Presidential campaigns have always been something of a family affair when a candidate has adult children. George H.W. Bush’s children, including future president George W. Bush, were closely involved in their father’s run for office. John McCain’s daughter Meghan, and Sarah Palin’s several kids -- both adults and youths -- were paraded before the cameras to support their parents’ candidacy.
It’s been no different for Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, who is frequently flanked on the podium by three of his four adult children and their spouses. Trump’s sons Eric and Donald Jr. are frequent campaign surrogates on cable news, as is his daughter Ivanka, though to a lesser extent now because she recently gave birth to her third child.
The Trump family’s commitment to its patriarch’s presidential bid has looked a bit less than fervid in recent days, though. Two of his children won’t be voting for him in New York’s primary next week because they forgot to register, and the newspaper owned by his son-in-law published a weirdly backhanded endorsement of the billionaire real estate developer on Tuesday.
On Monday, the news broke that Eric and Ivanka Trump had both missed the deadline to change their registration from Independent to Republican in order to be able to vote in New York State’s closed GOP primary on April 19.
The failure was made even more ironic by the fact that Ivanka has for months been the public face of the Trump campaign’s get-out-the-vote effort, making multiple videos targeted at her father’s supporters explaining how to make sure they are qualified to cast a ballot.
Just as strange, though, was the endorsement of Trump published by the New York Observer on Tuesday. The paper is owned by Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump’s husband and, like Donald Trump himself, the son of a wealthy real estate magnate who went into the family business himself.
“Donald Trump is the father-in-law of the Observer’s publisher. That is not a reason to endorse him,” was the endorsement’s odd beginning. “Giving millions of disillusioned Americans a renewed sense of purpose and opportunity is.”
Okay so far -- kind of a jarring opening, but the “renewed sense of purpose and opportunity” bit sounds nice.
However -- and here’s the strange thing -- the editorial trudges forward through more than 1,300 words without a single reference to a specific policy position that Trump has laid out. The border wall? No? Banning Muslims from entering the country? Uh-uh. Torturing suspected terrorists? Demanding that allies pay more for U.S. military protection? Tearing up global trade deals? Nope. Nope. Nope.
Instead, rather like a Trump speech, the endorsement trades in generalities vague enough to let readers project whatever they want onto the candidate:
“Do Americans want to continue on the path of the last seven years or forge a new direction? Do we want to continue policies that erode America’s influence and safety in the world? Do we want to continue the politics of gridlock? Do we want to continue to undercut our prosperity and limit individual opportunity? Or do we want to move in a different, more promising direction?
“The latter choice, the right choice, will only be accomplished by someone who has constructed great skyscrapers and gem-like skating rinks; started businesses, written best sellers and built brands. Tried and succeeded and sometimes failed. But who has gotten up and tried again.
The endorsement at one point goes off on an extended riff about Trump’s restoration of a skating rink in Central Park 30 years ago as the primary fact-based argument for his nomination as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate.
This is the newspaper owned by Trump’s own son-in-law -- a man Trump said he consulted closely with as he prepared a major foreign policy address to be delivered to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee last month. But the greatest accomplishment the editorial board of the Observer could point to was the construction of a 30-year-old skating rink? Even a “gem-like” one, as the endorsement described it?
Without question, Trump has inspired many voters in this election cycle. But he doesn’t seem to be inspiring even his own family.