That was Jared Kushner speaking at the daily briefing of the White House coronavirus task force on Thursday. And why was Kushner there? Why is Kushner, as utterly ignorant and unqualified for this task as he is for all the other ones he has been assigned, even remotely involved with the government’s effort to deal with one of the most profound challenges the United States has ever faced?
Was it not enough that he was told to solve the opioid crisis and achieve Middle East peace, inevitably failing at both? Is he the person whose help we need right now?
He’s not just helping. According to multiple reports, Kushner has established his own shadow task force overseeing the government’s efforts on the coronavirus, at times duplicating or displacing what the official task force is doing as Kushner issues orders across the government and nobody is quite sure who is in charge.
“This was a total mess,” Kushner told people when he came in to take over the coronavirus response, according to Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman. “I know how to make this government run now.”
This was during a period in which Kushner advised the president that the media was overhyping the threat from the virus: In mid-March, the New York Times reported that Kushner “considers the problem more about public psychology than a health reality, according to people who have spoken with him."
Kushner has also tried to figure out what to do by getting his brother’s wife’s father, an ER doctor, to ask around on Facebook to determine how the government should handle the crisis.
But now he has it under control, because he knows more than the actual experts. “I have all this data about ICU capacity. I’m doing my own projections, and I’ve gotten a lot smarter about this. New York doesn’t need all the ventilators,” Sherman reports that Kushner has said privately.
As of Thursday, New York State reported had nearly 100,000 cases of the virus. And more than 2,300 people in the state had died.
So many awful things have happened over the past three years that we’ve become almost numb to them. But this a moment when our voices should be rising in anger. As if it weren’t bad enough that the president is messing this up so badly himself, he has outsourced management of one of the most deadly challenges the United States has ever faced to his ignorant son-in-law.
Perhaps there is an individual somewhere who is so brilliant, so deeply informed, so experienced, so persuasive, and possessed of such remarkable judgment that he or she would have been capable of solving all those problems Kushner has been assigned. Perhaps there is someone who with zero knowledge of public health or pandemics or government logistics could swoop in and successfully manage this kind of crisis.
It’s at least possible that such a person exists. But Kushner is not that person.
In fact, just like his father-in-law, Kushner is a walking case study in the Dunning-Kruger effect, in which people of low ability drastically overestimate their own abilities, in large part because they are incapable of understanding what they don’t know.
Join that with a lifetime of unearned wealth and privilege (Kushner, a mediocre high school student, was accepted to Harvard after his father pledged to the university a well-timed $2.5 million donation), and you wind up with someone who is supremely and unjustifiably confident, moving through a world in which nobody ever tells them how badly they’ve messed up or how incompetent they are.
The only difference between Kushner and his father-in-law is that President Trump goes out in public and says that he knows more than all the experts about the area of their expertise, while Kushner only says it in private.
The very fact that Kushner has any job at all in the government is deeply inappropriate; the fact that he has seized such sweeping authority over so many policy areas is abominable. This is only the latest example, but it’s the most appalling.
Americans are literally dying by the thousands because Trump and his band of grifters and buffoons are so utterly incapable of seeing a crisis coming and managing it when it arrives. The entire government is hampered by Trump’s inattention, his ignorance, his pettiness, his selfishness and his belief in his own infallibility. If there was someone competent who could take control in this moment, there might be some reason to be hopeful.
Instead, we’ve got Jared Kushner. If there’s a better — and more horrifying — illustration of everything that’s wrong with this presidency, it’s hard to recall. And we’re all paying the price.