Jared Kushner is at it again. The princeling-in-law of the Trump family is once again billing himself as a problem-solver who can fix the crisis that’s baffled the experts—in this case, the COVID-19 pandemic. Jared is running his own coronavirus response group alongside the official White House task force, with a special focus on making testing more widely available, and once again plenty of staffers are eager to dish anonymously—a Washington Post report on the matter “is based on interviews with 10 senior administration officials and people familiar with the effort, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal dynamics and speak candidly.”
What are they saying? They’re talking about Jared’s “shadow task force,” and the confusion it causes to have orders coming from two separate groups, an official one headed by the vice president and an unofficial one headed by the president’s son-in-law, who briefs him separately and has virtually unlimited access. They’re talking about how corporate representatives are involved in the unofficial effort, and are emailing government officials from private, possibly unsecure, email accounts. (But her emails!)
“We don’t know who these people are,” a senior official told The Post. “Who is this? We’re all getting these emails.”
Apparently the discontent is strong enough that Jared felt moved to defend himself directly, telling The Post, ”We’re getting things done in record speeds and are doing everything possible to avoid damage and mitigate the negative impacts.” Getting things done in record speeds? I thought he was supposed to be the smooth, believable one, but here he is lifting talking points directly from his father-in-law.
“In America, some of our best resources are in our private sector. The federal government is not designed to solve all our problems; a lot of the muscle is in the private sector and there’s also a lot of smart people,” he continued. Um, fighting pandemics is in fact exactly one of the things the Centers for Disease Control was designed to do. Certainly more so than CVS. As for a lot of the muscle being in the private sector vs. the government, perhaps that has something to do with Donald Trump weakening pandemic response over the past three years.
How confident should we be in Jared’s coronavirus smarts? Let’s check it out: “Kushner had previously counseled the president that the media and some in the administration were overreacting to the threat of the virus,” The Post notes. That went well! All that happened was that the disease spread undetected while Trump kept telling the public that it would go away soon, no problems there.
Continuing on: “Kushner helped write Trump’s widely panned prime-time Oval Office address last week that sent markets into a free fall, pushed Trump to ban travel from Europe”—the execution of which led to hours-long lines in crowded airports that potentially exposed thousands more people to the virus—“ and orchestrated a Rose Garden news conference last Friday where Trump announced a ramped-up testing effort that turned out to be in only the early stages of development.” Here, for “turned out to be in only the early stages of development,” read “was pretty much fictional.”
So this is where we are on Jared the coronavirus expert. Everything he has touched so far has been a disaster. He is now running an unaccountable, opaque (even to people in the administration) effort more or less aimed at turning over as much of the testing as possible to private, for-profit companies. At least until he loses focus and moves to the next giant problem on which he’s not an expert, or until he decides that the whole Trump administration coronavirus response is such a disaster that it’s time to distance himself by placing puff pieces about how really he was nowhere near the White House at the time.