Opinion by Michael D'Antonio
Updated: Tue, 12 Oct 2021 23:54:42 GMT
Editor's Note: Michael D'Antonio is the author of the book "Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success" and co-author, with Peter Eisner, of the book "High Crimes: The Corruption, Impunity, and Impeachment of Donald Trump." The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
She has his last name, for goodness sake. She sat in his chair at his first G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany. No doubt the picture pleased him, his daughter smack between British Prime Minister Theresa May and China's President Xi Jinping. In fact, she has warmed lots of important chairs without incident. With this resume, why wouldn't former President Donald Trump think Ivanka would make a terrific president of the World Bank?
As The Atlantic reported in 2019, Trump considered putting his daughter in charge of the world's main source of financial assistance for developing countries -- he may even have been quite keen. With nearly $100 billion in loan commitments this year alone, the World Bank is a global leader in the struggle against poverty. Apparently, the former president believed this was a good mission for his eldest child. He was stopped from appointing her by the intervention of Steve Mnuchin, who was then Secretary of the Treasury, according to The Intercept.
In 2019, Ivanka Trump was a 37-year-old with a bachelor's degree who, but for a brief stint with a rival real estate company, never worked for anyone other than her dad or herself. This record included, of course, her loosely defined work as a White House aide -- the role which led her to become her father's seat-warmer at the meeting of the world's 20 biggest economic powers.
Earlier that year, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim surprised official Washington by announcing his resignation. A former president of Dartmouth College, Kim is a Harvard-trained anthropologist and physician who founded a global healthcare nonprofit. He had been at the bank since 2012. Only James Wolfensohn, Eugene R. Black, and Robert McNamara, a giant historical figure who had been the US Secretary of Defense for President Kennedy and Johnson, served longer in office.
As was reported at the time of Kim's resignation, then-President Trump immediately considered his daughter for the appointment. Heidi Cruz, wife of Senator Ted Cruz, was also in the running. She had actual credentials, including relevant experience at the National Security Council and the Department of the Treasury. If he had chosen Cruz or his daughter, Trump would have been responsible for naming the first woman to the World Bank presidency.
Trump said in 2019 his daughter would be a good fit at the bank "because she's very good with numbers." Ivanka Trump said she passed on the post because she was "happy with the work" she was doing. Her main job at the time seemed to be promoting women entrepreneurs. Her signature project, a women's empowerment program, was so poorly run the Government Accountability Office couldn't even assess its performance.
Another president might scratch a candidate from an appointment list if she had run a program that defied assessment. However, her smoke-and-mirrors performance was par for the course in the Trump family. For decades, outsiders attempting to gauge the condition of Trump's business enterprises faced an impossible task. The benefit for Trump was this allowed him to say pretty much anything he wanted about his business acumen and his wealth -- even as his companies endured one bankruptcy after another. Most recently, Trump was bumped off the Forbes list of the richest 400 Americans. Forbes estimates his wealth at $2.5 billion. Number one on the list is Jeff Bezos with $201 billion, whom the former president has repeatedly attacked.
As president, Trump could compensate for his ego-bruising decline in wealth by wielding his presidential power. He did so as he gave pardons and commutations to friends such as Steve Bannon and Paul Manafort, both of whom worked in his 2016 campaign, and installed so many sycophants in high office, Washington Monthly declared he had "assembled the worst cabinet in history."
Given his record, the people around Trump had to respond to his Ivanka-for-the-World-Bank musings with real seriousness. "It came incredibly close to happening," one source told The Intercept. Mnuchin, aware the whole world was watching, reportedly talked Trump out of his impulse -- although Ivanka did still assist Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on selecting David Malpass, another controversial figure, for the World Bank presidency.
Mnuchin is also credited with persuading Trump to make a conventional choice as he named the head of the Federal Reserve and coaxing him to sign the pandemic relief bill called the CARES Act, which helped America fight the Covid-19 and endure its economic impact.
That Mnuchin had to put so much effort into coaxing Trump to do the right things and blocking his instinct to do terrible things aligns with all we know about the 45th president. From the beginning of his term to the end, chaos emanated from the White House. Though many hoped he might "pivot" toward normalcy, he never did stop making a mockery of his office.
With his sights set now on a return to office in 2024, it's no surprise we're getting new details on just how bad things were the first time around. As they tell us how bad it really was, insiders are doing their best to warn against going back there.