Jared Kushner’s role in the political rise of his Ku Klux Kardashian father-in-law is as puzzling as it is frightening.
Can he truly be oblivious of the neo-Nazi demons he’s helped unloose? THEY do not really like him and his family. Is he cognizant but believes these hatemongers can be used and controlled the way “family values” folks were by Newt and Rove during the nineties and aughts? What’s been activated, mainstreamed and normalized during this disgraceful campaign season won’t be easily managed.
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The impending Presidency of a tweeting, vainglorious incompetent is so unsettling that many Americans are now wistful for the good old days of a gentlemanly war criminal like George W. Bush and the relatively liberal Richard Nixon (though we were just reminded of the blood he had on his hands). The next Administration won’t be pretty, there will be no moderating and the most hopeful outcome is that a kleptocrat bleeds dry citizens who were already running a quart low. The more upsetting possibilities include 240 years of U.S. liberal governance being flushed down the vortex or this latter-day Bishop Coughlin deciding to nuke a nation he sees as a pawn. “Unspeakable things,” will happen, he promised. Believe him.
To be sure, other men who were ill-qualified, ethically challenged, or potentially unhinged have occupied the Oval Office during the Republic’s long history. John Tyler and Millard Fillmore, two mid-nineteenth-century Whigs, are often cited in the first category. During the nineteen-twenties, Warren G. Harding brought the stench of corruption right into the West Wing, where he played poker with his cronies from Ohio, some of whom were busy enriching themselves at federal expense. And, when it comes to addled Presidents, we have the accounts that have been handed down of Richard Nixon as the Watergate scandal reached its climax—brooding, cursing, drinking heavily, driven to the edge of madness.
But historical comparisons to Trump only go so far. Tyler and Fillmore, the tenth and thirteenth Presidents, were both experienced politicians who were serving as Vice-Presidents when their bosses died. (Tyler had been the governor of Virginia and also represented the state in the U.S. Senate. Fillmore was a former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.) Although Harding’s name will forever be associated with the Teapot Dome scandal, which involved the secret leasing out of federal oil reserves, he wasn’t accused of lining his own pockets. Nixon, a Shakespearian figure racked by personal insecurities, was also an intelligent man blessed with great powers of concentration. According to Arthur Burns, the economist he appointed to head the Federal Reserve, Nixon could have “held down a chair in political science or law in any of our major universities.”
Trump, then, is sui generis. He has no experience in elected office—in these demented times, that was part of his popular appeal. His reputation as a hugely successful businessman has little basis in fact, as does his claim of being worth ten billion dollars. Until he launched his Presidential campaign, in which he showed some genuine skill as a rabble-rouser, his talents had lain in attracting other people’s money, promoting himself in the media, and playing a role on reality television—the role of Donald Trump, the great dealmaker.•