his rockets and advanced space technology to South Korea, Turkey and a growing number of countries. He set up Tesla factories in Germany and China. It owns and controls more than 3,000 satellites orbiting the Earth – far more than any state.

A world power on its own

If he needs Washington less now that he alone is a world power, Washington remains largely dependent on the billionaire. The US military uses its rockets and satellite communication services for its drones, ships