The four eldest children of Donald J. Trump have become the unlikely stars of the show in Cleveland.
It’s not even really what they have said or will say; it’s simply who they are.
Their father can be uncouth; they are refined. He can be a bully; they are unfailingly polite. He often rambles and digresses; they stick to their scripts.
In this, they are following the recent tradition of other candidates’ children, including Mitt Romney’s five sons, and Chelsea Clinton.
In two presidential campaigns, 2008 and 2012, the Romney brothers’ job was to humanize a father who struck some as robotic and rehearsed.
In 2008, Clinton was selling her mother as more capable and experienced than her upstart opponent, Barack Obama. Like her mom, Chelsea was a bit rigid on the trail, but she was poised. When college students asked her about Monica Lewinsky, she replied, “I do not think that is any of your business.”
(Contrast those political offspring to a star of the 2008 presidential campaign, Megan McCain, then a free-spirited 23-year-old kid who posted photos of herself jumping on hotel beds as she blogged about life on the trail, complete with music playlists.)
In an impressive national debut Tuesday night, 22-year-old Tiffany Trump, Donald Trump’s daughter with second wife Marla Maples, shared a couple of meager anecdotes about her father.
“Please excuse me if I’m a little nervous,” she began. “When I graduated college a few months ago, I never expected to be here, addressing the nation. I’ve given a few speeches to classrooms of students, but never in an arena with 10 million people watching. But, like my father, I never back down from challenges.”
She might have used the occasion to offer a few more stories about the kind of father he is — how many times must we hear how bold he is? — but, as has been noted, she grew up a continent away, in California, and may not have had that much to share.
Still, she said, he used to scrawl encouragement on report cards, that he was the first to call when a friend of hers died. She spoke of how she enjoys introducing him to friends who are surprised how nice he is.
Her older brother, Donald Trump Jr., like his dad a father of five, stood with his siblings on the convention floor during the roll call vote Wednesday and offered the delegate tally that put his father over the top, an emotional moment for the children. Later, in a prime-time speech, he praised his father’s business acumen and affinity for “regular” Americans, in what sounded very much like a tryout for a political career of his own.
(He accused Hillary Clinton of wanting to end Medicare and gut the 2nd Amendment, both demonstrably untrue. But he sold the lines with conviction, Job 1 for a political aspirant.)
He avoided getting sentimental about his father, sticking instead to claims that burnish his father’s reputation as a guy who won’t take no for an answer. “When people told him it was impossible for a boy from Queens to go to Manhattan and take on developers in the big city,” said Trump Jr., “rather than give up he changed the skyline of New York.” (With the help of his father’s political connections, as biographers have documented.)
Then again, one does not expect the children of a man seeking the White House to contradict the beloved parts of his life story, whether they are true or not.
On Wednesday night, Eric Trump is scheduled to address delegates in a prime-time speech. His sister, Ivanka, is scheduled to introduce their father Thursday night, when he accepts the nomination.