One of the problems we in America have just now is what we don’t know. Fake news? Real news? Experience? Make-believe? Altruism? Pocket-lining?
With nearly half-a-dozen investigations afoot – in Congress, in the office of the Special Counsel, in the Washington Post and The New York Times – wires are being crossed and what’s released to a pubic that cares is increasingly confusing.
Our reactions are not singular. As each day passes with more and more “Breaking News,” anger grows, impatience, suspicion.
Regardless of whom one voted for, the results can now be seen to be, in our mind, disastrous. Hiring a hockey rink jammed with ballet dancers – in effect, calling upon friends, neighbors, and family members – none of whom have any skating experience – is more than ridiculous. It’s incredibly stupid. Matching these artistic bozos with tasks to perform for the good of the public is tantamount to handing a six month old a bottle of J&B. Balance is not improved, and knowledge is nowhere garnered. Occasionally a good prima ballerina can be turned into a wizard on ice, but this happens so rarely we’d hardly recognize her. It certainly isn’t happening in Washington today.
Today’s Primary Example: Jared Kushner.
He may very well have enlisted to assist his father-in-law with every good intention. Without experience of anything but “dealing” in real estate and captaining a failing newspaper, Mr. Kushner may indeed be a man of good will. He may even have honest ambitions to settle the Middle East, as well as to deal with Iran, not to mention the Pacific trade lanes, and four hundred other little tasks he’s been handed and has accepted without one word of modesty. Even Ben Carson admitted he knew nothing about affordable housing.
His father-in-law likes him. “Believe me,” says the elder Trump. “Trust me.”
Why and on what basis?
Mr. Kushner may have, in earlier lives, actually made money for his family. He will certainly be on the lookout to make more for his extended clan. Alas, this has almost nothing to do with the welfare of the United States of America and its inhabitants. If we are to believe the Donald, Kushner has insight, experience, know-how, and a record of success unparalleled – but by the Donald himself. After all, Daddy’s running the country at the same time he’s running his enterprises. Why shouldn’t Jared be able to do something so evidently simple?
Trump’s apologists insist here is nothing strange or unusual about an administration reaching out to communicate with its allies. Before being sworn in? While we still have another president in the Oval Office? Allies? And what’s wrong with making new friends who may, sometime in the future, become business cohorts? After all, in the years to come, what helps fill the coffers is all to the good. For the family. Not perhaps for the nation.
For the moment, given that Jared’s idea of communicating with one and all makes a certain amount of common sense diplomatically, what’s the harm?
But asking an Ally to control, run, program and hide this communication from the nation that “employs” him is going too far. The red lines we honor and those we don’t are often secret themselves. “Back channels,” we are now told, are as ordinary as two cans at the opposite ends of a piece of taut string. But handing a pair of scissors to your opposite number seems perilously and preposterously dumb. Not to mention enhancing the likelihood that that opposite number will use his/her scissors to slash, carve, scar his or her opposite number. Arming Russia in the name of confidentiality reeks of naivete. Or treason.
This entire column is written without verification of any kind, based entirely on “leaks” and anonymous sources.
But that’s all we’ve got so far. And the longer the scheme is nebulous and unsubstantiated, the more real harm can be done.
Meanwhile, the Donald continues his demolition. Yesterday the Paris Climate Change Accords, today – who knows? Yesterday’s decision “in favor of the American people” was a case of – again – unwillingness to listen and learn. It was also a primary instance of doing something because he can. Not for him the understanding that the accords were entirely voluntary rather than imposed upon us by any foreign power(s). Not for him the understanding that can actually come from collected data – that 50 percent of the Republican base wanted to stay in the Accords, and that 70 per cent of the nation believes climate change is real and needs to be addressed.
For those with bent senses of humor, yesterday also gave the Donald what we hope is something of a shock. Mr. Putin admitted that perhaps a few well-intentioned and patriotic Russians may have, in their zeal to protect the good name of the Federation, played with their computers and hacked into the DNC or the recent electoral process. In effect, just kids being kids. Donald should be livid, so hard and cleverly had he and his team tried to provide Mr. Putin what he wanted: his consulates back, and the focus of the rest of the world as an effective leader. (After all, Donald has always said that, too.)
The one solid moment of relief for a puzzled and forgotten nation was that industrialists of all sizes and persuasions are pushing back at the president. He’ll ignore them too, and unwittingly add them to the crowds of former supporters now dubious if not just plain betrayed. When Exxon says “Stay” and Donald says “Go,” 40 million Trumpies find themselves in an increasingly large but hardly seaworthy vessel. We can’t imagine which group is less comfortable.
Mr. Kushner’s ineptitude with Russian colleagues may pass for a few weeks more as well-intentioned but too trusting by half. But the kicker – that the Russians should assist him in keeping their conversations and aims secret – by any other name looks, tastes, and smells like that proverbial duck called espionage.