The fact that Donald Trump tapped his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to visit Iraq is provoking some in the national media to near hysteria. In fact, it is not unprecedented or unnatural. Nor is it big news that his daughter, Ivanka Trump Kushner, has been asked to help out in the West Wing.
I’ve been answering questions all week from journalists, quite agitated over these events, asking me to confirm their narrative that this is unprecedented. You’ve heard of “fake news”? Well, they are intent on forcing on us their version of “fake history.”
Here are the facts. Presidents have always called on their families to help them when they could do so. It started at the beginning and has not stopped in modern times.
“If my wishes be of any avail,” George Washington wrote to his successor, “they should go to you in a strong hope that you will not withhold merited promotion from Mr. John Adams because he is your son.” His successor, John Adams, did indeed appoint his son, John Quincy Adams, as Minister to Prussia. John Quincy would go onto become the sixth American president himself. And he would appoint two of his own sons to his White House staff.
There would be eighteen sons of presidents who would serve in their father’s White House, most of them with the title of “secretary to the president.”
“Yes,” the breathless journalists will admit to me, “but not a daughter.”
In fact, as many as 14 daughters and daughter in laws, assumed great responsibilities, running the ceremonial duties of the White House and sometimes more. Martha Johnson, daughter of the 17th president, set in place many of the protocols that are still used in the White House today. She also lobbied Capitol Hill for appropriations.
But until Jared Kushner, presidential children were not sent on foreign missions.
The whole nation followed the colorful Alice Roosevelt on her outlandish tour of Asia but her shenanigans masked a more serious mission. She was carrying secret messages to the Japanese government from her father. Theodore Roosevelt would later win the Noble Peace Prize for negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War.
And some of these missions were not so secret. Before World War Two, FDR sent his son, Jimmie Roosevelt, on a tour of Europe where he met face to face with the British Prime Minister, the Pope and sized up Benito Mussolini for his dad.
Anna Roosevelt, FDR’s daughter, went to Yalta helping to supervise the historic meeting with her father, Joseph Stalin, Charles DeGaulle and Winston Churchill. The first lady stayed at home.
Yes, but Anna Roosevelt did not have a title and an office like Ivanka.
Well, that’s true, but she did have her own bedroom in the family quarters of the White House. As they say, the 3 keys to real estate are location, location, location.
No one should doubt the role that Anna Roosevelt played in the last year of FDR’s White House. Her mother, the first lady, was conflicted, at times proud of her daughter’s power and at other times resentful. In one entry, Eleanor writes about bringing her husband a tall stack of memorandums and papers. “Franklin,” she said, “You must read and sign every one of these tonight.”
The president, exhausted, shoved the stack over to his daughter, Anna, saying, “We’ll let Sis take care of this.”
Keep in mind, the reason we have a nepotism law is because John Kennedy appointed his own brother as Attorney General and his brother in law as Director of the Peace Corps.
Later, to circumvent those laws, Jack Ford was put on the RNC payroll while helping his father, while his sister, Susan, worked as a volunteer in the White House Photography shop.
Jimmy Carter constantly called on his son, “Chip” Carter, who helped run the Peanut business, was put on the DNC payroll during the campaign and headed up the Friendship Foundation when the Carter’s left office.
I worked personally for George W. Bush, and traveled with him in private jets, commercial planes, campers, Winnebago’s, car caravans and crummy motels as he worked for his father.
After we won, we talked about him going into the White House but George H.W. Bush was adamant that it should not happen. I wondered how the staff would work without George W. there to guarantee loyalty.
Presidents have always called on their families to help them. They offer something no one else can give. Loyalty, candor and continuity. If George W. Bush had worked in his father’s White House, he would never have violated his campaign pledge, “read my lips, no new taxes.” The father probably would have been re-elected. But then, George W. would be forgotten by history.
What Jared and Ivanka are now doing for their father won’t make them any money or win them any applause but they will make America safer and stronger. I predicted it would happen in my new book GAME OF THORNS. Don’t fall for fake history. Jared and Ivanka are in good company. And they are following other famous footsteps of history.