There is no way to avoid sounding like a Trump supporter with this column. I’ve already been accused of going over to the dark side by defending the Donald against accusations that he wanted to imprison women who had abortions and that he cheered on a campaign manager prone to domestic violence. No matter how many times I’ve made fun of his hair, his fish lips, his lack of tact and the fact that Dora the Explorer has a more nuanced take on immigration than he does, people still resent the fact that I could find any redeeming qualities in the man who has been compared to Hitler (lazy thinkers,) Mussolini (a little closer, but no cigar) or Castro (they were probably confusing him with Bernie.)
And here I am again, giving props to the GOP front-whiner. Honestly, though, this has less to do with one New York City billionaire than the fact that people should not be ridiculed, criticized or even questioned about their devotion to their fathers.
Perhaps I should have saved this column for Father’s Day, but the reaction I got when I posted something on Facebook about how classy, articulate, intelligent and genuinely nice Trump’s kids were made me realize I should strike while the iron was hot.
On Tuesday night, CNN held a town hall with the Trump family, who instead of coming across as evil ended up resembling the Osmonds.
First off, all of Trump’s children look like him. They inherited the O-shaped mouths that look as if that part of their faces stopped growing around the age of 4. This is not to say that they are unattractive. Quite the contrary. Trump’s children have an amazing gene pool, with some exceptional maternal DNA, more than compensating for the Mouth.
They also seem to really like each other, even though if they were going to draw blood and act like extras in “Game of Thrones” they’d do it backstage and not in front of the vast CNN viewing audience (why yes you did detect sarcasm there, you sharp thing you.)
But what really struck me about the Donald’s children was that they genuinely seem to love their father. Some of my Facebook friends would take issue with that statement, going so far as to calling the town hall a dog-and-pony show, but I really got the impression that this family was not simply a better-educated, cleaner version of the Kardashians. Ivanka, especially, showed a profound affection and respect for Trump, and said the kind of things that aren’t scripted, or at least if they are, reflect some version of the truth.
After viewing the show, I posted this on my Facebook page:
“A parent, mother or father, is best judged by the quality of their children, their character, work ethic, moral code, and the bond that unites them. Parents should be neither congratulated on, or blamed for, their sons and daughters. At least not entirely. But the way a child looks at a parent is a strong barometer of the kind of person that parent really is, even with strangers. I watched the CNN town hall tonight with Donald Trump’s family. I could vote for the man reflected in his children’s voices. Where is that man and when will he decide to start campaigning?”
It was intended to simply be a complimentary observation about the fact that Trump raised some great children, and that this was surprising given his campaign persona and the type of reaction he has elicited from his supporters. It was not my Good Housekeeping seal of approval of the man, much less his politics. But I did think he was entitled to some props for his obvious parenting skills.
The reaction surprised me. A number of my friends suggested that this was all a script designed to make Daddy Donald look more palatable, and do some triage on his damaged image. Others went so far as to say that Donald had nothing at all to do with his kids’ accomplishments and that they were all raised by their mothers and their boarding school teachers. And then there was the reverse snobbery along the lines of, “Sure, it’s easy to turn out well when your paterfamilias has paterfa-millions.”
All of this got me thinking about my own father. He was a very flawed character, and a very great man. I’ve written in the past that he had a difficult childhood, clawed his way to an education and professional glory, participated in the history of the civil rights movement in Mississippi, and was named a “legend of the Philadelphia Bar” after his premature death at 43. I am as proud of him as Ivanka is of her father.
And yet I’m fully aware that Ted Flowers had demons, and troubles, and was far from perfect. I am quite sure that Trump’s children are clear-eyed about him as well, and while they might forgive, they do not entirely forget.
But no one should take a child to task, even an adult one, for admiring the man who gave her opportunity, guidance, love and moxie. I’m sure Chelsea Clinton would agree.
I won’t be voting for Trump. But I resent those who think that because they hate the man, so should his children. I also resent the attitude that presumes the rich are not as real as the rest of us.
Poverty can sometimes create character, but there are more than enough poor people out there with decrepit souls. Wealth can sometimes debase character, but there are some who are as virtuous as they are affluent. The Bernification of our public discourse, this ridiculous class warfare, is as bad as the elitism of the Brie and Chablis crowd.
This father may not be presidential material but it seems that, at least for Eric, Don Jr., Ivanka, Tiffany and Baron, he actually does know best.
Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.