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Jared Kushner–the Rookie

March 27, 2017

Yesterday’s report in the Washington Post by  Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker that President Trump has chosen his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to head up a new White House Office of American Innovation sounds awfully similar to an initiative undertaken by Charles Z. Wick, head of Ronald Reagan’s public diplomacy agency, USICA.

In Summer 1981, Wick came up with the idea that there should be an outreach to the private sector. Guided by JFK’s phrase, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” Wick decided to ask top level private sector leaders to volunteer services and material.

Wick meant by this “volunteerism” that he would “take” from the private sector what was needed to reduce his agency’s operating costs!

In other words, Wick intended to set up private sector committees to which the “best and brightest” in America would be asked to make a contribution.  USICA had libraries, let’s have the best and brightest publishers tell us how to improve our library holdings. USICA has cultural centers, let’s have a private sector committee devoted to “Culture.”

At the time, as Acting Associate Director for Cultural and Education Affairs, I was very cautious about this idea since most people who make a living in books and culture were the enemies of Ronald Reagan. And Wick should have been concerned that these committees would be perceived as opportunities to get something from government by those who volunteered their services.

Since USICA was in the “advertising business,” Wick thought, he called a meeting at which all the best and brightest advertising men showed up as well as Jack Valenti, former LBJ special assistant, and Sonny Werblin, head of Madison Square Gardens.

Wick’s desire was to set up a broad range of committees to which prominent Americans contributed their knowledge and expertise.

Kushner  said “The government should be run like a great American company. Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens” and is reported to be proud that “most members of his team have little-to-no political experience, hailing instead from the world of business.”  Kushner’s “Office” will be staffed by former business executives.

Here are three reasons why this is a disaster in the making:

1) The Trump Administration has yet to appoint most positions in government agencies requiring Senate confirmation. Until that is done, these agencies are “ghost departments” with ghostlike “advisors” making key decisions that cannot be traced.

2) Government cannot be run like a business and the skills of businessmen are not tailored to the tasks of government administration. Only persons who never served in top positions of government claim otherwise.

3) A government must reflect the political values and policies of the President and his political base. Successful businessmen tend to avoid partisan politics, often know little about how government operates, or are more likely to be Liberal Democrats.

If you thought the failure to repeal Obamacare was a disaster, wait for what happens when this new White House Office of American Innovation begins to dictate policy.

 

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