It is obvious that President Trump’s family adds a special dimension to his presidency. It adds an extra degree of difficulty to his struggle to function effectively giving the impression of a White House under siege by an ungrateful left wing media and Clinton supporters and sore losers.
It is also a fact that the President’s children are unpaid senior advisors with massive power and yet they seem to have come onstage rather than being discreetly offstage to start causing the president some damage.
The issues are wide ranging, from commercial deals in the making by the Trump family and his in- laws to the latest hot potato of Russian involvement in the last Presidential election and meetings with shadowy Russian officials which are becoming increasingly hard to explain or justify as the President tried to do at length when he was the guest of honour at the French Bastille Day events in Paris.
His longest press statements concerned his eldest son and namesake. It is the escapades, however innocent, of Donald Trump Jr. with his meetings with Russian officials, whose number at the meeting keeps changing, that are causing the most damage despite the fact that in his father’s eyes, Junior may well be a “high quality” individual.
But both men, and more in the Trump family, are in a heap of trouble with the investigations into the on-going investigations between the Trump Presidential campaign and the Russian government and its purported agents. This drama, with its echoes of Watergate, will go on for some time, at least until the special counsel, Robert Mueller, renders his verdict on what transpired in the 2016 presidential election; the Russian interference and any collusion by the Trump organisation and the Russians.
Other headaches in the making are dealings with other governments that are tinged with commercial ties with the Trump organisation, from patents granted by the Chinese to discussions of real estate deals in other countries to Ivanka’s shoe manufacturing operations.
Dealings at the government-to-government level are also tinged with family connections. Son-in-law Jared Kushner has an immense portfolio, from China to the Middle East to Mexico to reinventing government technology operations. In a gesture that caused raised eyebrows, Ivanka Trump took the President’s seat at a session of the G20 meeting in Hamburg.
The underlying issue is two-fold: unlike all his 44 predecessors, Trump has never held political office or military rank. He is not a creature of government — and that is one of his great appeals and popular assetsDr. Mohamed Ramady
Glimpses of the past
No other relatives of other presidents have acted in this way, with its implicit rights of family governance. For those that point out that other US Presidents employed relatives, John F Kennedy’s brother wielded immense official authority, but the fact remains that he was a member of the cabinet as attorney-general, duly confirmed by the Senate after due process.
The underlying issue is two-fold: unlike all his 44 predecessors, Trump has never held political office or military rank. He is not a creature of government — and that is one of his great appeals and popular assets, as both he and President Macron seemed to have struck it off well, as they see themselves as being anti-establishment and succeeded to their respective presidency despite establishment opposition.
But President Trump is not conversant in the culture of government, and that is one of his greatest weaknesses, as history has shown that despite immense power, individuals cannot in the long run face down all opposition to their one man rule.
Neither Trump nor his immediate family have any idea what it takes to pass major legislation, such as repealing Obamacare, or any strategic sense of how to mange alternatives without alienating both supporters and opponents in equal measure.
Trump is CEO in his Oval Office and that is the way this transactional President feels most comfortable and wants to be remembered. His bloodlines and in laws, it seems, exercise ministerial power without official confirmations.
And while he is enraged in being so enmeshed in a growing stain of scandal that threatens his very presidency, he appears stubbornly incapable of appreciating the office of the presidency and the norms that must be followed to safeguard its integrity if a president is to succeed.
Attacks on his family are simply fake news by a media that has not accepted his presidency, and it is no accident that he wrestled an imaginary CNN type figure at the ringside.
However, the White House is not a business nor a reality TV show where some of the contestants are fired for whatever reason the presiding judging family members feel is appropriate. As long as he treats it that way, he will keep making mistakes.
That’s why CEO Trump seems to be in trouble and going on lavish foreign visits is not going to remove the problems facing him. In coming under domestic pressure and criticism of his immediate and extended family, the President can either listen to more sage advice and shorn some of these family powers or draw in and support them more , whatever it takes.
Knowing his temperament and his loyalty to those who are most loyal to him, his final decision is not difficult to guess.
Dr. Mohamed Ramady is an energy economist and geo political expert on the GCC and former Professor at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.