Earlier this week, it was reported that Chief of Staff John Kelly is on the way out at the White House, and Ivanka Trump is heading up the search for his replacement. “[Ivanka] is the most worried about it,” a White House source told Vanity Fair, “She’s trying to figure out who replaces Kelly.”
Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner’s tenure in the White House has been strange to say the least. Neither of them want to be associated with hardline right-wing policies of the administration, as they clearly have dreams of returning to New York’s left-leaning social elite after leaving Washington. But they are trying to build a reputation as dutiful civil servants who preach compassionate conservatism.
The result has been that Jared and Ivanka are periodically rumored to be in charge of various things before, invariably, they are reassigned when a task becomes to fraught or the PR around it is too hot to handle.
On balance, when you review everything that these two have been put in charge of in the last year, you find that perhaps no two people in American history have been in charge of so much and accomplished so little.
Working Women’s Issues: During her father’s campaign, Ivanka fashioned herself as a champion for women, and has since appointed herself as an informal czar for issues affecting working women. Late last year, The Center for American Progress released a “report card” detailing the work she has done in this area so far, and it reads as a list of failures.
Her promised paid parental leave plan failed. She championed a child care plan that didn’t actually help working families. Her father has rescinded several Obama era equal pay protections and his 2018 budget drastically cuts various government programs aimed at helping working women.
In May, Ivanka did publish a book titled, Women Who Work, further enriching herself on a brand that doesn’t seem to have much real-world impact.
The Office of American Innovation: One of Jared and Ivanka’s biggest White House charges is also their most confusing responsibility. Shortly after taking office, President Trump created the Office of American Innovation and put Kushner in charge of it. After a year and much fanfare in various business blogs, the Office couldn’t point to a single meaningful accomplishment. In fact, even those who work closely with the Trump White House are still unclear on exactly what the office does beyond use Silicon Valley buzzwords.
Corporate Advisory Councils: In step with his obsession with Silicon Valley-style disruption and innovation, Jared put together several councils of business leaders early on in the administration. Kushner set up meetings with various CEOs and corporate figures who quickly grew to feel he was wasting their time, and that following events like Charlottesville, the president’s brand was toxic. The councils, which had names like “The Manufacturing Jobs Initiative,” managed to achieve little to nothing and were disbanded before the end of last summer.
Opioid Epidemic: Perhaps the most laughable responsibility of Kushner’s tenure came out in March, when the White House announced he would spearhead the fight against the opioid epidemic. It’s hard to see what use an urbane New York businessman could be in combatting a largely rural drug and public health issue. One expert told Vox, bluntly:
“There’s no ‘tech world business’ that does a good job getting drug addicts off of drugs. Sorry. It doesn’t exist. It’s not a business. If it were a business people would be in it. There’s no profit to be made from this. The Republicans are engaged in magical thinking here when it comes to shrinking the government.”
Predictably, the opioid epidemic quickly left Kushner’s portfolio. Subsequently, Kellyanne Conway and an unknown 24-year-old former campaign employee have been tapped to lead the charge on an issue that is one of the most relevant to the people who swung the election in his favor.
Criminal Justice Reform: Jared Kushner is said to have a strong interest in criminal justice reform because his father spent less than two years in prison after pleading guilty to 18 counts of making illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering. The result has been Kushner’s championing of stalled bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation.
This job may seem a bit easier than the others since it doesn’t involve thinking up any new ideas, but simply lighting a fire under old ones. Unfortunately, the reason the Senate Reforms and Corrections Act failed in 2016 was a combination of Trump’s “tough on crime” campaign rhetoric and then-Senator Jeff Sessions’ opposition. Sessions, of course, is attorney general today, and the president has shown little to no interest in Kushner’s efforts.
Middle East Peace: Middle East Peace has been Kushner’s most public duty in the Trump White House. And it has been, perhaps, his most disastrous. Kushner’s attempts to influence a U.N. vote on Israel’s behalf during the transition period may have been illegal and moves that have been made during the administration such as recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel have been destabilizing with little to no upside. Outside of Israel, Kushner’s hand has been equally destructive; many blame him for giving Mohammed bin Salman the go-ahead for a soft coup in Saudi Arabia.
Kushner’s Middle East blundering has led to international headlines like “Jared Kushner is Wreaking Havoc on the Middle East.” Many Middle Eastern states, including Palestine, Yemen, and Lebanon, won’t speak to him. As Kushner bumbles through the Middle East, a number key ambassadorships in the region remain vacant as relationships with various countries continue to deteriorate.
Veterans Affairs: Another part of Jared Kushner’s portfolio is supposed to be “reimagining Veterans Affairs.” Experts have been left scratching their heads as they try to figure out exactly what that means. So far, the fruits of Kushner’s efforts has been the creation of an app. Otherwise, concrete achievements in this area have been elusive, though he has reportedly mused on what it would take for the VA to make a “quantum leap.”
China Liaison: In recent months, it has emerged that Jared Kushner has been acting as the key Chinese liaison for the administration. The New Yorker has recently discovered, however, that the Chinese view Kushner as an intelligence asset. Kushner’s comfort with Chinese ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai, and their frequent, one-on-one meetings, has led officials to speculate that Kushner may be compromised. Kushner has even reportedly excluded top China experts from meetings with officials from Beijing. Kushner, Ivanka, and various other family members also have a history of strong business ties to China, which creates talk of potential conflicts of interest, and concerns that real estate deals and copyrights might be a higher priority in the administration than foreign policy.
Finding John Kelly’s Replacement: It is likely we’ll soon find out just how effective Jared and Ivanka still are in president Trump’s perpetual Game of Thrones. Just as they soured on Steve Bannon and actively worked towards his ouster, they’ve now moved on to General Kelly. Kelly reportedly crossed President Trump when he said that the administration has “evolved” on the border wall (which it objectively has). According to White House insiders, this tentative talent search is just the next step in a relationship that has been deteriorating for months.
But to Ivanka and Jared, it’s just another day at the office.