How Princeling Jared Kushner Saved Us All From The COVID, Or The Opposite Of That
It's been kind of quiet on the Kushner Bros Kushnering Up The Covid Response front lately. It's hard to top letting the virus take its course because, eh, screw it, it's only hitting blue states, but Vanity Fair is back with another classic of the genre. It's got callous indifference to human life; it's got an expensive favor to Russia; it's even got Jared's college roommate making life or death decisions that affect millions of Americans!
It's got this from a meeting at FEMA on March 21:
"Free markets will solve this," Kushner said dismissively. "That is not the role of government."
The same attendee explained that although he believed in open markets, he feared that the system was breaking. As evidence, he pointed to a CNN report about New York governor Andrew Cuomo and his desperate call for supplies.
"That's the CNN bullshit," Kushner snapped. "They lie."
According to another attendee, Kushner then began to rail against the governor: "Cuomo didn't pound the phones hard enough to get PPE for his state…. His people are going to suffer and that's their problem."
"That's when I was like, We're screwed," the shocked attendee told Vanity Fair.
Seems like Jared Kushner may not find himself welcomed with open arms if he wants to move back to the Big Apple in January.
Corporate America Tries to Get the Young Princeling's Attention
Remember back in March when we were all furiously sanitizing our mail to bend the curve so as not to overwhelm hospitals where desperate nurses were fashioning gowns out of garbage bags? Corporate America was freaked out too, and (yes really!) desperate to help. So they convened a strategy meeting of heavy hitters to create a national plan to supply the country with PPE and ventilators, to prevent the bidding wars between states for scarce supplies from spiraling out of control.
Except Jared Kushner, the shadow president, whose main qualifications are unbridled arrogance and being Vanky's husband, had other ideas.
Kushner, seated at the head of the conference table, in a chair taller than all the others, was quick to strike a confrontational tone. "The federal government is not going to lead this response," he announced. "It's up to the states to figure out what they want to do."
OMG, an actual throne.
Defense Production Act? PFFFFFFFT!
In order to meet America's needs, representatives of American businesses such as GM asked Kushner to invoke the Defense Production Act, which would mobilize the heft of the federal government to guarantee bulk purchases and manage distribution. As it happened, Kushner had assembled an ad hoc group of MBA bros to craft a plan to do just that. It was wildly outside efficient government channels, but it was better than nothing.
Except nothing was exactly what Kushner had decided to do, as the virus would confine itself to the East and West coasts and stay out of Red State Murika. Because that is just how viruses work.
"We were all saying, 'Mr. Kushner, if you want to fix this problem for PPE and ventilators, there's a path to do it, but you have to make a policy change,'" one person who attended the meeting recounted.
In response Kushner got "very aggressive," the attendee recalled. "He kept invoking the markets" and told the group they "only understood how entrepreneurship works, but didn't understand how government worked."
Every bully needs a lackey, though, and luckily Kushner had brought along Navy Rear Admiral John Polowczyk, who was leading FEMA's supply-chain efforts, to do the job.
"Are you trying to hawk your wares on us?" Polowczyk demanded of one attendee, while praising Kushner's plan to do fuck all and let Americans die as "brilliant."
'Consultant State of his own creation'
The good Lord and the Electoral College willin', we will soon move past the active infection phase of the Trump presidency. There will be a post-COVID, post-Trump day when we turn to assessing the deficiencies in our immune system that got us here. And one of the main problems, as highlighted by VF reporter Katherine Eban, is the elevation of a class of B-school douchebros who see themselves as walking supercomputers, better able to solve problems than the experts who've dedicated their careers to them.
We've clearly veered wildly off-course when a 2014 Princeton grad whose main qualification was working as Ivanka's special assistant is coordinating an off-the-books task force of McKinsey and Goldman Sachs types bound by a non-disclosure agreement to solve the nation's medical shortages during a pandemic. Why was the richest country in the world sourcing supplies via tip-line and prioritizing friends and supporters of the president on a spreadsheet titled "V.I.P. Update"?
We got 99 problems, but this right here is a big one.
The journalist Duff McDonald, author of The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business, said it's common for private sector CEOs to use management consultants as a crutch when they are out of their depth—and don't want to be blamed for what goes wrong. "Kushner is at a loss for how to stall what is happening, so he's doing the classic 'analyst punt,'" McDonald said, "going to his pals at McKinsey instead of people in the Deep State who can do their jobs today. These are people who think, If you have a quantitative grasp, you can manage anything. I have no doubt that they're telling Kushner he's a genius as well."
One attorney who worked at a private company that conferred with the government on procuring PPE described the Kushner team's interactions with colleagues as "off the books, completely irregular." The attorney said a common refrain from [Ivanka's former assistant Rachel] Baitel was, "We have to figure out a way around this"—"this" being the government-procurement laws that Kushner and his team believed were an obstacle to quick action. Their strategy, the lawyer said, amounted to: "Call the people we see at Davos and have them go get stuff for us."
The government should not be run by people who think that the government and the people who work in it are stupid and the market is wise. Case in point, Kushner's old roommate Adam Boehler, who was tapped to take a leading role in the pandemic response.
"We get asked all the time: How come we're not throwing Defense Production Act orders all over the place?" Boehler told (yes that) Mike Milken on his podcast, adding later, "It's not necessary when you have the private market taking all the right actions to support Americans."
Americans represent four percent of the world's population and 20 percent of all COVID deaths, so ... how's that one working out?
RUSSIA! RUSSIA! RUSSIA!
You can't have a Trumplandistan story without the Russian angle, right? That's just the law.
By April, America was sitting on surplus of ventilators. Not because Kush and the MBA bros were so good at supply chains, but because doctors came to realize that ventilators weren't necessary for all patients. So USAID, a government humanitarian agency, set about sending them to poor countries in desperate need.
But poor, AKA "shithole," countries are really not Donald Trump's priority. And in May after Trump chatted up his BFF Vladimir Putin, the White House ordered USAID to ship 200 ventilators to Russia, and pronto.
The urgent order disrupted USAID's detailed plans to ship ventilators to dozens of other countries. Russia "seemed to be first in line" and "got prioritized ahead of a lot of other countries," said the government official with knowledge of the demand.
This was no simple mail drop either. The ventilators, a number of which had proprietary parts, had to be reconfigured to work with Russian power sources. That expensive and time-consuming extra step was doubly ironic to those who recalled that, on April 1, Russia had delivered 45 ventilators to the United States without bothering to refit them for American power sources. They were the same type of faulty ventilator believed to have sparked fires in Russian hospitals.
They give us their shitty, exploding vents with Russian plugs, and we give them four times as many brand new ones retooled to suit their needs exactly. Art of the Deal!
Sonofabitch Rat Bastard!
Yeah, it's terrible. Vote these filthy assholes out, please.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.