Chelsea Clinton’s Subtweet Of Jared Kushner Echos Critics Asking How He’s Qualified To Fight COVID-19
Chelsea Clinton raised a question about the leadership in America’s fight against COVID-19. In an April 3 tweet, Clinton laid out her resume: a “Masters in Public Health; wrote my doctoral dissertation on global efforts to tackle AIDS pandemic; co-authored a book on global health governance; teach MPH courses on health systems & global health.” Yet, even with her vast experience in global public health, she writes, “I’m not qualified to lead a national #covid19 effort.”
Clinton’s subtweet wasn’t about her qualifications — it was about Jared Kushner’s, who is overseeing the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s distribution of medical supplies to hospitals and health care providers. She’s not the only one talking; other critics have said he’s “overseeing a shadow task force with no oversight,” according to NPR.
Kushner is a real estate executive and a senior advisor to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump, who has no previous experience in public health. Early on it was reported in The New York Times that Kushner’s early involvement in the fight against coronavirus “was in advising the president that the media’s coverage exaggerated the threat.”
(Keep thinking: I’ve a Masters in Public Health; wrote my doctoral dissertation on global efforts to tackle AIDS pandemic; co-authored a book on global health governance; teach MPH courses on health systems & global health & I’m not qualified to lead a national #covid19 effort.)— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) April 4, 2020
Critics say Kushner isn’t part of the solution, but part of the problem, complicating the White House’s efforts to get ahead of the crisis with inaccurate information and broken promises like widespread drive-thru testing and a nationwide screening website to be created by Google. Neither has yet to materialize.
When Kushner led the White House briefing on the coronavirus pandemic on April 2, he revealed that Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were looking to him for “out-of-the-box” ideas on how to combat the virus. He did not offer ideas, but instead pushed states to be more resourceful with their medical supplies and not rely so heavily on the federal government’s supply. "The notion of the federal stockpile was it's supposed to be our stockpile," Kushner said. "It's not supposed to be states' stockpiles that they then use."
However, many pushed back on Kushner’s comments of the stockpile. "I would dismiss what Mr. Kushner said," Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly told NPR's Here & Now. "That is absolutely not the way it is supposed to work,” she said, explaining that the federal stockpile is a backup for states in need and that the Trump administration had a “very late start” on filling it. “And we're all paying the price for that right now.”
Days later, CNN reporter Daniel Dale tweeted that a government website’s definition of the federal stockpile had been changed to more closely reflect Kushner’s. The government claimed the changes to the website were made prior to Kushner’s remarks, NPR reported, despite the screenshots from Dale showing otherwise.
After Jared Kushner’s comment about how the Strategic National Stockpile is not supposed to be for states, lots of people pointed to the fact that its own website says it is.— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) April 3, 2020
The language on the website has now been changed.
My screenshot from last night vs. one from today: pic.twitter.com/UwJFAr7uoV
“FEMA was brought into the response to provide logistics support and the White House should let them do their work,” Mississippi Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told The New York Times on April 2. “There is no reason for Jared or any other inexperienced person to be getting in the way of that.”
Especially when the U.S. is bracing for the worst in the coming days. “The next week is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment. It's going to be our 9/11 moment. It’s going to be the hardest moment for many Americans in their entire lives,” U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome Adams told Meet The Press on April 5.
Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, argued that the lack of government transparency right now is as dangerous as Kushner’s inexperience. "As the seriousness of this pandemic continues to grow,” Bookbinder wrote in a statement, “the public needs to understand who in the White House is making policy decisions, who from private industry is influencing those decisions, and how decisions to address this pandemic are being made."
Jeremy Konyndyk, a former United States Agency for International Development (USAID) official who helped manage the response to the Ebola crisis during President Barack Obama’s administration, told The New York Times that disaster response requires discipline and a leader who does not undermine the experts. Even if Kushner “were the most competent person in the world, which he clearly isn’t,” Konyndyk said, “introducing these kinds of competing power centers into a crisis response structure is a guaranteed problem.”
It causes an unnecessary and dangerous disruption, which is something Kushner has taken pride in in the past. Andrea Bernstein, journalist and author of the book American Oligarchs: The Kushners, the Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and Power, told The New York Times that Kushner “really sees himself as a disrupter” and “believed he could do it better than anybody else, and he had supreme confidence in his own abilities and his own judgment even when he didn’t know what he was talking about.”
As the U.S. braces itself for the worst week in its right against coronavirus, states should be able to look to the federal government for real guidance and support in how to move forward. They need to know they can trust their leaders, which is why it’s more important now than ever to get advice from experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top medical expert on the coronavirus pandemic and a member of Trump's task force.
Florida Rep. Donna E. Shalala, who led the Department of Health and Human Services during President Bill Clinton’s administration and was Fauci’s boss at that time, told The New York Times, “During a health emergency, it’s the scientists and physicians that are the credible people to the American public. Not politicians.”
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.