No doubt about it, Ivanka Trump is her father’s daughter.
There’s the extravagance, the limitless need for attention, the projection of glamour mixed with a touch of populism, as when she generously swans among the common folk. It’s all there.
The first daughter is a more polished and attractive icon than her father. A more skillful hair colorist and years of education in the arts of branding have deceptively hidden the truth, maybe even from Ivanka Trump herself. But now she’s being unmasked by her own actions.
The American public is expected to buy into the notion that Ivanka can and should play a constructive and indispensable role in the Trump administration. That it’s only natural and fitting that she settle into a West Wing office to help Daddy run the nation.
Doing exactly what, we’re not supposed to ask.
Rather, we’re to swallow the song and dance that she’s selflessly making sacrifices to serve the nation by being granted security clearance and access to foreign heads of state. And the question remains – especially from those foreign heads of state – why?
It takes some chutzpah to waltz into the White House uninvited by the electorate or to pull up a chair when the president huddles with a prime minister or chancellor. Ivanka has zero background in politics, in public policy, national security or any of the matters that come before a U.S. president.
One immediately wonders why the U.S. presidency has become merged with a family business. This is not how American republican institutions have worked, ever. Yet Ivanka’s husband is already there, fulfilling a nebulous senior adviser role – and apparently being rewarded by foreign governments. His family’s real estate empire was reportedly offered a sweetheart deal from Chinese investors closely tied to the Beijing government.
Questions about ethics and conflicts of interest with the Trump and Kushner financial empires are brushed aside by the Republican-run Congress as trifling matters.
So it’s time to bring in the president’s feminine mini-me. She’s doing it for you, America, so show some gratitude and admiration.
Assuredly, Ivanka Trump has many fine qualities. Her intelligence, unlike her father’s, is evident. Her fabulous wardrobes, three beautiful children and lavish society life are enviable, but she wears them well. Like anyone, she deserves happiness, to be left alone to live her life as a member of the president’s family who did not ask for the spotlight by running for office – if that’s what she chooses.
Being born a Trump, a life she obviously didn’t choose, no doubt involves difficulties as well as tremendous opportunities. And if she wants to use the family capital and brand equity to sell jewelry and shoes, that’s just fine.
But I don’t believe her family membership confers the right to insert herself in the executive branch of the U.S. government.
Like her father, the first daughter has had a lifetime of people gazing at her adoringly simply because she showed up. Wealth does that. People don’t tell the rich that they are stewing in their own grandiose perceptions, or that their observations aren’t all that insightful, or that their business venture isn’t cutting edge, or that they have no business in unelected office. You don’t say such things when you’re depending on an invitation or a check.
Now Ivanka Trump is trying to pawn herself off as a role model for working women. But her vantage point is, at best, that of an anthropologist struggling to understand experiences of a foreign culture.
Equal pay for equal work, the struggles that women still have for access to capital, being ensured a fair wage – none of those problems have ever affected her.
There is one role that many no doubt wish she would play: taming her father a bit, especially his misogynist ways. If she has attempted this, she has failed miserably. Not that it should ever fall to a daughter or a wife to tidy up the image of any man. Indeed, it may be better that Donald Trump is open and unabashed about his prejudices.
The president’s prejudices, as bad as they may be, are not the greatest threat to the American republic. His corruption is. He is a man without ideology or moral core, whose every action is motivated by his appetites and compulsions, not principle or duty or allegiance to our laws.
The president clearly aims to enrich himself and his family using the highest office of the land. His daughter, perhaps defying the brand she has so carefully crafted for herself, is joining in enthusiastically.
Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star.