Will Trump Dump Pence, Run With Ivanka Next Year?

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Will Trump Dump Pence, Run With Ivanka Next Year?
AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Will Trump Dump Pence, Run With Ivanka Next Year?
AP Photo/Susan Walsh
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Deny the vice president a second term and put your daughter on the ticket, then quit if you’re elected so she can pardon you and live out the mutual dynastic fantasy. Is this too far-fetched or crazy even for Donald Trump? Not if you’ve been paying close attention. 

After all, they’ve been working hard on some elevation campaign for the Favorite Child. There she was, all over the G20 summit in June, already playing vice president, or secretary of great, or something. Ivanka wedged herself not only into meetings with world leaders but official photographs as well -- her intentions were about as subtle as a Trump tweet. 

Mike Pence, eager to frequently mention Trump’s broad shoulders, should watch his back. Trump refused on Fox News last month to endorse the veep for his own run in 2024, and stood in front of “Trump 2020” signs at his campaign kickoff rally in Orlando. The conspicuous lack of Pence’s name should have puzzled the loyal No. 2, who had just appeared on stage with his wife to introduce the president. 

Shortly thereafter a clunky trial balloon placed in the Wall Street Journal proposed dumping Pence for Nikki Haley next year because Pence “has given Mr. Trump all the help he can.” Andrew Stein, who started Democrats for Trump in 2016, wrote that Haley “could tamp down the antipathy for Mr. Trump that seems to afflict so many moderate and Republican-leaning women.”

Go ahead and laugh, but the prospect of Trump conjuring a dramatic surprise, with the unveiling of a beautiful woman as his running mate to calm down all those cranky ladies who don’t like him, is very much in character. 

Right now, Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, are running the country, along with the president. They are the two most powerful people in our government next to the commander-in-chief, with the most influence over the most critical decisions. Significantly, they have security clearances and access to sensitive intelligence they should not.

Jared, of course, met secretly with world leaders behind former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s back. But Tillerson recently told members of Congress that Ivanka’s undefined role is also problematic. The “unique situation,” he said, was “challenging for everyone.” Former Chief of Staff John Kelly also didn’t appreciate the First Daughter’s early diplomatic forays, as when she led the U.S. delegation to the closing ceremonies of the Olympics in South Korea last year, and Kelly later complained she was “playing government,” according to CNN. Her brief interjection at the G20 gathering in Hamburg, Germany, two years ago caused a stir when she sat in for her father at a discussion among world leaders. 

But Trumpian nepotism is flaunted, not nurtured sheepishly or quietly, or with any measure of concern. At this year’s G20, the White House posted an official video of Ivanka doing -- wait for it -- something a national security official should have done: giving a read-out of a trilateral meeting between her father and the prime ministers of Japan and India. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in and out of events, national security adviser John Bolton was banished to Mongolia, but Ivanka was everywhere, always. A cringe-worthy video that the French government released in what would nowadays be known as trolling, showed Ivanka awkwardly horning in during a high-level chat involving French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Chairwoman of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau -- where the looks on their faces were all you need to know. 

A star was not born but a meme was. The Photoshopping of the Chosen One into iconic historical photographs trended as #unwantedIvanka. But awkward stares and whispers at global summits, side-eyes from world leaders, and mocking memes won’t quell the gall of the Trumps hell-bent on a good branding scheme. 

Sure, she talked up her “Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative,” but Ivanka also weighed in on grave matters of nuclear disarmament by North Korea, telling the press: “We are on the precipice of ushering in a potentially golden era for the Korean Peninsula.” Before the Trumps descended on the DMZ, Ivanka gushed that her father’s plan to give Kim everything he wanted and get nothing in return in their handshake would be “a very meaningful moment.” 

In “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff wrote that Ivanka and her husband joined her father’s administration despite warnings not to from “almost everyone they knew”; they did so because “between themselves, the two had made an earnest deal: If sometime in the future the opportunity arose, she’d be the one to run for president.” 

She currently holds the title of senior adviser for everything except racist tweets and government detention camps for kids at the border. Those don't provide great photo ops, and like her dad she prefers to glow on the world stage at important meetings rather than lead on tough, thorny issues. 

If she ran with Dad, this would have to change. Or would it? Perhaps she would just speak to adoring crowds and leave the incendiary rhetoric to him. Trump has talked not only of appointing Ivanka to the U.N. ambassador position, but to have her run the World Bank -- and he said this year that  “if she ever wanted to run for president I think she’d be very, very hard to beat.” If they ran together and Trump resigned, Ivanka would become the first woman president without having to run for the job.

One former White House insider says that Jared’s many jobs mask the fact that it’s his wife who “has all the power.” And, he said of Trump, “this whole thing is an advance team for Ivanka. He really believes she could be president.” This frightens many advisers and officials around the president who hope Ivanka’s role will remain confined to showcasing her glamour at international television events. “There’s nobody in Trump’s orbit with a dimmer understanding of why Trump won than Ivanka,” said an outside adviser who speaks regularly with the president. “She has no clue. Worse, she has no idea that she doesn’t know.”

What Kim Jong Un knows is that Ivanka, and Jared, sat in on his meeting with Trump at the DMZ. The message to world leaders, officials in foreign governments, ally or adversary, is clear -- take it up with Ivanka. She’s in charge. Or Jared. Same difference. And that is exactly what Trump wants. 

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe learned this as soon as Trump was elected when he traveled across the world to Trump Tower to be greeted by Jared and Ivanka at his meeting with the president-elect. At the time, Ivanka was negotiating with Sanei International, whose parent company’s largest shareholder is owned by the Japanese government -- a deal that later crumbled due to her conflicts of interest.  

Pompeo gets it too, and from his natural perma-grin, he seems to have made peace with it. At the recent trip’s cinematic conclusion he had to walk, couple style, with Ivanka onto the stage at Osan Air Base in South Korea to Trump declaring them “beauty and the beast,” and before Ivanka addressed the troops Trump said: “She’s going to steal the show. She’ll steal it.” 

Remember those words.

A.B. Stoddard is associate editor of RealClearPolitics and a columnist. 



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