American history is rife with influential first ladies, from Abigail Adams and Edith Wilson to Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton. In fact, Mrs. Wilson was in essence the functional president after Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke that left him partly paralyzed.
By contrast, first daughters such as Amy Carter and Malia and Sasha Obama have largely been kept out of the public eye or trotted out only for photo ops.
Ivanka Trump (or Chelsea Clinton) could dramatically change that role.
Dismissed Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said Monday that he doesn’t know why he was fired. In a brief interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, Lewandowski burned no bridges to the Trump campaign, but the Internet was sizzling with stories that he had been ousted by Ivanka.
While Trump’s third wife, Melania, dutifully gives interviews and adds glamour to the victory tableaus that became a staple of the billionaire’s primary night victories, it is daughter Ivanka who is said to have her father’s ear when it comes to political decisions.
An article in Politico last fall by Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio, “The Quiet Power Behind the Trump Throne,” described a self-assured woman with a thoughtful, measured approach that stands in stark contrast to her father’s shoot-from-the-lip persona. At 34, Ivanka is a mother of three, a businesswoman in her own right with a fashion line and an executive vice-president of the Trump Organization.
Last August, before the Trump primary juggernaut began, the Politico piece says Fox commentator Sean Hannity asked the new candidate whom he counted on most for advice. The first name Trump mentioned was Ivanka, who had introduced him when he announced the start of his campaign the previous June. And biographer D’Antonio singles out Ivanka as the offspring from whom Trump would most likely take advice – although he has said the person whose counsel he trusts most is the face in the mirror.
Until her father’s first serious entry into national politics, the Politico piece says Ivanka’s most political moment was hosting a 2013 fund-raiser for Democrat Cory Booker, the former mayor of Newark who is now a U.S. senator from New Jersey. (Booker has not hidden his interest in being presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s running mate, and should he be chosen, there would be a certain irony in the fact that Trump money and support helped in a small way to further his rapid rise.)
Ivanka is married to Jared Kushner, the scion of another New York real estate family and publisher of The New York Observer, who is also said to be having an increasing say in the Trump campaign. (In another possible ironic twist, Kushner’s father Charles, a Democratic donor, pleaded guilty to illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering in 2004 and was sentenced to two years in prison in a deal negotiated by then U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Chris Christie, who is now a possible running mate for Trump.)
While Ivanka could become the most powerful first daughter in history, so could her friend Chelsea Clinton. Hillary’s daughter has been deeply involved in her mother’s candidacy and campaign but took time off to give birth to her second child, a son who arrived on Saturday.
Like Ivanka Trump, Chelsea Clinton, 36, is described as deliberate and disciplined. And while Ivanka is an executive in the family business, Chelsea is now vice-chair of the much-scrutinized Clinton Foundation, after working as a McKinsey consultant, a Wall Street analyst and a $600,000-a-year NBC correspondent. She also was out on the public-speaking circuit prior to the campaign.
Ivanka and Chelsea have one more thing in common: Both can be expected to bring a Millennial perspective and “New York City values” to the Oval Office.