HOFFMAN FILES Jared Kushner: Profiles in Nepotism
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My brother David graduated from Pace University in the 1970s. Pace is an excellent school for aspiring young people who wish to seek out a career in business, and it’s also the place where my father graduated from a very long time ago. As an institution of higher learning in the field of business, they attract top-notch commencement speakers for their graduation ceremonies. Malcolm Forbes, the wealthy publisher was invited to “charge” the graduates with pearls of wisdom at my brother’s graduation ceremony. He told these future “Rockefellers” and “Carnegies” that there are two ways to get rich in this world:
Work hard, sacrifice, have foresight, and never give up.
Be born into a wealthy family…like me!
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Malcolm Forbes and Donald Trump congratulating each other on being smart enough to be born rich. Oh, and that other women’s name escapes me, but I believe she goes by the name of “Woman you marry before you get really rich and famous.” (Getty Images)
I thought about this the other day when I saw that key presidential advisor, and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, appeared to be in a bit of hot water due to an alleged secret backdoor mode of communication he was hoping to set up with the Russians while the Trump team was still in transition. As a result of this Trump White House “scandal du-jour,” Mr. Kushner has become a man of great interest and curiosity for many Americans. Should it come as a surprise to anybody that Kushner got himself in trouble? After all, does young Jared actually have anything in his background or experience that qualifies him to be advising the president of the United States, aside from the fact that he knows the president’s beloved daughter in a “biblical sense?”
What exactly are Mr. Kushner’s qualifications? There are people, including the president that enjoy pointing out that Jared K. is man of above average intelligence. What has transpired in their experience with Kushner that leads them to the conclusion that he is some sort of intellectual powerhouse? From where I sit, it would appear that the leading indicator that Kushner is both bright and talented is the fact that he is rich. This wouldn’t be so alarming if in fact he had been responsible for achieving this wealth through his own hard work and ingenuity. However Kushner, like the above-mentioned Malcolm Forbes, garnered his fortune through the blessed consummation of physical desire between his parents. In other words, he was born rich. (Hey, that is smart!)
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LIke father like son? Let’s hope not, Jared Kushner seen here posing with his father Charles might not want to follow precisely in his father’s footsteps. Charlie K. served time in federal prison for illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering. What a mensch! (You Tube)
Whether Jared Kushner has broken any laws, and is indeed a criminal will all come out in the wash at some point I would assume. What I find more interesting is the idea that more people weren’t outraged over the power and access this young man has been given. There are two great American tragic assumptions being laid to bare in front of us, and it’s time we come to grips with them because they are both on display in the personage of one Jared Kushner.
Why do we assume that because he’s rich, Jared and all rich people for that matter must be smart, or at least be knowledgeable in all areas of life.
Why do we assume that if you are the child of a rich and/or powerful person, you must be smart or deserving?
Coming out of the Revolutionary War, there was tremendous paranoia on the part of many of our founding fathers that we not fall into the trap of having an “inherited” executive. America, according to our founders was to be a republic, found upon Republican principles. (Not Republican as in, “Climate change is fake”, and the Big Bang theory is alternative facts,” but an actual ideology that proclaims the inherent superiority of representative government.) James Madison in wording the Constitution made it quite clear that there were to be “No titles of nobility.” In other words, there is no royalty here in the United States. However, Madison forgot to mention the rich.
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This is American royalty, the billionaire industrialist. John D. Rockefeller may not have been “royalty” in the purest sense of the word, but he was richer than any king who ever lived. (Getty Images)
This isn’t some “eat the rich” diatribe, or “let’s explore the wonders of the Communist Manifesto.” I’m a believer in capitalism, warts and all. However, I’m not always certain that just because somebody is wealthy, it means that their opinions are more valid than the average American.
Still, Kushner’s “success” is celebrated by Trump and his supporters, and many in the media were labeling him a “modifying” force within the “Trump White House.” So far, there appears to be little evidence of that, and with the most recent move by Trump to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Kushner seems to have lost the latest battle to control Trump’s brain to his “friend” and “colleague,” Steve Bannon.
Charles Kushner, like Jared’s father-in-law, made his wealth in real estate. I don’t wish to impune the reputation of all who have made their bones in the world of high-priced real estate, but it does seem to be a field that attracts those with dubious morals. Charles Kushner has served time in federal prison, courtesy of his prosecutor, Chris “Crisco” Christie. (One of the main reasons why Christie doesn’t have a job in the “Trump White House.” I guess for that we should be grateful for Jared’s presence in the White House.) Charles went to prison for illegal campaign contributions amongst other “no-nos.” Interestingly, the Kushners were Democrats, and most of their campaign contributions were made to Democratic candidates, until of course their pushy in-law decided to run for president.
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A young Jared Kushner selling newspapers to put himself through college. Is there anything more heartwarming than watching a plucky kid trying to scrape by on just his wits and work ethic….and several hundred million dollars from his parents? (New York Times)
Now that Jared Kushner appears to be under scrutiny due to his activities regarding Russia, one has to wonder if in fact Jared has inherited some of his father’s less savory qualities. On the other hand, perhaps I’m not being fair. Should we really be holding Jared Kushner liable for the sins of his convicted criminal father’s behavior? Can’t the acorn fall far from the tree every once in a while? What of young Jared’s background? Isn’t it possible that even though he may be limited in experience, he may have been a brilliant student with the type of worldly experience that can be put to good use in the White House? How about that resume’ Jared?
Jared Kushner’s family background is actually quite compelling. His grandparents were holocaust survivors from Belarus. Kushner, who was born in New Jersey, (I’m not sure what exit) was raised in a modern orthodox home, and was schooled in a coed Yeshiva high school. What does it mean to be “modern orthodox?” For those of you who aren’t of the Jewish persuasion, Judaism can be broken down into the following categories;
Ultra Orthodox – A follower of Judaism who claims to be Ultra Orthodox must follow the rules of Judaism to the letter. The men must have their head covered, the women have to wear a wig or sheitel to cover their hair. They must dress with modesty, the men must grow their beards and have payos, and you spend a lot of time in prayer. Sabbath or Shabbot is observed strictly. You follow Glatt kosher laws without exception. In other words, “kosher” is as “kosher” does.
Modern Orthodox – They follow most of the rules pretty closely, but allow for some looser interpretation of the Talmud, the book of Jewish laws for observation. Still strictly kosher, and head covered.
Conservative – Usually kosher, sometimes the head is covered outside of temple. Typically there is strict Sabbath (Shabbat) observance, but not quite as strict as the Modern Orthodox.
Reformed – Very limited attention to detail is paid to the rules as laid out in the Talmud. Many reformed Jews, if they observe Sabbath, observe only Friday night. They are typically not kosher and they are by far the most likely of all Jews to practice interfaith marriage. The spirit and traditions of Judaism are followed more so than the rules. Gentiles who convert to Judaism can only be considered a Reformed Jew.
Hoffman-ish – An abbreviated Seder on Passover, and some gifts on Hanukkah. “Can we have bacon on top of our Potato Latkes?” is typically heard in the Hoffman house on Hanukkah.
Kabbalah – I don’t know what that is, but Madonna follows it, so I’m guessing they can eat pork.
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It is interesting that as a man who considers himself Modern Orthodox, Jared Kushner does not wear a yarmulke. Neither Shelden Silver, nor Joseph Lieberman, both Jewish politicians who also considered themselves pretty pious, chose not to cover their heads either. Aroyf mit vos? (New York Times)
According to a Kushner family spokesperson, Jared was an honors student, and a member of the debate, hockey, and basketball teams. Some former school officials however, remember him as a less than stellar student. Kushner then attended Harvard, where his father had pledged 2.5 million dollars, and served on the Board of Trustees. (I don’t have a problem with a father doing for his child, but I do have a problem with Harvard being bought off so easily.) He eventually earned a JD/MBA from NYU. ( A man of letters, literally.) He then basically took over the company while his father made “big ones into little ones” in prison. The company took a beating in the crash of 2008, and he’s had to borrow and join with an equity firm to keep the business afloat.
Most of his political dealings have been historically with Democrats such as billionaire George Soros. However, marrying Ivanka, and becoming part of the Trump clan has apparently changed all of that. His real estate and publishing businesses seem to be doing well, so perhaps there is more to Jared than meets the eye? Perhaps the charges of nepotism regarding Kushner’s position in the White House are somewhat unfair?
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The grand-lady of nepotism, Edith Wilson, the woman who ran the White House for her husband Woodrow when he was felled by a stroke in 1919. I guess you could say she “slept” her way to the top. (Getty Images)
Perhaps we have been too harsh on Jared Kushner. Is he really that much less qualified than other presidential family members who found themselves in positions of power thanks to the time-honored practice of nepotism? Certainly several first ladies besides Edith Wilson played significant roles in their husband’s affairs. Eleanor Roosevelt, Lady Bird Johnson, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton as well as Michelle Obama all influenced their husbands when it came to policy and decision-making. However what of those family members who were given positions within the president’s cabinet? How common has this practice been?
Well, Kushner’s appointment to his father-in-law’s “team,” may be an example of questionable judgement, (Not, pull your country out of the Paris Climate Agreement questionable judgement, just kind of questionable judgement.) and nepotism at its worst, as well as a conflict of interest, but it’s hardly unprecedented. The following presidents utilized nepotism in order to surround themselves with individuals that they would feel at ease with:
John Kennedy – Of course, no act of nepotism has garnered more fame than President John Kennedy appointing his younger brother Robert Kennedy as attorney general of the United States. The younger Kennedy was only 35 years old, and hadn’t exactly spent a lot of time in a court room if you know what I mean. People did call JFK out for this, but he stayed the course, and RFK turned out to be a more than competent AG.
John Adams – How old is nepotism in the presidency? The 2nd president of the United States John Adams appointed his son, John Quincy Adams to be ambassador to Prussia. John Quincy Adams used this appointment as a stepping stone to his own presidency in 1824.
Ulysses S. Grant – Grant had one of the most scandal riddled cabinets in presidential history. He also filled his departments with several individuals who owed their jobs to nepotism. This included a cousin, and several brother-in-laws.
Franklin D. Roosevelt – FDR appointed his son James to a secretarial position. FDR’s wife Eleanor also waged considerable influence over FDR’s presidency. When you’re president for 12 years, you end up having to fill a lot of positions.
Dwight D. Eisenhower – “Ike” also appointed his son John to a secretarial position, Assistant Staff Secretary. John Eisenhower would go on to serve in both the Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford administrations.
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At one time in history, Robert Kennedy came to epitomize nepotism in the White House. People asked many of the same questions about RFK as they are about Jared Kushner. One advantage that Robert Kennedy had compared to Jared Kushner is that Robert Kennedy learned about Washington working for infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy. (Getty Images)
The biggest issue that may lie ahead for Jared Kushner will most likely have little to do with his lack of experience. Instead it may hinge on why he was seeking secret communications with major players in Russia, including some who have been sanctioned by the United States government. If in fact he was doing something illegal, or at the very least, unethical, will Trump throw his son-in-law under the bus? Remember, blood is thicker than water, but Kushner is married to Trump’s favorite person in the world, his daughter Ivanka. This is a tough call, and if things get dicey for Kushner in the midst of the endless investigations that are swirling around this administration, will Kushner fall on his sword and resign?
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The “odd couple” of the Trump administration. Who will outlast who in this battle to control Trump’s brain? More importantly, considering who Kushner is, how does he rationalize working with a man like Bannon? (New York Times)
Kushner may or may not have broken the law, but he’s already been a disappointment to many who had hoped that he would serve as a moderating factor in the Trump administration. While Kushner’s presence has all but guaranteed that Chris Christie will never work for the Trump administration, as long as Jeff Sessions and Steve Bannon hold sway over the “Orange Menace,” Jared’s influence would appear to be limited. If Jared is the good guy that many Trump apologists would have us believe, what is he thinking every time he walks into a cabinet meeting and sees those two “gargoyles” sitting at the president’s table? I’m guessing the first word that comes to mind for him is, Oy!