Time tapped former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to write up a complimentary blurb for Jared Kushner, a senior adviser in the White House and one of this year’s 100 most influential people. The blurb is nice, in an A-for-effort kind of way. No, really! It is a perfectly adequate endorsement, written in legible English sentences. It says that “transitioning the presidency between parties” is hard and confers an extra burden of responsibility on those close to the POTUS. It says that Kushner is close to the POTUS. It says that Kushner went to college and then graduate school and then worked in business. It says that he’s likely to “make a success” of a “role” that potentially entails, um, flying into the sun.
Here, read for yourself:
Transitioning the presidency between parties is one of the most complex undertakings in American politics. The change triggers an upheaval in the intangible mechanisms by which Washington runs: an incoming President is likely to be less familiar with formal structures, and the greater that gap, the heavier the responsibility of those advisers who are asked to fill it.
This space has been traversed for nearly four months by Jared Kushner, whom I first met about 18 months ago, when he introduced himself after a foreign policy lecture I had given. We have sporadically exchanged views since. As part of the Trump family, Jared is familiar with the intangibles of the President. As a graduate of Harvard and NYU, he has a broad education; as a businessman, a knowledge of administration. All this should help him make a success of his daunting role flying close to the sun.
Kissinger has a background in academia; surely he is well-versed in the art of the Insincere Recommendation Letter. One begins by summarizing the circumstances that bring one to this moment of feigned support. There’s a new president in town, intangible mechanisms are shifting, when X thing happens, Y other things happen, the most important of which is that I just used up 60 of my 150 words, thank god. Then, one alludes to the fact that one is aware of the recommendee’s existence. Kissinger first met Kushner “18 months ago, when he introduced himself after a foreign policy lecture I had given.” Notice that “introduced himself”—what was Kissinger supposed to do, run away? Anyway, since being buttonholed by this person who not only exists but transverses a space (impressive!), Kissinger reveals that he has corresponded with him “sporadically.”
The utter tenuousness of their connection established, Kissinger moves on to Kushner’s qualifications. Remember that Trump has tasked his son-in-law with, among other things, bringing peace to the Israelis and the Palestinians, destroying ISIS, remaking the government in Silicon Valley’s image, and ending opioid addiction. Here is what Kissinger has to say about the man’s unique talents. First, as a member of Trump’s family, Kushner “is familiar” with the president’s “intangibles.” (This is accurate: Trump’s “intangible assets” as a businessman include his brand recognition and aura of presidential authority, both of which accrue to the benefit of his family.) Second, as someone who has attended school, Kushner is educated. Third, as someone who has administered a company, Kushner “has knowledge” of administration.
If such ringing endorsements don’t leave you inspired, the write-up’s final line offers definitive proof that Jared Kushner, a human person with limbs who once accosted Henry Kissinger after a lecture, deserves all the laurels Time can bestow. The professor compares Kushner to Icarus, an inventor’s son who donned wax wings and impetuously flew too close to the sun. When the wax melted, Icarus fell into the sea. His name is mythological shorthand for hubris. (His father, Daedalus, built the hollow cow that allowed the queen of Crete to have sex with a bull and give birth to the Minotaur, so Icarus/Jared in this metaphor come from a long line of enablers.)
Most Time 100 blurbs are an opportunity for one famous person to gush over another famous person, thereby amassing some easy goodwill and maybe a better seat at the Time gala. Kissinger’s choice of the Insincere Recommendation mode amounts to a plain and cutting dissent against the form. Don’t be fooled by its many “intangibles” and “intangible mechanisms”— its apparent determination to avoid saying anything meaningful or substantive about Kushner at all. The message is clear as day. “To Whom It May Concern: I have no interest in helping this man and cannot in good conscience advise you to hire him,” Kissinger has told us, who unfortunately have no choice in the matter. “I wish him luck on his future endeavors.”