Sunday, January 07, 2018
While the world remains distracted by the constant circus surrounding the Trump White House, I sense a different kind of power play, and potential American future, brewing beneath the surface at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: Ivanka Trump becoming the first female president of the United States. Whatever you think of the character and presidency of Donald Trump, it's clear he adores his daughter Ivanka, and cherishes the totemic power of his name. And what better way to ensure his family's legacy than by setting up his daughter, already installed in the West Wing, to assume the presidency? In our current topsy-turvy political era, stranger things have already happened. Let's take a look at a few potential Twilight Zone scenarios, which aren't as unlikely as they once might have seemed.
Ivanka's path starts with the vice presidency. According to Keith E. Whittington, the William Nelson Cromwell professor of politics at Princeton University, the president can nominate whomever he so desires for VP, as long as the nominee fulfills the minimum requirements (natural-born U.S. citizen, at least 35 years old, etc.) for the presidency. So Vladimir Putin is out, but Ivanka is in. "Presumably the most significant constraint on who the president could nominate to fill the VP vacancy would be the need for congressional confirmation," Whittington says.
Ivanka lacks political experience, you say, especially of the elected kind. Well, her lack of such a background is already being shored up by her new role as special adviser to the president, and both Ivanka and husband Jared Kushner's governing credentials will continue to be burnished as Trump hands them even larger portfolios. Remember that Hillary Clinton spun an often controversial stint as first lady into a senatorial career, even though she'd never held elected office prior to her run. It's not unthinkable that Ivanka -- despite bringing a somewhat different skill set to the table -- could do something similar.
How could Veep Ivanka ascend further? In his book The Twenty-Fifth Amendment, Fordham Law School professor John Feerick notes that "the terms unable' and inability' are nowhere defined in the Amendment." Trump might deem himself "unable" to serve by simply citing how irked the barrage of negative media attention makes him feel, his age, his health (mental or physical) or any number of other excuses. Considering all of the scandals he's had to endure so far, the thought must have crossed his mind.
If Trump pulled the presidential ejection seat while Ivanka was vice president, the White House would be hers. And even if he yanked the lever before then, Trump could, with some deal-making before he left office, secure Pence's commitment to nominate Ivanka as his VP -- although this path would be riskier.
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