Emily Jane Fox
A group of young boys on bicycles stopped in their tracks outside of a pizza shop as Ivanka Trump drove by in a tan S.U.V., in the middle of a flashing motorcade on her trip to Germany in her new role.
Throngs of police officers and Secret Service officers wove through the 2,711 concrete rectangles arranged in a grid outside of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Through each pillar, officers were hurrying the scores of smartphone-wielding revelers and members of the international press away as they buffered Trump to walk through.
A handful of blond teenage girls shrieked when they caught a picture of her on their phones as she entered the memorial.
All across the city she was being met with the kind of curiosity befitting a Kardashian.
Whatever else can be said about Ivanka Trump, she is a strange sort of American celebrity. It was her first official trip abroad with her new, Hydra-headed roles as First Daughter and assistant to the president on behalf of her father’s administration, and consummate D.C. power-couple-better-half.
Then there was the deeper question of whether she was her father’s loyal defender, or somehow, behind the scenes, a positive force, and whether she could be both.
She’d been invited to the event by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as precise a polar-opposite world leader to her father as can be imagined.
During the campaign, Trump was harshly critical of her, and notoriously didn’t shake her hand at an Oval Office photo op, though now Trump says he simply did not hear her request for a handshake. During that visit, Merkel and Ivanka held a meeting on how to advance female entrepreneurs, and Merkel clearly saw her as a possibly useful emissary.
VIDEO: Ivanka Trump, the First Daughter
Ivanka told me after the panel that since her flight took off at six P.M. on Tuesday evening—too early for her to fall asleep—she ended up getting about three hours’ rest. She was losing her voice, too, which momentarily made her second-guess whether it was worth the trip at all. “It is certainly sultry,” she said of her voice, in a full husk.
The most immediate hurdle for Trump once she landed Berlin (in a shiny gold pleated skirt and every butter-blonde strand of her hair in place) was holding her own next to women of world-class accomplishment, like Merkel, I.M.F. director Christine Lagarde, and the other delegates on stage with her Tuesday afternoon. She performed admirably, if a bit tensely, spouting off statistics about how women are disadvantaged when it comes to access to capital, paid less, treated differently, and discussed the ways in which to solve these problems.
But where Ivanka Trump is involved, so, too, is her father. There was no way these panels wouldn’t be used to prosecute the question of what policies and attitudes, exactly, the president’s daughter is representing. There were hisses and groans as Ivanka said that her father had been supportive of women all the way through the Republican primary race and the general election. The reaction was so loud that the moderator had to pause the discussion. And when she offered her do-you-want-to-believe-me-or-your-own-eyes response that she had “heard the criticism from the media that’s been perpetuated,” the crowd broke into laughter. (Twenty minutes earlier, the group had been reminded twice that they needed to stand when the Netherlands’ Queen Maxima entered the room in order to give proper respect.)
Meeting journalists privately afterward, she was asked about the crowd’s reaction and whether or not she felt the moderator was tough on her.
“I’m used to it,” she said, much more comfortably than on stage. “It’s fine.” She then launched into a defense, which she had made more subtly minutes before, that people should be able to have dialogues with one another even if they have different viewpoints, and that everyone should feel comfortable candidly expressing themselves without being ostracized. It’s as close to a cri de coeur as the president’s daughter will deliver nowadays, and the sort of argument that her father, a believer in black-and-white winners and losers, would rail against.
It also shows just how stuck Ivanka is in her own loop. She is only on this stage because of her father—but defending her father, as Sean Spicer has found, is a difficult job. Still, she’s not prepared to go off script, in any of her roles.
“When you have a voice and a seat at the table, you have to be strategic,” she said on Tuesday. Her sultry voice sounded hoarse.