Never in recent political memory have candidates’ kids played such a prominent role in trying to get their parent elected president.
Mitt Romney had his pack of boys behind him in the election of 2012, but they seemed more like handsome props than stand-ins for the old man.
In this election year of dubious firsts, however, the offspring of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have sprung to center stage. In fact, they are so high profile that both Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump have their own Secret Service detail.
Of course in the treacherous world of politics, having blood you can trust behind you can be reassuring, but it does come with risks.
Chelsea Clinton has been in and out of the public eye since she was a child in the White House, and that exposure plus a stint as an NBC correspondent has made her a polished pro. She rarely makes a misstep when she is out on the hustings pushing the candidacy of her mother, which she has done with barely a break to deliver her second child in June.
The grown Trump children – son Barron is only 10 – have arguably played an even more out-front role. For one thing, there are more of them, with Donald Jr., Ivanka, Eric and to a much lesser extent Tiffany speaking out for their father. Ivanka and Eric have also helped solicit donations, and Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, has reportedly taken a deeper and deeper role in the campaign of his father-in-law.
Up until now, they have been mostly seen as polite counterpoints to their father’s bombast. But last week, the usually measured Ivanka cut off a phone interview with Cosmopolitan about her father’s new maternity leave policies -- which as the mother of three, including a newborn, she reportedly helped craft -- after complaining about the negativity of the reporter.
Ivanka’s pique was barely a blip, however, compared with the loquacious Donald Jr. A Washington Post story on Saturday laid out many of the 38-year-old Trump’s gaffes, including saying last Wednesday that if Republicans were behaving as deviously as Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, “they’d be warming up the gas chamber right now.”
Junior denied he was referring to the killing of Jews by the Nazis, but on Thursday the Anti-Defamation League took him to task for making “Holocaust jokes.”
Also last week, Trump Jr. posted an image on Instagram that sought to portray his father and well-known supporters as superheroes in response to Clinton referring to some Trump supporters as “the deplorables.” Unfortunately, among Trump backers like Chris Christie, Ben Carson and Rudy Giuliani was “Pepe the Frog,” the Post said, a cartoon character now associated with the alt-Right and white supremacists.
Other incidents involving white supremacists and Trump Jr. cited by the Post point to the Republican nominee’s eldest child being oblivious to the point of undermining his father’s candidacy. It’s great when the kids have your back – as long as they don’t inadvertently put a shiv in it.