Key point: The American government should emphasize the interests of its own people.
Even the most outrageous events have lost their power to shock Washington. Saudi Arabia’s crown prince—a supposed reformer who jails opponents, shakes down wealthy countrymen and prolifically kills civilians in an aggressive war—claimed that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, was “in his pocket.” Indeed, Kushner supposedly turned over the names of the de facto Saudi ruler’s critics, who were later arrested and jailed.
That’s not treason, exactly. But it is shameful, disgusting and grotesque—and, if true, should result in Kushner’s defenestration from any position of responsibility in the Trump administration. There is no obvious personal financial interest at stake, though questions have been raised whether he supported Riyadh’s blockade against Qatar because the latter refused to provide financial support for his real-estate firm. More likely, his stance reflects an unseemly friendliness toward a particular dictator, a warped belief that the two governments are uniquely linked.
Which actually is more dangerous than personal corruption.
It is a danger about which outgoing President George Washington warned in his 1796 farewell address. His words reflected the highly volatile and hostile politics of his day. And his advice obviously reflected America’s relatively weak international power position.
Still, Washington’s message had broader import, and offers important lessons for today. He argued that “nothing is more essential, than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The Nation, which indulges towards another a habitual hatred, or a habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.”