Saturday, July 08, 2017

Ivanka Trump Sets Another Dangerous Precedent

Ivanka and Donald Trump
Trying to find a way to check all the "this is not normal" moments of the Trump presidency is impossible, and if you've noticed-I haven't done all of them.  Honestly, I think we are all bombarded with such situations continually and in some ways Trump is winning in this regard because some of the "not normals" will slip by while we're distracted by a different headline.  The president has become famous for having two or three outrages that would normally consume the media's attention at once.  Look, for example, at how Neil Gorsuch had one of the least ceremonious appointments in recent memory to the Supreme Court mostly because the country was distracted by the Travel Ban and the Russian investigation of President Trump.  But we can't completely disregard these breaks in protocol and the dignity of the office, principally because there is a deeper meaning when the president decides to break a particular norm, and this happened today when President Trump allowed his daughter to fill in for him during a major G-20 economic forum.

Yes, the president's daughter, a woman who has never testified before Congress, had no political experience (either appointed or in government) before her father became president, and has no constitutional authority, was representing the United States on possibly the most important global stage in the world.  She was seated, next to President Xi Jinping of China and Prime Minister Theresa May of Great Britain, as if she was remotely qualified to be in their company.

One could argue, and the administration who can't possibly admit a mistake has, that this is much ado about nothing.  The First Daughter is an aide to the president, after all, and the topic at hand was apparently to do with international development, something Ms. Trump has claimed to be an advocate for in the past.  And of course others have already filled in for the president while he was abroad.

But this feels like pretty flimsy reasoning, and is more indicative of President Trump continually feeling he and his family are above the suspicions and expectations of the rest of the country and world.  For starters, the only other person in the presidential delegation to fill in for the president during a meeting of world leaders was Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.  Mnuchin, however, is a Senate-appointed position, 5th in line to the presidency, in charge of the country's economy, and a member of the president's cabinet.  He is qualified to sit in for the president.  So would someone like Rex Tillerson or James Mattis or Nikki Haley-someone who is subject to impeachment and is legally-mandated to exist.  Ivanka Trump has never (and likely never will) be forced before a congressional committee, and has no legal authority other than she works for her father.  Take the familial angle out for a section, and it'd be the equivalent of Tommy Vietor filling in for President Obama-they are not appropriate choices to fill such an important role on an international stage.

This adds insult to injury, though, when it comes to the fact that Ivanka Trump is not merely an advisor to the president, but the president's daughter.  The United States of America is not a monarchy (in fact we had a whole war about it about 240 years ago), and yet the president is having his child represent him like an aging monarch would have one of his royal princesses sit in on his behalf.  This is not the first time that this has happened, as well-Ms. Trump was seated next to Christine Lagarde and Angela Merkel at the inaugural W20 summit earlier this year when someone like SBA Administrator Linda McMahon (another Senate-approved cabinet member), would have been more appropriate for an international summit on women's entrepreneurship.  And yet the president apparently thinks his daughter is the only woman in his administration (not entirely far from the truth), and consistently sends her as his ambassador to government events where the president's appearance would be more appropriate, rather than other more constitutionally-sanctioned representatives.

The fact that Ivanka Trump is able to be in the White House at all in an important position is shocking in itself.  There are federal nepotism laws in place to block her, but because "she isn't getting paid" she is able to volunteer as an advisor for the president.  So add that on here-we had an unpaid volunteer sitting between the leaders of two nuclear powers on the world stage today.  Maybe every presidential volunteer should be afforded such a position? I mean, I've worked on five presidential campaigns as a doorknocker-should I get to make economy policy with Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron by that simple virtue?

The reality is that it is unthinkable that George W. Bush would have sent Jenna or Barbara to this conference, or even the First Lady.  Same goes for Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and both of their wives had considerably more political and real-world experience than Ms. Trump has.  Along with his sons' constant abuse of the emoluments clause to benefit the family business, the Trump family's continued flagrant disrespect for the Constitution and for federal law continued today, with Ivanka Trump once again elevated to a stage she has no business being positioned upon, considering her sole qualification for doing so is possessing half of the president's DNA.

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