A son-in-law does not an administration make
Judging from the multiple roles he’s been given, one could be forgiven for thinking that 36-year-old Jared Kushner is the most talented leader to grace the globe since William Pitt the Younger took over as British Prime Minister at the tender age of 24.
Pitt ably served as both premier and chancellor of the exchequer for 19 of the next the next 22 years, until the grim reaper ended his storied political career at 46. During his years in power, he had to contend with both the French Revolution and then that marauding Continental troublemaker, Napoleon Bonaparte. So deft and determined was his response that one admiring contemporary labeled him “the Atlas of our reeling globe.”
Our modern-day Pitt has, at 36, assumed a similar burden of backbreaking chores. He has, for example, been tasked with bringing peace to the Middle East. Mind you, however, his duties as pseudo-undersecretary of state don’t end there. Last week found him meeting with the prime minister of Iraq. His responsibilities also include negotiating a new trade deal with Mexico. And acting as a point of contact of sorts with China. Meanwhile, just as Pitt did stellar work reforming the British East India Company, so, too, has this apparent young wunderkind undertaken to reshape the way the entire US government works, to make it operate more like a business. (Small contractors who do business with Uncle Sam best hope that the model won’t be a Trump enterprise, which seemed to consider not paying their bills as a legitimate cost-saving option.) But unlike Pitt, Kushner will also have a role in improving care for veterans. And solving the opioid-addiction crisis.
There is one big difference between the two young men, however. Pitt’s abilities made themselves self-
evident to one and all, and thus won him widespread acclaim. Kushner, on the other hand, holds his various informal but influential roles mostly by virtue of being married to Ivanka Trump, and thus the son-in-law of President Donald Trump. We say “mostly” because, in an administration where no qualifications are apparently required, it’s altogether possible that, with the help of a felicitously timed campaign contribution or two, Kushner might have landed at least one of his prestigious posts even if he weren’t married to the apple of the president’s eye.
Still, it’s safe to say there’s little in Kushner’s past to suggest Pitt’s copious talents. His way into Harvard apparently was eased by generous family contributions. Yes, he has run a real estate business, but his presence in that role, too, relates less to ability than to familial relationships: Kushner Companies was his father’s real estate firm; Jared became its public face and eventual CEO, after Pere Kushner went to prison on federal tax evasion, witness tampering, and illegal campaign-contribution charges.
Now, let’s be fair: Having Kushner undertaking these various Trump administration responsibilities is far preferable to seeing them assigned to, say, Steve Bannon. But let’s also be honest: Given his lack of either relevant experience or recognized accomplishments, having the president’s son-in-law assume so many roles makes the Trump administration look like one of those decaying family dynasties that have sometimes plagued third-world nations.
Fortunately, there’s a better path forward than assigning nettlesome task after nettlesome task to the callow Kushner. To wit: Trump should go about filling the scores of vacant posts at the State Department. And perhaps even consider plugging low-energy Secretary of State Rex Tillerson into a charging station.
That way, the United States could continue its long tradition of being represented around the world by professional diplomats schooled in the complexities of global affairs, rather than a pleasant but unproven young fellow whose best career move to date has been marrying the president’s daughter.