The dichotomy of this week captures what supporters of the president's daughter love — and what her detractors loathe

By Adam Carlson
February 07, 2019 05:16 PM
Ivanka Trump
Manuel Medir/Getty

Ivanka Trump, a top aide to President Donald Trump, her dad, spent much of the week touting the launch of a new economic initiative to support women worldwide — before all of that, however, she had to go on Twitter and defend herself against a perceived slight.

Ivanka, 37, has proudly made herself the face of the Trump administration’s Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP). But on Twitter this week, the first daughter belittled an art exhibit she believed was belittling her.

This dichotomy captures, in two moments, what Ivanka supporters love and what Ivanka detractors loathe.

To fans she is the most poised and polished surrogate for an administration that has often lapsed into viciousness and confusion. Pennsylvania Trump supporter Palma Frable told the New York Times in the days after he won that Ivanka was one of the his campaign’s “top three assets.”

But to critics her role is a hypocritical sham: nominally distancing herself from the president’s most divisive behavior — or worse, giving it a sunny sheen — while remaining in his White House.

First, on Tuesday, Ivanka tweeted about an exhibit in Washington, D.C., in which a smiling woman who looks like her constantly vacuums up crumbs thrown by spectators.

The exhibit, by Jennifer Rubell, is intended to elicit “multiple, often contradictory interpretations,” including “questioning … our complicity in her role-playing,” according to the release announcing it.

Its titular subject, reflecting her father’s own awareness of image and low tolerance for dissent, dismissed the piece as sexist.

“Women can choose to knock each other down or build each other up,” she wrote on Twitter, in the same tone she uses to describe her support for women’s causes. “I choose the latter.”

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Ivanka’s post was unusual: In a feed of inoffensive updates about policy initiatives and state functions, she was responding to what she felt was an attack on her.

Her father’s Twitter feed, his preferred medium, has the inverse proportion: It is mostly made up of insults of his opponents, boasting about his work as president and defensive proclamations amid ongoing investigations of his administration.

A day after her tweet, Ivanka had returned to a more standard role since joining the West Wing: championing broad messages of family and female empowerment.

“America first does not mean America alone,” she told reporters on Wednesday, ahead of the launch of the W-GDP.

“We are proud to be the most generous nation in the world,” Ivanka said, adding, “The economic empowerment of women should not be viewed as a ‘woman’s issue.’ It’s smart development assistance that benefits whole families, communities, and entire nations.”

The W-GDP, which the president hailed at his State of the Union this week as the “first-ever Government-wide initiative focused on economic empowerment for women in developing countries,” has three key pieces. It targets job training; women-owned businesses; and the laws, regulations and stigmas that hold back female participation in the international economy.

On Thursday, at a signing ceremony for the W-GDP, Ivanka joined the president and others where he lauded her by name.

“A lot of people have worked very hard, especially some of the people behind me,” he said. “I want to thank Ivanka for the incredible job that she’s done in leading this initiative.”