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. My elation had a lot to do with my Republican Party sentiments and with my dislike for Hillary and Bill, 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 Gloria of Thurn and Taxis, who was the hostess at an Oktoberfest shindig in Munich. I couldn’t find my table when she spotted me and pointed at a seat one away from a rather grey and thin gent who was number 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 syllable. 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 because none of their phony charges against the president would stick.
Then COVID happened, which didn’t help.
After his very close defeat,Trump seems to have lost his bearings. Surrounding himself with yes-men did not help. He lost a voter by the name of Taki, though it was a reluctant decision, after his spoilt nonacceptance of the 2020 election.
But that is not the point of this column; his son-in-law Jared Kushner—who engaged in 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 Kushner left the White House after acting as an advisor 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, and the son-in-law has now risen above the father-in-law, where the root of all envy 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 often played with my two children. I first heard of Kushner when he took over The New York Observer, a weekly with pink-colored paper where I had a column during its heyday. Kushner 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 Kushner and his slumlord father, Charles, a man who has done time in prison for illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering.
There is a long history of insiders benefitting from deals with Gulf regimes after leaving government service, but none so blatant 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 overt bribes for future influence—which leaves shameless opportunists like Kushner sitting pretty.
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 mentioned, there are no laws against profiting from being named an advisor 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. Kushner has not done anything illegal, but it’s a bit like owning brothels in Holland, where brothels are legal. His 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 have enriched Kushner in case 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.