In 1981, when my father’s administration was still young, I was asked to come in and read for Ron Howard, who was directing a movie called “Night Shift.” They sent me the script, and my agent told me I had a very good chance of getting the role. That comment stayed with me like a splinter under my skin. I’d had a few minor TV roles, but I was hardly an accomplished actress, and frankly the only reason I was pursuing acting at all was that, apart from having a song on an Eagles album, my writing career hadn’t taken off and I needed to make a living. Acting was the only other thing I knew how to do. But a role in a Ron Howard film? I was very certain that it had everything to do with the fact that my father was president and nothing to do with my barely noticeable work on “Love Boat” and a few other shows.
I imagined the criticism I would get, the cruelty of people’s judgments, and I declined to even read for the part. Shelley Long was cast in the role, and she was brilliant. I could never have hit it out of the park like she did, but I made my choice out of fear, which is never a good idea.
Unfortunately, for political sons and daughters, the fear of how you will be perceived as you go about your life, as you pursue your dreams and goals, underlies everything. It’s a toxic way to live. You have to constantly second-guess yourself, as in, "If I were anyone else, this would be a great opportunity, but it’s probably just being offered because of who my father is, and even if it isn’t, it could look that way.”
The Trump offspring don’t seem weighed down by any of these considerations. They have used Donald Trump’s presidency as their own personal debit card. Donald Jr. and Eric Trump run their father’s business, which he apparently still profits from; Ivanka Trump has been racking up trademarks from China for her fashion line at the same time she works as an adviser to her father with an office in the West Wing. Jared Kushner has been bailed out of a massive debt by foreign money. The irony of Donald Trump calling Joe and Hunter Biden corrupt would be laughable if it weren’t so painful to watch.
Hunter Biden previously worked for Amtrak, so he wasn’t a stranger to the corporate world. Still, taking a position on the board of a foreign company while his father was vice president had warning lights blinking all over it. Some part of him probably knew that, but he accepted the offer anyway. He has acknowledged his mistake, something we will never hear from anyone in the Trump family.
For members of a political family, there are always going to be people who believe you got everything you have only because of your last name. All you can do is listen to your own conscience, your own sense of ethics and morality. Sometimes you’ll get it wrong. But it’s better to admit your mistakes — even if it’s years later — than to never acknowledge you made any.