President-Elect Trump says he wants his daughter Ivanka to be involved in his administration… @ainsleyearhardt will react
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) December 14, 2016
NJ.com – First, this shift would acknowledge that the White House’s social functions are a critically important part of the work of a presidential administration, helping to set the tone for the president’s interactions with hugely accomplished people as well as ordinary Americans.
There’s precedent for a person other than the president’s wife to serve as first lady; Emily Donelson took on hostessing duties for the widowed Andrew Jackson, while Harriet Lane served as first lady for James Buchanan, who never married. Though these women stepped up for their uncles to fill a space left by a death or bachelorhood, Melania Trump isn’t dead. But it certainly seems that her stepdaughter, a more comfortable public speaker with a demonstrated interest in decorating and style and a stated — if not demonstrated — concern for issues such as family leave and child care, might be a more natural fit for the job.
At present, the unpaid nature of the first lady’s job, and the fact that marriage — not qualifications — is what gets someone the job sends a message that the first lady’s functions aren’t really work. Managing the upkeep of an important national landmark, acting as an ambassador for bipartisan causes and welcoming all sorts of Americans aren’t the same as mining coal, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable national functions — so valuable that we insist someone be around to do them.
Allowing the president to select someone who is interested in design and historic preservation, and who enjoys doing outreach to the American people, and then paying that person would send the message that this is real work.
Second, having an official White House host or hostess who is chosen not on the basis of marriage but on the basis of talent, and with the idea that the job has distinct parameters, would also be an opportunity to clarify what the job is not. The very 1993 court decision that the Trump administration has contemplated using to suggest that nepotism laws should not exclude Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, from working in the administration lays out the many ambiguities involved in the first lady’s position: How does one draw a line between the president’s policymaking and ceremonial roles? If the first lady is a government official, can she be removed from office for ethics or legal violations without the president divorcing her? Is the first lady’s position a full-time job or a part-time job?
There is also another point that I think this author is missing: This is exactly what the Clinton administration could NEVER DO. One of the biggest negatives about the Clinton campaign was the fact that Bill Clinton would be an irrepressible member and and influence on the entire presidency. Trump’s ability to obfuscate traditional trappings allows him, perhaps, the greatest flexibility of any President in the modern era. Trump has an unbelievable opportunity to remove self-imposed restrictions and arbitrary restraints that have hamstrung previous Presidents and the “appointment”of Ivanka as de facto First Lady is an impressive and encouraging start.
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