Ivanka Trump on tightrope

Lime­light opens her ev­ery move to praise, jabs tar­get­ing dad

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS - MON­ICA HESSE AND KRIS­SAH THOMP­SON In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Jonathan O’Con­nell of The Wash­ing­ton Post.

WASH­ING­TON — Tues­day morn­ing, Ivanka Trump put on a navy turtle­neck and heels that ap­peared to be from her own be­sieged fash­ion-line col­lec­tion, and ac­com­pa­nied her fa­ther to the Na­tional Mu­seum of African Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture.

“Ivanka is here right now — Hi, Ivanka,” Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said from a podium, ges­tur­ing to­ward his daugh­ter, who stood on the mask­ing-tape mark laid out for her. She clasped her hands in front of her, smil­ing and nod­ding at ap­pro­pri­ate in­ter­vals.

Mean­while, on Twit­ter, she was be­ing blasted. The night be­fore, in re­sponse to bomb threats at Jewish com­mu­nity cen­ters na­tion­wide, Ivanka had tweeted out a call for tol­er­ance.

Her de­trac­tors found great irony in that. “Your fa­ther [ped­dled] hate in the cam­paign and gave a voice to all these white na­tion­al­ists to come out,” one wrote. “Why r u in all [Don­ald Trump’s] mtgs?” wrote an­other. “We, the Peo­ple, did not elect you to play any role in WH!”

It was a 24-hour whiplash that has come to rep­re­sent a typ­i­cal day of Ivanka in Wash­ing­ton. The week be­fore, she’d played an in­te­gral role in the Cana­dian prime min­is­ter’s visit but was lam­basted for an Oval Of­fice photo with him and her fa­ther in which she was the one sit­ting at the pres­i­den­tial desk.

She had at­tended the in­sid­ery Al­falfa Din­ner in her fa­ther’s stead, but her sil­ver dress be­came a meme when some­one noted its re­sem­blance to foil blan­kets worn by refugees that the pres­i­dent was, that very night, try­ing to block from en­ter­ing the U.S.

She made work­ing women her pri­mary cause, only to see Nord­strom drop her cloth­ing brand af­ter a boy­cott and di­min­ished sales.

“I think at times she’s very ex­cited,” said one Ivanka friend of sev­eral years. “And at times she’s very over­whelmed.”

Through­out Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Ivanka was per­ceived by many as a sta­bi­liz­ing force. Those who were turned off by his bom­bast could take com­fort in her mod­er­a­tion. She moved eas­ily in so­cially lib­eral cir­cles. She hung out with Chelsea Clin­ton. She was called her fa­ther’s fa­vorite child and trusted ad­viser.

Then Pres­i­dent Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion over­turned pro­tec­tions for the en­vi­ron­ment and forged ahead with plans for a Mex­i­can bor­der wall, cre­at­ing a new set of chal­lenges for the per­sonal brand that Ivanka has cul­ti­vated through years as a real es­tate ex­ec­u­tive and Ap­pren­tice co-star.

As first daugh­ter, she has high vis­i­bil­ity but no ac­tual du­ties. Some won­der whether she can nav­i­gate of­fi­cial Wash­ing­ton re­ly­ing on the same gra­cious­ness and play­ful Every­mom In­sta­gram posts that once helped get her wide­spread, non­par­ti­san re­spect.

Ad­mir­ers are trou­bled by crit­i­cism of Ivanka. “Peo­ple may be look­ing at her and car­ry­ing out their dis­agree­ment with her fa­ther, but the class with which she has con­ducted her­self … is go­ing to bode well for her down the line,” said U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., who served on the pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion team with her.

Her re­sponse has been to main­tain a laser fo­cus on her causes, such as pay eq­uity and mak­ing child care more af­ford­able. “She’s push­ing a mes­sage that she cares about, which is women that work,” said her brother Eric Trump. “She’s been writ­ing about this for years and years and years. She’s been talk­ing about it for years.”

But some ob­servers think she will have a hard time find­ing trac­tion in Wash­ing­ton’s cor­ri­dors of in­flu­ence.

“The tu­mult and uproar that was gen­er­ated by so much of what this pres­i­dent did in the first month of of­fice has made it to where her ca­pac­ity is very much nar­rowed,” said a Repub­li­can who has met with her. “She is go­ing to be im­plic­itly damned by some of his poli­cies, and it will be very, very hard for her to nav­i­gate.”


In 2013, U. S. Rep. Lou Bar­letta, R-Pa., in­vited Don­ald Trump to a round­table on pub­lic- pri­vate part­ner­ships. Trump sent Ivanka in­stead. “I was ex­tremely im­pressed,” said Bar­letta, who later served on the tran­si­tion team. “When she spoke about a project, it was ob­vi­ously not be­cause she had been briefed by some­one else,” he said, but be­cause she’d done her own re­search.

An­other Ivanka story, from an­other fan: “What­ever ser­vice she at­tends, she’s among the first to ar­rive,” said Marvin Hier, the rabbi who de­liv­ered a prayer at Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion and who has en­coun­tered Ivanka at Passover re­treats since her con­ver­sion to Ju­daism. “Some­times you hear, ‘Is it sin­cere, did she just do it for the fam­ily?’ But my ob­ser­va­tion is she’s very sin­cere.”

Ivanka rolled out her move to Wash­ing­ton with the same level of care and prepa­ra­tion. She hosted a din­ner for chief ex­ec­u­tives and fe­male jour­nal­ists in the pent­house apart­ment of her friend Wendi Deng (Ru­pert Mur­doch’s ex-wife) to talk about women and eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment.

“She was very gen­uine,” said guest Marc Mo­rial, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Ur­ban League. “She was very cu­ri­ous about the work we do.” The con­ver­sa­tion made an im­pres­sion: On Thurs­day, she tweeted a photo of her­self at a meet­ing of an Ur­ban League af­fil­i­ate in Bal­ti­more.

Such din­ners have be­come

ten­ure hall­marksin Wash­ing­ton:of Ivanka’s pri­vate, cu­rated gath­er­ings fo­cused on se­lect is­sues. She re­cruited Dina Pow­ell, the for­mer Gold­man Sachs ex­ec­u­tive and now a State De­part­ment of­fi­cial serv­ing among the pres­i­dent’s se­nior eco­nomic ad­vis­ers, to be her un­of­fi­cial Wash­ing­ton guide. The two spear­headed a meet­ing that typ­i­fies Ivanka’s goals: a round­table with her fa­ther at­tended by Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and top fe­male ex­ec­u­tives from both coun­tries, dis­cussing ways to el­e­vate women in cross-bor­der busi­ness en­deav­ors. “She was an im­por­tant voice in the con­ver­sa­tion,” said Chrys­tia Free­land, Canada’s min­is­ter of for­eign af­fairs. Free­land noted that Trudeau has made it a pri­or­ity to pro­mote women’s con­cerns, so “we were happy to find that was com­mon ground with the White House.” The meet­ing oc­curred, a White House of­fi­cial said, in part be­cause Ivanka wanted it.

“She was in­stru­men­tal in re­cruit­ing the U.S. busi­ness lead­ers who par­tic­i­pated, as well as think­ing through the agenda,” the of­fi­cial said. Ivanka made phone calls invit­ing the CEOs, and pro­posed top­ics, such as the hur­dles women face in get­ting ac­cess to fi­nan­cial cap­i­tal.

It was Ivanka at her most Ivanka: the type of per­son she has long seemed ea­ger to rep­re­sent her­self as. Ca­pa­ble, con­fi­dent, and en­tirely un­ob­jec­tion­able; the type of woman to post on In­sta­gram a newsy photo of her fa­ther at a news con­fer­ence with the Is­raeli prime min­is­ter, fol­lowed im­me­di­ately by a photo of her­self at the Na­tional Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory, catch­ing but­ter­flies with her tod­dler son. A source close to her said she plans to visit a dif­fer­ent Wash­ing­ton mu­seum each week.

She and hus­band, Jared Kush­ner, have hosted a Shab­bat din­ner. They’ve sam­pled lo­cal restau­rants. The Ital­ian restau­rant Masse­ria near Union Mar­ket has be­come a fast fa­vorite. They’ve en­rolled their chil­dren at a lo­cal Jewish school.

Their ev­ery pub­lic move­ment has been plumbed for mean­ing.

Phillip Bloch, the stylist and TV per­son­al­ity, who has known Ivanka since she was a girl, watched her ar­rive in the city for her fa­ther’s in­au­gu­ral and mar­veled at the bril­liant op­tics: “When she stepped off that plane wear­ing that green jacket and green shift dress, and had her baby on her hip, you could just tell she was com­ing to Wash­ing­ton to make her mark.”


No mat­ter how un­ob­jec­tion­able Ivanka’s ac­tions and causes may be, she’s un­der­tak­ing them against the back­drop of a di­vi­sive pres­i­dency, in a ma­jor­ity-Demo­cratic city where even a trip to the gym can be­come a po­lit­i­cal act.

She used a fake name when she showed up for a Solid­core class at a gym a few weeks ago. The gym’s owner called her out on so­cial me­dia, ask­ing to dis­cuss how her fa­ther’s poli­cies “threaten the rights of many of my beloved clients.”

Mean­while, Ivanka’s hus­band is in the West Wing serv­ing as one of her fa­ther’s ad­vis­ers. This month, word leaked out that, to­gether, Kush­ner and Ivanka helped kill an ef­fort to roll back the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der pro­tec­tions.

It was a bit of news that, at a fraught time, bol­stered the cou­ple’s rep­u­ta­tion as so­cial lib­er­als and in­flu­en­tial play­ers — although last week the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced that it would not de­fend at least part of the pro­tec­tions and re­voked guide­lines that al­low trans­gen­der stu­dents to use bath­rooms of their choice.

Also, the cou­ple re­port­edly got lan­guage that was crit­i­cal of a global cli­mate ac­cord struck from an an­tic­i­pated ex­ec­u­tive or­der, and Ivanka was be­hind a White House lis­ten­ing ses­sion on hu­man traf­fick­ing.

Pub­licly, Ivanka has re­mained silent on many of the con­tro­ver­sies, paint­ing on­line a pos­i­tive pic­ture of the Trump White House. Her soft-fo­cus so­cial me­dia posts make her re­lat­able to many, but they can also back­fire when her de­trac­tors jux­ta­pose her mes­sages with some of her fa­ther’s com­ments.

Ivanka is in the some­times awk­ward po­si­tion of rep­re­sent­ing her fa­ther, even when it con­flicts with po­si­tions she has taken for her­self.

In Wash­ing­ton, “I think you’re mea­sured by how ef­fec­tive you are,” said U.S. Rep. Elise Ste­fanik, a Repub­li­can who, like Ivanka, is a 30-some­thing from New York and has met with Ivanka, along with a group of fe­male law­mak­ers, to dis­cuss women’s is­sues.

Ste­fanik said she hopes Ivanka will reach out again to GOP women in Congress, many of whom have been ded­i­cated to these is­sues since be­fore the Trump pres­i­dency.

Over time the causes Ivanka is push­ing will find nat­u­ral al­lies, said Reed, the New York con­gress­man. “As we get fur­ther down the path of peo­ple re­al­iz­ing that Pres­i­dent Trump is here, and he will be our pres­i­dent for at least four years, they are go­ing to start to fo­cus on what can bring us to­gether,” he said.

In­deed, Ivanka and her hus­band with their bi­par­ti­san ten­den­cies have been “se­cure lines” for peo­ple dis­in­clined to reach out to her fa­ther, a source close to them said.

In the eyes of some, Ivanka is not walking a tightrope, but rather a nar­row and vi­tal bridge.

The morn­ing af­ter her trip to the mu­seum and so­cial me­dia blud­geon­ing, she was back on Twit­ter, this time with a photo of her­self and her daugh­ter in front of the Supreme Court. “I’m grate­ful for the op­por­tu­nity to teach her about the ju­di­cial sys­tem in our coun­try first­hand,” she wrote.

Was she sig­nal­ing her re­spect for the branch of govern­ment that her fa­ther had blasted for block­ing his at­tempt to ban refugees? Or was she sim­ply tour­ing her new city?

Her Twit­ter fans chimed in, prais­ing her par­ent­ing skills and pa­tri­o­tism. The back­lash quickly fol­lowed: “How nice, she can take a ca­sual day off ‘work’ whilst mil­lions of Amer­i­cans can’t af­ford child care and health care,” wrote one de­trac­tor, as Ivanka be­came, once again, the Trump in the most com­pli­cated spot­light.


Car­ry­ing her son Theodore Kush­ner, Ivanka Trump ar­rives Jan. 19 at An­drews Air Force Base, Md., for her fa­ther’s in­au­gu­ra­tion. Her long­time ac­quain­tance Phillip Bloch said af­ter­ward, “You could just tell she was com­ing to Wash­ing­ton to make her mark.”

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