While we’re focusing on Ivanka’s attendance at the G20 summit, the real story is the power vacuum Trump’s creating and China is poised to swoop in
In Hamburg, birthplace of his favourite food item, Donald Trump had warm words for his favourite female politician. Oddly, it wasn’t Angela Merkel, his hostess, or our own Lame Duck Boudica, Theresa May.
“I’m very proud of my daughter Ivanka,” declared 45th US President at the G20 summit, “always have been from day one… If she weren’t my daughter, it’d be so much easier for her. It might be the only bad thing she has going, if you want to know the truth.”
Of course we want to know the truth. We always do, though whether Trump is the go-to guy for that is a matter of opinion. George Washington had a stronger reputation in the field (Trump would have framed the cherry tree for suicide), and he was phobic about nepotism.
In the spring of 1789, Washington told friends he would discharge his duties “with that impartiality and zeal for the public good which ought never to suffer connections of blood”, and that he “would not be in the remotest degree influenced by motives arising from the ties of blood”.
So had he been in Hamburg a few days ago, he might not have asked a daughter to join Merkel, May and the Chinese President Xi Jinping at the top table, were he driven from the room for some reason.
But the fact of it isn’t the interesting thing about Ivanka’s preferment. With Trump, could anything on the nepotistic front come as a shock? The one surprise is that the tangerine huckster hasn’t tried to do a Francis and Clare Underwood from House of Cards by installing his life partner, That Thing On His Head, as VP.
No, the intriguing thing about that picture of Ivanka in such stellar company is the source of it. In what looks suspiciously like a cheeky game of diplomatic Knock Down Gingerov, it was tweeted (and quickly deleted) by a Russian emissary, Svetlana Lukash.
Within hours of Trump reportedly accepting Vladmir Putin’s solemn word that he has never interfered in American politics, here was Russia brazenly interfering in US politics. For Putin will surely have known how incendiary that photo would be in the States – and no underling would have tweeted it without express or tacit permission.
Who can say if he had any motive beyond indulging his mischievous streak. But if he intended to use the Ivanka row as a diversionary tactic, it worked brilliantly. Here we are fixating on Trump’s monarchical indulgence of his relatives when the real story of this summit was something more significant.
The old world order is collapsing with startling speed. With Trump promoting US insularity even more aggressively than his kids, most obviously by withdrawing from the Paris climate change accord, the free world is leaderless.
The contempt shown to him by Merkel, Macron and others in Hamburg was matched by Trump’s undisguised contempt for Merkel and impatience with Xi. Now that he’s rebooted the Putin bromance, his only friends are the Russian tyrant and the pitiful May, whom he promised a quick trade deal (we’ll see about that) after she chickened out of rebuking him for withdrawing from the climate accord. And in the time of Brexit she would hardly be a friend worth having even if she wasn’t so likely to be gone by October.
With America joining Britain in the death-spiral to isolationism, the free world begins to look for leadership to the unfree world, in the unlovely shape of China. However gruesome the paradox, geopolitics abhors a power vacuum, and unless and until the EU becomes a federal superstate, China will be the only candidate to replace the US not just as the world’s largest economy but leading power.
The notion of China democratising itself sufficiently to assume that role seems as distant as that of the EU moulding itself into a monolithic economic and military superpower. The world will be an incredibly dangerous place while this vacuum persists, and the earliest it could be filled is January 20 2020 when a new US President might (or God forbid might not) be inaugurated.
In the meantime, look forward to more nepotistic merriment, with Ivanka winning the $600m contract to supply US Army uniforms, Donald Jnr replacing Ulysses S Grant on the $50 bill, Eric made US Masters champion by executive order after shooting 197 and 212 in the first two rounds at Augusta, and 11-year-old Barron and his two favourite teddies given permanent situation room chairs in place of the National Security Adviser and a couple of four-star generals.
Only that nebbish Tiffany will continue to be overlooked, according to top DC sources. Far from being very proud of her from day one, the President wouldn’t date her even if she wasn’t his daughter.