The president can’t control his compulsion to blurt nutjob claims about himself and his adversaries on social media—a habit apparently as hard to kick as opioid addiction—but there is at least one member of Donald Trump’s family who is smoothly on message.
Ivanka Trump is leagues more adept at spinning for the old man than her hamfisted brother Don Jr.
“My father felt very vindicated in all the statements that he’s been making, and feels incredibly optimistic,” Ivanka insisted during her appearance on Monday morning’s Fox & Friends. “But at the White House, and through the administration, we’re incredibly focused on the reason we all went to Washington and what we’re fighting for.”
Which is not to say that top White House adviser Ivanka was credible or even persuasive (except to a dwindling core of diehard supporters) during her first media interview in many weeks, a rare chance to share her thoughts on fired FBI Director James Comey’s damaging testimony last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“So last week, while it didn’t get the level of headlines, [but] will ultimately have more important impact, was Infrastructure Week,” the president’s favorite daughter went on, determined to pivot from the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s meddling in last year’s election campaign (including the possible collusion of Trump operatives) and her father’s Twitter obsession with the scandals, duly reported and analyzed by the mainstream media, to the nebulous notion of substantive White House policy initiatives to improve the lives of ordinary Americans.
But even on a program that day by day amounts to Trump state television—in which cheerleading hosts Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, and Brian Kilmeade regularly accentuate all the wonderfully positive accomplishments the 45th president is carrying out for the country in the face of a relentlessly unfair and virulent journalism establishment—Ivanka couldn’t help sounding a tad defensive and divorced from a reality that surely, one hopes, she might actually acknowledge in private.
“It’s hard, and there is a level of viciousness that I was not expecting,” Trump’s daughter/adviser complained in an answer to sympathetic questioning, acceptance and encouragement that she might otherwise have encountered in a therapist’s office. “I was not expecting the intensity of this experience… I think some of the distractions and some of the ferocity—I was a little bit blindsided on a personal level.”
Ivanka Trump, a 35-year-old married mother of three, has lived more than half her life as a public figure under the hot lights of Manhattan—and she done so with impressive success and in possession of a media-savvy second to none. As a former model, she knows how to work the camera, and she came across as cool, centered, and showed telegenic flashes of humanity as she sat cozily on the Fox & Friends sofa with her three in-the-tank allies.
Yet, even correcting for daughterly devotion, it herniates the credulity of reasonable observers to be asked to believe that she would have been surprised that her father’s political opponents would respond in kind to his outright falsehoods and personal attacks on Republicans, Democrats, and reporters alike.
Sure, she probably didn’t enjoy being lampooned by Scarlett Johansson in a Saturday Night Live satirical commercial for the new fragrance “Complicit,” but she shouldn’t have been shocked, shocked either.
“But for me, I’m trying to keep my head down, not listen to the noise and just work really hard to make a positive impact on the lives of many people,” she declared. “At the end of the day, if you want to think about ‘difficult,’ it’s the factory worker who’s been laid off; ‘difficult’ is the mother who’s lost a child to opioid abuse. So these are the real challenges and I think it does put it in perspective for me.”
Aside from touting the widely ignored (unless it was to be mocked) “Infrastructure Week” and the current White House messaging effort, “Workforce Development Week,” Trump spoke admiringly of her hard-working husband, Jared Kushner—the subject of congressional inquiries into his meetings with a Russian banker and other officials—and her “incredible” experience, as a Jewish convert, visiting the Western Wall in Israel along with Pope Francis in Rome.
“There is a 24-hour news cycle that gets fed by, and encouraged by, lots of salacious details,” she said by way of dismissing all the unwelcome headlines about her husband, also a top presidential counselor, and various members of the Trump administration who can’t help airing their complaints and concerns in leaks to empathetic journalists.
“At the end of the day,” Ivanka argued, using a Washington trope-phrase that she has comfortably incorporated into her post-inauguration vocabulary, “we’re all focused on the work. That’s very true for Jared. Jared is just somebody who likes to get things done, so he doesn’t get involved in all of that.”
Ivanka, meanwhile, discussed her attempts to cope with her status as the new shiny object in official Washington, to say nothing of a tabloid media that covers her like a glamazon movie star.
“That is a weird experience,” she said with a laugh about the platoon of paparazzi that is parked outside her and Jared’s rented mansion in Washington’s tony Kalorama neighborhood. “I’m looking for alternative routes out of my home. There’s a scrutiny and there’s an interest that exceed anything I’ve ever experienced before.”
On the other hand, “the kids are thriving, and ultimately for me that’s the No. 1, most important thing,” she confided. “They’re really happy.”
As is, by most appearances, their alternative-fact-based mom.