Even President Trump’s harshest critics concede that his daughter Ivanka Trump is poised, intelligent and capable. Nevertheless, she suffers from the same myopia as her father. That’s a big problem, both because it reinforces the president’s shortcomings and because she is more likable, and hence more effective in moving public opinion than her father.
Let’s start with the biggest of those blind spots: her finances. She had this exchange earlier today on “CBS This Morning“:
Gayle King: What have you done with your business?
Ivanka Trump: I have no involvement with any of that. … I felt like proximity to my father and to the White House and– with my husband taking such an influential role in the administration, I didn’t wanna also be running a business. So I put it into trust. I have independent trustees. I have no involvement in its management, in this oversight and its strategic decision making.
Gayle King: But the trustees are family members, right? Your brother-in-law and your sister-in-law?
Ivanka Trump: They are.
Gayle King: So from the–
Ivanka Trump: But they’re completely independent. And I’m transparent about that.
Gayle King: But you can you see from the public point of view, yes, you put it in trust but it’s family members. They’re thinking, “Well, is she really not involved? Do you really not get on the phone and say, ‘What’s going on?’” You have no involvement–
Ivanka Trump: I take–
Gayle King: –whatsoever?
Ivanka Trump: –I take a legal document very seriously and I wouldn’t go through the pains of setting this up if I intended to violate it.
Gayle King: Did you think about selling the business?
Ivanka Trump: Because the name of the business is Ivanka Trump, had I sold the business an independent third party would be able to go around the globe today licensing and leveraging the name of the 45th president of the United States of America– complete unfettered.
Gayle King: I think the big concern people– that I keep hearing out there is that the family is benefiting financially in their own personal business while your father is in the White House in all sorts of ways.
Ivanka Trump: I would argue that if I had not come to Washington, D.C. and if I was in New York growing my business I would be doing far better than by placing the restrictions that I have placed on my team, and ensuring that any growth is done with extreme caution. So just practically speaking, if my interest was making money or growing my business, I would do far better to completely disengage and do exactly that.
Pardon me, but that is total bunk. Ethics laws and the Constitution’s emoluments clause (preventing her from benefiting from monies from foreign governments and the businesses that they own) have nothing to do with management of her businesses. The issue is ownership, about which King should have asked. Nor is it a defense to say that she would have been richer not coming to Washington. We don’t know that to be the case (since she is profiting by holding on to her businesses) and is in any event irrelevant.
Ivanka Trump, like her father, is making a mockery of the conflicts-of-interest rules and encouraging, by example, others to do the same. Interviewers should be prepared to challenge her on these points. Those taking legal action against the president, for example, to challenge Trump for his receipt of foreign monies should not exempt Ivanka Trump from their scrutiny. The assumption of entitlement — I’m doing good and I shouldn’t have to sacrifice my business — is as distasteful coming from her as it is from the president. And it reminds one of the Clintons, who were so convinced of their altruism that they felt exempt from the rules and norms that bind others.
Continuing on our tour of her blind spots, Ivanka Trump plainly wants to have it both ways when it comes to Trump’s agenda. Asked whether she is complicit in her father’s actions, the Wharton business school grad pleaded ignorance. “I don’t know what it means to be complicit,” she said. She hedged, “I hope time will prove that I have done a good job and much more importantly that my father’s administration is the success that I know it will be.”
Let’s see if we can help. Complicit — “involved with others in an illegal activity or wrongdoing” — would mean that by her participation in the administration she is as responsible as anyone for selling her father’s agenda — cuts to childhood education, health and safety enforcement and the discretionary budget; elimination of funds for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which supports family planning and maternal and child health in more than 150 countries; and even his foreign policy. In her best imitation of former U.N. ambassador Samantha Power, Ivanka Trump tweeted, “Heartbroken and outraged by the images coming out of Syria following the atrocious chemical attack yesterday.” Conservatives who deplored Power for issuing such platitudes while representing President Barack Obama’s amoral policy of indifference to genocide should be no less harsh on Ivanka Trump.
Third, Ivanka Trump’s argument in essence boils down to: What’s a gal like me supposed to do? Well, lots of presidential children have stayed out of government, recognizing that they lack the qualifications and experience to tackle the country’s most serious problems. Ivanka Trump may be bright and successful at monetizing the family name, but she has nothing approaching the expertise expected of people at the highest level of government.
Some presidential children have been openly critical of their father; others merely silent. The vast majority have had the modesty and self-awareness to stay out of the West Wing except for family portraits. There is no reason that Ivanka Trump cannot do the same, save one: She’s there because Trump cannot function without relatives and cronies. There is nothing commendable about that.
Ivanka Trump puts a pretty face and an eloquent voice on ethical sloth and inhumane policies. Sorry, but that makes her complicit.