Ivanka Trump wants you to know she cares. She cares about the environment. She cares about children. She cares about women. Ivanka is smooth, composed and in control. Sure, Daddy might be a little rough around the edges. But how bad could Donald Trump really be if he produced such a visibly self-possessed and accomplished young woman?
That seems to be the message emerging from Trump Tower as Ivanka assumes an unprecedented role in her father's administration. Within days of Trump's stunning upset election victory, there was his second (and, by most accounts, favorite) child at a meeting between him and the Japanese prime minister. Next, she was listening in on a phone call with Argentina's president. Later, it was reported that Ivanka might assume White House office space normally reserved for the first lady (the long-suffering Melania Trump having decided to spend most of her time in New York). Showing off her environmentalist bona fides, Ivanka arranged an improbable meeting between Trump and former Vice President Al Gore. Throughout the campaign, she spearheaded her father's initiatives on childcare policy and stoutly defended his record as a "great advocate for the women in the workforce."
It's easy to be seduced by Ivanka — she really is smooth, not to mention beautiful — but keep your guard up: This is a trap. Ivanka is nothing more than pretty window dressing to the explicitly authoritarian, racially divisive, conflict-of-interest-laden presidential campaign (soon-to-be administration) of her father.
For all the talk about how she's so much classier and more dignified than Dad, the avaricious apple doesn't fall far from the Trump tree. Ivanka, too, is using the American presidency for influence peddling and buck making. Just a day after appearing with the rest of her family on "60 Minutes," Ivanka's jewelry brand sent out an email to fashion writers hawking the $10,800 gold bracelet she had worn on air. As part of a charity auction, she offered a 45-minute "coffee date" to the highest bidder. Only after critics accused the Trump camp of creating a "pay to play" conflict of interest was the item — which had earned a top bid of $70,000 — scrapped. If the first daughter serves a role in government while simultaneously overseeing the Trump Organization, as has been rumored, that will edge this country closer to resembling a post-Soviet, family-run kleptocracy like Azerbaijan.
Good luck challenging Ivanka about the propriety of her self-dealing, or anything else. When a reporter for Cosmopolitan, not a publication exactly known for its hard-hitting political coverage, asked if her father's family leave program would apply to same-sex couples, Ivanka suddenly transformed from Princess Grace to Cruella de Vil. "I think you have a lot of negativity in these questions," she snapped. "I don't know how useful it is to spend too much time with you on this if you're going to make a comment like that." In other words, let them eat cake.
It's easy to feel sympathy for Ivanka. Try to imagine the emotional damage wrought by a father like Donald Trump, an admitted sexual predator who publicly boasted that he'd date you if you weren't his offspring, and giddily consented when a radio shock jock asked if he could call you a "piece of ass." Children, after all, cannot choose their parents.
They can, however, choose whether to support their parents' irresponsible and dangerous behavior. Like a spouse who quietly condones her partner's drink-fueled binges, Ivanka is an enabler. She's actually worse than that, providing feminine cover and a bogus veil of responsibility for the most crudely misogynistic and immature man ever to occupy the Oval Office.
In this sense, Ivanka resembles not so much any previous member of the first family than she does the scion of another obscenely rich, quasi-royal dynasty: Mariela Castro. Daughter of Cuban president Raul Castro and niece of the recently departed Fidel, Mariela has in recent years adopted LGBT rights as a pet cause – in a country that once herded gay men into concentration camps and quarantined AIDS victims. Who could have a problem with that? But a wealthy, well-connected straight woman like Mariela can only claim the mantle of gay rights because the Cuban Communist Party muffles grass-roots LGBT activists, just as it suppresses labor unions, non-government newspapers and all forms of political activity independent of the regime. "Gay rights," such as they are, will be meaningless as long as Cuba remains a totalitarian society.
Mariela's purpose is not improving the livelihood of her LGBT countrymen so much as it's fooling credulous Western progressives into thinking that Cuba is anything other than a one-party state run by a mafia clan. Mariela Castro and Ivanka Trump are what happen when privileged entitlement meets political depravity.
James Kirchick's book, "The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age," is forthcoming from Yale University Press. Follow him on Twitter @jkirchick.
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