Trump clan engaged in tug of war over American values
Maureen Dowd: the family circle around US president fails to act as moderating influence
US president Donald Trump: Even as Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are inside the White House, helping to shape his policies, Josh Kushner and Karlie Kloss are outside it, protesting. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters
Like England, we Americans have our own famous princelings, brothers bound close to each other and to the poised and beautiful young women at their sides.
But while Will and Kate and Harry and Meghan are seen as a unit, pulling for Mother England together, Jared and Ivanka and Josh and Karlie are seen in opposition, in a public tug of war over American values.
It’s a perfect illustration of the riven state of the country right now, where all manner of Americans – from the Kushners to my family to the characters on Roseanne – are glaring at each other over an insurmountable fence.
When Donald Trump was elected, Washington held its breath, waiting for the Creature from the Black Lagoon to emerge from the Potomac. With Trump in the thrall of the apocalyptic Steve Bannon, the creepy Michael Flynn and the unconscionable alt-right, the only ray of hope lay in Ivanka and Jared, glossy real estate scions who had been liberal darlings of New York society and Sun Valley conferences.
At first, Javanka found it heady here, ignoring those who called them naive and nepotistic. Talking about military deals with Saudi Arabia, they got to use words like “deliverables”.
But as Jared got more ensnared in the Russia investigation and infighting in the West Wing, and Ivanka found that she could not reignite her father’s more liberal impulses, any hope that the pair could be a moderating influence vanished. Members of their old moneyed set began to dismiss Jared as “dumb” and “arrogant,” as several put it to me, and Ivanka as complicit, the label she got after Scarlett Johansson played her on Saturday Night Live.
Even Vogue, where Anna Wintour had once offered Ivanka a job, stuck in the stiletto. “Look,” one Vogue.com headline sniped in July, “It’s Time to Collectively and Officially Give Up on Ivanka Trump.”
The low point for the self-proclaimed daddy’s girl came a month ago when the Times reported that the president might be using his chief of staff, John Kelly, an adversary to Javanka, to push them out and back to New York.
Jared and Ivanka seem torn about whether to keep crossing the rapids or turn back to shore. And as someone in their camp says: “It’s not like they could leave and all of a sudden you have this quiet life. Look at Don Jr.” At this point, being a Trump is less a good brand than a bad state of mind. Besides, as their ally says, with Ivanka’s trip to the Olympics in South Korea and her success helping Republicans increase the child tax credit, “she feels she’s actually found her groove”.
Her groove, if she even has one, is not as groovy as that of her prospective sister-in-law, a supermodel who has become the First Daughter of the Resistance.
The 25-year-old Karlie Kloss publicly broke from the Trump clan when she tweeted a picture of herself voting for Hillary Clinton. Then she showed up at the women’s march the day after the inauguration. Josh (32) who thought about giving a TV interview about his differences with his brother but changed his mind, was spotted with her. But he also went to the White House on his own and Instagrammed a picture of himself with Jared, standing beneath the portrait of JFK.
Josh, routinely described by mentors as “respectful” has built a technology investment firm called Thrive that is worth billions. His crown jewel, a health insurance company called Oscar, was structured around Obamacare – the main thing Trump has been trying to explode.
After Trump won, Forbes said, Josh had to hold one-on-one meetings with nearly a hundred employees to say he is neither responsible for this administration nor able to get special favours.
Josh and Karlie, both about 6ft2, ambitious and private, also showed up at the gun-control march last weekend. Josh posted a picture on Instagram of Karlie holding a sign that read “Load Minds, Not Guns” and donated $50,000 to the cause.
(Tiffany Trump, for her part, liked a post on Instagram showing a guy holding a sign that said “Next massacre will be the GOP in the midterm elections.”)
While many have become disillusioned with Ivanka’s status as an advocate for women and children, Karlie’s status has been growing. She landed on the 30-under-30 cover of Forbes in December; the magazine noted that her off-duty uniform was a Planned Parenthood T-shirt with jeans. After taking coding classes herself, she founded Kode with Klossy, a coding summer camp for girls.
Like Ivanka before her, Karlie has had some rough patches in her romance because of the severe pressure she faces from Seryl and Charles Kushner, the parents of Josh and Jared, to convert to Orthodox Judaism. (The brothers’ grandparents were Holocaust survivors.) Charles Kushner went to jail in a messy sex and campaign finance scandal in 2005.
Karlie’s friends describe her as “insanely nice”, as one put it, and often showing up with homemade baked goods. Some of them are upset, claiming that Ivanka has not been as supportive to Karlie as she could have been during her trial by fire imposed by the Kushner parents over the conversion issue.
In a story in the Forward, Margaret Abrams noted that, of course, the Kushners would not have been pleased with two such “Wasp-worthy girls”, but given Charles’s controversial past, “they can’t exactly complain about the shiksas treating Yom Kippur like a juice fast.”