Who Do Jared and Ivanka Think They Are?

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,”

.. 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.

“You’ll notice that the U.S. position toward Qatar changes when the Qataris bail out 666 Fifth Avenue,” said Ward, adding, “We look like a banana republic.” Maybe that’s why Jared and Ivanka appear so blithely confident. As public servants, they’re obviously way out of their depth. But as self-dealing scions of a gaudy autocracy? They’re naturals.

 

By a 3-to-1 margin, Trump supporters embrace his personality over his policies

If you spend any time with supporters of President Trump, something becomes quickly apparent. Ask them why they stand with the president and the first response will generally be something abstract: Trump is making America great again. He’s putting America first. He’s delivering for the people. After eight years of Barack Obama, Trump is turning things around. Some will mention the economy; fewer will mention other policy issues. But generally the theme is that they support Trump for being Trump.

.. a bit under 60 percent — indicated that the rationale for their support stemmed from his personality and approach to the job vs. his policies or values.

.. personality is preferred to policies among Trump supporters, with a slightly higher percentage pointing to policies and values than last year.

.. On the question of whether Trump has used his position to inappropriately enrich himself, his family or his friends, Republicans have gotten more confident in the president. They assumed he would not by a 41-point margin in 2016. They now believe he hasn’t by a 58-point margin.

.. Interestingly, though, perceptions that Trump is dishonest are only the third-most common concern that people express about his presidency. The most common concern, like the most common reason that supporters like him, is his conduct and personality.

.. Only about a quarter of the country points to Trump’s policies as their main concern or reason to be enthusiastic about his presidency. More than half point to his personality and approach to the job as why they are or are not concerned about where his presidency is headed.

Will Mexico Get Its Donald?

Mexicans are mad as hell at a system they see as self-dealing, under-performing and corrupt. That should sound familiar to Americans — not to mention Italians, Britons, and those in every other nation swamped by the populist tide. In Mexico’s case, they’re largely right.

.. Enrique Peña Nieto, the outgoing incumbent, came to office promising to cut the crime rate in half. Instead, Mexico suffered more than 25,000 murders last year, a modern record. He promised an end to corruption. His administration is suspected of spying on anti-graft investigators, and his wife was caught buying a $7 million mansion from a government contractor. He promised economic growth of 6 percent a year. It hardly ever got above 3 percent. The average wage fell by about $1,000 during the Great Recession and hasn’t recovered since.

.. American president, who is also on record saying he couldn’t care less whether his policies hurt them. If AMLO wins, Trump will deserve him.

.. AMLO’s popularity rests on the belief that he will end corruption, bring down crime, and redistribute ill-gotten gains to the people. How, exactly? Just as Trump declared at the 2016 Republican convention that he “alone” could fix a broken system, AMLO seems to have convinced his base that he can just make things happen. “Everything I am saying will be done” is how he punctuates his pledge

.. It’s the way of demagogues everywhere.

.. Trump promises to build border walls, win trade wars, keep us safe from terrorism, and end Obamacare, all at the snap of a finger

..  AMLO promises to fix social inequities that date back 500 years in a single six-year term.

.. compares himself to Benito Juárez, Mexico’s answer to Abraham Lincoln.

.. The idea of steady improvement and gradual amelioration isn’t for him. In Mexico’s current anger he seems at last to have found his moment.

.. it isn’t clear whether the softer rhetoric is anything more than an attempt to allay the fear (which factored heavily in his previous defeats) that he’s a Mexican Hugo Chávez.

.. It especially doesn’t work out well when populist policies collapse (as they generally do) on contact with reality. What typically follows isn’t a course correction by the leader or disillusionment among his followers. It’s an increasingly aggressive hunt for scapegoats: greedy speculators, the deep state, foreign interlopers, dishonest journalists, saboteurs, fifth columnists, and so on.

That’s been the pattern in one populist government after another, from Viktor Orban’s Hungary to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey to, well, Trump’s America. Now Mexico risks being next.

Psychos on the Potomac

A new study from Southern Methodist University says the nation’s capital has more psychopaths per person than anyplace else in the country.

No surprise there.

.. The study notes that “psychopaths are likely to be effective in the political sphere” and that “the occupations that were most disproportionately psychopathic were

  • C.E.O.,
  • lawyer,
  • media,
  • salesperson,
  • surgeon,
  • journalist,
  • police officer,
  • clergyperson,
  • chef, and
  • civil servant.”

.. So if a chief executive, salesman and media personality becomes a politician, he’s hitting four of the highest-risk categories.

.. Next came the soul-deadening inversion of American values, when Jeff Sessions and Sarah Huckabee Sanders cited the Bible to justify ripping children from their parents at the border — including a baby being breast-fed by her Honduran mother. The Statue of Liberty wept.

.. Sessions is on a vile tear. A week ago, he vitiated the policy that made it possible to give asylum to women who are victims of domestic abuse or who are raped or threatened by the sort of gang members Trump decries as “animals.”

.. The week was capped, naturally, with a Giuliani aria — “When the whole thing is over, things might get cleaned up with some presidential pardons,” Rudy told The Daily News in New York — and by the usual torrent of whiny, delusional, deceptive, self-exalting tweets by President Trump.

.. We knew Trump was a skinflint and a grifter. But the New York attorney general deeply documented just how cheesy he and his children are with a suit accusing the Trump charitable foundation of illegal behavior and self-dealing. It was just what Trump always accused the Clintons of doing.

.. The supposed nonprofit was little more than a Trump piggy bank used to settle legal claims and pay off political backers. The good news for Trump was that the prosecutor proposed that he be banned from charitable activities — a fine excuse for someone who obviously wants nothing to do with charity.

.. He has somehow managed to get Republicans in a position where they are cooing over his overtures to North Korea — overtures for which they would have impeached Barack Obama — and looking the other way while he upends the free trade policy that has been party dogma for decades. Meanwhile, the usually peacenik Democrats are assailing Trump for deigning to talk nice with Kim.

.. It makes sense if you think about it: A wannabe dictator who took over the family business from a dictatorial father talking to a real dictator who took over the family business from a dictatorial father.