With the resignation of Nikki Haley as the Trump Administration’s ambassador to the United Nations, naturally talk has turned to who might replace her at Turtle Bay. According to news reports, the White House is discussing Goldman Sachs executive and former deputy national security advisor Dina Powell as a replacement. But a commentator on MSNBC earlier Tuesday joked that President Trump might well name his daughter and close adviser, Ivanka, to the post.
Don’t scoff. It isn’t so far-fetched. What’s more, given the fact that Ivanka Trump is only part of the dynamic duo that is (in Steve Bannon’s formulation), “Jarvanka”—referring to her husband, Jared Kushner—selecting Ivanka would be a decent pick.
Think about it: Ivanka previously ran a mostly successful international business venture. As a presidential adviser, she has effectively helped her father in implementing key policies—such as paid family leave—that otherwise would not have become critical Republican Party issues.
Yes, she is—as the president himself has admitted—a “Manhattan Democrat.” But that might help her at the United Nations. Plus, she and her husband are proud New Yorkers who’ve disliked the social scene in Washington, D.C.
At most every turn, Ivanka has performed well on the international stage. Whether it was representing her father at an international counterterrorism conference in Germany last year or, more famously, spending a week buttering up various Asian leaders for the president before the landmark Singapore summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, Ivanka has proven herself an able diplomat time and again.
Similarly, as Haley acknowledged in her resignation announcement, the president’s son-in-law, Kushner, has performed brilliantly in his role as a presidential adviser. She even referred to Kushner as the president’s “hidden genius.” Kushner was a critical member of the 2016 presidential campaign. He leveraged that success into a powerful position in the president’s inner circle (much to the chagrin of many long-time Trump advisers—most of whom are no longer in the administration).
Like his wife, Ivanka, Jared is a moderate Manhattan Democrat. But that hasn’t stopped him from being a good team player in the Trump Administration. In fact, on inauguration day, Kushner was handed a key segment of the international trade portfolio, as well as the Middle East peace process (along with resolving the Iran problem).
Many at the time couldn’t believe that Kushner would be capable of accomplishing anything. After all, if nearly three decades worth of seasoned professionals, from Colin Powell and Condi Rice to Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, couldn’t do the job, what hope did this amateur have of stabilizing the Middle East without giving in to America’s enemies, abandoning America’s friends, and committing more U.S. troops to the region?
Kushner squared that circle last year when he brokered an historic arms agreement with the Sunni Arab states, creating a defensive alliance against Iran.
Kushner has also maintained a close, personal working relationship with the young leader of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. In part, this relationship has allowed for a moderating influence to be exerted over hyper-conservative Saudi Arabia. For the first time in its history, Saudi Arabia is amenable to Israel; its leadership is now in favor of liberalization; and the Saudi government has stopped double-dealing with Salafist extremist groups.
All of these changes are vital to containing Iran.
Kushner also deftly handled the contentious U.S.-Mexican trade renegotiation. It was Kushner, more than anyone else, who helped to broker a trade deal with our southern neighbors at a time when few believed it could be accomplished. Thanks to his astute management of the situation, Kushner’s Mexico trade agreement ended up forcing the Canadians to the bargaining table, which fulfilled a key campaign promise of ending the North American Free Trade Agreement and forging a better deal for American interests, the USMCA.
President Trump needs more Jarvanka. Although they received much flack at the beginning of Trump’s tenure, the duo have proven they can execute difficult tasks. Plus, it’s not as if nepotism hasn’t been in the government before. President John F. Kennedy famously named his brother Robert as his attorney general. That partnership proved to be a potent political force.
Jared and Ivanka have freewheeling access to the president, which has generated some controversy. But it’s worth remembering former Vice President Dick Cheney enjoyed unprecedented “walk-in” privileges with former President George W. Bush—access no other vice president had before (or since). Like Jarvanka, Cheney had unlimited access to any issue area he fancied, from energy to foreign policy to bureaucratic management.
If it works, don’t complain.
With Haley leaving the U.N., the United States is losing an ardent defender in a den of anti-American globalism. President Trump needs someone he can trust (and someone who can get the job done). Nominating Ivanka would also allow for Jared to have vital influence in this key domain. Together, Ivanka and Jared would continue to serve the president far better than anyone else. It would be just the sort of disruptive move that Trump’s presidency has become known for—accusations of nepotism and politics be damned.
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