Oh, it must be such a privilege to be Jared Kushner.
You only have to read Kushner’s lengthy 11-page statement that he so smartly issued yesterday morning, before appearing at a closed-door meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee, for proof of the elevated plane on which the secretive senior adviser to the president operates. The statement’s carefully parsed, lawyerly language masks the astonishing way this man acts as if the normal rules of behavior, accountability and, yes, shame do not apply to him.
Kushner portrays himself as so immensely popular that he couldn’t possibly read all the emails sent to him during his father-in-law’s campaign — more than 200 a day! Especially when those missives were long, with lots of back and forth on multiple threads. You know, the kind that say “private and confidential” in the subject line. But he didn’t quite catch that and went to the June 9, 2016, meeting with the representatives of the Russian government offering dirt on Hillary Clinton anyway.
Most of us don’t have the luxury to escape accountability for not doing our homework.
It must be wonderful to be only 36 years old and given a job of enormous power and responsibility in the White House even if he is demonstrably unprepared for it. Kushner isn’t the least bit embarrassed to say in the statement that he couldn’t remember the name of the Russian ambassador or the heads of state he had met — even though they came from some of the most important countries in the world. Only certain people are privileged enough to flaunt their ignorance.
This is also the kind of privilege that allows Kushner to glide through the federal bureaucracy. He had to fill out forms for a top-level security clearance, of course, but when those forms were incomplete, when he didn’t list more than 100 contacts from 20 countries — including the Israeli prime minister and the king of Jordan — he got to blame his assistant. As in: “my SF-86 application was prematurely submitted due to a miscommunication.”
That assistant also came in handy when he attended the June 9 meeting with the Russians at the behest of brother-in-law Donald Trump Jr. and quickly decided it was a “waste of our time.” As he said in the statement, “I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for 10 or so minutes and wrote: ‘Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting.’”
Naturally, one of the privileges Kushner enjoys is one that should be granted to all Americans — the right to be considered innocent unless and until proved otherwise. “I did not collude with the Russians, nor do I know of anyone in the campaign who did so,” Kusher said in brief remarks after his Senate testimony yesterday.
Those remarks were a rare opportunity to hear his voice. Because another one of Jared Kushner’s privileges is his ability to grab the limelight only when he wants it, to otherwise let others do the talking for him and the administration he serves.
This penchant for secrecy does have its downsides, however. It may be one reason that, according to a poll released last week, Kushner is the least popular member of the Trump family, with an approval rating of 22% — much lower than even his deeply unpopular father-in-law.
As Newsweek reported, another Politico/Morning Consult poll found that “Kushner was the individual in the White House who voters most wanted to be removed from office.”
It may be that Kushner’s privilege extends only so far. It may not inoculate him from the most pernicious possible reason for his unpopularity — anti-Semitism directed at him because he is an Orthodox Jew. Word of a feud between Kushner and chief strategist Stephen Bannon in April ignited a barrage of online harassment against Kushner from white supremacists and the “alt-right.” The Anti-Defamation League called it “explosive.”
Many of us worry that if Kushner does eventually contribute to Trump’s downfall, he won’t be the only Jew who will be blamed. And the privilege he enjoys now may well be worth no more than his enigmatic smile is worth today.
Contact Jane Eisner at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @Jane_Eisner
Jane Eisner, a pioneer in journalism, is writer-at-large at the Forward and the 2019 Koeppel Fellow in Journalism at Wesleyan University. For more than a decade, she was editor-in-chief of the Forward, the first woman to hold the position at the influential Jewish national news organization. Under her leadership, the Forward’s digital readership grew significantly, and won numerous regional and national awards for its original journalism, in print and online.