To no one’s surprise, President Donald Trump is apparently “furious” over his woefully misguided decision to go all-in for Luther Strange in Alabama’s U.S. Senate primary.
It was a decision that blew spectacularly up in the president’s face last night with Strange’s massive 10-point loss to Roy Moore, an outsider much closer in spirit to Trumpism than establishment crony Strange.
In what is becoming a disturbing pattern, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner was apparently one of those who advised the president to back Strange, to once again sail into big, jagged rocks — a humiliation for Trump that anyone with any real-world political sense should have (and did) seen coming from a mile away.
Appointed under shady circumstances, Strange is a walking-talking poster child for everything Trump ran against, a good ole’ boy, Republican establishment backslapper strongly backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has done nothing but post failure after failure since Trump’s inauguration.
What makes this Kushner catastrophe even more notable than the others (which I will get to), is that this time Trump led with his chin, was out there publicly championing a sure-loser, and most importantly, was doing so in defiance of his own base.
For the first time since he stepped into the political arena, Trump did not look like a leader, he looked led — he looked like a weak politician being handled and manipulated.
One of the primary reasons Trump is president today is his belligerent strength. In the face of withering hellfire from the media, Democrats, and even many in his own party, Trump remains his own man. But over the last week in Alabama, Trump did not look like his own man. Rather, he looked out of touch, like someone who no longer trusts the instincts that made him our 45th president, like someone who is relying on those with their own agenda.
Moreover, Kushner’s objectively awful advice to back Strange has succeeded in doing the only thing that could be fatal to Trump’s presidency and re-election prospects — driven a wedge between the president and his supporters. This time, at least, the wedge appears to be temporary and those supporters forgiving.
But how many times can Trump make this kind of mistake before doubts begin to creep in?
And how many “fool me once” chances will the 36-year-old Mr. Kushner receive from his devoted father-in-law?
Let us not forget that it was Kushner who advised Trump to fire F.B.I. Director James Comey, a move that resulted in the appointment of Robert Mueller, a special counsel that looms over the presidency like a dark cloud. Even those like myself who agreed with the decision to fire Comey (for the good of the country) were gobsmacked to learn that Kushner sold the idea to Trump with the ludicrous argument that the decision would be a “win” with Democrats.
Numerous reports again named Kushner as one of the primary influences behind Trump’s flirtation with the idea of breaking one of his solemn campaign promises regarding illegal immigration. It was only after the nickname #AmnestyDon looked as though it was going to stick like #CorruptHillary that the president, again looking weak and ill-served by his team, scurried away.
At this point, bringing up Kushner’s counsel to hire the five-alarm debacle that was Anthony Scaramucci and this brand new email scandal just feels like piling on.
When producer David O. Selznick went to work for his father-in-law Louis B. Mayer at MGM, the snide joke around the studio, a take on the popular Hemingway novel, was “the son-in-law also rises.” The jokes stopped after Selznick went on to produce a series of smash hits like King Kong and the Oscar-winning masterpieces Rebecca and Gone with the Wind.
Thus far, Kushner has only managed to produce Robert Mueller, Luther Strange, Anthony Scaramucci, and something that even the entire mainstream media could not conjure … damage to something that once looked indestructible, Trump’s political brand.