July 12, 2017
"Donald Trump Jr. is an idiot," blared the headline from the editorial in the Murdoch-owned New York Post on Tuesday night, its half-hearted effort to defend the elder son of the U.S. president against the allegations of potential illegal collusion with a foreign government during the 2016 election.
It's a hard week when your supposed allies determine that best defense for your actions is a thorough, public accounting of your own bullish stupidity and immaturity, like when your father's own aides refer to you as "an honest kid" at the ripe old age of 39.
But Don Jr., as he's commonly known, is used to being a bit of a fuck-up, which can't be easy for the Ivy League-educated eldest son of a peevish, sexist real-estate-branding scion who, despite the protestations of Don Jr.'s younger sister, is rather far from being a feminist.
And, though the president was himself the younger, favored son to a popular but not-destined-to-run-the-family-business older brother (who was widely considered less bright than their older sister, who is a federal judge), the best defense he could muster for his eldest son after three days of increasingly ugly headlines was a statement, read by his press secretary, that Don Jr. was a "high quality person."
The only more hurtful defense might've been that the president doesn't expect his eldest son to be as smart as Ivanka. But one suspects that Don Jr. already knows that.
For instance, despite his father's well-known aversion to drinking alcohol, reportedly in response to the alcoholism that took his older brother's life, Don Jr.'s admitted to being a bit of a partier during his college days (though he said in the same 2004 interview that he quit drinking entirely around 2002). He took it to the next level after graduation by moving to Aspen—the site of the incident that ended his parents' marriage—for a year. Ivanka, by comparison, balanced a modeling career with getting straight-As and never missing class in high school and turned down an opportunity to work for Anna Wintour after college to take an entry-level job at a rival real-estate-development firm, just to prove that she was more than Trump's daughter.
And, for Don Jr., following in his father's footsteps included reportedly selling access to his own marriage proposal—at a mall in New Jersey, no less—to the press in exchange for a free $100,000 engagement ring. Ivanka … started her own fine jewelry collection outside the auspices of the family company.
Even people who do business with the Trump Organization tend to finger Ivanka as the mover and shaker among the siblings, not Don Jr. or Eric. and, of course, it was Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner who made the move to D.C. with their father, who left the brothers in charge of the company but refused to make it a blind trust despite the potential political risks to his presidency.
Now, it's quite common to prefer the eldest or oldest child be a boy, even in modern-day America; it was even more so when the president was born. And Trump reportedly not only encouraged his children to be competitive, he actively competed with them: Eric and Ivanka both said in a 2004 interview that their father couldn't even bear to be beaten down a ski slope by his tween children, and would try and push them over or snag them with his ski poles in order to "win."
Being one of Donald Trump's children could not have been easy; being the eldest son who displayed his uncle's love of a good party and somewhat less than the innate intelligence of his younger sister must have been all but unbearable at times, no matter how close the siblings are to one another and their parents. Every family has its dysfunction, almost none of them have to account to the tabloids for it, and fewer still get to see it play out on the front pages of the nation's papers.
"A high quality person"? Sure, maybe, by standards of the Trump family. But all the evidence—and 14 seasons of The Apprentice, including the celebrity editions, is a lot of evidence—suggests that the president isn't in the game for high-quality people as much as he's looking for barracudas. Ivanka will eat your face without a hair coming out of place or a 2-point spike in her blood pressure. Don Jr. got one email from a schlubby publicist with a collection of totally bonkers hats and was all like, "I love it." Of course he did. He thought he was going to win his dad's approval, and beat Ivanka down the slope.