Who Do Jared and Ivanka Think They Are?

Many high achievers, particularly women and people of color, suffer from impostor syndrome, the fear that they don't belong in the rarefied realm to which they've ascended and that they will soon be found out. Even Michelle Obama, who is, according to a Gallup poll conducted last year, the most admired woman in America, has said that she feels it. "I share that with you because we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what that power is," she told students in London in December.

Well, maybe not all of us. I've just finished Vicky Ward's "Kushner, Inc.," a scintillating investigation of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump's White House sojourn, which comes out on Tuesday. It's full of damning details: contempt for the entitled, venal couple may be the one thing that unites all of D.C.'s warring factions. Still, the first daughter and her husband remain psychologically mysterious, at least to me. Why don't they have impostor syndrome, given that their total lack of qualifications for the jobs they are doing makes them actual impostors?

According to "Kushner, Inc.," Gary Cohn, former director of the National Economic Council, has told people that Ivanka Trump thinks she could someday be president. "Her father's reign in Washington, D.C., is, she believes, the beginning of a great American dynasty," writes Ward. Kushner, whose pre-White House experience included owning a boutique newspaper and helming a catastrophically ill-timed real estate deal, has arrogated to himself substantial parts of American foreign policy. According to Ward, shortly after Rex Tillerson was confirmed as secretary of state, Kushner told him "to leave Mexico to him because he'd have Nafta wrapped up by October."

As political actors, the couple are living exemplars of the Dunning-Kruger effect, a psychological phenomenon which leads incompetent people to overestimate their ability because they can't grasp how much they don't know.Partly, the Jared and Ivanka story is about the "reality distortion field" — a term one of Ward's sources uses about Kushner — created by great family wealth. She quotes a member of Trump's legal team saying that the two "have no idea how normal people perceive, understand, intuit." Privilege, in them, has been raised to the level of near sociopathy.

Ward, the author of two previous books about the worlds of high finance and real estate, has known Kushner slightly for a long time; she told me that when he bought The New York Observer newspaper in 2006, he tried to hire her. She knocks down the idea that either he or his wife is a stabilizing force or moral compass in the Trump administration. Multiple White House sources told her they think it was Kushner who ordered the closing of White House visitor logs in April 2017, because he "didn't want his frenetic networking exposed." Ward reports that Cohn was stunned by their blasé reaction to Trump's defense of the white-nationalist marchers in Charlottesville, Va.: "He was upset that they were not sufficiently upset."

Still, even if you assume that the couple are amoral climbers, their behavior still doesn't quite make sense. Ward writes that Ivanka's chief concern is her personal brand, but that brand has been trashed. The book cites an October 2017 survey measuring consumer approval of more than 1,600 brands. Ivanka's fashion line was in the bottom 10. A leading real estate developer tells Ward that Kushner, now caught up in multiple state and federal investigations, has become radioactive: "No one will want to do business with him." (Kushner resigned as C.E.O. of Kushner Companies in 2017, but has kept most of his stake in the business.)To truly make sense of their motivations, Ward told me, you have to understand the gravitational pull of their fathers. Husband and wife are both "really extraordinarily orientated and identified through their respective fathers in a way that most fully formed adults are not," she said.

Among the most interesting parts of "Kushner, Inc.," are the chapters about the business history of Charles Kushner, Jared's felonious father, and his plan to restore his reputation, with Jared's help, after getting out of prison in 2006. Part of that rehabilitation project was the purchase of a flagship building in Manhattan — 666 Fifth Avenue, an absurdly on-the-nose address — for which the family paid a record amount at the very height of the real estate market in 2007. When the Great Recession hit, the building became a white elephant, its debt threatening the family fortune.

Ward's book suggests that the search for someone who would bail out 666 Fifth Avenue has played a significant role in American foreign policy during the Trump administration. And since the completion of her book, we've learned that Trump overrode intelligence officials, who were concerned about Kushner and his family's ties to foreign investors, to give Kushner a security clearance.

Michelle Goldberg, New York Times. March 18, 2019


March 19, 2019

Voices4America Post Script. Read all about sickos Kushner and Ivanka. Like Father, like daughter. The wonder is she found a man with the same sickness, from the same causes. Like father, like son. be afraid, very afraid. #sickTrumps

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