On Wednesday morning, news broke that President Donald Trump has reportedly decided to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.
The Trump administration’s Paris decision has been marked by months of waffling and missed deadlines, with the administration reportedly breaking into factions over whether the United States should remain in the agreement or withdraw. Now, like clockwork, anonymous sources are rushing to clarify that Ivanka Trump, First Daughter and senior White House adviser, has always been firmly in the “remain” camp.
I am told the pressure on @POTUS from Ivanka to stay in Paris has been intense.
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) May 31, 2017
Swan, who broke the Paris news for Axios, was not the only reporter to mention Ivanka had tried to stop her father from withdrawing from the agreement. On Tuesday night, the New York Times also cited an “administration official” who said Ivanka had spent the past several weeks making sure her father heard from both sides in the Paris debate. That account dovetails nicely with other, anonymously-sourced accounts that paint Ivanka Trump as her father’s “climate czar,” acting as a moderating force against the anti-environment portions of the Trump administration, like EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Despite holding an official position within the White House and attending numerous public events in the last several months, however, Ivanka has never once spoken publicly in support of the Paris agreement or climate action.
It’s possible Ivanka Trump really does care about climate change, really has been lobbying her father to stay in the Paris agreement, and simply just didn’t wield enough influence to affect the outcome of this particular policy decision. It’s also possible Ivanka Trump doesn’t care about climate change, didn’t wield any particular influence at all, and has been relying on anonymously-sourced reports that associate her with popular, progressive policies merely as a kind of public relations stunt meant to separate her image from that of her father or his administration.
Either way, one thing is for sure: if Trump chooses to officially withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement — an outcome that seems exceedingly likely at this point — then Ivanka failed.
If the New York Times account is true, and Ivanka sincerely endeavored to ensure her father heard every side of the Paris debate, then she failed to convey just how overwhelming support for the deal is — from the business community, from the international community, and from American voters. Fossil fuel companies like Exxon, Shell, and BP support the agreement. George Shultz, Secretary of State under President Reagan, wrote in the New York Times that abandoning the deal would undercut America’s diplomatic relations around the globe. Technology giants like Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google all support remaining in the deal. And American voters, by a 5 to 1 margin, believe the United States should remain in the Paris agreement.
If nothing else, that should give one pause when considering whether Ivanka can really be a successful moderating influence on her father’s extreme policies. If she can’t even convince him to support an extremely popular policy, how could she tip the scales on more polarizing topics, like women’s health care?
In a White House seemingly defined by illogicality, it’s comforting to imagine there is some sort of level-headed, moderating presence acting as a check on the Trump administration’s baser instincts. And Ivanka has done a lot to position herself as that moderating influence, through anonymously-sourced stories that portray her as sympathetic to progressive causes like climate change, LGBTQ rights, and women’s equality.
In January and early February, for example, sources identified only as being “close to Kushner and Ivanka Trump” told Politico that the couple had worked to ensure Obama-era protections for LGBTQ workers remained untouched by the Trump administration. But those stories never actually translate to substantive policies; months after the Politico story, the White House rolled back federal protections for transgender students.
Ivanka, who is also supposedly a champion for women’s equality and the rights of working women, has remained silent on the Trump administration’s paid parental leave plan, which experts falls woefully short of affording mothers — and fathers — the kind of time they need to recover after beginning a family.
Climate change — and more specifically, the Paris agreement — follows a similar narrative. Ivanka earned breathless coverage in early December for a series of meeting with high-profile climate activists Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio. But when Trump issued his executive order gutting U.S. climate policies — or when the U.S. refused to sign a statement affirming its climate goals at the G7 Summit last week — Ivanka was noticeably silent.
That disconnect means Ivanka is either incapable of acting as a moderating influence on her father, or unwilling. Regardless, it’s time to stop giving her credit for accomplishing nothing.