Donald Trump has a long list of those against whom he holds a grudge, and often marches through a partial recitation of it at campaign events. But his other list, of those he holds in the highest regard, has one name at the top: Ivanka Trump.
At every stop, he introduces his daughter as smart, beautiful, and a wonderful person. And in the portion of an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity that aired on Wednesday night, he suggested that she’s also his top adviser, on “that whole subject” of “women's health and women” and beyond that whole subject, too.
“Is there anyone close to you that you count on the most?” Hannity asked.
“I have some very smart people in my organization and my children are very smart,” he answered. “You know Ivanka, how smart, and she's got a great sense of...”
Hannity interrupted to mention some of Trump’s other offspring: “I know Eric, I know Don...”
But Trump steered him back to the one he had in mind: “Ivanka came to me the other day; it was very interesting. You know with this whole thing with Megyn Kelly”—Hannity’s Fox colleague, who as a moderator of last week’s first GOP presidential debate confronted him about having “called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.”
“In theory, it's not a big deal,” Trump said of what he saw as Kelly’s attack on him. But it was Ivanka, he said, who told him he needed to clarify how he does see women.
“Ivanka said, ‘Dad, you love women, you cherish women.’ She said that; she used the word 'cherish.'” So Trump used it, too.
“She said, 'You respect women. You have so many women working for you, probably more women executives than male executives.’ She said, ‘Dad, you've got to let people know how much you adore women and how you'll take care of them.'”
To cherish, to adore, to take care of? Those sound more like wedding vows than campaign promises, but Trump thinks he stacks up quite favorably on the woman front, especially when compared to the rival he goes after the most frequently and ferociously, Jeb Bush.
“And right after she said that,” Trump continued, “Jeb Bush came out with that horrible statement where essentially, he's not going to take care of women's health issues.” Bush later said that he was talking about cutting federal funding to Planned Parenthood, the country’s leading abortion provider, and putting that money into other health care services for women.
But like Hillary Clinton and other Democrats, Trump jumped on the mistake, and gladly seized on it as an antidote to the charge that he sees women as pigs and dogs: “And I said, ‘Wow, that's incredible, that's a really stupid statement to make,’ and Ivanka is so much into that whole issue of women's health and women, and she's my guide on that whole subject, but she understands how I feel about it.”
At another point in the interview, Trump questioned how Caroline Kennedy got her job as ambassador to Japan, saying all she had to do was tell President Obama that she needed something to do. But Kennedy is a nice person, Trump told Hannity. And he knows this, he said, because Ivanka told him.
“Anybody that Ivanka likes, I like.”
So presumably, his guide on women's issues likes the part of Planned Parenthood that "serves a good function," the one he told Hannity in the first portion of the interview, which aired on Tuesday night, was worth protecting:
OK, so look, look. Let's say there's two Planned Parenthoods, in a way. You have it as an abortion clinic. Now, that's actually a fairly small part of what they do, but it's a brutal part, and I'm totally against it and I wouldn't do that. They also, however, service women.
Here, Trump was echoing the PP talking point that abortion is a “fairly small part” of what its clinics do, though other abortion opponents challenge the way PP arrives at the figure that only 3 percent of its services involve abortion.
“We have to look at the positives also for Planned Parenthood,” he said, though again, most opponents question whether the organization itself does any mammograms at all, or only does referrals. As Michelle Malkin characterized PP’s response to a series of sting videos in a recent piece in National Review, “Quick, hide behind the imaginary mammogram machine.”
That’s not the only way in which Trump continues to woo conservatives by taking on some of the precepts they hold most dear, either.
In his interview with Hannity, Trump also argued that he doesn’t really believe in a flat tax, and doesn’t really think we need the Keystone pipeline. Proving that yes, there is such a thing as moderate bombast, he certainly handed new fodder to his rival Carly Fiorina, who suggests that he isn’t really a Republican, and the conservative columnist George Will, who says he ought to be summarily rejected by the right-thinking and right-leaning.
Meanwhile, however, if it’s with his daughter’s help that he’s winning their hearts by disagreeing with them, then Ivanka really is, as he frequently says, a very, very smart woman. She’s certainly the most influential daughter/strategist since Al Gore’s paid advisers groused that Karenna Gore held way too much sway over her father. And she might be an argument that those advisers aren’t as necessary as they’d like to think.