Editor’s Note: Jen Psaki, a CNN political commentator, was the White House communications director and State Department spokeswoman during the Obama administration. She is the founder of Evergreen Consulting. Follow her at @jrpsaki. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. Read more opinion articles at CNN.
Ivanka Trump had quite a day on Tuesday. She started it as the face of one of the most tone-deaf campaigns the White House has launched yet – and there is no shortage of competition in that category – and ended it by possibly violating a government ethics rule.
In the morning, the first daughter and White House adviser launched an initiative that called on the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs because of Covid-19 to “find something new.” It wasn’t just a turn of phrase or a misstatement during an otherwise well-orchestrated announcement. In fact, it appears to have been the planned campaign tag line.
Someone in the White House thought that having Ivanka Trump, the poster child for nepotism – having been appointed to a senior government position without any political experience – announce this campaign at a time when the country is reeling from a recession wrapped in a global pandemic and an overdue conversation on race, was the right move.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Ivanka Trump has never taken out student loans, never subsisted on ramen noodles and scrambled eggs to make ends meet, never struggled to find a job, never received an unemployment check – never. And her call to struggling Americans to think outside the box, explore switching industries or reconsider the role of higher education in employment, reflects her complete disconnect from the reality facing so many right now.
But even after her morning debacle, her day was not done. Before bedtime, she posted a controversial tweet. In a photo that almost appeared fake at first glance, she is holding up a can of Goya black beans with the tag line, “If it’s Goya, it has to be good.” And then in Spanish, “Si es Goya, tiene que ser bueno.”
It should not be lost on anyone that Ivanka Trump, who launched a clothing line and has made fashion a core part of her personal brand until now, appears to be wearing an all-white Victorian blouse and skirt in a highly stylized moment. In making this choice, it’s as if she is issuing a decree to her subjects that the food of the land will be canned Goya beans from now on.
But this tweet wasn’t just a potential ethics violation of a federal rule that bars employees from using their office “for the endorsement of any product” for the heck of it. Though a spokesman for Ivanka Trump said she was just expressing “personal support” for a brand she loves, the timing of the tweet calls that into question. This photo and tweet were more than likely a reward to Robert Unanue, the president of Goya, who found himself in hot water after he praised President Trump at a White House event last week and many leading liberals began calling for a boycott of his company’s products.
It further cemented Ivanka Trump’s place in history as simply a different version of her dad. And somehow, almost four years into this terrible presidential experiment, it still felt disappointing.
There was that brief, fleeting period of time in 2017, when many of us who support progressive causes – from a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body to the urgent need to address climate change – hoped and even believed that she would be the savior. She would be the moderating voice, the person who could speak truth to her dad and help him stay on the right side of history for at least a few issues.
To state the obvious – we were either blissfully ignorant, or she was, or both. But she is not the only case study on the dangers of putting false hopes into presidential advisers, whether blood relatives or not. There are no fewer than a dozen senior aides or cabinet members who were supposed to come to the White House and bring positive change – from former deputy national security adviser Dina Powell to former White House chief of staff John Kelly to former Secretary of Defense James Mattis. The truth is, though, no one is capable of bringing sanity and stability to this dangerous leader with the nuclear codes.
I have no idea, nor do I care, whether Ivanka Trump was ever an actual moderating force in the White House. But her antics Tuesday should be a warning. President Trump will not be moderated. And, if he is reelected, he and his family will rule the White House like an unchecked dynasty.