Over there at the Vanity Fair, Gabriel Sherman has a frightening article titled Inside Donald Trump and Jared Kushner’s Two Months of Magical Thinking. Going past the headline, the piece is a tale of Jared Kushner, an unelected family member with no real-life experience in any job other than slumlord, pretty much running the show at White House, Inc. With Kushner in one ear and Stephen Miller in the other, Trump is truly in a “Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right” situation, though unlike Gerry Rafferty, Trump is no innocent victim.
Here’s some stuff from Sherman’s piece that will set you off:
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, shared Trump’s view that the media and Democrats were hyping the crisis for political purposes. And for both of them, the biggest worry was how the response to the coronavirus might impact the health of the economy. According to sources, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, a fierce China hawk, and deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, a former China-based Wall Street Journal reporter who’d covered the 2003 SARS pandemic, argued to officials in mid-January that the White House needed to shut down incoming flights from China.
Kushner pushed back. “Jared kept saying the stock market would go down, and Trump wouldn’t get reelected,” a Republican briefed on the internal debates said (a person close to Kushner denies this). Kushner’s position was supported by Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council chief Larry Kudlow. Trump sided with them. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Trump minimized the threat in his first public comments. “It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control,” he told CNBC.
And this here….
Florida was a test case of his magical thinking about the novel coronavirus: That it was temporary, that warm weather would make it disappear. But eight Florida residents had already died from COVID-19 and more than 400 had been diagnosed. “Given the elderly population, if that took off, it would be a nightmare,” a person close to Trump told me. At an adviser’s urging, Trump called DeSantis to tell him to shut down the beaches.
“Ron, what are you doing down there?” Trump said, according to a person briefed on the call.
“I can’t ban people from going on the beach,” DeSantis snapped, surprising Trump.
“These pictures look really bad to the rest of the country,” Trump said.
“Listen, we’re doing it the right way,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis’s intransigence backed Trump into a corner. The 41-year-old governor was a Trump protégé and a crucial ally in a must-win state. “Trump is worried about Florida, electorally,” said a Republican who spoke with Trump around this time. Trump did something he rarely does: He caved. He told DeSantis the beaches could stay open.
“I understand what you’re saying,” Trump said, and hung up.
There is this…
When the coronavirus exploded out of China, Kushner was the second most powerful person in the West Wing, exerting influence over virtually every significant decision, from negotiating trade deals to 2020 campaign strategy to overseeing Trump’s impeachment defense. “Jared is running everything. He’s the de facto president of the United States,” a former White House official told me. The previous chief of staff John Kelly, who’d marginalized Kushner, was long gone, and Mick Mulvaney, a virtual lame duck by that point, let Kushner run free. “Jared treats Mick like the help,” a prominent Republican said.
Kushner advocated for the iconoclastic public-private approach he had used for his Mideast peace plan. He reached out to business leaders like Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg, according to a source. With bravado only partly grounded in reality, he promised Trump that Google was rolling out a testing website. He also made a point of bypassing normal channels, phoning Wall Street executives and asking for advice on how to help New York, people briefed on the conversation said. A former West Wing official said Kushner’s involvement wrought chaos: business leaders wanting to contribute masks or ventilators didn’t know who in government to call. According to two sources, Kushner told Trump about experimental treatments he’d learned of from executives in Silicon Valley. “Jared is bringing conspiracy theories to Trump about potential treatments,” a Republican briefed on the conversations told me. (A person close to Kushner said he brought COVID testing ideas to Trump.) Trump could be a receptive audience. Another former West Wing official told me: “Trump is like an 11-year-old boy waiting for the fairy godmother to bring him a magic pill.”
Oh and don’t forget this…
During his time in the West Wing, Kushner had become hardened to a degree that was sometimes shocking. The days of selling the notion that he and Ivanka were moderating forces were long gone—combat was everything. A New York business executive recalled a meeting with Kushner at the White House last fall. “I told Jared that if Trump won a second term, he wouldn’t have to worry about running again and you can really help people. Jared just looked at me and said, ‘I don’t care about any of that.’” The executive came away shaken. “I wanted to tell Jared you don’t say that part out loud, even in private,” he later said.
The country is in the hands of inheritance princes, people who have never had to do an honest day’s work in their life, and who believe that their being born into wealth means so much more than being the lucky result of one specific sperm finding one specific egg in two people who were loaded with cash.