April 17, 2024
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The Good, the Bad and the Pelosi: Jared Kushner’s Excellent Adventure

Reviewing: “Breaking History: A White House Memoir” by Jared Kushner. Broadside Books. 2022. English. Hardcover. 512 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0063221482.

So here we are, two years since Donald Trump lost the presidency, and you read Jared Kushner’s new book, “Breaking History: A White House Memoir” (Broadside/HarperCollins) and you find yourself wondering: What if Trump had won a second term?

Kushner puts The Donald’s presidency in fascinating and fast-paced perspective, as he recounts the challenges Trump faced as a newcomer to Washington and the stellar range of the administration’s hard-won accomplishments.

First and foremost, you get to see what a clown car the West Wing was, with Steve Bannon, Rex Tillerson, Reince Priebus and a crew of D.C. insiders playing politics, leaking ferociously and fighting turf wars instead of getting anything done.

Which makes you wonder how differently the term might have gone had Trump been able to count on his advisers all pulling in the same direction.

Despite the fractured and flawed team, and despite the never-ending criticism and partisanship from the Democrats and the media, a lot somehow got done: the Abraham Accords and an overall reset with Saudi Arabia, bringing new hope for peace in the Middle East; exiting the heinous Iran deal; criminal justice reform; tax reform; a trade reset with China; the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement; immigration reform; engagement with North Korea; the killing of Iranian terrorist Qasem Soleimani; a blossoming economy; and a conservative Supreme Court.

Not bad for a president operating with both hands tied behind his back, the subject of endless political hatchet jobs, two impeachments and a media that portrayed him as a madman constantly on the verge of triggering World War III.

Kushner writes that when he and his wife, Ivanka Trump, came to Washington, they had no idea of how the game was played or how partisanship tended to defeat practically any initiative that might benefit the citizenry. He learned that quickly, when other members of the team were leaking lies about him. The president’s advice: “Figure it out for yourself and learn to stand up for yourself, because there’s only so much I can do for you.”

Kushner proved himself a quick and adept learner, developing the ability to do end runs around his political opponents in and out of the White House. He portrays a president who was thoughtful and measured, as opposed to the trigger-happy nut job that the media painted him. Trump may have lost his temper, but he apparently never lost his sense of humor and perspective. The result: the most consequential presidency in decades.

Kushner takes readers behind the scenes to an early meeting with foreign policy solon Henry Kissinger, who advised him not to reassure other nations that Trump would be a reasonable leader. “Let them worry about it,” Kissinger said, “because if they realize they need to reset their relations with America, that puts us in a stronger negotiating position.”

The centerpiece of Trump’s presidency, in the eyes of many, was the historic shift in the Middle East, an event that Kushner labored mightily to help bring about. John Kerry had famously said there would be no resolution of any issue in the Middle East until Palestinian statehood was resolved. Kushner’s masterstroke was to decouple the Palestinian problem from the other dilemmas in the region.

He realized the Muslim nations, from Saudi Arabia to Morocco, all shared a common enemy with Israel, namely Iran, which President Obama had fecklessly shipped more than $100 billion dollars as a “reward” for lying about their nuclear weapons program. Kushner helped the participants in the Abraham Accords move past yesterday’s cliches and create a new reality based on shared economic and geopolitical common interests with the State of Israel.

Kushner takes us on repeated whirlwind tours of the Middle East (as well as South Korea, Mexico, Western Europe, et al.) and we see how the Abraham Accords came to be, with a cluster of former enemies developing relations with its former enemy, the Jewish State. All this happens because Kushner realized that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, was more interested in maintaining the status quo and an exceptionally wealthy lifestyle than actually doing something positive for his people.

And then COVID hit, the economy tanked and President Trump did himself no favors with his belligerent, unsavory performance in the first debate with Joe Biden, a candidate straight out of “Weekend At Bernie’s.”

Which makes one wonder.

What if Trump had won a second term? What if he, Kushner, and the rest of his team could have all been pulling in the same direction, without additional impeachments courtesy of Nancy Pelosi? What if a second Trump administration had the chance to build on the accomplishments of the first four years?

The easy answer is: We’ll never know. But there’s no putative Republican presidential candidate with the name recognition of Donald Trump, and it’s likely just a matter of time before he announces his run for a second term.

So if you’d like to get a sense of what the future may well hold for Trump, Kushner and the nation, as well as a no-holds-barred, fast-paced recollection of four critical years in our nation’s history, pick up “Breaking History.” It’s the perfect Shabbat afternoon read.

New York Times bestselling author Michael Levin runs www.JewishLeadersBooks.com, a www.publishing/ghostwriting  firm.

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