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Don’t Cry for Her, Argentina

Why, exactly, did Ivanka go to South America?
September 9, 2019
Don’t Cry for Her, Argentina
BOGOTA, COLOMBIA - SEPTEMBER 03: Advisor to the US President Ivanka Trump poses after a meeting with female police cadets at General Santander National Police Academy on September 03, 2019 in Bogota, Colombia. (Photo by Guillermo Legaria Schweizer/Getty Images)

Last week the president’s favorite child—who happens to also be his trusted advisor and the wife of the guy who’s supposed to fix government, solve the opioid crisis, run point on China, and bring peace to the Middle East—went to South America.

Why Ivanka Trump went to South America no one knows.

Perhaps she went to make a splash. Or to focus on her vague and meaningless mandate of “women’s empowerment.”

Or maybe Ivanka went to South America because there’s a long history of fascist enablers finding solace below the equator? Either way, Ivanka Trump went to Argentina (and Paraguay and Colombia) to do her best Eva Perón but ended up reminding the world, once again, that she’s Marie Antoinette.

Ivanka came with the promise of a truly tiny amount of aid: Apparently, the administration is willing to give $120 million for Colombia. (For a sense of scale, the Kushner family spent $1.8 billion buying 666 Fifth Avenue in New York.) But she also came with a suitcase filled with dresses from Latin American designers. Oh, and a new, serious, grownup haircut.

It seems possible that the entire purpose of the trip was to drive a stake through the concept of irony. Because while Ivanka was in Colombia she decided to visit a camp for Venezuelan migrants.

It is unclear if these camps are more humane than the ones her father has built in America. Where, just to remind you, we have conditions such as “A cell meant for a maximum of 35 held 155 adult males with only one toilet and sink” and “detainees were wearing soiled clothing for days or weeks.” Who could say.

If I had to, I’d guess that the real reason Ivanka went to South America and pretended to care about the plight of immigrants is because she never directly challenges her father. And visiting one of his migrant detention camps in America would have been doing exactly that.

Ivanka is in a strange position of wanting to pantomime actual human emotion in the hopes that it will salvage her brand from her father’s toxicity. It’s an almost impossible needle to thread: How does the daughter of the guy who cages migrant children in America pretend to care about migrant children? By showing up to look on benevolently at other migrant children in other countries? Does she really think that’s going to work?

Maybe she does. Or maybe, as I mentioned before, she really wants to beat irony over the head with a lead pipe. Because in addition to visiting a migrant camp to make concerned noises about the detention of migrants, Ivanka was also pushing her Private Label feminism. She called the female Venezuelan leaders “warriors,” and tweeted that “It was deeply moving to meet female leaders of the Guaidó coalition as well as some of the women impacted most by the brutal Maduro dictatorship in Cucuta today.”

Which I guess is nice but maybe we could do more to take apart brutal dictatorships in America’s sphere of influence? I mean, more than sending the American president’s daughter on a sight-seeing tour with enough aid money to buy three floors of a Manhattan office building? Tough to say, of course. Geopolitics is dreadfully complicated. Just ask the 30-year-old who the president just took over for Ivanka’s husband on solving the Middle East.

Ivanka’s brand of fake feminism doesn’t sit very well with her father’s brand of lite fascism. She wants to be seen as someone who empowers women and protects children while she is enabling a man who has for his entire adult life treated women poorly and for most of his presidency treated children abominably.

So the first daughter goes all the way to South America to act out her woman-in-government shtick and even there is hamstrung by her inability to criticize her father’s cruelty. And in the end, she does what she’s good at: fashion statements and meaningless speeches comprised of nothing but platitudes.

She’s not a presidential advisor. She’s the daughter of a czar.

Although it’s possible that none of this gives her proper credit. Because Ivanka may be a fake feminist, but she’s a very real—and very successful—opportunist. Her father’s campaign manager insists that the Trumps are a political “dynasty that will last for decades.”

Which means that Donald Trump thinks of his family in dynastic terms. And if that’s the case, then who’s next? Melania? No way. She’s just here to outlive her pre-nup. Eric? He was Fredo before it was cool.

What if Ivanka’s entire White House adventure is just an elaborate scheme to position her against Don Jr. to be tapped as dad’s successor?

Think about it for a minute. Because however superficial and useless Ivanka might seem, next to Don Jr. she’s basically Nancy Pelosi, Margaret Thatcher, and Eleanor Shellstrop, rolled into one.

Molly Jong-Fast

Molly Jong-Fast is a contributor to The Bulwark and the author of three books. Follow her on Twitter @MollyJongFast.