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It’s the spirit of the age: Jared Kushner edition

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Jared Kushner plays a key policymaking role in the Trump administration on a wide variety of issues. Currently, he’s trying to craft the federal government’s response to the COVID-19:

Jared Kushner—who was tasked this week with carrying out research into the coronavirus to help President Donald Trump decide what to do next—has apparently consulted his sister-in-law’s dad, Kurt Kloss, an emergency-room doctor, who then reached out to a Facebook group for advice on what to say. The Spectator reports that Kloss crowd-sourced for ideas from other doctors on a Facebook group, asking: “If you were in charge of Federal response to the Pandemic what would your recommendation be?” Kloss added that he wanted “only serious responses” before writing, “I have direct channel to person now in charge at White House and have been asked for recommendations.” Kushner had earlier said he was talking to “relevant parties” and will “present his findings to the president.” After his initial post, Kloss posted a summary of the recommendations from the Facebook group and then informed them: “Jared is reading now.”

Kushner is a none-too-bright trust fund kid, who got into Harvard College because his father bribed the school with a multi-million dollar “donation.” He has no subject matter expertise regarding COVID-19, which is why he’s asking somebody in his social network — thanks, Zuck! — for advice, even though the person he’s asking doesn’t have such expertise either, although at least he maybe sorta knows some people who kind of do, maybe.

Consider how many geists of the zeit this edifying little tale raises:

(1) The “meritocratic” plutocracy. Jared is a fairly dim fellow, and also doesn’t know much about any particular subject beyond the slumlording his family’s fortune is built upon, but Daddy bought him a place at an elite school, so he and everyone around him gets to pretend these things aren’t true.

(2) Rank nepotism. Jared’s ability to make major decisions about what the federal government is going to do about the current pandemic is solely a product of the fact that he’s married to the president’s daughter. This is one of those things that are both so obvious and so shocking that the very fact that it’s so obvious somehow conspires to make it far less shocking than it should be.

(3) The Republican party’s contempt for genuine expertise. The best example of this is of course the election of Donald Trump himself, but Trump’s willingness to make the doltish dilettante married to his favorite child an important figure in his government is a further reflection of how American conservatism is at its core deeply anti-intellectual. Conservatives in general, and in particular the white evangelicals who make up Trump’s base, hate expertise because their world view is a farrago of magical thinking that wouldn’t stand up to ten seconds of actual critical scrutiny, which is why they take great care to avoid that experience at all costs.

(4) Donald Trump’s crude stereotypical thinking. Trump puts great trust in Jared Kushner’s policy advice, despite the complete lack of any rational basis for doing such a thing, because Kushner is Jewish, and Trump knows that “the Jews” are clever people, good at counting money and cutting deals.

Like so many other details of the Trump administration, the Jared Kushner story is one that historians many centuries from now (assuming there are any) will probably argue about in the way they’ve always argued about the most outrageous stories that have come down to us from the Roman chronicles of the most corrupt and decadent emperors, with many no doubt claiming that the details of this story must surely be exaggerated by the venom of hostile contemporary commenters.

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