Why is there suddenly so much media hostility toward Ivanka Trump?
Her visit to Germany has unleashed a wave of insults and snarkiness that seems wildly out of proportion to what actually happened on the trip.
The short answer, of course, is that she is a target of animosity that is really aimed at her father.
But it goes deeper than that. Some pundits seem to blame her for not transforming the president’s policies, despite the fact that he’s the one who got elected. Even more strangely, some blame her for not speaking out against her dad.
During the campaign, when I happened to chat with her a few times, Ivanka was getting pretty good press. And why not? She is a poised and accomplished entrepreneur who handles herself with grace.
I get that it’s strange for Ivanka Trump to be a top White House aide, and that some people can’t accept that. She originally just wanted to be an informal adviser. But with critics raising conflict questions about her business, Ivanka decided to relinquish that role and take an office in the White House, working with her husband, Jared Kushner, whose role in the administration keeps expanding. (Neither is drawing a salary.)
I understand that her detractors say Ivanka owes her business opportunities, and now her political opportunity, to her dad. Fine. The president knew he would face nepotism charges when he made the appointments. And she had to know she was putting herself in the line of fire when she took an official title.
But compare this to the situation faced by every first lady—and it’s an apt analogy because Ivanka’s high profile is partially due to Melania’s low-key role as she remains, for now, in New York.
Each first lady gets a government staff and an international platform, simply by virtue of the fact that her husband won high office. And every first lady is widely admired, although there has been criticism of some (especially Hillary Clinton, who later sought the top job) for wading too deeply into policy.
So is a first daughter really that different from a first lady?
When Ivanka, noting that the president has employed thousands of women, drew some boos on the Berlin stage with Angela Merkel and Christine Lagarde, that opened the floodgates.
Asked by NBC’s Hallie Jackson how she feels about being called an “accomplice” to her father, Ivanka said she didn’t like the word. “I think one of the things I value about my father as first a businessman and now as a leader of the country, is that he creates ideas and he likes to hear from people with divergent viewpoints. And that’s not always true in politics.”
Still, we’re seeing headlines like this one in the liberal Huffington Post: “Trump’s White House Family Affair Looks A Lot Like The Most Corrupt Nations In The World.”
CNN commentator and former Ted Cruz aide Amanda Carpenter said that “when I see Ivanka taking on this role, I really see her becoming like Hillary Clinton in the worst ways. She’s sort of becoming increasingly unlikable. She’s trying to get these jobs she’s not qualified for based on family connections.”
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews compared the Trumps to “the Romanovs,” saying the president envisions a royal family and “it is un-American. It is untraditional. It’s somewhat weird.”
Matthews wrote a book about JFK, who of course named his brother attorney general. Times have changed, but it’s not like Ivanka is running a major department. When Joe Scarborough brought up Bobby Kennedy and Mika Brzezinski asked whether he was comparing RFK to Ivanka, he accused her of being “snotty” and taking a “cheap shot.”
The Guardian ran a snarky column saying that “Trump invoked her own impressive achievements as an example of her father’s commitment to equality. ..Trump is, indeed, a wonderful example of what women can achieve with just perseverance, tenacity and millions of inherited dollars.”
Some of this is so personal that it’s obviously not really about Ivanka.
She is clearly more moderate than her father and has been an advocate for women’s rights, family leave and child care. Yet her detractors had unrealistic expectations about her role and insist on holding her accountable for his past “Access Hollywood”-type comments about women.
Maybe a truly feminist approach would be to judge Ivanka Trump on what she actually does in the White House, not on their distaste for her dad.