Today we say goodbye and good riddance to Donald J. Trump, the worst, laziest, and most tangerine-hued of our 45 presidents. He left a path of destruction in his wake that included 400,000 dead Americans, a decimated economy, shattered norms, broken laws, and endless grifting. And if his venality, corruption, and incompetence weren’t enough, he punctuated his tenure in the highest (and before now, most respected) office by inciting an attempt to overthrow the same institutions that empowered him—the act of a malignant and sociopathic narcissist who is also, to use a diagnosis not technically listed in the DSM, a giant baby.
But we also must bid farewell to the Trump children: the ambulatory evidence that narcissism, incompetence, and corruption are genetically inherited traits. Like their decency-challenged paterfamilias, they hardly bothered to veil their contempt for democratic norms, and used every available opportunity to exploit their positions—and by extension, taxpayers—to make money and accumulate unearned power. They deserve their own send-off, especially considering the persistent rumors that they have political ambitions of their own and that some form of recidivism seems inevitable. Each one is unique and memorable, much in the same way that every individual experience of food poisoning is similarly horrible and yet surprisingly varied in its repulsiveness.
A personal favorite among the things that won’t be missed: Donald Trump Jr.’s redneck cosplay. As a rural Alabama native who grew up in a family full of hunters, it’s sometimes entertaining to watch Junior—a New York City–native, Ivy-educated, Buckley School grad who probably spent many high school weekends doing coke in the bathroom of Dorrians—suit up like a Duck Dynasty extra and awkwardly pantomime those things that he thinks red-state Trumpists do (bless his heart). Only the unfettered racism comes naturally to him. It’s unnerving to watch him wave around such a vast assortment of absurdly souped-up guns, each one more accessorized with far-right stickers and gratuitous vanity mods than the last. As a rule, you never want a guy with unresolved anger issues to have easy access to high-powered firearms, let alone a collection that he probably has to transport with a forklift.
You also generally don’t want anyone operating a firearm while they’re under the influence of … well, anything: recreational drugs, prescription drugs, Donald Trump. Junior’s public appearances have been concerning on that front. His Visine budget alone could probably fund two fiscal years of Meals on Wheels. His TV appearances have always been directed at an audience of one, and I won’t miss watching a 43-year-old man tell his father he’s desperate for love in a coded language that appears to consist entirely of conspiracy theories.
On this front, Eric Trump seems a little more put together, or at the very least, I’ve never seen him look like he was on the verge of bursting into tears, which is a semi-regular feature of Junior’s appearances. Neither of them was supposed to be involved in their dad’s campaign, but the entire Trump family interprets “conflict of interest” as an ethical conflict that may be “of interest” in the participatory sense. Eric’s contributions to the Trump legacy mostly include guaranteeing his wife a $180,000 salary via marriage and funneling money from a kid’s cancer charity into his business—and admittedly, stealing money from children with cancer is so cartoonishly villainous it wouldn’t be plausible in a Marvel movie. My most controversial Trump-related opinion is that Eric is not actually The Dumbest One, but the competition is so heavy for the title that it’s sometimes hard to tell.
Which brings us to Ivanka, who once got into an argument at a dinner party about the difference between liberal and libertarian, which she maintained were the same thing, and when the person she was arguing with suggested she Google it, she replied that she’d “take it under advisement.” Now she is in the position of having to take her own “advisement” and “find something new,” as she recently counseled millions of newly unemployed Americans (presumably because “Let them eat coding” was too awkward a construction).
Career coaches typically suggest that people who lose their jobs should highlight their primary skill sets when they apply for something new. Judging from her White House track record, Ivanka’s skills are: staging her own photo ops, developing a mastery of public self-congratulation, misattributing inspirational quotes to Alexis de Tocqueville, and pulling the rug out from under women as a class with Olympic-level vigor.
I’ve historically maintained that she is the Edmund Hillary of social climbing, but have come to realize that my analogy is off: Hillary had to do the work himself and couldn’t just take credit for it. As someone who’s adept at taking credit for things she didn’t do, Ivanka’s equally accomplished at avoiding responsibility for the disastrous things she did or enabled. A high school friend of hers recalls in Vanity Fair that she once farted in class and blamed it on a classmate—an apt, if pungent, metaphor for what she continued to do as she transformed herself magically from “Senior White House Adviser” to “just a daughter” every time the administration did something catastrophic and morally repulsive.
Rumors suggest that she plans to run for office one day herself, demonstrating that delusions of grandeur may be inheritable, as well. But she won’t do it from her native New York City—where she and her brothers have worn out their welcome—because as someone once said, “It’s not excusable to embrace right-wing extremists just because you weren’t embraced enough by Dad, or were, perhaps, inappropriately embraced by Dad.” (De Tocqueville, I think.)
So Ivanka will soon be a Florida Woman, and will presumably adopt the in-state tradition of insisting that parts of Florida are “not really Southern” and that other parts are “lower Alabama,” but in a breathy voice that’s inexplicably two octaves lower than it should be. Her on-camera appearances will continue to have a certain hostage video quality, and the expert hair and makeup will not compensate for the unsettling uncanny valley effect she exudes when she tries to speak with authentic human emotion.
She won’t be alone. Jared Kushner is not literally a Trump child, but he might as well be. He is as qualified as Ivanka to be a senior White House adviser, benefitted from the same nepotism, and has many of the traits most pronounced in the Trump children: an inflated sense of entitlement; a belief that his wealth is simultaneously a product of meritocracy and dynastic fate; and a visceral allergy to any kind of knowledge acquisition that involves listening to experts, talking to anyone with a lower net worth, or reading anything longer than the first paragraph of this column that doesn’t contain his literal name.
I have some personal experience here: In 2011 and 2012, I was the editor in chief of The New York Observer, a newspaper he bought and proceeded to destroy with disastrous shortcuts framed as “optimization” and a seeming determination to interpret “move fast and break things” as an end goal and not a path to success. He occupies a special place in my heart: Specifically the part responsible for the ventricular contraction that sends my blood pressure to stratospheric heights any time I hear that he’s been put in charge of something important. The only comfort I get from the fact that Donald Trump had custody of the nuclear football for the last few years is that he wasn’t able to outsource that function to Jared, who might have just casually given it to Mohammad bin Salman in exchange for a small investment in a promising Kushner Co. property right at the center of New York City’s luxurious Fifth Avenue.
The sheer number of bad decisions Jared has made is only rivaled by the number of times he’s declared his failures a success. Watching him do this in real time was like watching a football player run in the wrong direction toward his own end zone, cross the goal line, then spike the football and declare himself the winner. Repeatedly. And the coach was unwilling to bench him.
Thankfully, voters have benched all of them. Aside from asking Jared if he happened to have misplaced the federal vaccine reserve, there’s no need for any of us to interact with or pay attention to them ever again. (I’m leaving Barron and Tiffany out of this analysis because, as a minor, Barron is trapped in this family for the foreseeable future whether he likes it or not; and no one—least of all her father—was paying attention to Tiffany or her four-year plan to bigfoot her dad on his last day in office by announcing her engagement.)
That doesn’t mean their names won’t appear in headlines, though. Don Jr. and Ivanka narrowly escaped an indictment on criminal fraud charges before their father was elected president, and it seems implausible than any of the many ongoing investigations into Donald Trump’s business affairs do not include scrutiny of them, as well. Eric Trump has already been deposed by the New York Attorney General’s Office. And the Senate Committee on Finance has been trying to determine whether Jared’s dealings with the Qataris, potentially in exchange for helping to bail out Kushner Co.’s 666 Fifth Avenue property, violate criminal conflict of interest statutes.
Psychologists suggest that couples can improve their relationships by bonding over novel experiences. If that’s true, it bodes well for relationships between the Trump progeny as they encounter something new and uncharted for them: accountability.