The pivotal figure

Well then we’re all doomed.

Dozens of Trump administration officials have trooped to the White House podium over the last two months to brief the public on their effort to combat coronavirus, but one person who hasn’t — Jared Kushner — has emerged as perhaps the most pivotal figure in the national fight against the fast-growing pandemic.

Jared Kushner is not a person you want as the pivotal figure in a pandemic.

I put that with careful, jaw-clenching restraint.

What started two-and-a-half weeks ago as an effort to utilize the private sector to fix early testing failures has become an all-encompassing portfolio for Kushner, who, alongside a kitchen cabinet of outside experts including his former roommate and a suite of McKinsey consultants, has taken charge of the most important challenges facing the federal government: Expanding test access, ramping up industry production of needed medical supplies, and figuring out how to get those supplies to key locations.

How are we defining “experts” here? Are they experts in what’s needed in a pandemic, or in extracting profit from whatever situation they find themselves in? We need the former more than we need the latter.

Kushner’s group, which some have characterized as an “all-of-private-sector” operation in contrast to Vice President Mike Pence’s “all-of-government” task force, has had its successes – including airlifting emergency medical supplies to the United States, crowdsourcing mask and glove donations, and rapidly devising a last-ditch plan for hospitals to maximize ventilators.

But the behind-the-scenes working group has also duplicated existing federal teams and operations, and its focus on rapid, short-term decisions has created concern among some health-agency officials, according to interviews with 11 people involved in Kushner’s effort, including senior government officials, outside advisers and volunteers on the projects, as well as other health department and White House officials.

“You can’t have enough good smart people working on a problem of this scale,” said Andy Slavitt, who helped lead the Obama administration’s 2013-2014 repair effort and is now advising on Kushner’s coronavirus response. “But they have to be organized with a clear chain of command.”

And they have to be good smart people. What reason is there to think Kushner is either good or smart?

[T]he effort’s makeshift nature has unnerved even some recruited to aid Kushner’s team, who described it as a process unlike any other traditional disaster response. Kushner’s team has stepped in to coordinate decision-making at agencies including the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the scope of his authority now exceeds that of Health Secretary Alex Azar, the one-time leader of Trump’s coronavirus response.

He’s the criminal and corrupt president’s son-in-law. Before that he was a slum landlord. None of this bodes well.

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