Hemingway week here at First Draft continues. If you haven’t read A’s great piece refuting Trump’s ridiculous claim to be the “Hemingway of Twitter” make sure you do so. On with the show, this is it:
As a Greek-American, I know a great deal about nepotism and cronyism. Both have long, uh, greased the wheels of commerce both in the old country and here in ‘Merica. Nepotism is one reason the wheels (there’s that image again) came off the Greek economy a few years ago. It’s not always a bad thing (the Karamanlis, Papandreou, and Venizelos dynasties produced some good leaders) but that’s only if the nepotee is competent and knowledgeable. That’s an open question when it comes to Trump-in-law Jared Kushner.
We know that Kushner did a decent job as the Insult Comedian’s campaign manager/enforcer. That doesn’t mean he’s qualified for a job at the White House since, like most Trumpers, he has no governmental or policy experience. Then there’s the pesky matter of the federal anti-nepotism law passed in response to JFK appointing his kid brother Attorney General. In that instance, Bobby *was* qualified: the bigger problem was having an AG who was a campaign manager. There’s no sign that Kushner has RFK’s moxie and intelligence. He does, however, seem to have the requisite ruthlessness and sharp elbows of RFK.
That brings me to the point of this post. There’s a must read article at NYMAG.com by Andrew Rice about Kushner and his background, power, and influence. His plan is to be one of the last people Trump speaks to when a decision is nigh:
Trump doesn’t really appear to listen to anyone, but he likes to hear a lot of advice. “We have no formal chain of command around here,” Trump said at a December boardroom audience with Jeff Bezos, Sheryl Sandberg, and other tech-industry leaders. Yet everyone knew who had played the biggest role in arranging the meeting: Kushner, who sat with his back to the cameras, directly facing the president-elect
Trump is relying on an interpretation of the law itself, backed by a court opinion from 1993, as well as a separate provision of federal law from 1978 that allows the president to appoint White House staff “without regard to any other provision of law” dealing with employment.
But several law professors and ethicists interviewed Monday by The Associated Press were not so certain.
A “murky legal landscape” was the description given by Norman Eisen, who served as President Barack Obama’s government ethics lawyer.
If that strategy fails, Kushner’s plan is to defy the law with support from his doting father-in-law. The question arises: why does Kushner need a title and a West Wing office? History is replete with examples of outside advisers with outsize influence on past Oval Ones. Wilson had Col. House. FDR had Felix Frankfurter and a small army of other outside advisers. JFK, of course, had his father until the latter’s stroke. LBJ had Abe Fortas even after he was appointed to the Supreme Court. Fortas had an office in the West Wing that nominally belonged to someone else but he was the big macher in the Johnson White House. More recently, Bill Clinton had Vernon Jordan and Barack Obama didn’t stop listening to David Axelrod after he left his job at the White House. There’s ample precedent for this and no need to stir things up. Of course, that’s the Trumpers specialty: shit stirring.
Kushner’s lust for power isn’t the only thing that makes the incoming regime resemble an old school South American dictatorship. The Insult Comedian has appointed four Generals to senior roles, which is rather reminiscent of the right-wing populist dictator Trump most resembles: Juan Peron. We may all be singing Don’t Cry For Me Argentina before this is all over.
Trump is setting the stage for the most openly corrupt administration in American history. His holdings will not be placed in a blind trust, he will not release his tax forms, and his adult male spawn will run his empire. Past administrations at least had the good sense to hide their grifting. Instead the Trumpers will be transparently corrupt and damn proud of it. So much for the much ballyhooed populist uprising. Welcome to the new gilded age.
There are some people in Rice’s article who express hope that Kushner will be a moderating influence on his father-in-law. Given his close relationship with Steve Bannon that sounds like whistling past the graveyard. The only thing that will stop Trump is resistance and relentless ridicule. The Donald does not like being needled. That’s why resisting his legitimacy is so important. Our goal should be to turn him into the Jake Barnes of Presidents: a eunuch tweeting impotently to a world that no longer pays attention.
Vive les Maquis.