We were on a business trip when I learned Tinker came from money. The plane had started bouncing around the sky and when I reached over to grab her arm, she laughed, “Isn’t this great? Like my daddy says, a day without turbulence is a day without sunshine!”
That’s when Tinker told me about her plane. As in the plane her family owned, the one her daddy flew to their mountain home for skiing and to their summer home on Martha’s Vineyard, which she called simply The Vineyard.
I wondered what Tinker would think if I told her I’d never flown, never even been to an airport, before I got this job.
I thought of Tinker as the Obamacare repeal and replace debate heated up. Alongside reports about which programs to eliminate for the poor (emergency services? maternity? prescription drugs?) there were the slick photos of Ivanka Trump and her family on the ski slopes of Aspen, reportedly trailed by a hundred Secret Service agents.
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As Ivanka skied, her unearned, controversial West Wing office vacant, the vote to cut the health-care safety net for 24 million Americans loomed.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer made it known the president had worked very hard. “He left nothing on the field.” House Speaker Paul Ryan reported, “The president gave his all in this effort. He did everything he possibly could.”
Yet for seven of the last eight weekends, the president checked out early most Fridays to hop Air Force One down to Mar-a-Lago, the exclusive country club he’s christened his Southern White House. Weekends that reportedly cost taxpayers $3 million per trip.
The White House stresses these are working weekends. There are meetings. But can you really claim a working weekend when you send the press pool to the basement while you play a couple rounds of golf?
Ironically, no one was more critical of former president Obama playing golf than Trump. There are literally dozens of tweets like this one from October 2014: “Can you believe that with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf!”
But no matter. The rabid, cult-like devotion of Trump’s supporters — people who would never be welcome inside Mar-a-Lago’s golden gates — does not waver.
Health care is a Gordian knot in its complexity and one-sixth of our economy. So I knew we were in trouble when the president said, “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”
These are words spoken by a man who has never considered deductibles or caps or the terrifying words “out of plan.”
A man who has had lifelong access to any doctor or surgeon or specialist he could ever need, his family could ever need, immediately, and without concern for cost.
A man who, like Tinker’s daddy, casually hops on his plane — the American people’s plane, Air Force One — for $3 million weekend golf trips.
Who knew health care could be so complicated? Anyone who has read the small print of a damn insurance policy or has tried to make sense of a hospital bill. And cried.
Tinker was like this. She could talk a good game, but I was the one who worried over details. I knew her daddy had gotten her the job, but I didn’t care. I felt lucky to be in her orbit. Tinker could be oblivious, but she was also charming and funny, and she was so much more confident and comfortable than I was, both in the world and in meetings with powerful men. I imagine Ivanka this way.
Summers, Tinker took her two weeks vacation plus an additional unpaid week to spend with her family on The Vineyard, and she was generous enough to invite me. Every summer. “Come on!” she would say, “Just fly out and Daddy will send the car for you. We can sail all day and party all night. And it’s free!”
As much as I wanted to go, as much as I wanted to see The Vineyard and get a peek into that life, I always politely declined. I had to work. Nothing is free. How to tell her I could not even afford the airfare.