Woodward quotes Kushner paraphrasing the Cheshire Cat as a way of making sense of Trump’s chaotic style of management, saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will get you there.”
Woodward describes Kushner as an “ever-loyal cheerleader and true believer” of the President, but also someone who has intimate knowledge of how and why Trump makes decisions. While former top Cabinet officials describe Trump’s style as chaotic and dangerous, Kushner views his constant reversals as “an asset.”
Woodward writes, “Where others saw fickleness or even lies, Kushner saw Trump’s constant, shifting inconsistency as a challenge to be met with an ever-adapting form of managing up.”
“With the president, there’s a hundred different shades of gray,” Kushner is quoted as saying. “And if people try to get a quick answer out of him, it’s easy. You can get him to decide in your favor by limiting his information. But you better be sure as hell that people with competing views aren’t going to find their way to him. And when that happens, he’s going to undo his decision.”
‘That’s a soft yes’
In one instance, after a meeting on criminal justice reform with Trump, Sen. Mike Lee is quoted as saying he was “surprised and delighted” that the President had agreed to a group of Republican senators’ suggestions on sentencing reform.
“So he said yes!” Lee is quoted as saying.
“No, no, no, no,” replied Kushner. “That’s a soft yes.”
Woodward writes that Kushner explained to Lee that now someone with an opposing view would come in and convince Trump to change his mind, and then the two sides would have to debate.
‘Alice in Wonderland’
In the book, Kushner is quoted describing four texts people should “absorb” if they want to truly understand the President. Woodward writes the texts do not paint a flattering picture of someone who is both Kushner’s boss and father-in-law.
The first text Kushner recommends is a 2018 opinion piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal. Noonan’s assessment of Trump: “He’s crazy… and it’s kind of working.” Noonan also calls Trump a “circus act,” and “a living insult.”
Woodward writes that Kushner had to know the column was “quite devastating.”
The second text Kushner points to is “Alice in Wonderland.” Kushner is quoted as paraphrasing the Cheshire Cat as a means of understanding Trump: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will get you there.”
Woodward writes, “Did Kushner understand how negative this was? Was it possible the best roadmap for the administration was a novel about a young girl who falls through a rabbit hole, and Kushner was willing to acknowledge that Trump’s presidency was on shaky, directionless ground?”
The third text Kushner suggests is from author Chris Whipple’s book “The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency.”
Whipple writes, “What seems clear, as of this writing, and almost a year into his presidency, is that Trump will be Trump, no matter his chief of staff.”
The final text Kushner offers is “Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter,” by Scott Adams, creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip. According to Adams, Trump employs a technique called “intentional wrongness persuasion,” and “can invent any reality” because “all you will remember is that he provided his reasons, he didn’t apologize, and his opponents called him a liar like they always do.”
It was clear to Woodward that none of this was meant to criticize Trump, just as a way to help understand him. That said, Woodward was surprised and writes, “when combined, Kushner’s four texts painted President Trump as crazy, aimless, stubborn and manipulative. I could hardly believe anyone would recommend these as ways to understand their father-in-law, much less the president they believed in and served.”