Elizabeth Spiers, who had been editor in chief of the New York Observer at the same time presidential senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner had been owner of the publication, puts forth a common-sense proposal in The Washington Post. If Kushner’s qualifications for the job of leading the new White House Office of American Innovation are tied to his experience running businesses, including the Observer, then his suitability for the job should be judged on the basis of past performance.
And from Spiers’ very well-placed vantage point, that past performance is not something that gives her confidence for his future success:
But I worked for Kushner for 18 months as he tried to infuse a much smaller institution than the U.S. government with cost-cutting impulses from the commercial real estate world. And my experience doesn’t bode well for the Office of American Innovation. Not everything that works in the private sector is transferrable to the public sector — and even if it were, Kushner isn’t the best person to transfer it.
Among the things Kushner didn’t seem to understand, according to Spiers, was that different industries operated in different ways. “Why assume that media and software have the same risk profile and dynamics?,” she wondered. Nor did Kushner seem to understand the nuances of the news industry itself. “Kushner would frequently point to a media company with a 60-person editorial staff and ask why our two-person desk wasn’t producing as many stories or as much traffic. Or he’d argue, bizarrely and incorrectly, that because Gawker started with one person, that meant you didn’t need head count to scale a media company,” she wrote.
These statements related to Kushner’s reluctance to put more resources into the company, and his desire to enact layoffs, even after the Observer had turned a profit.
Ultimately, Spiers believes Kushner’s approach to running the office will be “more of the same,” as in:
A vanity project, one that exists primarily to put Kushner in the same room with people he admires whom he wouldn’t have had access to before, glossing government agencies in the process with a thin veneer of what appears to be capitalism but is really just nihilistic cost-cutting designed to project the optics of efficiency.