In the reality show that is this White House, has chief strategist Steve Bannon kicked Jared Kushner off the island? It seems that Kushner might be losing the contest of wills, as the new president embraces nationalist policies and runs into trouble with ill-timed outbursts from himself and his advisers.
President Trump’s boldest and most controversial moves appear to come when Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, are observing the Sabbath, which leaves both of them out of contact as observant Jews.
On the Saturday after the inauguration, his father-in-law personally telephoned the National Park Service after it tweeted photos showing that a smaller crowd watched his inauguration than had Obama’s, delivered a widely mocked speech at the Central Intelligence Agency and sent his press secretary, Sean Spicer, to lace into the media over its inauguration reporting. On the second White House Shabbat, Trump signed an executive order that banned immigration and tourism from seven Muslim-majority countries, and then fumbled the response to a swirl of criticism.
In addition to coming when Kushner was out of reach by telephone, policies like the Muslim ban also depart from the cautions that Kushner had given the business community and others after the election, promising that his father-in-law would govern as a moderate and that he did not necessarily believe all the things he had said on the campaign trail. And the woes don’t only come on Saturday, as last week, when Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled a Kushner-brokered visit to the White House, after a war of words that Trump initiated.
Meanwhile, Bannon has been on the make, receiving a permanent seat on the president’s National Security Council, centralizing power through an internal White House think tank and putting his fingers on policies like the “Muslim ban.” If theirs is a war between the better angels and base devils of their boss’s spirit, it seems the devils are winning at the moment.
Daniel J. Solomon is the Assistant to the Editor/News Writer at the Forward. Originally from Queens, he attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where he wrote his senior thesis on French-Jewish intellectual history. He is excited to have returned to New York after his time in Massachusetts. Daniel’s passions include folk music, cycling, and pointed argument.