How did Steve Bannon taunt Ivanka Trump when he really wanted to get under her skin? He called her a “staffer,” according to CNN’s summary of some of the revelations from Bob Woodward’s new book on the Trump White House that’s set to be released next week.
“You’re nothing but a fucking staffer!” Bannon screamed at Ivanka at a staff meeting, according to Woodward. “You walk around this place and act like you’re in charge, and you’re not. You’re on staff!”
“I’m not a staffer!” she shouted back. “I’ll never be a staffer. I’m the first daughter” — she really used the title, Woodward writes — “and I’m never going to be a staffer!”
The open vitriol displayed here between two senior White House employees (if they’ll pardon such a crude term) paints quite a picture of how dysfunctional a workplace the White House has been lately. But this detail also lays bare some interesting assumptions on the parts of Bannon and Ivanka. When he attacked her, she could have easily pushed back with the argument that, yes, she is a staffer, and proud of it. But instead, Ivanka accepts Bannon’s premise that there’s something wrong with the title. Why do they both consider “staffer” such an insult?
Because Donald Trump’s executive branch operates under an almost feudal system of hierarchy. Ivanka probably wanted to assert her position in the pecking order and let it be known that while staffers are disposable, she, as family, isn’t. This is curious considering all the criticism she’s gotten for being the beneficiary of blatant nepotism—shouldn’t she want to be seen as a legitimate employee rather than someone who’s only there because she got special treatment as first daughter? A normal public servant might. But Ivanka is a Trump through and through, which is to say she is unable to let anyone think, even for a minute, that she’s like other people. Under the Trump worldview, hard work, or work in the service of something other than enriching and promoting oneself, is inherently suspect, and Ivanka is above it. As annoying and frankly gross as this may be, perhaps the upside is that we can all stop pretending that Ivanka brings anything to the table beyond her name.