Of course Ivanka would compare Donald Trump to Thomas Jefferson — that's her job

Now that Ivanka can't pretend there's not a gigantic mess in the White House, she appeals to her core audience

By Erin Keane

Editor in Chief

Published November 2, 2019 1:59PM (EDT)

Ivanka Trump (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Ivanka Trump (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

On Thursday, as the House of Representatives voted to proceed with a formal impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, his Senior Advisor Ivanka Trump — first daughter, daughter first — met the extraordinary circumstances of this historic moment with an unusual reaction of her own: She acknowledged that the dumpster she’s sitting in is actually on fire.

She did so in the most self-aggrandizing way, of course. Ivanka is capable of donning a mask of decorum, even a designer skinsuit of faux humility, when it serves a purpose. But in those moments of stress when her position is directly challenged, her Trump tends to show. In this tweet, Ivanka cast herself as Martha Jefferson Randolph, our third president's daughter who also served as first lady since there was no pesky third wife in the way, and her own dear daddy as Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father whose face is on the nickel, not on a giant diapered-baby balloon that hovers like a revolting apparition over all the best political protests.

Yes, she compared an author of the Declaration of Independence to the author of this tweet featuring a clumsily photoshopped good dog:

In a sweeping subtweet aimed at everyone from House Democrats to the media to government employees who bother to tell the truth, according to Ivanka her father is "surrounded by enemies and spies catching and perverting every word that falls from my lips or flows from my pen, and inventing where facts fail them." (I can't unsee the word "pervert" now, can you?) 

Ivanka cites the source: "Thomas Jefferson’s reflections on Washington, D.C. in a letter to his daughter Martha" and ends the tweet with a chipper coda, in direct address to Daddy, purveyor of the "invented fact" that he would touch a dog on purpose: "Some things never change, dad!"

Things have to be hot in the White House this week for Ivanka to break her own protocol of relentless self-promotion and emoji-laden administration cheerleading to post such a desperate message of direct support to her increasingly unhinged father, who spent Thursday morning weathering the public roll-call of his many facets of corruption inflaming his carpal tunnel as he rage-tweeted about witch hunts, CNN, and the Federal Reserve, among others.

Ivanka's tweets that don't feature photo after photo of her being a #WomanWhoWorks, nodding solemnly at an issues table or smiling through a factory tour, generally fall into two categories: insipid Jared content and shameless correctives to her father's grotesque actions and words and their fall-out. On Twitter, Ivanka is something of a human Poo-Pourri, deployed strategically to trap  and cover the smell of her father's latest debacle. Even the dumbest, smallest stumbles can be met by one of Ivanka's stealth rejoinders. The internet mocks Trump's janky photoshopped-dog tweet? Ivanka posts a very normal one honoring the canine hero, the very kid of tweet Trump's less goonish supporters surely wish he would have gone with in the first place.

A brazen example is Ivanka's tribute to the late, beloved Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, whom she praised after his death last month as a dedicated and courageous public servant and a tireless champion of community and country, with seemingly no awareness of how her father had just months earlier called the distinguished member of Congress a racist and sneered at the community he championed — the city of Baltimore — as "a rat and rodent-infested mess."

Ivanka, the family's What Daddy Meant To Say Is . . . shield, runs a ruthless online denial operation projecting a fantasy for the deluded and squeamish that crucial things about the presidency itself and democracy as a whole have indeed not changed. Ivanka's feed helps Republicans believe it's mostly workforce development and child care credits and everything else is just a distasteful distraction — that this president is more or less like most presidents, which is to say a person you could leave in a room with two female astronauts and no rape whistles.

Ivanka's job since childhood has been to make her father look better than he is, and it has paid off for her professionally, culminating in her current role in his administration. This is not to be confused with actually making her father a better person, or even convincing him to make better decisions, though some continue to be confused on that point.

Take dear sweet James Corden, who confessed on Wednesday during a truth-or-dare segment on his "Late Late Show" that whilst drunk at a recent wedding, he and Orlando Bloom gently accosted Ivanka at the bar about her father's trainwreck of an administration.

"You can do something," Corden says they pleaded with Ivanka. "You can make a difference! You can make it better!" In response, Corden says she told them, "I'm trying!"

Corden's shtick is cuddly optimism so it makes sense that he would at least pretend on TV to believe she was telling them the truth. Indeed, Ivanka may well hold more cards than she lets on. Just don't bet on her wielding them in service of anything but her father's self-preservation — which is to say, the Trump family's now and future fortunes.

Many of Ivanka's tweets are crafted ostensibly with a viewing public in mind hungry, despite all visible evidence to the contrary, for the hint of a poised adult in the White House exerting a classy, articulate, law-abiding influence. But when the rubber hit the road in the House, and talking about impeachment inquiries turned to an actual vote on what Americans will be watching on TV for as long as the hearings take, Ivanka made sure everyone could hear her speaking the family language of paranoia, petty grievance, and arrogance — delivered straight to Dad. This should lay to rest, once and for all, the inane hypothetical in which Ivanka can or will do anything to "make it better" for anyone but the Trumps and their patriarch. Her show has always and only had an audience of one.

By Erin Keane

Erin Keane is Salon's Chief Content Officer. She is also on faculty at the Naslund-Mann Graduate School of Writing at Spalding University and her memoir in essays, "Runaway: Notes on the Myths That Made Me," was named one of NPR's Books We Loved In 2022.

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