After four years of Donald Trump in the White House, we still have many questions. Does the president really employ a small army of body doubles for the First Lady? How many times does he have to flush after he takes a shit? And so on. One thing that’s always seemed clear, however, is his contempt for his adult sons, Eric and especially Don Jr., which is counterbalanced by a creepy, incestual affection for one daughter, Ivanka and an apparent estrangement from the other, Tiffany. In aggregate, he’s a monumentally shitty dad — on the last leg of the campaign trail, he “jokingly” threatened never to speak to his kids again if he lost.
This whole time, however, Trump has shown an unwavering confidence in the abilities of Ivanka’s husband, his son-in-law: Jared Kushner. To the outside observer, this was odd yet understandable favoritism. Like Trump, Kushner is the wealthy heir of a New York real estate mogul and had his path to elite institutions paved with cash. If a narcissist identifies only with himself, well, here was the next best thing. As the politically inexperienced thirtysomething received the high-profile tasks of brokering peace in the Middle East, solving the opioid crisis and overseeing progress on the promised Mexican border wall, we were left to conclude that Trump really believed Jared could handle such a full plate, and the power that came with it.
But as word got out this week that Jared was in charge of the Trump team’s efforts to legally challenge the results of the election, a different picture finally emerged — particularly as it also became clear Kushner had done no prep work on a strategy their camp has been talking about for months. When it came down to the wire, Jared desperately sought the counsel of… Rudy Giuliani, the goon who had his hand down his pants in Borat 2. Trump is a dumbass, sure; does that mean he had genuine faith in his son-in-law to mount a viable, last-minute defense in the courts? Impossible. There is a limit even to his delusion and loyalty. He has to know that Jared will fail, and, this being the case, he must have long suspected that the lad brought nothing to the table. Every one of his absurd assignments was a hopeless diversion. Busywork, you could say.
Once you flip the script of Trump loving Jared and realize that he loathes the prick — dude took away his sweet Ivanka, don’t forget — the pattern of setting the little prince up to crash and burn again and again makes a lot more sense. Trump’s own kids avoid these official duties in favor of speeches and social media; Jared, meanwhile, is not in a position to say “no.” He makes a nice scapegoat, not unlike Tom Wambsgans, the vicious yet needy corporate climber who marries into the billionaire Roy family on Succession, then finds himself shouldering the blame for their corruption. The Roy siblings, like their Trump counterparts, know enough not to be caught holding the bag. The Jareds and Toms of the world accept that responsibility as a sign of trust.
The upshot is that when the dust settles, and Trump is out on the street, his Twitter account suspended, he’ll have Kushner — rather than his own flesh and blood — to blame for the ineffective lawsuits. It’s a fascinating style of self-preservation, and we can’t say for sure if he pursued it consciously or instinctually. Either way, it finally resolves the mystery of Trump’s puzzling respect for Jared, which turns out to be a mirage. The guy’s real job was eating shit.