All in the Family was a ‘70s TV show about a New York family with a bigoted patriarch, Archie Bunker.
Unlike Bunker, Trump is not a member of the working class. Donald Trump is wealthy. His family does not need to work to survive.
Nevertheless, two close members of Trump’s family are officially White House advisers. Thankfully, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and daughter, Ivanka, do not draw pay in their official capacities.
Jared and Ivanka’s roles raise serious doubts about whether we are in a democratic or authoritarian state. Family involvement in politics is a feature of many of the latter kind of states.
Sometimes called the “Secretary of Everything,” Jared has his fingers in serious matters ranging from foreign policy to innovation. Ivanka seems to be around for meetings with heads of state and major international gatherings.
This week we saw that the Trump family involvement in government seems to have inspired other Cabinet officials too.
Family Housing and Urban Development?
When Ben Carson became Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), he had doubts about his ability to run the agency. So did many others.
This week, ProPublica published a story about his tenure so far. It is eye-opening.
One of the more disturbing aspects of the article was about the involvement of Carson’s wife and son in HUD. Another report raised the question of whether Mrs. Carson is the “shadow” HUD secretary.
Further, ProPublica described the unusual HUD presence of Carson’s son, Ben Carson Jr. Apparently, the younger Carson is part of internal communications, visits HUD often, and appears with his father at official events. At one event, his role appeared to be to introduce entrepreneurs to Carson’s official aides.
These activities raise questions about the appropriate involvement of family in official activities. Cabinet members’ adult children and siblings should limit their roles.
In some circumstances, spouses may play ceremonial functions. They may even have official duties. But in democratic societies, a spouse should particularly be cautious about engaging with the public.
This week, another Trump Cabinet official’s wife learned about the dangers of unrestricted engagement.
On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin visited Fort Knox, which houses most official gold reserves. Mnuchin’s wife, Louise Linton, accompanied him on a government jet.
In an Instagram post, Linton boasted about all the designer apparel she was wearing and carrying. One estimate toted up the costs to be in the tens of thousands. It would be enough to buy some serious jewelry for the average Joe and Jane.
Responding to Linton’s Instagram post, one lady questioned Linton’s use of the government jet and her unseemly hashtagging of the designer labels. Linton’s initial retort to her included healthy doses of condescension and boasts about the Mnuchin-Linton wealth.
To be fair, Treasury announced that the couple would reimburse the government for the cost of the flight. Linton also later apologized for her “inappropriate and highly insensitive response.”
Usually, a politician’s family provides invaluable support. But it is probably best if family members are only occasionally heard from, and seen.