Foolish optimists expected Ivanka Trump to be a moderating force in the White House. But by now it should be clear that she’s not part of any solution, which by definition means she’s part of the problem.
Can anyone tell me why, other than nepotism, she has an office in the White House and a back-bench seat at meetings of the Cabinet? Washington is full of people who are smart, successful, well-educated – and actually have experience in developing and implementing government policy, which Ivanka completely lacks.
It is true that the president’s daughter was once seen as the socially acceptable face of the Trump brand. She and her husband, Jared Kushner, were identified with the progressive social views of the rarified social circles in which they traveled. No less an authority on daughterhood and the White House than Chelsea Clinton, whom Ivanka describes as a “very good friend,” said before the inauguration that “we have so much more in common than we have disagreement about.”
Ivanka promised to champion issues of concern to women, including paid family leave. And it was hoped that she could hold President Donald Trump to his former live-and-let-live views when it came to issues such as LGBT rights.
President Trump’s sudden decision last week to bar transgender individuals from military service was just the latest example of Ivanka’s lack of influence. She was reportedly taken by surprise when the president announced the ban in an early-morning tweet. So was almost everyone, including the military officials who are supposed to enforce the new policy of discrimination, which they don’t much seem to like. But the mean-spirited decree must have been especially galling for Ivanka, who in June – apropos of nothing – had tweeted that she was “proud to support my LGBTQ friends and the LGBTQ Americans who have made immense contributions to our society and economy.”
Ivanka and Jared reportedly lobbied Trump not to abandon the Paris climate change accord, seen by most scientists and world leaders as the most significant step to date in limiting the heat-trapping carbon emissions that are rapidly warming the planet. The president pulled out of the pact anyway.
She had no discernible influence in the health care battle, which perhaps should be no surprise. Trump pledged health insurance “for everybody” but became so desperate for a legislative win that he would have settled for health care “for nobody,” which is roughly what was in the bill that the Senate rejected last week.
Ivanka has continued to advocate a national program of guaranteed paid family leave, similar to those in many other industrialized countries, which she described in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed as not an entitlement but “an investment in America’s working families.” She did have enough juice to get Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to allocate some money for such a program – $25 billion over 10 years – but it is unclear whether funding will survive the appropriations process.
If it does, I’ll congratulate her. If not, she might want to work to help Democrats take control of both the House and the Senate in 2018. I’m sure they would be happy to vote for a much better family leave program, covering not just childbirth but also other family needs such as elder care.
Where Ivanka does apparently have real influence is in matters of personnel. She and Jared are reported to have urged Trump to bring in foul-mouthed Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director. Seriously, that’s the guy you wanted shaping the administration’s message? Scaramucci was dismissed Monday after just 10 days on the job. He had only two things to offer: North Korean-style hosannas to the strength, wisdom and general magnificence of his dear leader, President Trump; and an undeniable talent for imaginative swearing.
Ivanka is also said to have supported the defenestration of Reince Priebus in favor of John Kelly as chief of staff. It is true that Priebus didn’t do a very good job, but that’s mostly because he wasn’t allowed to – and Ivanka was one of his headaches, though perhaps not the worst. She is one of many aides who enjoy unfettered access to the president. If Kelly is not allowed to function as a gatekeeper, he, too, will fail.
Meanwhile, Ivanka’s line of shoes, clothing and accessories – conspicuously not Made in America – has come under new scrutiny. And one disillusioned friend of hers told me she and Jared must have “drunk the Kool-Aid.” In her White House role, she’s not helping the nation, and she’s sure not helping herself.
Eugene Robinson’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.