President Donald Trump blasted Nordstrom Department Store’s decision early this month to drop daughter Ivanka Trump Kushner’s clothing and shoe items from its inventory. The earth shook as the new chief executive rushed to his daughter’s defense and fired off a tweet: “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by Nordstrom. She is a great person-always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!”
The pages of presidential history document numerous other examples of president’s taking up for their daughters. The best example occurred in 1950 when Washington Post music critic Paul Hume reviewed Margaret Truman’s singing performance at Constitution Hall.
The critic groaned, “Miss Truman is a unique phenomenon with a pleasant voice of little size and fair quality ... she cannot sing well (and) has not improved in the years we have heard her (and) still cannot sing with anything approaching professional finish.”
Within 12 hours, feisty President Harry Truman wrote Hume a combative letter that drew a line across Pennsylvania Avenue: “Someday I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for your black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below.” He called the 27-year-old music critic “a frustrated old man.”
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Fifty years earlier, President Theodore Roosevelt, who always acted, according to the British ambassador, “like a six year old,” was asked about his free-spirited teen-age daughter, Alice, who had been seen on the White House roof smoking cigarettes. Other times, Alice took potshots at telephone and telegraph poles in the nation’s capital.
Roosevelt sighed and remarked, “I can either be president or manage Alice. I cannot possibly do both.” Boisterous Alice lived into her ninth decade, presiding over Washington from a sofa which featured a pillow proudly proclaiming, “If you cannot say something good about someone, come sit beside me.”
More recently, President John F. Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline, was more tranquil. She rode around the White House yard on a pony named Macaroni. By the way, Theodore Roosevelt’s sons placed their pet pony on the White House elevator and sent it zooming to the top floor of the mansion.
Susan Ford persuaded President Gerald Ford to allow her classmates to transform the East Room into a dance floor for her high school prom. She recalled, “The Secret Service would not allow my guests to spike the punch.”
President George W. Bush’s twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna, had more talent in that area, being busted for underage drinking during their father’s first term. And President Barack Obama had to endure photos of his teen daughter twerking.
Presidents defend and adapt to their daughters, and all fathers expect nothing less – even in the era of the Obama twerk and the Trump tweet.
Dr. Eddie Lee, professor of history at Winthrop University, is mayor of the city of York.