The Washington Post reports that officials in at least four countries — China, Israel, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates — have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, “by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign-policy experience.”
Officials in the White House were reportedly concerned that Kushner was “naive and being tricked” in conversations with foreign officials, some of whom said they wanted to deal only with Kushner and not with more experienced personnel.
Despite having no political or policy experience, Kushner was put in charge of everything from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to American relations with Mexico.
Politico reports that he has now lost his access to top-secret intelligence along with other officials in the White House who did not clear background checks.
The question: Will Trump accept this decision? Or will he once again put his family’s interests before his country’s?
Macron takes on rail unions
First the labor market. Then agriculture. Now railways. You can’t accuse Emmanuel Macron of taking things slow.
The French president has announced plans to overhaul SNCF, the state-owned and debt-laden operator of France’s national railways.
A report by Jean-Cyril Spinetta, former head of Air France, found that managers have little incentive to control costs. SNCF’s debts have grown from €20 to €50 billion in two decades. Shiny new high-speed railways have been added, but investment in commuter routes has languished.
Macron aims to shake up governance at SNCF and end generous employment terms for new — not existing — workers, including automatic pay rises and early retirement.
The unions, of course, are up in arms — and they have heft. It were protests against SNCF reforms that paralyzed Prime Minister Alain Juppé’s liberalizations during the first year of Jacques Chirac’s presidency in 1995.
Trouble for social democrats
Tony Barber writes about the challenge of social democracy in the Financial Times.
It’s not that center-left economic and social policies have lost their appeal. “On the contrary,” he argues, “millions of voters want a protective welfare state and are angry about precarious jobs, social inequality and untamed globalization.”
The trouble is that they don’t trust social democrats to do anything about it. Parties tolerated the excesses of financial capitalism in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Voters also scorn the center-left for taking too little pride in national identity and for lacking the courage to confront the problems that arise from immigration in local communities.
The obvious solution may seem to lurch to the left, but, as I argued here in October, that doesn’t always work either. When parties become economically more populist in order to appeal to blue-collar voters, they risk alienating their middle-income supporters.