For all the top jobs being dished out by Donald Trump, there’s one figure close to the president-elect that worries me more than the others. Steve Bannon’s appointment as Chief Strategist might have fired up the Twitter mob, but it’s the elevation of Jared Kushner as Trump’s unofficial chief consigliere which seems most troubling of all. After all, however you spin it, having your son-in-law apparently calling the shots means Trump is following in some worrying footsteps.
While some have cheered Trump’s victory for the rude awakening it gave to soft-hearted liberals, Kushner popping up at Trump Tower for the Donald’s first meeting with a foreign leader – Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe – should be a wake-up call. It’s true that Kushner can’t hold office under Trump – a 1967 law put paid to a president handing a job to a relative. Yet there are ways around it. And there are enough informal positions Kushner can take on to wield power in the new administration unofficially.
But is it really such a worry for Trump to have a close relative near at hand helping out? A glance at other world leaders doing the same suggests so: in Turkey, Recep Erdogan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak – the country’s minister of energy – has been accused of smuggling oil out of Isis-controlled Syria. While Robert Mugabe’s only son-in-law has just been put in charge of running the country’s national airline, Air Zimbabwe. Over in Russia, it’s also a good place to be the close relative of the leader. Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law Kirill Shamalov is doing rather well for himself, becoming the country’s youngest billionaire, at the age of 34, earlier this year. But it’s not only political and economic influence that son-in-laws can benefit from as a result of family ties to the leader: in Azerbaijan, President Aliev’s daughter’s husband was signed up to entertain the crowds in between acts at the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku.
If it’s true that Trump’s son-in-law really is the new president’s kingmaker, it follows a dangerous precedent. What’s more, the Donald would do well to remember one of the reasons his defeated rival Hillary Clinton was so unpopular with many voters: her surname. If Trump really does give Kushner a position of influence – even if it’s an unofficial one – his Oval Office honeymoon might end sooner than even the pessimists are predicting.
After being elected, one of the more positive outlooks was that Trump would leave behind his angry campaign rhetoric and become more presidential. Kushner’s looming presence in the background suggests that the president-elect is certainly imitating other world leaders – it’s just a shame that the statesmen he has chosen to emulate might not be the best role models.