Nepotism Run Amok

Published July 11, 2017

Last weekend First Daughter Ivanka Trump sat in for the president at the G20 summit in Hamburg. Before that the talk was on how much power and influence the president had bestowed on his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Now Donald Trump Jr. enters the fray, having met with a Russian attorney during the 2016 election campaign to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. Is this not nepotism run amok?

Ivanka is special advisor to the president. Kushner is senior advisor. They have White House offices and unlimited presidential access. They attend high-level meetings and make appearances in official capacities. Sometimes they seem more like the “First Couple” than Donald and Melania – except no one voted for them and neither had a day of public service experience before Dad took office.

“I certainly didn’t vote for the foreign policy preferences of Jared and Ivanka,” said Scott McConnell, a founding editor of The American Conservative magazine.

Trump runs the White House like a family business, a byproduct of his insecurity and paranoia. He claimed without evidence that Obama tapped his phone. He doesn’t trust his own intelligence agencies or any holdovers from the previous administration. He urges people daily not to trust the media. The most insulated president in history golfs at his own courses and dines at his own restaurants in his own hotels. His distrust of outsiders is one reason many government positions remain unfilled. And when he does give us someone from the outside, it’s Stephen Bannon.

“I think our brand is the hottest it has ever been,” beamed Eric Trump, who oversees the president’s golf properties. This seems to be Trump’s main goal: to grow his brand. He seems to view the presidency as an aristocracy in which he and his family rule. Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, compared it to a “mob family.” This seems over the top. But privilege and entitlement clearly take precedence over talent and experience, or even any aspirational ideology that more than Trump’s inner circle could rally around.

Actually, I’m surprised any Trump offspring or offspring-in-law is allowed to serve in the administration given that Trump entrusted his vast business empire to his kids to manage while he is president. As for Junior and his involvement in last year’s campaign, I found it appalling then and now that the main strategy seemed to be to find dirt on Hillary Clinton rather than tout their own candidate’s capabilities. Both parties do opposition research. But only one was willing to engage with a hostile adversary. It might be time for a family meeting.