On this week’s edition of Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver dedicated his show’s main story to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner—who are “like America’s William and Kate, except in this case, both of them are attractive.”
Oliver attempted to break down the popular assumption that President Trump’s favorite daughter and son-in-law “will be moderating influences” on him. After all, both now have official roles within the White House. Yes, despite her pre-inauguration claim that she would not be joining the Trump administration (“No, I’m going to be a daughter,” she told 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl), Ivanka is now assistant to the president, while her husband Kushner has been tasked with a ridiculous number of responsibilities, including: brokering peace in the Middle East, reforming the criminal justice system, and running the Office of American Innovation—where he’ll be reforming veteran care, tackling the opioid epidemic, and revamping the entire federal government.
In the 20-plus minute segment, the HBO host wondered: “Is Ivanka really the moderating influence that people claim? And what in Jared’s background justifies such a gigantic White House portfolio?”
First came Ivanka, whose consistent ability to say nothing at all has somehow, according to Oliver, bred the theory that she not only disagrees with her father on a number of issues, but has helped steer him to the left—which “isn’t actually based on much.” Take her puzzlingly nebulous CBS This Morning interview with Gayle King. “My father agrees with me on so many issues, and where he doesn’t, he knows where I stand,” said Ivanka. When asked for an example, she replied, “I think most of the impact I have over time most people will not actually know about.”
“Oh, well, that’s convenient!” exclaimed Oliver. “So we should just give her credit when good stuff happens, and blame others when bad stuff happens? That’s not a job description of a political adviser, that’s a description of an Old Testament God. And that answer there enables you to project whatever you want onto her based on secondhand rumors and assumptions.”
Take King, who assumed that Ivanka disagrees with her father on climate change, immigration, and Planned Parenthood—though there is very little evidence, save one fruitless meeting with the head of Planned Parenthood, that this is the case.
After all, when one looks at the actions of the Trump administration, it’s hard to see any of Ivanka’s influence. So far, Trump’s allowed states to deny certain federal funding to Planned Parenthood, reinstated a ban on U.S. funding for abortion overseas to aid NGOs, hired climate-change denier Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, and repeatedly attempted to order a Muslim immigration ban. If that weren’t enough, Ivanka sang her father’s praises at the Republican National Convention and on cable news on family leave and child care, but the president’s child-care proposal leaves much to be desired.According to a Tax Policy Center analysis of the Trump administration’s child-care plan, “Very few benefits go to the lowest income families who are likely to struggle most with paying for child care” and “families with incomes between $10,000 and $30,000 would receive average annual benefits… of $10 [a year].”“And the only daycare that costs $10 is a padlock!” cracked Oliver.“And look,” he continued, “you may still like Ivanka—she can be appealing, and that’s frankly not by accident. She’s been trained in the art of Trump branding to be as vague and likable as possible so that everyone can plausibly think that she shares their values—whether or not that’s actually true. And if that sounds like a harsh thing for me to say about her, I will point out that she’s basically shared that message in one of her books.”Oliver then cited Ivanka’s 2009 book, The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life, in which she wrote: “Perception is more important than reality. If someone perceives something to be true, it is more important than if it is in fact true. This doesn’t mean you should be duplicitous or deceitful, but don’t go out of your way to correct a false assumption if it plays to your advantage.”
“She’s pretty much telling you—to your face—not to trust any assumption that you are making about her. So it is possible that she is doing nothing to moderate her father,” said Oliver. “The truth is: We may all be thinking that Ivanka is doing a lot more than she actually is, although the same can emphatically not be said of her husband, Jared Kushner.”
Ah yes, Jared Kushner, a dimpled real-estate scion whose credentials for his gargantuan tasks of brokering peace in the Middle East and revamping the federal government include purchasing (and then running into the ground) the New York Observer, and presiding over his father’s real-estate empire while he was in prison for hiring a prostitute to have sex with his brother-in-law, taping it, and then sending the tape to his sister in a bizarre blackmail attempt.
On top of all that, Kushner’s high school advisers claimed that both his GPA and SAT scores were not even close to good enough to get him into Harvard—but Jared was accepted after his father donated $2.5 million to the university. His only qualifications, it seems, are that he’s a good listener who doesn’t talk much, he’s not Steve Bannon, and he’s not temperamental like his father-in-law. With that, Oliver concluded: “If they are the reason you are sleeping at night, you should probably still be awake.”