Kushner traveled to Iraq Monday
He's got a large White House policy portfolio
In politics, if you’re lacking in foreign policy experience, one quick fix is to hop on a plane headed overseas for a photo op and crash course in diplomacy and international relations.
Presidential candidates do it every four years, and now, Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump, is as well.
Kushner, 36, landed in Iraq Monday as a guest of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford to show Trump’s support for the government of Iraq and US personnel in the country, Dunford spokesman Capt. Greg Hicks told CNN.
The Flickr account for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff published a series of 61 photos from the trip, taken Monday and Tuesday. Kushner is featured in about half of them, as many as Dunford, sitting at a meeting at the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad and flying in a helicopter with the US ambassador to Iraq.
Kushner’s credentials to act as an envoy for the US are thin, but these photos give at least a visual that he’s prepared for the job.
Erin Kirk-Cuomo, a former Defense Department photographer said it’s “very rare” that a “liaison from the White House would have that much attention” on a trip like this.
“It’s not that they never joined us,” she said, but for someone to receive more attention than the principal was “odd.”
“The photographer might have got a little star struck,” she said, “or he could have been directed specifically to highlight (Kushner’s) presence.”
Kushner has in recent weeks been given even more responsibility in the administration, and an astoundingly broad portfolio. On March 27, Trump announced his son-in-law would lead a new Office of American Innovation, responsible for finding new ways for government to operate more efficiently.
“The government should be run like a great American company,” Kushner told The Washington Post.
Yet if that’s not enough, the former real estate scion has also met with a handful of powerful foreign leaders, sat in on White House roundtable discussions on everything from opioid drug abuse to manufacturing and cybersecurity, and did we mention he’s also overseeing criminal justice reform?
So to make Kushner our man in the Middle East is going to take some creative, and persuasive, branding.
Cue the foreign trip.
Although it’s not uncommon for politicians to travel overseas, “that does not apply to staff,” said John Weaver, a Republican political consultant who’s worked on presidential campaigns for John McCain, Jon Huntsman and John Kasich. “That is remarkably unusual and out of place.”
“It seems like its enhancing a person’s portfolio at the expense of the State Department and Defense Department,” he said. “Would you ship a peacock to Iraq?”
Presidential candidates without a background in foreign policy who during the 2016 campaign made their own trips abroad include Trump, who visited Mexico in August, holding a news conference with Mexican President Peña Nieto, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who visited Poland where he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish politicians.