David Brooks writes ("The Politics of Clan: The Adventures of Jared Kushner"):
A familiar number on the caller ID screen. I gave it three rings, enough to grab a shluk from the vodka bottle and stash it back in the desk drawer, then picked up. The voice was familiar too, male, patrician, a little weary. "Brooks?"
"It's Memorial Day, for fuck's sake," I said. "Don't you have a parade to go to? I'm writing the column."
"David, David, you sound so hostile. You got something to write about? We could help you."
"I'm good," I said,
"Spiritual marriage? The need to remake the community on the model of Stuyvesant Town in 1965? Dump on Trump?"
"I'm out of the game," I said. "I'm not going to write any nice stuff on Trump. I'm married again, I don't want to be explaining a defense of pussy grabbing over the connubial dinner table. I did your George W. Bush for eight years, that was bad enough. At least he'd heard the rumor that compassion was supposed to be a good thing. Trump makes Bush look like Gandhi."
"Oh, really? Then what is it? You want me to write nice things about banking deregulation, with Krugman glaring at me from the other side of the page? I'm out of the game, I want some respect."
"We want you to write nice things about Jared."
The name landed in the ether between us like a soft turd in a waterless toilet. I swallowed hard before replying. "The daughter's husband? The Trump whisperer? The one who was going to make him act normal? And instead he's getting caught trying, I don't know, trying to sell the whole country to Russia?"
"David, you need to show some compassion yourself. Jared's spent his whole life serving a violent and abusive father or father-in-law. He's always been thrust into roles he's not ready for. His grandmother fought the Nazis in Byelorussia, for Christ's sake!"
I rolled my eyes. "His father and his uncle are New Jersey real estate shysters. When they got tired of robbing everybody else they started robbing each other. He took over the family business when his father was in jail for the stuff he did in the family feud. I don't know whether Jared's more Michael Corleone or Michael Bluth."
"He had to interrupt his studies. He may have lacked wisdom, but he had plenty of audacity. He bought 666 Fifth Avenue!"
"He paid twice what it was worth! He practically broke the business! That's why he's desperate to scrounge money out of Russians and Chinese."
"And why? Is that a crime? You're always telling young people to serve something greater than self, and here's this kid who's fiercely, almost selflessly loyal to family."
"Well, that's not going to serve him very well in government. Working in government is about teamwork, majority-building, and addition."
"You mean arithmetic?"
"No, I mean adding more and more people to your coalition."
"Then what's majority-building?"
He had me there. "Well, working in government is about trusting the system, and trusting those who have been around and understand the craft. But the essence of clannishness is to build a barrier between family—inside the zone of trust—and others, outside that zone."
He hesitated for a moment. "Sure. So he's made a couple of boneheaded blunders."
"Talking Trump into firing the FBI director is a boneheaded blunder?"
"It's CRIMINAL OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE!!"
"Well, that would certainly be a mistake, wouldn't it? I mean why get indicted for something you didn't have to do?"
"And what about negotiations with Russian intelligence, carried on in secret behind the Obama administration's backs, at the same time as your president-elect father-in-law is openly at war with the FBI and CIA?"
"We don’t know everything about his meetings with the Russians, but we know that they, like so much other clan-like behavior, went against the formal system. We also know that they betray rookie naïveté on several levels."
"ROOKIE NAÏVETÉ? Get the fuck out of here."
"So you'll write the piece?"
I hung up on him. What kind of hack did he think I was? Then I took another shluk from the vodka bottle and started typing.