By Jared Kushner (2022)
Kushner is no prose stylist. But this tome is a valuable guide to the tour-of-duty of an outsider in a White House full of outsiders. It shows how a transactional background with amateur oversight, ego, and the Art of the Deal, can actually accomplish something in the Deep Swamp that is American federal executive governance. Take, for example, the Abraham Accords. The conventional wisdom, espoused by the likes of the never-right-but-never-in-doubt John Kerry, was that a Palestinian solution was a necessary pre-cursor to improvement of general Arab-Israeli relations. Yet the Trump administration, at Kushner’s suggestion, flipped that script and achieved an agreement for the normalisation of relations (recognition of sovereignty, full diplomatic relations and commercial activity) between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan. Whilst no doubt permeated by realpolitik – resembling something like the Nixon/Kissinger ‘triangulation’ play, only directed at Palestine and Iran – the Accords were a once-in-a-generation breakthrough in the troubled region, and would have earned any president, apart from The Donald, the Nobel Peace Prize.
Like Trump, Kushner was a deal-maker (together, they drove a fairly impressive NAFTA 2.0, did some counter-intuitive things on criminal justice reform, and handled Covid-19 reasonably, in retrospect). But as the ‘token’ liberal (and Jew) in the office, with nil experience in public administration, he was often blindsided, unused to bureaucratic inertia, out of his depth, and resented as the beneficiary of nepotism (he is Trump’s son-in-law). His editor at the New York Observer, which he bought in 2006, reportedly said of Kushner: “This guy doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.” That naivety helped him get embroiled in the Russian Collusion nonsense that distracted the Trump administration for a good chunk of its term, although he appears to have been blameless.
In the event, the book is worth reading as one of the small assortment of books about POTUS 45 that is not suffused with hysteria.