I learned something. Indeed, I think my whole evaluation of a situation has been fairly well upended. Melania Trump has power. Actual power. Donald listens to her and she has the ability in that relationship to put her foot down. And that is probably my own fault. It might have been foolish of me to think she was just a prop in that relationship, but I feel like the information we’d had up until now had really led us all to believe that Melania was a toothless figurehead. Everything, from her cyberbullying initiative, to her all of her “duties” as first lady, have all felt very out of the way. Things to give her to keep her occupied but otherwise out of the process, unlike first ladies of the past who had more active roles in the administration. Then Mira Ricardel was ousted. Mira Ricardel is a diehard Trump loyalist who has been actively helping John Bolton initiate foreign policy to Trump’s satisfaction. Ricardel is exactly the kind of person Trump wants in his camp, and I can imagine he’s not happy about losing her. But Melania didn’t want her around, and went public with that knowledge. For Melania to be able to make that call, and then publicly announce that it WAS her call…Well that is one hell of a power play. I won’t be underestimating her again.
Melania Trump has been floating around Africa for a few days, and during her time in Cairo, Egypt, she apparently told some reporters during an interview about her many great works, and suggested that people should focus on “what I do, not what I wear.” And to that I would say…no. Sorry, but what you do isn’t significant. Your cyber bullying initiative mean literally nothing when your husband, who happens to be the president, also happens to be the biggest cyber bully in the actual world. That’s not even hyperbole. It’s an actual fact. Even her tour of Africa isn’t about the things SHE is doing. The U.S Agency for International Development, who she is there representing, does their work absent her, and has been since before she was in the White House. Her role is to be a face, which means what she chooses to wear is arguably one of the most important factors of her visit. And when she makes questionable wardrobe choices that no one on her undoubtedly substantial publicity team calls her on, then guess what? We’re both focusing on what you’re wearing, and what you’re doing, because a big part of what you’re doing is what you’re wearing. When you wear a jacket that says “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” on the back, while visiting a bunch of detained children who have been separated from their parents, that becomes more important than your non-important cyber bully project. Sad but true.
I kind of feel bad for Melania Trump. I feel like the people who should be worried about her optics aren’t doing their job. Now, realistically, no one should have needed to tell her that it was inappropriate to wear a jacket that said “I really don’t care, do u?” in big white letters on the back while visiting a detention center holding kids separated from their parents. But fashion was previously a big part of her life, and I suppose that jacket is fashionable, and perhaps this was just a blindspot. But blindspot or not, as the first lady, especially in this administration, maybe putting herself in a position where her sincerity is put into question wasn’t the best of ideas.
I get the feeling this whole “First Lady” thing is not what Melania Trump was hoping her life was going to be like. I imagine the obligations that go with the role are just more than she ever wanted or asked for in a marriage to Donald Trump. Presidential partners are expected to take up causes and be proactive in a wide variety of campaigns. And Melania doesn’t seem to want to deal with all of that. She’s not a terribly gifted public speaker, and when her first speech as First Lady was written, she was caught off guard that segments of it seemed to be plagiarized from her predecessor. And her pet cause against Cyber-Bullying has been kind of a false start since it’s inception, mostly because her husband is arguably one of the internet’s biggest cyber-trolls. And now her campaign has put out a new booklet about cyber-bullying, ostensibly written and crafted by her, but upon further inspection, other than an introductory paragraph, it’s basically word for word, graphic for graphic the same thing the FTC released in 2014. The lady just can’t seem to catch a break.
So, a young woman, Lauren Hogg, called out Melania Trump, suggesting that if she aims to combat cyber bullying, a good place to start would be at home, where Donald Trump, Jr. called her and her family “Crisis Actors”, effectively putting a target on her and her brother’s back. It’s a tragic outcome, and Don Jr. should be ashamed of himself, even though he obviously isn’t. And it really, again, brings into stark relief the irony of Melania Trump’s campaign.