Editor’s Note: Michael D’Antonio is the author of the book “Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success” and co-author with Peter Eisner of “The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are the authors. View more opinion articles on CNN.
Amid all the other craziness surrounding Donald Trump’s foray onto the world stage this weekend, nothing exceeded the farcical roles assumed by his daughter Ivanka Trump — who is now, like her husband Jared Kushner, a self-styled diplomat with a heavy footprint — and her brother Donald Jr., who reprised his father’s racist birtherism, this time with a retweet aimed at Sen. Kamala Harris. (Then, lacking a full measure of the old man’s nerve, Jr. suddenly retreated).
Although Donald Trump Jr.’s maliciousness was shocking, it was Ivanka Trump’s arrogance that was truly breathtaking. Moment by moment — from the G20 at Osaka, to a jaunt into the DMZ — she inserted herself into the middle of high-level conversations, assuming the role of equal among people with vastly greater qualifications. In a sea of serious black and grays, she stood out in colorful high fashion that seemed designed to steal the limelight.
Her father’s commentary about her presence — “She’s going to steal the show” — betrays much truth. This is a showbiz family, treating world affairs like a performance, and in the process making the United States look ridiculous
A viral video of Ivanka Trump, who is an adviser to the President, chatting with International Monetary Fund Chief Christine Lagarde and the elected leaders of three powerful democracies — Great Britain, France and Canada — prompted commentary about her intrusion and the discomfort felt by the others.
At one point, Lagarde, a most accomplished expert on global finance, seemed to flash a look of side-eyed impatience after Ivanka Trump chimed in in response to a comment by Theresa May, as the three stood in a group with Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau. In the video, May says, in response to a comment from Macron: “As soon as you talk about the economic aspect of it, though, a lot of people start listening who wouldn’t otherwise listen.” Ivanka Trump offers: “It’s the same with the defense side. In terms of the whole business that’s been, sort of, male-dominated.” She smiled eagerly and nodded at her own comment.
According to the Washington Post, Lagarde’s reaction suggested annoyance that she was standing with the first daughter and not the President himself.
Just as many world affairs professionals are appalled by the Trump family approach to foreign policy, serious politicians would find her brother’s drift into birtherism a sign of ham-handed heedlessness. Donald Jr. retweeted a nasty attack on candidate Harris after the Democratic presidential debate on Thursday. “Kamala Harris is *not* an American Black,” read the original tweet. “She is half Indian and half Jamaican. I am so sick of people robbing American Blacks like myself of our history…” With his retweet, the younger Mr. Trump added, “Is this true? Wow.”
Born in Oakland, California, Harris is, of course, an American and she is black, but the tweet and Donald Jr.’s “Wow” challenged her legitimacy and played on an old trope that has been used to divide the black community for generations. Though the President’s son removed the tweet from his account, he left behind proof that as a chip off the old block, he is willing to dabble in the kind of racism his father used against Barack Obama for many years. Not surprisingly, Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders answered by writing, “Donald Trump Jr. is a racist too. Shocker.”
It was as her brother was getting down in the gutter on his dad’s behalf, that Ivanka Trump jetted to Japan on Air Force One, where — in addition to her painful exchange with May and Lagarde — she played the role of instant diplomat because, well, her she’s a Trump. At the G20 gathering of major economic powers in Osaka and then in North and South Korea, she inserted herself into one moment after another, mugging for the cameras, as well as striking very serious poses.
For the best sense of the nepotism that runs amok in the Trump administration, consider that both Ivanka and her husband Kushner were included in the small group that attended the President’s semi-surprise visit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, which included the President’s stroll across the border to become the first American commander-in-chief to set foot in the hermit kingdom. Missing was national security adviser John Bolton who, it should be noted, possesses not a drop of Trump blood.
Like Kushner, who has staked a leadership claim in Middle East negotiations, Ivanka Trump has no training in government, foreign policy or diplomacy. But like Kushner, who undermined Trump’s first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, Ivanka Trump seems quite comfortable disrespecting the real diplomats.
At a major photo op, where the American and South Korean delegations gathered to mark the occasion, Ivanka inserted herself in fourth position, next to South Korea’s first lady, as Pompeo wandered around looking for a spot. She eventually stepped aside, but not until after a lifelong public servant, who holds what should be the most important position in the cabinet, was turned into a lost little boy.
That very little operates as it normally should almost goes without saying in Trumpworld, but the recent spectacles created by the President’s family takes the abnormality to a higher level. Anyone who followed the clan as I did when it operated a string of businesses, understood that being a Trump was the main qualification that Donald Jr., Ivanka, and their brother Eric brought to their positions as top executives in the organization.
As the Donald Trump once told me, he values natural talent far more than experience, thus it is natural for him to insist that his offspring — and in Jared’s case his son-in-law — will be the best choices for any job.
This is why Ivanka Trump is now treated as a major figure at the G20 and in relations with North Korean. And it is why Donald Jr. is a key political advocate for the administration. Who better to mimic Donald Trump’s style, and give him the total loyalty he demands, than little Trumps?
A President operating without many real experts, making every decision by himself, is a problem for the world but it’s just as Donald Trump has always liked it.