Trump’s son-in-law has no business running the coronavirus response.
Reporting on the White House’s herky-jerky coronavirus response, Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman has a quotation from Jared Kushner that should make all Americans, and particularly all New Yorkers, dizzy with terror.
According to Sherman, when New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, said that the state would need 30,000 ventilators at the apex of the coronavirus outbreak, Kushner decided that Cuomo was being alarmist. “I have all this data about I.C.U. capacity,” Kushner reportedly said. “I’m doing my own projections, and I’ve gotten a lot smarter about this. New York doesn’t need all the ventilators.” (Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top expert on infectious diseases, has said he trusts Cuomo’s estimate.)
Even now, it’s hard to believe that someone with as little expertise as Kushner could be so arrogant, but he said something similar on Thursday, when he made his debut at the White House’s daily coronavirus briefing: “People who have requests for different products and supplies, a lot of them are doing it based on projections which are not the realistic projections.”
Kushner has succeeded at exactly three things in his life. He was
- born to the right parents,
- married well and
- learned how to influence his father-in-law.
Most of his other endeavors — his
- biggest real estate deal, his
- foray into newspaper ownership, his
- attempt to broker a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians
— have been failures.
Undeterred, he has now arrogated to himself a major role in fighting the epochal health crisis that’s brought America to its knees. “Behind the scenes, Kushner takes charge of coronavirus response,” said a Politico headline on Wednesday. This is dilettantism raised to the level of sociopathy.
The journalist Andrea Bernstein looked closely at Kushner’s business record for her recent book “American Oligarchs: The Kushners, the Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and Power,” speaking to people on all sides of his real estate deals as well as those who worked with him at The New York Observer, the weekly newspaper he bought in 2006.
Kushner, Bernstein told me, “really sees himself as a disrupter.” Again and again, she said, people who’d dealt with Kushner told her that whatever he did, he “believed he could do it better than anybody else, and he had supreme confidence in his own abilities and his own judgment even when he didn’t know what he was talking about.”
It’s hard to overstate the extent to which this confidence is unearned. Kushner was a reportedly mediocre student whose billionaire father appears to have bought him a place at Harvard. Taking over the family real estate company after his father was sent to prison, Kushner paid $1.8 billion — a record, at the time — for a Manhattan skyscraper at the very top of the real estate market in 2007. The debt from that project became a crushing burden for the family business. (Kushner was able to restructure the debt in 2011, and in 2018 the project was bailed out by a Canadian asset management company with links to the government of Qatar.) He gutted the once-great New York Observer, then made a failed attempt to create a national network of local politics websites.
His forays into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — for which he boasted of reading a whole 25 books — have left the dream of a two-state solution on life support. Michael Koplow of the centrist Israel Policy Forum described Kushner’s plan for the Palestinian economy as “the Monty Python version of Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
Now, in our hour of existential horror, Kushner is making life-or-death decisions for all Americans, showing all the wisdom we’ve come to expect from him.
“Mr. Kushner’s early involvement with dealing with the virus was in advising the president that the media’s coverage exaggerated the threat,” reported The Times. It was apparently at Kushner’s urging that Trump announced, falsely, that Google was about to launch a website that would link Americans with coronavirus testing. (As The Atlantic reported, a health insurance company co-founded by Kushner’s brother — which Kushner once owned a stake in — tried to build such a site, before the project was “suddenly and mysteriously scrapped.”)
The president was reportedly furious over the website debacle, but Kushner’s authority hasn’t been curbed. Politico reported that Kushner, “alongside a kitchen cabinet of outside experts including his former roommate and a suite of McKinsey consultants, has taken charge of the most important challenges facing the federal government,” including the production and distribution of medical supplies and the expansion of testing. Kushner has embedded his own people in the Federal Emergency Management Agency; a senior official described them to The Times as “a ‘frat party’ that descended from a U.F.O. and invaded the federal government.”
Disaster response requires discipline and adherence to a clear chain of command, not the move-fast-and-break-things approach of start-up culture. Even if Kushner “were the most competent person in the world, which he clearly isn’t, introducing these kind of competing power centers into a crisis response structure is a guaranteed problem,” Jeremy Konyndyk, a former U.S.A.I.D. official who helped manage the response to the Ebola crisis during Barack Obama’s administration, told me. “So you could have Trump and Kushner and Pence and the governors all be the smartest people in the room, but if there are multiple competing power centers trying to drive this response, it’s still going to be chaos.”
Competing power centers are a motif of this administration, and its approach to the pandemic is no exception. As The Washington Post reported, Kushner’s team added “another layer of confusion and conflicting signals within the White House’s disjointed response to the crisis.” Nor does his operation appear to be internally coherent. “Projects are so decentralized that one team often has little idea what others are doing — outside of that they all report up to Kushner,” reported Politico.
On Thursday, Governor Cuomo said that New York would run out of ventilators in six days. Perhaps Kushner’s projections were incorrect. “I don’t think the federal government is in a position to provide ventilators to the extent the nation may need them,” Cuomo said. “Assume you are on your own in life.” If not in life, certainly in this administration.
Harvard is laying off nearly all dining workers. While the univ. has agreed to provide 30 days’ pay for the directly hired dining workers who work at the College, they are refusing to provide this pay for the subcontracted dining workers at @Harvard_Law actionnetwork.org/petitions/harvShow this thread6:05 PM · Mar 21, 2020Twitter Web App
PART ONE: WHATS A FAIR START?
Harvard University forced a victim of dating violence to live in the same dorm as her abuser for several months and did not act on multiple reports of ongoing harassment by him, a new lawsuit claims.
Alyssa Leader, a 2015 graduate of Harvard College, the university’s undergraduate school, filed her suit against the school on Wednesday in federal court in Massachusetts. When Leader formally complained of abuse and sexual assault by a “John Doe 1,” he harassed her in retaliation, the suit states, claiming Harvard showed “deliberate indifference” towards her reports of Doe’s “retaliatory conduct.”
The suit is the latest in a string of allegations in recent years that Harvard has mishandled sexual violence cases by using outdated policies and lopsided procedures that favor alleged assailants and making insensitive comments to students who report assaults... The details in Leader’s suit are highly similar to a widely read 2014 column titled “Dear Harvard, you win,” which described a woman’s unsuccessful attempts over seven months to have Harvard move her assailant out of her dorm. Leader said she faced a similar struggle during a six-month-long investigation into her report.
“Unfortunately, this situation is not at all unique to me or to the writer of that article,” Leader told The Huffington Post in an interview Wednesday.
Leader and Doe, who were in the same year in school, dated through March 2014. Leader describes their yearlong relationship as an abusive one, in which Doe coerced her into sex and got violent when she refused... She said she reported the abuse multiple times to the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response in 2013 during the relationship. She also said she reported Doe’s harassment of her in 2014, after they broke up, and again in January 2015. Leader reported the abuse to her residence dean in November 2014 and was told it would not be possible to remove Doe from the dorm where they both lived, the suit says.
“There was so much ongoing harassment by the perpetrator,” said Alex S. Zalkin, an attorney for Leader. “It was constantly brought to Harvard’s attention, but they didn’t do anything; they ignored her.”.. However, in a statement Wednesday afternoon, the university said Title IX coordinators “are responsible for identifying reasonable and appropriate interim measures designed to support and protect the Initiating Party or the University community.” Those measures could include “restrictions on contact; course-schedule or work-schedule alteration; changes in housing; leaves of absence; or increased monitoring of certain areas of the campus.” Leader contends the university did none of that.
Doe sexually assaulted and harassed Leader, the suit says, “implementing intimidation, coercion and manipulation,” most of which took place at Cabot House, a Harvard dorm where they both lived. Sometimes Doe would start arguments with Leader at the building’s cafe, where they both worked, the suit claims.
Leader approached Doe in September 2014, after their relationship ended, to ask him to treat his new girlfriend better than he treated her, the suit says. Doe replied that that wouldn’t be an issue because his new partner did not “set an expectation” like Leader had by having a sexual encounter with him before they began dating. He later made harassing remarks to Leader at work, according to the suit, such as, “You know, if you have to coerce someone, you’re doing it wrong.”.. Leader officially filed a school complaint against Doe for abuse, sexual assault and harassment in February 2015, prompting a university investigation. Her main goal was to have him removed from her dorm, she told HuffPost.
“I think his behavior was unacceptable, but my priority was just to have him gone from my home and workplace,” Leader said. Any further punishment was up to Harvard, she added.
Leader stopped going to her dining hall, skipped shifts at work and stopped sleeping at Cabot House out of fear. The suit says she reported additional harassment once in March and twice in April — including threatening comments, Doe’s visits to her workplace and encounters where he stared at her.Doe openly discussed the details of the case with other students on campus who knew both of them, according to the complaint... The suit also accuses Harvard of “premises liability,” claiming Harvard knew it was allowing Doe to continue to freely roam the Cabot House property where Leader said he had abused, assaulted and harassed her.
Her reports of retaliation to the school administrators went nowhere, Leader said, so she ultimately went to Harvard police and reported sexual assaults and harassment on April 27. Leader obtained a court-ordered restraining order against Doe at the end of April. The same day she obtained the order, the suit states, Harvard moved Doe out of Cabot House... Leader had previously asked Miller, the school’s Title IX coordinator, if she could get a no contact order against Doe. Miller replied that retaliation rules in place for Title IX investigations were essentially the same as a no contact order, the suit contends. But when Leader got the restraining order, Miller told her it “was the best decision you could make” and that she “should have done it from the start,” according to the lawsuit... Doe has admitted to a number of actions in the case, Leader said, citing conversations with school officials. He acknowledged making verbal threats to Leader, openly discussing the case with people who knew them, showing up to her work during the investigation and acting violently in the relationship, Leader said...But Harvard found Doe not responsible for all claims of abuse, sexual assault and harassment on July 17, 2015. Leader essentially had no way to appeal for a different decision, because appeals are only permitted if the alleged victim can point to a procedural error.. “For a long time I felt like maybe it had been a mistake or maybe something had gone wrong,” Leader told HuffPost. “But after I graduated I kept hearing stories of people in similar situations as mine or more difficult situations.”