Jared Kushner departs the White House with President Donald Trump on March 15. 
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Asked about Trump and racism, Kushner struggles badly

In an interview that aired last night on HBO, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner covered quite a bit of ground with Axios’ Jonathan Swan, though an exchange about racism stood out as especially notable.

Swan noted that Kushner’s boss and father-in-law, Donald Trump, has been accused of being a racist, and the reporter asked whether Kushner has ever heard the president say or do anything he’d consider racist.

“So, the answer is no, absolutely not,” Kushner replied. “You can’t not be a racist for 69 years, then run for president and be a racist. And what I’ll say is that when a lot of the Democrats call the president a racist, I think they’re doing a disservice to people who suffer because of real racism in this country.”

And that’s when the trouble started.

SWAN: Was birtherism racist?

KUSHNER: Um, look, I wasn’t really involved in that.

SWAN: I know you weren’t. Was it racist?

KUSHNER: Like I said, I wasn’t involved in that.

SWAN: I know you weren’t. Was it racist?

KUSHNER: Um, look, I know who the president is and I have not seen anything in him that is racist, so again I was not involved in that.

SWAN: Did you wish he didn’t do that?

KUSHNER: Like I said, I was not involved in that.

The White House aide eventually argued, in reference to Trump’s crusade in support of a racist conspiracy theory, “That was a long time ago.”

To the extent that reality still has any meaning, the president’s embrace of the “birther” garbage was not “a long time ago.” After seeing Barack Obama’s birth certificate in 2011, Trump proceeded to question Obama’s citizenship in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.

As recently as September 2016, the Washington Post asked the Republican whether he considered Obama a natural-born American citizen. Trump refused to answer.

In the same Axios interview that aired last night, Jonathan Swan asked a related question about whether Trump’s campaign pledge to ban Muslims from the United States was “religiously bigoted.”

Kushner replied, “Look, I think that the president did his campaign the way he did his campaign.”

Yes, and I think Jared Kushner did this interview the way he did this interview.

At a certain level, I can appreciate just how difficult a position the president’s son-in-law was in. Kushner couldn’t defend Trump’s racism – it is, after all, indefensible – and he couldn’t acknowledge (or criticize) Trump’s racism without creating serious personal and professional problems for himself.

The result, however, was cringe worthy.