CNN has reported that there is a pitched White House battle underway between John Kelly, the Chief of Staff, and Ivanka Trump, whose position shifts between Advisor to the President and Daughter of the President, depending on the question she's being asked to answer.
It's hard to know which craven, power-hungry character to root for. Is it the trust-fund daughter who is apparently willing to use anything from feminism to daddy's connections to the White House to grow her fame and financial power, and offers batting eyelashes and a simpering smile to avoid having to play by the same rules as everyone else?
Or is it the hyper-masculine military man who built his reputation on service and order, only to look away from allegations of domestic violence and sexual harassment leveled at a member of his staff? A man who uses what is a largely apolitical role to push a punishing immigration policy and spend whatever bipartisan credit he had defending a President who makes a mockery of the office?
Can't they both lose?
The pair are reportedly in a cold war over the hazy roles held by Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, and over Kelly's attempts to impose order on a White House full of chaos monkeys.
The favorite Trump daughter embarked on a high-profile and high-stakes trip to South Korea last week while simultaneously positioning herself as "just a daughter" and refusing to answer totally in-bounds questions about her decision to work for an alleged serial harasser and assaulter of women.
Ivanka Trump, who still does not have a permanent security clearance, also engaged in private talks with the South Korean president, allegedly discussing her father's announcement of new North Korea sanctions and "the continued effort on the joint maximum pressure campaign against North Korea," according to the statement of a senior administration official.
Here, Kelly is right: Members of the administration need to have formal roles, and they should be qualified, trustworthy, and accountable to the public. A person with no experience in government or foreign affairs -- who doesn't even have experience getting a job on her own -- and who still has not been deemed appropriately trustworthy to handle high-level secrets has no business liaising with the leader of a nation that may be the last safeguard against the world's most significant nuclear threat.
But neither is Kelly the hero in this scenario. His misogyny sits below the surface of his man's-man military persona, and it compromises his judgment. This is a guy, after all, who defended Rob Porter - a top staffer to Kelly who stepped down after allegations that he physically and emotionally abused his wives (he denies the allegations) -- despite the fact that Porter's alleged history of abuse could have been used to compromise him and threaten American national security.
Kelly is correct that Ivanka Trump is doing little more than "playing government," (his comment, one source told CNN reporters), but he is also notably dismissive of her underwhelming attempts to improve conditions for working mothers via her child tax-credit initiative.
A "pet project," Kelly is said to have called it - but let's recall here that he himself has made draconian immigration laws his own "pet project."
Despite a reputation as a thoughtful public servant, Kelly is proving he is just as grasping and power-crazed as the Trump family and the rest of the current administration. He has cannily positioned himself as the adult in the room, only to provide cover while the bullies and the class clowns run around unobstructed.
If the latest White House feud really is John vs. Ivanka, the inevitable loser won't be the chief of staff or the first daughter -- yet again, it will be the American people.
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