I have two special girlfriends, Lynne and Fiona, the ladies who guard The Spectator’s entrance against the outraged #MeToo gels and woke lackeys who occasionally take umbrage against the poor little Greek boy’s scribbling. My guardian angels recently sent me some personal letters posted long ago, which I will eventually answer, especially one from Lady Mary Gaye Curzon, a very old friend, whose beautiful daughter Cressida — a Spectator Notebook contributor — dodged a bullet when Harry Halfwit went Hollywood. Although months in arrears, please accept my apologies, Helen Holland, Mary Ruskin and Anthony Johnson; such are the joys of the mail during and after a pandemic.
Last week in the Bagel I had dinner with Michael Wolff, whose Too Famous, a collection of his essays and columns, has just hit the bookshops. Unfortunately, two females at the table next to us, with horrendously high-pitched annoying voices, made it impossible to hear ourselves, but this is Noo Yawk, and our neighbours sure were Noo Yawkers. I had read Michael’s piece about The Sextator, as wannabes used to call us once upon a time, but had not seen the one about ‘President Jared’.
Boy, what a creep-survivor the Donald’s son-in-law turns out to be. According to Michael, Kushner emerges as a person with totally false values, looking out solely for number one, the national interest be damned. I first heard of Kushner when he bought a Bagel paper called the New York Observer, one that gave him a personal platform for his social climb, although it was an expensive one at 11 million big ones, or, as Wolff wrote, ‘11 million more than it was worth’. I had known his wife-to-be Ivanka when she and my son were friends as children. She had good manners and was a polite little girl. Then she married Kushner and… ugh!
Kushner showed early on his preternatural gift for placing himself alongside people with power. He may have been unprepossessing but he managed to marginalise a four-star Marine general such as John Kelly and my old buddy Stephen Bannon. Chiefs of Staffs who followed Kelly were also put on notice: play ball with Jared Kushner or you’re out. Not bad for a callow social climber whose greatest achievement until then had been to plunge his family’s fortune into looming bankruptcy by way of overpaying for a literal white elephant at 666 Fifth Avenue. (He got out of trouble once in the White House by making a deal with a Gulf states-backed Toronto-based company.) What is the use of being in the White House if one can’t do a little business on the side?
The one I liked the best was when someone asked Kushner who his choices would be for advisers in the incoming Trump administration. ‘Billionaires,’ was the single--word answer. Mind you, the billionaires whom I happen to know I, too, would go to for advice. I’ve listed some of them in previous columns, so I will spare them this time. There are billionaires and billionaires, and I suspect that those from whom I would ask advice are different from the ones Jared would go to, but I have to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.
The Saudis, the UAE and the Qataris all sought out Kushner. What appals me is the lack of grandeur exhibited once inside the White House. One would think that having been swept to power on the coat tails of the Donald, Kushner would put everything he could into improving the good old US of A. Not in the slightest. Jared should read up on history. People such as Metternich, Talleyrand, Castlereagh, Curzon, Cabot Lodge and Dulles all worked their you-know-what off not for those who appointed them, or in order to enhance their reputation, but for the common good. Sucking up to the Saudis does not benefit Peoria, or anyone else for that matter.
But I digress. Perhaps I’m being too hard on the Donald’s son-in-law. I am basing my opinions on reading Michael Wolff’s opus. Two nights after finishing it, I went upstairs in my building for dinner chez Louise Grunwald, the widow of Henry Grunwald, Time’s editor-in-chief when the weekly counted and was still conservative. (Now it’s a lefty joke.) Henry was also US ambassador to Austria. At dinner I was seated next to Susan Hess, the wife of John Hess as in the Hess Corporation. She and her husband are friendly, attractive and nice as hell. They are not exactly starving. Susan Hess had only nice things to say about Jared and Ivanka, and she did not give me the impression that she gets things wrong.
So, who to believe? At the end of the day, as bores often say, it doesn’t really make a difference, does it? What does make a difference is the totally dishonest American media that has somehow failed to mention the fact that the Russian-collusion brouhaha that made headlines for three of the four Trump years was all fake, the most egregious journalistic error in history. The media frenzy over a totally made-up scandal in order to sink Trump makes anything that Kushner did or did not do a mere bagatelle. Voilà, mes amis.