May 01, 2023
Despite the catcalls and boos from some friends and even my wife, I was tickled to death on that November night of 2016 when The Donald was proclaimed America’s 45th president. It had a lot to do with my dislike for Hillary and Bill, as well as my Republican Party sentiments, something I lived to slightly regret once I sat and broke bread with ex-president Clinton two years later.
It was a cousin by marriage, princess Maya Schoenburg, who was the hostess at an Octoberfest shindig in Munich. I couldn’t find my table when the hostess’ sister, Gloria Thurn und Taxis, spotted me and pointed at a seat one away from a rather gray and thin gent who was No. 42 as far as presidents go. She introduced us, and he looked straight into my eyes, took my hand, and complained without saying a word. “How could you have written such things about me?” was the silent message. I must say, he made me feel like a baby-killer without uttering a word. Such are the joys of a Christian upbringing and Catholic guilt. Never mind.
Things were hunky-dory during The Donald’s presidency, and despite the unprecedented attacks by the media and the Washington establishment, Trump’s instincts served him well. The economy was booming, North Korea, Russia, and China were playing ball, the Europeans were told to put up or shut up, and the swamp was going nuts that none of their phony charges against the president stuck to him. Then Covid happened and it didn’t help matters.
After his very close defeat Trump seems to have lost his bearings. Surrounding himself with yes-men did not help. He lost (reluctantly) a voter by the name of Taki after his spoiled nonacceptance of the 2020 election. But that is not the point of this column; his son-in-law—and the blatant, unfathomable, and utterly unacceptable profiteering from his father-in-law’s presidency—is.
When George Marshall, a great American public servant and soldier, left his Cabinet office for private life, he took one thing with him: his hat. When Jared Kushner left the White House after acting as an adviser to his father-in-law, he took pledges and promises of billions of dollars from wealth funds of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia for his private equity firm. All three kingdoms have honored their pledges to Kushner’s funds, and the son-in-law has now risen above the father-in-law where the root of all evil is concerned.
Which brings me to the real scandal of the Trump family: Kushner and his debt-ridden real estate fund, now rescued by those three great democracies of the Gulf. I’ve never met Kushner, but when his wife, Ivanka, was a child, she was at school with my son. I first heard of him when he took over the New York Observer (a pink weekly where I had a column during its heyday) and drove it to bankruptcy in no time. His other great achievement was 666 Fifth Avenue, a tower that owed billions and was about to bankrupt a certain Jared Kushner and his slumlord father, the latter a man who had done serious time in jail.
There is a long history of insiders benefiting from deals with Gulf regimes after leaving government service, but never as blatantly as the Kushner rescue from bankruptcy by ex–camel drivers now referred to as princes. Unfortunately, there are few laws or ethics guidelines prohibiting such blatant bribes for future influence, which leaves shameless opportunists like Kushner sitting pretty.
Mind you, another Trump official, Steven Mnuchin, the former treasury secretary, has also benefited from wealth funds of the Gulf, but his case is not as blatant because he was not actually broke while serving President Trump. Kushner, for all intents and purposes, was. Since his rescue, Kushner has openly declared that he wants no part in any Trump presidential campaign, which brings to mind rats fleeing a sinking ship—but again, never mind. This is what I would call the unacceptable side of capitalism.
The Donald himself has pursued Saudi wealth since leaving office, but I see that as his right. He was a successful businessman before he was president, unlike Kushner, who had bankrupted most of his family’s projects. But as I previously mentioned, there are no laws against profiting from being named an adviser by his father-in-law, who happened to have been elected president of the United States of America, except a moral obligation.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Jared Kushner has not done anything illegal, but it’s a bit like owning brothels in Holland, where brothels are legal. Jared Kushner’s moral compass is what’s wrong. He has established a new frontier of unacceptable immorality, which is probably among the few things he has accomplished in his life. Let’s face it: In a quid pro quo, the Gulf autocracies enriched Kushner in case Donald Trump manages to win the ultimate prize in 2024. If a passion to preserve the sovereign nature of the individual is pure capitalism, profiting from a position of trust is purely immoral. Kushner should be ashamed of himself, but shame is a word unknown to the 45th president’s son-in-law.