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At the White House, it’s all about loving your family

Donald Trump has a sense of insecurity and has a fragile ego as large as the Oval Office. This has often led to oustings in his administration

columns Updated: Dec 09, 2017 09:33 IST
US President Donald Trump, flanked by an empty chair marked for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who chose not to meet with Trump, speaks with reporters at the White House, Washington, November 28, 2017
US President Donald Trump, flanked by an empty chair marked for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who chose not to meet with Trump, speaks with reporters at the White House, Washington, November 28, 2017(REUTERS)

This is a tale of two visits, across a pair of Indian cities, over the past couple of months. In October, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson came visiting and was hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, among a chain of appointments in New Delhi. He spoke of the “broader Indo-Pacific region”, a phrase later appropriated by US President Donald Trump during his nation-hopping tour of Asia last month.

If Trump was paying attention to Tillerson’s trip, that wasn’t quite reflected in his public pronouncements. There may have been another sojourn to Indian shores that was occupying his mindspace: That of White House special adviser, and more importantly, First Daughter Ivanka Trump’s bonhomie in Hyderabad.

In fact, as Trump and Modi met in Manila, the White House press secretary ensured the readout included how the prime minister looked “forward to hosting the United States delegation to the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Summit, showcasing innovation and collaboration between India and the United States.”

As Ivanka Trump sashayed through the Hyderabad summit, her father was certainly tracking her movements. A series of tweets and retweets appeared on his Twitter feed, even as the White House press secretary, in another readout, gushed over how the “leaders expressed satisfaction” over the meet.

Modi, of course, chatted with Ivanka as she was feted at the tech fest to the chagrin of some, and that may actually be a pragmatic course of action for New Delhi.

Less than a year since the Trump administration came into existence, senior members have changed frequently. Initial interlocutors like original national security advisor General (retd) Michael Flynn, now under indictment, were jettisoned early, the first among a series of departures.

Tillerson, dubbed TRex, could soon be another to join the dinosaurs forced into extinction. While the White House has so far maintained he remains the boss of Foggy Bottom, such pronouncements over others, prior to their exits, don’t portend particularly kindly for his future. Especially since he has offended Trump kin, in this case, son-in-law Jared Kushner, apparently over America’s policy in West Asia, including this week’s decision on shifting the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

As events over this year have shown, no Trump appointee is indispensable. Though that may well exclude the Tweeter-in-chief’s children and his family. Trump is someone with a sense of insecurity, made evident by his self-serving statements as president. With a fragile ego as large as the Oval Office, it’s easy for others to trespass upon it. That often leads to their ousting. But those tied to him with filial strands may be fire-proof. So, even if Tillerson is history next month, Ivanka will endure.

The BJP may be criticising one dynasty, but there’s definitely another that its government at the Centre needs to continue to cultivate. And that’s simply because US’ administration is now a family enterprise.

Anirudh Bhattacharyya is a Toronto-based commentator on American affairs

The views expressed are personal