You would be forgiven for wondering why the Ivanka Trump coffee date auction wasn't a ludicrous enough idea to get squashed before it ever became a reality. It's been a busy few weeks: Donald Trump's cabinet picks defy reality; Russian intelligence has managed to interfere with a presidential election; people are walking into pizza joints with guns because of an idiotic conspiracy theory; and the president-elect is bringing washed-up reality star Omarosa onto his transition team. With this kind of decision-making becoming the norm—even before the Orange Emperor's gaudy helicopter lands on the south lawn—it's difficult to pinpoint one single instance of rampant nepotism, cronyism, and narcissism that stands out among the rest.
In fact, it's possible that you didn't even hear about the Ivanka Trump coffee auction in the first place. If you're one of the lucky ones who didn't, here's a brief synopsis: Ivanka Trump, the president-elect's eldest daughter, auctioned off an exclusive coffee date with herself to the highest bidder via CharityBuzz, a site that allows people to "bid on amazing celebrity, travel, and sports auctions." Normally, CharityBuzz auctions consist of meet-and-greets with TV and film stars, autographed memorabilia from famous athletes, and exclusive tickets to sold-out concerts. But given that Trump has allowed Ivanka to play an outsized role in his transition team, she's as much a political figure as she is a celebrity. This makes Ivanka's coffee auction an ethical problem, as no other president has allowed his inner circle to auction off their time to the highest bidder so publicly.
Make no mistake: This is not normal. President Barack Obama's administration banned the first family from seeking charitable donations personally, and only offered up auction items for others to use. The Obamas never personally offered up their time at auction. Nor have other presidential administrations. Up until Trump's victory, the notion of using the White House for personal gain—even in the name of charity—was an unquestionable no-no. But then again, Ivanka did use a meeting with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to pitch her bracelets. What she was doing in this meeting in the first place is still anyone's guess, as there are federal anti-nepotism laws in place that typically prevent this kind of thing from happening.
But this glaring ethical lapse isn't the scariest part of Ivanka's coffee date snafu. Nor are the other Trump campaign finance violations that arose during his campaign. The real issue is that neither Donald nor his family have any understanding of how ethics work once a campaign is won. There are certain practices—let alone laws—that govern the behavior of elected officials. There's no room for "learning on the job" or using your reality show negotiating skills to redraw the boundaries of the liberal western order. One does not simply "negotiate" the nation's stance on Taiwan in order to look like a grandstanding tough guy. But this is the reality we now live in. Our president has failed to draw a line between his family and his new job. He's refused to draw a line between his business and his administration. And, worse than anything else, he's incapable of drawing a line between intelligence and reality show hucksterism, which is the most dangerous ineptitude of them all.