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Thursday, July 07, 2016
The Donald Trump I Know
By Jared Kushner
Donald Trump is the father of Ivanka Trump, who is
married to Observer publisher Jared Kushner. (Photo: Geoff Robins for Getty
My father-in-law is not an anti-Semite.
It’s that simple, really. Donald Trump is not
anti-Semitic and he’s not a racist. Despite the best efforts of his political
opponents and a large swath of the media to hold Donald Trump accountable for
the utterances of even the most fringe of his supporters—a standard to which no
other candidate is ever held—the worst that his detractors can fairly say about
him is that he has been careless in retweeting imagery that can be interpreted
I read the Dana Schwartz piece that appeared on Observer.com.
As always, there are thoughtful points but journalists, even those who work for
me at the Observer, are not always right. While I respect her opinion, I want
to show another side to explain why I disagree.
In my opinion, accusations like “racist” and
“anti-Semite” are being thrown around with a carelessness that risks rendering
these words meaningless.
If even the slightest infraction against what the speech
police have deemed correct speech is instantly shouted down with taunts of
“racist” then what is left to condemn the actual racists? What do we call the
people who won’t hire minorities or beat others up for their religion?
This is not idle philosophy to me. I am the grandson of
Holocaust survivors. On December 7, 1941—Pearl Harbor Day—the Nazis surrounded
the ghetto of Novogroduk, and sorted the residents into two lines: those
selected to die were put on the right; those who would live were put on the
My grandmother’s sister, Esther, raced into a building to hide. A boy who
had seen her running dragged her out and she was one of about 5100 Jews to be
killed during this first slaughter of the Jews in Novogrudok.
On the night
before Rosh Hashana 1943, the 250 Jews who remained of the town’s 20,000
plotted an escape through a tunnel they had painstakingly dug beneath the
The searchlights were disabled and the Jews removed nails from the metal
roof so that it would rattle in the wind and hopefully mask the sounds of the
My grandmother and her sister didn’t want to leave their
father behind. They went to the back of the line to be near him.
When the first
Jews emerged from the tunnel, the Nazis were waiting for them and began
My grandmother’s brother Chanon, for whom my father is named, was
killed along with about 50 others.
My grandmother made it to the woods, where
she joined the Bielski Brigade of partisan resistance fighters.
There she met
my grandfather, who had escaped from a labor camp called Voritz. He had lived
in a hole in the woods—a literal hole that he had dug—for three years, foraging
for food, staying out of sight and sleeping in that hole for the duration of
the brutal Russian winter.
I go into these details, which I have never discussed,
because it’s important to me that people understand where I’m coming from when
I report that I know the difference between actual, dangerous intolerance
versus these labels that get tossed around in an effort to score political
The difference between me and the journalists and Twitter
throngs who find it so convenient to dismiss my father in law is simple. I know
him and they don’t.
It doesn’t take a ton of courage to join a mob. It’s
actually the easiest thing to do.
What’s a little harder is to weigh carefully
a person’s actions over the course of a long and exceptionally distinguished
The best lesson I have learned from watching this election from the
front row is that we are all better off when we challenge what we believe to be
truths and seek the people who disagree with us to try and understand their
point of view.
In December 1972, a month after Richard Nixon’s 49-state
landslide, the New Yorker’s great film critic Pauline Kael gave a speech that
said “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for
Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken.”
I encourage Ms.
Schwartz—and all reporters—to get out there and meet some of those people
“outside their ken.”
One of the reasons the Observer has more than quadrupled
its traffic over the last three-plus years is that we’ve been actively
broadening our perspective.
The fact is that my father in law is an incredibly loving
and tolerant person who has embraced my family and our Judaism since I began
dating my wife. His support has been unwavering and from the heart.
personally seen him embrace people of all racial and religious backgrounds, at
his companies and in his personal life.
This caricature that some want to paint
as someone who has “allowed” or encouraged intolerance just doesn’t reflect the
Donald Trump I know.
The from-the-heart reactions of this man are instinctively
pro-Jewish and pro-Israel.
Just last week, at an event in New Hampshire, an
audience member asked about wasting money on “Zionist Israel.” My father-in-law
didn’t miss a beat in replying that “Israel is a very, important ally of the
United States and we are going to protect them 100 percent.” No script, no
handlers, no TelePrompter—just a strong opinion from the heart.
There’s real racism in the world. There’s real
anti-Semitism in the world. These are pernicious, dispiriting truths.
the tweets that Ms. Schwartz has received, depicting her being thrown into an
oven, for example, are beyond disgusting.
I am appalled that anyone, let alone
someone who works for me, would have to endure that kind of hateful rhetoric.
But blaming Donald Trump for the most outrageous things done by people who
claim to support him is no different from blaming Bernie Sanders for the people
who stomp and spit on American flags at his rallies.
I tell people that Donald Trump is a Rorschach test.
People see in him what they want to see—if they dislike his politics, they
might see other things they dislike, such as racism. If they like his politics,
they might imagine they’re hearing “dog whistles.” He will touch subjects
politicians try to avoid. This is part of why he appeals to so many.
This notion that has emerged that holds my father in law
responsible for the views of everyone who supports him is frankly absurd.
only is this expectation completely unique to Donald Trump, but it’s clear how
easily it could be used to manipulate the public.
Don’t like a candidate? Hire
some goons to go hold signs in favor of that candidate at a rally.
A few months
ago, my father in law completely and totally disavowed the support of one of
America’s best-known racists. The issue immediately became whether the seconds
it took for him to do so proved that he was insufficiently committed to
fighting racism. It’s an insane standard.
If my father in law’s fast-moving team was careless in
choosing an image to retweet, well part of the reason it’s so shocking is that
it’s the actual candidate communicating with the American public rather than
the armies of handlers who poll-test ordinary candidates’ every move.
Government is built with many layers to avoid making
mistakes. The problem with this is that it costs a lot and little gets done.
business, we empower smart people to get jobs done and give them latitude on
how to get there.
I prefer to move forward and endure some small mistakes to
preserving a stale status quo whose sole virtue is that it offends no one.
America faces serious challenges. A broken economy,
terrorism, gaping trade deficits and an overall lack of confidence. Intolerance
should be added to that list.
I’m confident that my father in law, with his
outstanding record of real results, will be successful tackling these
challenges. That’s why I support him.