WASHINGTON -- Of course, I’m jealous of Ivanka Trump -- because any criticism of another woman has to be jealousy, according to the letters I shall receive. In the following order, I want her wardrobe, hair, makeup, private transportation and height (5’11”) -- and all of her trademarks in China.
Confession accomplished, let’s move on to emoluments, as in the constitutional clause forbidding gifts, titles or what-have-you from foreign nations to officeholders or appointees within the executive and legislative branches of government.
President Trump’s elder daughter, Ivanka, who happens to be his close adviser on economic empowerment and entrepreneurship, among other things, also has secured 13 new trademarks in China -- right about the same time her father discovered a fresh passion for China’s economic well-being.
That’s right, “Make China Great Again,” no American president has ever said. But recently, Trump apparently was knocked off his golf cart on the road to the 9th hole and had a revelation: He must save ZTE!
ZTE, as you may know, is a gargantuan Chinese telecommunications equipment and systems company that, heretofore, had been considered ground zero for crimes against the United States. It has sold products to Iran and North Korea in defiance of U.S. sanctions law.
You see the dots: tariff tensions with China, the off-again-on-again summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. It’s complicated, if you’re not in the art-of-the-deal business. If you are, this is all part of a Trumpian vision for which he began laying the groundwork in April 2017.
You’ll recall with appropriate layers of gauziness Trump’s most-pleasant dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago. The two ate dessert while Syria burned, thanks to Tomahawk strikes Trump had just ordered. It must be a special sort of something for a man like Trump to savor what he later called the “most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen” and privately relish the knowledge that your missiles are delivering a fiery hell upon a cruel enemy.
Sitting on either side of Xi were Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, whose young children sang for their guest -- in Mandarin. Apparently, the family dogs and ponies were otherwise occupied. Although Xi gamely said he understood Trump’s decision to bomb Syria given Bashar Assad’s gassing of children, one wonders what he later thought about being placed on the stage of Trump’s strange, little theater.
To be clear, Ivanka Trump no longer manages her company, which she placed in a family-run trust while she serves in the White House. But she still enjoys profits and “Ivanka Trump” is expanding during what amounts to a worldwide advertising campaign -- at taxpayer expense.
Delayed gratification, hardship though it may be for a Trump, seems hardly a defensible exemption from the emoluments clause, which reads: “No Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” An emolument is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the returns arising from office or employment usually in the form of compensation or perquisites.”
This seems clear enough. Congress is having none of it. Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed varying degrees of outrage, notably Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. But others, who represent the unshakeable Republican base, would give Ivanka a fiefdom, if that would make her and her daddy happy. Indeed, Ivanka’s company has acquired or has trademarks pending in Saudi Arabia, Mexico, India, Israel, Turkey and the Philippines.
Whatever is going on, it doesn’t look or smell good. Either you’re the president’s daughter, confidante and adviser -- or you’re a businesswoman building an international brand. You can’t -- or shouldn’t -- be both at the same time.
Few in Washington ever doubted that Trump’s run for president was a joy ride to buff his brand and image. When he won, shocking everyone and himself, Trump must have seen his bloodline’s branding future. Even he must have been surprised, however, at how easily his people accepted the oligarchy he was creating. As brands go, the United States of Trump wasn’t bad. Not bad at all.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is email@example.com.