Wednesday morning, Ivanka Trump gave her first interview as a fully-fledged, official White House staff member. Her talking points were, per usual, predictably vanilla, and revealed nothing specific about actual intentions for how she’ll operate as her father’s advisor — save for a immaterial goal of making a “positive impact.”
“Positive for whom?” is still a question without an answer, though Ivanka affirmed once again that she’ll continue to advocate, as she claims to have done in the private sector, for the “economic empowerment of women.”
But don’t expect whatever angle she’s working to play out in a way that’s visible to the public: As she explained Gayle King on CBS, Ivanka prefers to stay behind the scenes. “I think most of the impact I have, over time, most people will not actually know about it.”
But before anyone goes casting Ivanka as a humble public servant, willing to shoulder the day-to-day responsibilities that come with an office in the West Wing while giving the overall administration — and especially her father — the credit: Let’s talk about how she skillfully parlayed this opportunity put her own soft focus spin on the truth.
When King asked Ivanka how she would respond to her critics, the first daughter employed moves that seem to have come straight from the Kellyanne Conway playbook. “If being complicit is wanting to be a force for good and to make a positive impact: then I’m complicit… I don’t know what it means to be complicit,” she hedged.
Of course, no one — not even Ivy League-educated Ivanka, I’m sure — is buying her inability to define terms: She’s trying to make playing dumb look smart (or at least plausible), and it’s not working. After she went off the air, Merriam Webster tweeted that searches for “complicit” spiked this morning, along with another prominent c-word in her reply. (Nope, not that one: conflate.) It’s as though Ivanka has forgotten that even though 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has become the Bermuda Triangle for truth, the rest of the world can still google objective definitions. Her subject-specific amnesia shouldn’t surprise anyone: like father, like daughter, after all.
But it wasn’t just the faux naïveté about the meaning of easily looked up words that should have raised eyebrows this morning. She also spun her husband’s total dearth of government and policy background as a bonus, comparing it to her father’s — as though it’s an exciting thing that two people making major decisions for America-at-large have exactly zero experience. Ivanka seems perfectly comfortable playing publicist-in-chief on their behalves, which — if today was any indication — might turn out to be her primary function as a card carrying member of the government.
As she has in the past, she’ll continue to do damage control, smoothing rough edges but gliding above the actual politics and issues, all the while playing the well-appointed mouthpiece. And since she’ll be doing it behind the scenes and hasn’t clarified anything concrete about how she plans to help women beyond just being in the room, apparently we’ll just have to trust that her intentions are guided by some greater good.
On the subject of her relative silence, Ivanka did have one thing to say. “For me, this isn’t about promoting my viewpoints," she told King. "I wasn’t elected by the American people to be president.”
Finally, a fact we can all agree on. Too bad it has just as little resonance as everything else she said on-air today.