It's been a year since we last corresponded. And what a year it's been! On the one hand, congratulations on the role you played in the United Arab Emirates recognizing Israel. That's a real feather in your cap — unless you had to alienate Israel in the process by promising to sell F-35 fighters to Abu Dhabi. On the other hand, your handling of COVID-19 has been . . . let's say "underwhelming." If Katherine Eban's reporting in Vanity Fair is accurate and you failed to act because you thought "it was going to be relegated to Democratic states," well then, hoo boy, you've got some explaining to do.
Anyway, I'm writing because it's time for our annual revisit of your 2016 claim that "Donald Trump is not anti-Semitic and he's not a racist." I found this assertion dubious in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. I guess my question at this point, Jared, is whether you are prepared to abandon the pretense.
Your father-in-law has certainly abandoned any pretense of where he stands on these questions. The most damning evidence for Trump's racist priors comes not from his political adversaries but from his allies. My Washington Post colleague Ben Terris wrote a great profile of GOP Sen. Tim Scott's efforts to tutor your father on questions of race relations. Asked whether they had any effect, Scott's chief of staff, Jennifer DeCasper, responded: "Behavioral modifications don't happen overnight. It takes forever to teach your 2-year-old manners. What makes you think teaching a 65-year-old, 75-year-old man is going to happen?" That implies such tutelage is necessary, belying your 2019 claim that Trump was not racist for his first 69 years on Earth.
Additional reporting shows that even Trump regrets the few feints toward combating structural racism that he has made. According to Axios's Jonathan Swan, "President Trump has told people in recent days that he regrets following some of son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner's political advice — including supporting criminal justice reform — and will stick closer to his own instincts. . . . One person who spoke with the president interpreted his thinking this way: 'No more of Jared's woke s---.'"
The president's response to protesters confirms that his approach to race is even less sophisticated than Archie Bunker's. He retweeted a video of Trump supporters proclaiming "white power!" He has refused to denounce QAnon despite that conspiracy theory being laced with anti-Semitism. Indeed, he has done the opposite. When a QAnon believer won the nomination for a House seat, Trump congratulated her and invited her to the White House to hear his speech tomorrow night.
Even when your father-in-law is not directly involved, he has become the indirect inspiration for racist violence. According to BuzzFeed, it turns out that the "17-year-old who was charged with shooting and killing two people and injuring another in Kenosha, Wis., during protests for Jacob Blake appeared in the front row at a Donald Trump rally in January." If Trump is not racist, then an awful lot of racists have made a huge mistake.
It was not hard to find these examples. If I had done the same deep dive that, say, Slate's Will Saletan had done with Trump's handling of the pandemic, this letter would become a multivolume tome. To reduce it to a sentence: With each passing year, Trump has revealed his bigotry even more, and you have revealed your moral cowardice.
This will be my last letter to you, Jared. If Trump wins, neither you nor he will have learned anything from the past four years, and I will have to guard against the real-world effects of your father-in-law's inculcation of anti-Semitism. If Trump loses, well, you are probably going to be very busy with a bevy of criminal probes. I do hope it turns out that you behaved ethically and legally while in the White House, though I have my doubts.
Let me close this correspondence with one last thought. Win or lose this November, Donald Trump has made it perfectly clear that it is possible for someone who traffics in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories to win the presidency. As a Jew who grew up relatively secure in the knowledge that this country was a safe haven, it will never feel as safe to me for the rest of my days.
This is the legacy that you and your father-in-law have earned. You will need to atone for your actions over the past four years. Maybe, if you are truly repentant, this means you will be sealed in the Book of Life come Yom Kippur. But no amount of repentance will be able to erase the moral compromises you made to help an anti-Semitic bigot abuse the awesome powers of the presidency.
Politically, there will be an indelible mark on your biography that says, "He whitewashed bigotry." It will follow you wherever you go for the rest of your days. And it should.
Daniel Drezner wrote this piece for The Washington Post.