John Oliver on Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s So-Called “Moderating Influence”


Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are now seen as deus ex machinas of lesser evils, brought into the midst of the hellish Trump Administration through nepotism and supposedly pacifying it to merely moderately terrible ends. They’ve earned far more approval than other members of the administration — which might not mean that they’re liked by people who generally oppose Trumpism, but just hated less.

On last night’s episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver spent 20+ minutes cutting into assumptions that the president’s daughter and son-in-law are, in fact, instrumental to some illusory pacification of Donald Trump — noting that their unknowability makes anything we might think about them merely an assumption. As Oliver said of Kushner, “We shouldn’t be excited about a top White House advisor, simply because he is preferable to a man best described as ‘every dark thought humanity has ever had inhabiting the dead corpse of a Civil-War-era plantation owner, that even his fellow plantation owners called ‘a bit much.'”

“If they are the reason you are sleeping at night,” he said, “you should probably still be awake.”

In this long segment, Oliver approached both Ivanka’s and Jared’s different brands of political opacity, concluding that we really don’t know enough about these people — besides the fact that neither of them are, like their father/father-in-law, qualified — to realistically see them as great hopes. Still, as Oliver noted, their reputations benefit from a feeling that “if Trump is thinking about pressing a button labeled, ‘nuke earth,’ they will, on behalf of all of us, guide his hand towards the button labeled, ‘hey, maybe don’t.'”

If Ivanka and Jared can get Donald Trump to alter his stance about climate change or admitting refugees (instead of just convincing him to feel bad enough for chemically-attacked Syrians to drop a bomb), then sure! Credit where credit’s due. One thing Oliver didn’t emphasize is Jared/Ivanka’s alleged influence over getting Trump not to sign an anti-LGBT executive order. But, again, alleged influence. And, again, that certainly doesn’t make them heroes.

Oliver’s main question about Ivanka is whether she’s really the “moderating influence people claim.” Oliver speaks to what we do know about some of Ivanka’s efforts. For instance, despite her having brought Gore to Trump tower, Trump named Scott Pruitt — the climate change denier who’d formerly sued the EPA 13 times — to head the EPA. “Maybe that’s an example of her moderating influence,” says Oliver. “Maybe his first choice was a guy strangling a dolphin with a six pack ring.”

For Jared, meanwhile, Oliver wanted to know if his “background justifies such a gigantic White House portfolio.” (Jared is currently tasked with nothing short of finding peace in the Middle East, reforming the criminal justice system, solving the opioid epidemic, veteran care, and, you know, just some basic reforms to that small thing known as the federal government.)