When Donald Trump was elected President on November 8th, he carried some unusual baggage with him. Baggage that no other president before him carried into the White House. He had three wives, two of whom he was divorced from, and children by all three of them. His current wife Melania, a foreign-born Slovenian model, was hardly fluent in English. Her speech at the Republican National Convention stirred up major controversy when reporters discovered she/or her writer plagiarized much of it from a speech by the then current First Lady Michelle Obama.
Then there were the photographs. Of the future First Lady. Nude. Published around the world on the internet. Not the soft porn magazine cover released by Ted Cruz supporters during the campaign. Full on hard core pornography. There is no other way to describe it and no way to spin it into something else.
Mrs. Trump remained pretty much on the sidelines during the presidential campaign. Following the election, she announced that she was not moving into the White House but remaining in Trump Tower in New York City for the sake of her son Baron. No matter what her reasons may or may not be, the end result is that there is no First Lady residing in the White House.
Donald Trump, who is not known either for political orthodoxy or respect for traditional Washington norms, appears to be solving his “First Lady” problem by making his daughter Ivanka, the de facto First Lady. It is not unprecedented for a single president to have a sister or wife serve as his official hostess at the White House. What is unprecedented is to have a married president have his daughter assume not just the social, but the political functions of the First Lady.
Like a First Lady, Ivanka Trump now has an office in the West Wing of the White House.
Like a First Lady, Ivanka Trump has an official title. She will be the “Assistant to the President” which is what most First Ladies usually are, albeit unofficially.
Like a First Lady, Ivanka Trump will not receive a salary for her duties.
Like a First Lady, Ivanka Trump, who moved to Washington D.C. with her family after the inauguration, will be available to serve as hostess at official White House functions.
Like a First Lady, Ivanka Trump will be readily at hand to provide advice and suggestions to the president.
Unlike nearly every First Lady, living or dead, Ivanka Trump has attended official meetings with foreign dignitaries, participated in formal discussions, listened in on phone calls with foreign leaders and plays a key role in the President’s decision-making process. This is not to underestimate the influence of previous First Ladies. Franklin Roosevelt called his wife Eleanor his “eyes and ears.” Edith Wilson, wife of President Woodrow Wilson, effectively and secretly ran the government during his illness.
Most Americans realize that when they elect a President, they are essentially choosing a First Lady or First Gentleman (should we ever elect a female president) as well. They know that, just as the case with the Vice President, they are getting a “package deal.” While Melania Trump might not fit everyone’s concept of an ideal First Lady, she is certainly the person everyone expected to fulfill that role. Nobody, nobody, elected Ivanka Trump to either serve as First Lady or in any other capacity in the government.
Not only is this move unorthodox, it is most probably unethical and illegal. The law against nepotism is clearly spelled out in the U.S. Code, Title 5, Part III, Subpart B, Chapter 31, Subchapter I. Without getting into the minutiae of the law, it applies to:
- An Executive Agency
- A “public official” (including the President and a Member of Congress
- A “relative” who is “an individual related to the public official as father, mother, son, daughter, ….. son-in-law….” all the way down to stepsisters and half brothers.
They might have some wiggle room as Ivanka is not being paid by the U.S. Treasury, but whatever the case, this stinks to high heaven. Her role, along with that of her husband Jared Kushner, certainly breaks the spirit if not the letter of the law.
And speaking of Jared Kushner, why doesn’t Ivanka use her husband’s name?
No one has yet to explain exactly what her role is going to be. Is she there as Baby Sitter-in-Chief? Does Trump need his daughter to explain what is going on his meetings? Is she the only one who can control his impulsiveness and rages?
If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes” then we don’t need a new First Lady. We need a new President.