Ever since Donald Trump won the election, there's been a hanging question in the air: when would he actually hold a public press event? It still hasn't happened, 14 days into his tenure as president-in-waiting, the longest such period in the modern American political era. But he did just speak with reporters from The New York Times in a private lunchtime meeting, covering a range of subjects. For example: Trump thinks Jared Kushner can help achieve Mideast peace, giving a possible sneak preview of how one of the most influential unelected people in America could be utilized in a Trump administration.
Make no mistake: if the idea of turning over the goal of achieving lasting peace in the Middle East to Kushner sounds absurd, you're not alone. And you're currently living in the conceivable timeline where anyone would ever have a chance to witness such a thing. The 35-year-old real estate heir is Trump's son-in-law, wedded to his eldest daughter Ivanka, and reportedly played a pivotal role in Trump's campaign, both professionally and personally.
But he's not a diplomat, or an ambassador, or even an elected official of any sort. He's just, well, the President-elect's son-in-law. And if Trump followed through with the suggestion he made during that meeting with reporters from the Times, he'd be tasked with handling some of the most sensitive and entrenched political conflicts in the world.
To be clear, there's no concrete reason to think Kushner would have an official job in the administration. As Maggie Haberman tweeted from the meeting, Trump "indicated" that it was unlikely Kushner would have any "formal" role, a possible sign that his reported efforts to get around anti-nepotism laws haven't worked out. That said, in an informal advisory capacity, Kushner could still be a hugely powerful person ― it's all down to how much Trump trusts his ideas, and is willing to follow through with what he counsels.
It's clear from the tweets from the assembled reporters that the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis is a particular goal of Trump's, as well. And according to the paper's Washington bureau chief Elisabeth Bumiller, he even floated Kushner's name in that capacity.
It'd obviously be premature to start making predictions about what's going to happen at this early date ― there are still a couple months left before Trump will be sworn in ― but it's nonetheless startling to consider just how drastically the American government is going to be changing, and how different the norms of behavior figure to be than ever before.
You can try to imagine, for example, how it'd be received if Hillary Clinton had won the election and then tried to install her son-in-law in a White House role, even an informal one. It's hard to overstate the hackles that would be raised by the congressional GOP over such a shameless act of nepotism. And yet, that's what Trump seems keen on trying to do, complete with an implausibly difficult mission.