Take credit for what worked. Shift the blame for what didn’t. Run to Daddy-in-law whenever the big, bad chief of staff got in his way. That was Jared Kushner’s modus operandi during the long four years I had to serve alongside the man most responsible for the loss of the Trump White House.
Kushner came to the D.C. swamp on the coattails of his wife as nothing more than a young and rich, run-of-the-mill liberal New York Democrat with a worldview totally orthogonal to the president he was supposed to serve. Yet, within the West Wing, Kushner considered himself to be the ultimate “Trump whisperer.”
In private, Jared would boast about how he had brought the president back from whatever he considered the brink to be that day—whether it was securing the southern border, leaving NAFTA, or slapping tariffs on China. Never mind that he was derailing, deterring, and delaying Trump’s Make America Great Again agenda in real-time and at great political and economic costs.
Jared’s “neuter the boss” role quickly became a source of friction between us. He believed that I, more than anyone inside the West Wing, could “rile up” the president to take actions that were, in fact, totally consistent with Trump’s central campaign promises. But as this particular Wall Street transactionalist liked to say (and it always made me cringe): “That was the campaign. This is reality.”
In the cold light of a January West Wing day, there was simply no other explanation than nepotism to account for how this decidedly unqualified Clown Prince wound up sitting as a modern-day Rasputin at the right hand of Trump.
Here’s a tongue-in-cheek sample day in the life of Kushner:
At daybreak, back channel his Chinese Communist Party handlers on the latest in trade negotiations and thereby weaken the bargaining position of United State Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer.
Midmorning, help Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman evade any responsibility for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and thereby send Secretary of State Mike Pompeo into yet another paroxysm of rage.
At noon, ping Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu on the latest in Mideast peace talks and thereby keep National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien like a mushroom in the dark heaped in Jared’s excrement (which doesn’t stink—or so we were told).
Midafternoon, he meets with his staff to discuss the latest developments in mismanaging the pandemic and to see what else they can screw up. At sunset, he calls the vice president’s Chief of Staff Marc Short to see what data they can manipulate and make it look like the pandemic is getting better. Afterward, he drops into the Oval Office for the fifth time that day to see the Boss and tell him how great his polls look.
Kushner would endlessly peddle this “the polls look great” steaming pile to whoever would listen, and it would be this single piece of utter Kushner bullshit that would contribute so much to the inertia and lack of urgency within both the West Wing and campaign headquarters.
Ultimately, the biggest failure of the 2020 election was the failure of the Trump campaign itself. The campaign went from the beautifully orchestrated Steve Bannon masterpiece in 2016, with 20 people on Trump Force One barnstorming flyover country, to the ugliest equivalent of Hillary Clinton’s beyond bloated Hindenburg of a campaign in just four years.
The construction of this Hindenburg was due entirely to the anything but dynamic duo of Brad Parscale (the putative campaign manager) and Kushner himself (the actual campaign manager). These two “dumb and dumber” political geniuses—Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey should play them in the movie version—squandered hundreds of millions of dollars on ridiculous baubles like Super Bowl ads and a massively bloated payroll.
One of the few staunch supporters of Trump in Silicon Valley, Peter Thiel, would write a $250,000 campaign contribution check. Imagine how Thiel felt when he realized his tech bucks were used to pay for less than two seconds of a 60-second, $10 million Super Bowl ad aired some 10 months before election day.
In the final weeks before November 3, the Trump campaign—the most well-funded in history—would have to pull its ad expenditures in key battleground states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin because it was out of cash; and the Biden campaign would outspend Trump by about $75 million in this critical home stretch.
To this day, my old Boss still has no idea just how much damage Kushner/Rasputin did to the presidency and the Trump agenda during his four year reign of error at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The work of fiction Jared is now readying for publication is just more self-serving manure to shovel over the past and obscure our view of the damage.
Fortunately, if Trump makes it back to the White House, it will be a Kushner-free zone. Kushner has already disqualified himself from future White House employment by cashing in on his White House connections to fund his many entrepreneurial ventures.