Donald Trump's political career is all about rewriting the political rule book — taking long-standing norms that the establishment says he can't violate, thumbing his nose at them, and then waiting for his base to rally to his side.
The latest of these norms is nepotism. And the Trumps are really pushing the envelope here.
Trump has now hired both his daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to senior positions in the White House — despite warnings by watchdogs that this may run afoul of anti-nepotism rules that date back to John F. Kennedy and his brother, Robert.
And chief in defending these moves has been another of Trump's children, Eric Trump.
Last week, Eric Trump told Forbes that nepotism is simply “a factor of life.” He added: “We might be here because of nepotism, but we’re not still here because of nepotism. You know, if we didn’t do a good job, if we weren’t competent, believe me, we wouldn’t be in this spot.”
Eric Trump then took it a step further in a newly published interview with the Telegraph, saying nepotism is, in fact, “a beautiful thing.”
“Is that nepotism? Absolutely,” he said. “Is that also a beautiful thing? Absolutely. Family business is a beautiful thing. The same applies for Ivanka.”
Eric Trump also suggested a family member like Ivanka Trump could be more candid with her father than other advisers, who may be tempted to be yes-men and -women. “I think it gives you a sounding board who is a little bit more unconventional than the 37 people that might happen to be standing round a table at that one time who just want to appease,” he said.
Donald Trump himself has also defended nepotism — albeit a decade ago. In a 2006 interview with Larry King, Trump said flatly, “I like nepotism.”
Trump added: “I think, you know, a lot of people say, 'Oh, nepotism.' Usually these are people without children. But I like nepotism.”
Trump also offered no apologies for his nepotism in a 2004 episode of ABC's "20/20" that was devoted to the topic.
“You know, there's always gonna be nepotism, whether it's a friendship nepotism or whether it's children nepotism,” Trump said. “That's the way the world works.”
Back in 2009, Ivanka Trump admitted to ABC News that she benefited from nepotism: “I believe that of course nepotism got me in the door. I'd be silly to say otherwise. If I was not performing in a way that was satisfactory to me, I could not stay within the organization.”
And in 2006, when she joined “The Apprentice,” she told CNN: “So when people say nepotism and you're working for him — I'd sort of be a fool not to. This is the industry that I'm in. This is what I loved to do. I worked for a year with another developer, but essentially, like, I couldn't resist the allure and the sexiness of all the projects we're working on.”
In one way, these are the answers you'd expect from a father and his children who have engaged in all kinds of nepotism and really can't deny it. But calling nepotism “a beautiful thing” and saying it's actually beneficial is really testing the bounds of what's been politically and socially acceptable.
Not that it's all that surprising from this president and his children.