The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

God Save America from Naïve Princelings Convinced They Know Everything

Just a point to add to Andy McCarthy raking Jared Kushner over the coals for the “galactically stupid” idea . . . 

I get why someone who voted for Donald Trump would defend the president. Trump descended that escalator and went about the process of winning over your vote. He did it in the primaries and in the general election.

What I don’t get is any reflexive defense of . . . Jared Kushner. Trump earned your vote, and presumably, some amount of trust. What did Kushner ever do for you?

If someone like, say, Carl Higbie, the former Navy SEAL who is often on CNN International with me and who is a reliable Trump defender, said he was going to meet with the Russian government in an attempt to establish a back channel of communication, my attitude would be . . . well, he’s a former Navy SEAL, he’s surely been trained in handling classified information, he knows the risks, and he’s put his neck on the line for his country, which probably ought to earn him a least a little bit of trust or the benefit of the doubt.

But Jared Kushner?

Kushner is a 36-year-old who’s been doing New York City real-estate deals. What the heck does he know about U.S. foreign policy with Russia? Maybe he’s a bright guy, maybe he isn’t, but he surely hasn’t been spending most of his life preparing for handling situations and issues like this.

Now he’s getting his own intelligence briefings?

The inevitable defense is, “the president trusts him.” Yes, but perhaps the president shouldn’t. We’ve already seen one example of president’s interests and the Kushner family’s interests diverging:

The most serious point of contention between the president and his son-in-law, two people familiar with the interactions said, was a video clip this month of Mr. Kushner’s sister Nicole Meyer pitching potential investors in Beijing on a Kushner Companies condominium project in Jersey City. At one point, Ms. Meyer — who remains close to Mr. Kushner — dangled the availability of EB-5 visas to the United States as an enticement for Chinese financiers willing to spend $500,000 or more.

For Mr. Trump, Ms. Meyer’s performance violated two major rules: Politically, it undercut his immigration crackdown, and in a personal sense, it smacked of profiteering off Mr. Trump — one of the sins that warrants expulsion from his orbit.

In the following days during routine West Wing meetings, the president made several snarky, disparaging comments about Mr. Kushner’s family and the visas that were clearly intended to express his annoyance, two aides said. Mr. Kushner did not respond, at least not in earshot.

When you suggest “using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications” — basically, a “SCIF” or Secure Compartmentalized Information Facility, a room that’s considered bug-free and safe for communicating secret information — you’re basically announcing that you’re doing something that you want to hide from your own government’s counterintelligence agencies.

The version of Kushner’s discussion in the Washington Post sounds terrible; Fox News offered a differing account, contending the Russians suggested the idea using their secure facilities. You’d like to think that even with zero professional foreign-policy experience, Kushner would recognize, “that is a terrible idea. That means Russian intelligence will be able to listen to our discussions, but not U.S. intelligence. I’m basically inviting the FSB to the discussions, but not the National Security Agency.”

I don’t care how much you hate the alleged “deep state” or the NSA or the CIA or the FBI counterintelligence guys. All of the employees at those institutions take an oath of loyalty to the country and to the Constitution. No one in Russia’s government takes that oath. Everyone in the Russian government must be assumed to be acting in Russia’s interest first, which may or may not align with America’s interests, and certainly does not align with America’s top national-security interests. If you trust the Russians more than you trust the Americans . . . and you see your interest more aligned with the Russian government than with the American government . . . whose side are you really on?

Everybody’s Convinced Their Own Side Is Losing

We’re in this weird moment where both sides of the political divide are convinced the other side is winning.

Let’s look at the Republican reasons to grumble. The repeal and replacement of Obamacare is moving glacially in the Senate. The effort to rewrite the tax code is either stalled or moving at a snail’s pace, as is the same for an infrastructure bill. The budgetary request for construction of a border wall dropped from $21 billion to $1.6 billion to complete 74 miles of wall. The first $1.17 trillion omnibus appropriations bill included few administration priorities — a bit of defense spending, but no major spending cuts, no major funding for new construction of a border wall. Only 39 of President Trump’s appointees have been confirmed by the Senate; more than 440 government positions are still waiting for nominees.

Now check out the mood of Andrew O’Hehir over in Salon:

Get over Montana already — and stop trolling yourself with that stupid special election in Georgia too. They don’t mean anything, and anyway — that dude Jon Ossoff? He’s about the lamest excuse for a national progressive hero in the entire history of Democratic Party milquetoast triangulation. Oh, and since we’re on the subject: Forget about the “blue wave” of 2018. Forget about the Democratic majority of 2019. Forget about the impeachment of President Donald Trump. Have you even been paying attention? Because none of that stuff is happening and it’s all a massive distraction.

Electing a Democratic House majority (which is 95 percent unlikely to happen) and impeaching Trump (which is 100 percent not going to happen) might feel good in the moment, but wouldn’t actually fix what is broken. Considered as a whole, the “blue wave” fantasy of November 2018 is a more elaborate and somewhat more realistic version of the “Hamilton elector” fantasy of December 2016: Something will happen soon to make this all go away. . . . 

The extreme and ingenious gerrymandering of congressional districts locked in by Republican state legislators after the 2010 census virtually guarantees a GOP House majority until the next census and at least the 2022 midterms. Yes, the widely-hated health care law might put a few Republican seats in play that weren’t before. But the number of genuine “swing” districts is vanishingly small, and it would require a Democratic wave of truly historic dimensions to overcome the baked-in GOP advantage.

As for the Senate — well, Democratic campaign strategists will mumble and look away if you bring that up, because the Senate majority is completely out of reach. Of the 33 Senate seats up for election next year, 25 are currently held by Democrats — and 10 of those are in states carried by Donald Trump last year. It’s far more likely that Republicans will gain seats in the Senate, perhaps by knocking off Joe Manchin in West Virginia or Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, than lose any at all.

O’Hehir is convinced that he’s living through the liberal apocalypse, but conservatives look around and are asking themselves . . . this is total victory? This is it?

Is It Worth It to Be Exceptional and Famous for One Big Thing?

The latest round of legal for Tiger Woods spurred this exceptionally wise column from our Kevin Williamson:

Having a life that is focused on the One Big Thing is fine when you are at the apex of your career, when the money just keeps coming in and the magical bubble of fame protects you from all manner of consequence.

But when the One Big Thing is gone, there is a double loss — the thing that defined your life is now in the past, and, at the very moment when your income and public profile both are likely to be heading south, you face the real crisis: You have done something extraordinary, but it is finished, and now you do not know what to do. The lucky ones have great marriages and happy families, faith, community, and friendship to take the place of being in the movies or playing basketball. The ones who don’t have that will try to fill up the great empty hole in the middle of their lives with other things: alcohol, drugs, sexual promiscuity, recklessness in personal and public affairs, including financial ones. Do you know why so many people who ought to be happy but aren’t happy develop problems with cocaine? Because cocaine works exactly as advertised. It makes you happy, until it doesn’t.

I think it was Tony Robbins who had this observation about celebrities who achieve fame only to quickly become self-destructive with drugs, booze, or other reckless behavior: we all want to stand out, to be special, to be recognized as exceptional and better than anyone else at one particular activity or skill. Some people achieve that . . . and then suddenly feel separated from everyone, as all of their old friends from before and no one they know can relate to the pressures and troubles that come from fame. We want to be separate and connect at the same time.

Or to paraphrase a line from the HBO show Big Little Lies, we want to be the envy of our peers . . . but not too much.

ADDENDA: Happy 15th anniversary to the legendary blogging trio at Power Line, who take a trip down memory lane, including the infamous “Rathergate” scandal . . . 

The great Kemberlee Kaye also marks an anniversary and credits me with “discovering” her, which is probably a wild exaggeration of linking to someone else’s exceptional work, but I’ll take credit for it anyway.


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