Ivanka Trump was just booed in Berlin. According to the Times:
Ivanka Trump elicited groans and hisses on Tuesday from some members of the audience at a conference in Germany after she defended her father’s attitude and record on women, calling him a “tremendous champion” of families. ... Her father has been “a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive,” Ms. Trump said. That comment prompted some members of the audience to groan and hiss.
The German people have a storied history of displaying their emotions publicly, and so news of this incredibly mild reproval raced across the globe with all the blistering speed of a slow news day. Chris Cillizza—the famous Mr. Fix—disagreed with the Berliner reply. Fix’s response was a masterpiece of equivocation, a crafty shuffling of good-and-bad not seen in the mainstream press since the bonny and blithe summer days of TV Guide’s Cheers and Jeers.
WHAT FIX SAID
Cillizza used to write for the Washington Post, where he composed a politics blog called The Fix. He referred to himself as “The Fix.” Yes. Really. He also has been known to appear on the blasted heath of Meet The Press, and for reasons which surpass comprehension, he was deemed an MSNBC Political Analyst, which makes him a kind of Pope to all the MoveOn members in Hartford. Slate called Cillizza’s style “terrible political punditry.” Eventually Mr. Fix was bundled off to CNN, where he lives and reigns, mending fences that nobody cares about. Shortly after the booing, Cillizza wrote that:
The easiest course here would be to pillory Ivanka.
And the correct one.
After all, it’s indisputable that her father has said things, repeatedly, about women that all people should acknowledge are unacceptable. His comments in the “Access Hollywood” tape, his regular references to women as “pigs”, and his comments about Carly Fiorina’s looks during the 2016 primaries have zero defenders. And Donald Trump has apologized for a total of none of them.
Fix hand-wrings for a few paragraphs about all the brainless fool things Trump has done to women and about women’s issues. If you wanted to design a man to disprove the tenets of masculinity, you’d build Trump. But the real attraction is Fix’s take. And what a take it is! Long ago, when I began to drink Coke Zero, I was amazed by the sleight-of-hand that Coca-Cola Company of America had pulled off. Here was a drink which tasted as if it really was Coke! The only cue that I had cut out the sugar was, really, a curious feeling of … absence. As if something was missing. A lack, if you will. A void. This is the experience of reading Cillizza. There is no actual argument in his argument. There’s no coal in the fire; just a YouTube video of a fireplace, with chatter layered over it. I’m not kidding: Cillizza relates what happened, and then doesn’t make an argument for or against. The Fix’s paragraphs begin like this:
“But, it’s important to remember that Ivanka is, first and foremost, her father’s daughter.”
“Then there is the fact that Ivanka Trump spent the entire campaign insisting that she had seen her father up close more than any of his critics …”
“Make no mistake: The sentiment that Ivanka heard today in Germany has been and will be echoed throughout her father’s presidency—particularly given her new, formal role as a White House adviser. ”
He makes appeals to the Holy Process—remember, this is a guy who thinks the ghastly, horserace excess of politics is literally the most interesting factor in any story—and then we arrive at the destination. Here is what Oracle Fix says:
You can hate Donald Trump’s views on and treatment of women — and lots of people do! But, to expect Ivanka Trump to publicly condemn her father or his record on women’s issues is a bridge too far. It’s impossible for us to know what Ivanka Trump does (or doesn’t do) to influence her father’s views behind the scenes. And, because of that — and the fact that she is his daughter! — booing her for defending her dad is poor form.
This wasn’t an exchange at a bodega between two feuding neighbors. Ivanka was propagating the view of her father’s administration on a panel which included the Chancellor of Germany and the director of the International Monetary Fund. This was literally a gathering of the most powerful women in the world. If The Fix is the future of journalism, then rocket-propel me into the loving arms of God right now.
I think that Fix’s point is that Ivanka is not Bashar Al-Assad, although it’s hard to tell. Here’s a wowser for Mr. Fix. To point him in the direction of his next dank scoop of mega-news: Ivanka is also not Barron Trump. Barron is a kid, who just happens to be the son of the President, and has absolutely nothing to do with his father’s politics. Neither does Melania, for that matter. They do not deserve anyone’s scorn. Neither did the Bush daughters, or Roger Clinton, or Billy Carter.
But Ivanka is different. Ivanka shares her father’s power.
It is understandable, this confusion on how to feel. Most of us, myself included, don’t disdain Ivanka in the same way we do her father. Part of this is because she seems inoffensive, possibly even pleasant. Could it be that Manhattan’s Real-Estate Dracula has a decent daughter?
Part of this is tradition: generally, Presidential relations—especially children—are spared the lash from the public, for many excellent reasons. Despite the bone-gnawing nature of American politics, most of us have children or know people that have children, and we don’t want to see anything happen to them: being a kid makes you vulnerable enough already.
Second, they’re usually not adults when their parents are in office. Third, even if they are adults, they didn’t choose politics; why should they suffer for something the rest of their family did? Fourth, even if they’re involved in politics, the usual course is to follow an applause-inducing cause that meets with general approval, like literacy, dieting, or stomping out circus cruelty. Fifth, even the political offspring in question is adult, involved, and political, it’s rare that the child has actual power.
But Ivanka is currently the executive vice president of The Trump Organization (estimated worth $9.5 billion, employees 22,450). She used to go to work in a literal shining tower. Now she is the Senior Advisor to the President of the United States, which is part of the Executive Office of the President, which from time to time holds the fate of the world in its hands. Ivanka is as likely to be fired as I am to be lobbed at the moon in a singing river-boat made of hemp-string.
She sits atop the Executive Branch (budget $3.5 trillion, employees 4 million) and the Trump Administration. Since there will be no ethical enforcement of collusion laws, with the exception of her father and Jared, Ivanka represents the single largest concentration of private and public power in the world right now; only the ailing and demented ruling House of Saud comes close. The only more privileged woman in the world has the last name Paltrow, and Gwyneth is no longer a threat to any of us.
In other words, Ivanka is a wealthy, powerful adult, who is willingly an avatar and agent of her Dad’s influence. A person who can afford to build a mass tomb so her servants can be buried with her whenever she dies does not need to be infantilized.
People who report on Jared and Eric and Donald Jr.—God help them all—don’t write white-knight pieces telling us not to jeer Donald’s ridiculous boys, because they realize that grown-ass plutocratic bros are responsible for their own actions, whether that be touring the Middle East in a Real Grown Boy’s Flak Jackets, hunting sick animals in private safari parks, or making a public ass of themselves in all the ways you can imagine.
Nobody would think of defending Jared, both because he is indefensible, but because we intuitively understand he does not need rescuing. He made this bed, and the twelve million other beds he owns. Super-virtuous reporters don’t feel unresolved defensive urges on Jared’s behalf. Why is Ivanka any different? Whatever scorn we give to her father, Jared, and their coterie of ancient, grave-digging trillionaires, we should apply to her as well.
We live in an odd time, when challenging the rich and famous online, or in real life, is considered bullying. Why, it almost makes you think that the people who defend the powerful might have an ulterior motive.
I can’t say whether she is a nice lady or not—I don’t know her personally. But I know the Trumps publicly very well. Whatever her personal, private qualities, she is the representative of a backwards, dangerous Administration which orchestrates cruel policies against the oppressed, for the benefit of the powerful and super-wealthy.
I have no patience for pointless meanness; it makes the world worse and hurts other people’s feelings. But I have endless time for criticizing oppressive power.
We have a duty, to give our leaders hell when they do poorly, when they threaten the downtrodden. Ivanka is one of our leaders now, and we are obligated to critique the hideous Administration she is part of. Politics is literally a popularity contest, and their performance ought to match our reaction, exactly. Public servants serve us, the public. Elections are four years apart. When they do not do our bidding, we should let them know we are displeased.
I HAVE A DREAM
In response to the Fix, let me offer a counterproposal: the Germans are merely the thought-leaders of a new dream, a dream which all Americans must share.
Imagine a world where rain of chicken-bones and crumpled paper greets Trump administration officials when they emerge from their cocoon of wealth and power. Imagine all the people, coming together in peace, to boo Ivanka. It’s easy if you try. If the world was young and all was right, the scene from Carrie would be enacted every time any member of the Trump Administration dared to raise their gilded heads in public.
Let boos ring out from every corner of Christendom, from every pulpit and post office; from the workshop and sweatshop, from gyms and casinos, camps and coffeeshops, from the ranch and the rock quarry, until every voice goes silent with hacking coughs. Oh, Fix, let scoffing commence at all times and all places: let scorn pour down like a waterfall of mighty justice from the heightened mountaintops, and from every corner of every town in the whole wide blessed world. Let the jeers ring from the dark forest of Germany, from the cultivated cafes in Paris; let it ring from boozy pubs of London, and from the unspeakable wastes of Russia! Let it ring from every bar and car of Mississippi, from every mountainside and holler, let jeering ring!