Donald, let me ask, in private, man to man: Is this what you wanted? The phones in the White House are fascinating, certainly. The new curtains are a great choice. But the hand towels on Air Force One are not soft enough. (You know what they say: The hand towels on Air Force One always look softer from the other side.) And already the press has spread the scurrilous rumor that you possess a bathrobe. Instead of being able to deny this in your customary manner, you had to send out a shouting man who does not know what sort of suit to wear and make him tell the world: “I don’t think the President wears a bathrobe, and definitely doesn’t own one.”
Think of your brand, Donald.
There are many things America does not know about you. Anything that might appear in your tax returns. Whether you have figured out the difference between a strong and a weak dollar. Why you are always so bewilderingly kind to Vladimir Putin in your public remarks. Things like that.
But we know for a fact that you are a man who cares about his brand. Not just your own brand, but Ivanka Trump’s and Melania “Melania” Trump’s. That is why this week has surely been devastating. First, the lawsuit filed by an attorney for Melania Trump against the Daily Mail complaining of the loss of a “unique, once in a lifetime opportunity” to “launch a broad-based commercial brand” during her husband’s “multi-year term during which plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world.” (The lawsuit added: “These product categories would have included, among other things, apparel accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance.”) Now, the news about Nordstrom, which had the temerity to withdraw Ivanka’s products from its stores for “low sales.”
You can make the Japanese prime minister stay in Mar-a-Lago when he comes to visit, sure. But there are only so many prime ministers of Japan. You can even make it seem like a good idea for the Defense Department to rent space in Trump Tower. But how many Defense Departments are there?
Besides, people get very upset when you do these things. They turn red in the face and start shouting about ethics.
So I ask, again: Is this what you wanted?
Your life before was a simple one full of simple pleasures: tweeting angrily at brands. Tweeting in general. Appearing on television and saying things, anything at all, whatever came into your mind, really. Watching “Saturday Night Live.” Appearing on “Saturday Night Live.” Staying in Trump-branded properties. Complimenting Trump brands. Complaining about what a bad job the president was doing. Waking up at, like, 10-ish. Living in a place that was not Washington, a fetid swamp. Talking to your sons about business. Urging people to buy and stores to stock your daughter Ivanka’s really quite nice-looking shoes.
Your current job prevents you from doing any of those things. They are conflicts of interest, or will create international incidents, or maybe both!
Just Thursday, when Kellyanne Conway went on “Fox and Friends” to tell everyone, “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff! … I’m going to give it a free commercial here, go buy it today!” not only was that an ethics violation, but — I am pretty sure it hurt the brand. As Twitter has hastened to point out, people do not like to get fashion advice from someone whose idea of fashion is dressing up as an elegant nutcracker.
Even worse, when you took to Twitter to say that Ivanka was always telling you to do the right thing (“Terrible!”) and urged Nordstrom to stock her brand, it actually didn’t bother its stock at all.
And it will be like this for the next four to eight years. YEARS!
Over those years, everything you do will impact your brand. And Ivanka’s.
Some people say that having you as president is doing serious damage to America’s brand. But what do you care about America’s brand? You have not been giving years of your blood and tears and tanner-tinted sweat to build America’s brand. You might not even have been giving your tax dollars to build America’s brand. Honestly, we still have no idea. But — Trump — that is a brand name that will endure. It is on boardwalks and board games and buildings, now sadly ringed with little clumps of protesters.
When asked “What do you care about more, America or the Trump brand?” most people would have a simple answer. But that is what we always liked about you. You are not most people. So think carefully when you answer. Would you rather stay in a Trump-branded property and get to tweet all day long about how wonderful Ivanka Trump’s products are, or be president of the United States?
Honestly, can you look yourself in the eye and say, every day, that you are doing what you love?
Teddy Roosevelt once famously said of his daughter, “I can be president of the United States — or — I can attend to Alice. I cannot possibly do both!” Now, you must say, with him, “I can be president, or I can effectively promote my daughter’s branded merchandise.” You should not have to do both.