For years, I have criticized President Donald Trump for his embrace of nepotism with the use of his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his daughter Ivanka Trump as high-ranking advisers in the White House. I was particularly critical recently when Trump gave Kushner a major role in the pandemic recovery. While I disagreed with some of the more over-wrought statements about Kushner’s role, it was still wrong in my view from both an ethical and political standpoint. Now however the Administration is doubling down by putting Ivanka Trump in a key public spot in the $349 million loan program for small business. The American people have a right to know that the trillions of dollars (and hundreds of thousands of lives) at stake are being managed by people selected on the merits, not familial ties to the President.
As many of you know, I have been a critic of nepotism in government for decades, most recently discussed the inclusion of Kushner and Ivanka Trump on the White House staff since it was announced because it is a form of raw nepotism. (See here, here, and here and here) I have also been a long critic of such nepotism by members of Congress. The sudden thrusting of the two to the forefront of this crisis is remarkably harmful to the Administration and its efforts. I have been highly impressed, and relieved, by the superb team assembled by the task force.
The President has long ignored objections to nepotism but this is a pandemic where a nation is facing catastrophic public health and economic conditions. I simply do not understand why President Trump needs to interject his family into his pandemic response. It only casts doubt on the White House gathering the best minds to run these programs and to advise him on policies.
The President has worked to boost his daughter’s performance, including recently crediting her with creating ten percent of all jobs in the United States. While critics have questioned that credit for 15 million jobs, the point is that the use of one’s own children diminishes such claims of success as the public has to consider the merits through the maze of nepotism.
Again, I am not questioning Ivanka Trump’s intelligence. However, such appointments have always been wrong for the country. It was wrong for John F. Kennedy to appoint his brother at Attorney General and wrong for Bill Clinton to make Hillary Clinton the head of the health care task force. Those wrongs do not make this right.