24 June 2018



Up until last week, I felt badly for Melania Trump when she was mocked or criticized. Sure, it can fairly be argued that she knew what she was getting into when she married The Donald, that she may have had incentives other than storybook romantic love, and that she has reaped the expected financial benefits from the union. But that stuff, I thought, did not make her a bad person.  I even gave her a mulligan when she wore six-inch stilettos on her trip to visit hurricane victims.

And the fact that her husband is a narcissistic, lying asshole almost makes her worthy of sympathy.

A recent NPR interview program featured a Vanity Fair author who wrote a serious book about the Trumps. The writer described Melania as intelligent and fiercely independent: she does only what she wants to do. Taken by itself, an admirable quality.

Unlike her predecessor, for the first year of her position as First Lady, Melania chose to be absolutely silent on  political issues. Fair enough. But when her husband was roundly criticized for his decision to use children as hostages in his nativist anti-immigration campaign, Melania for the first time revealed what was inside the shell. 

I recognize she doesn't control her husband, but she was a mother who had claimed every advantage for her child, (much of which was at the expense of U.S. taxpayers,) and while I did not expect her publicly to criticize the cruel Trump-Sessions policy, the least she could have done was to continue her sphinx-like public silence on political issues.

Instead, we got this sequence of events:

On June 14, Jeff Sessions publicly quoted a Bible passage in support of the President's child-separation policy. The quote had formerly been employed in opposition to those who argued for the abolition of slavery. It was from Romans 13, and it commanded all persons to "obey the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes."

On June 17, First Lady Melania Trump issued a public statement on the child-separation policy.  It brought to mind her husband's "balanced" statement that there were "good people on both sides" of the white supremacists' Charlottesville riots. Melania said while the country should "govern with a heart," she believed "we need to be a country that follows all laws."

This from an immigrant mom, who used her status not only to protect every aspect of her child's emotional comfort, but to bring her parents into the United States under a "chain migration" policy denigrated by her husband. Compare this, please, to the statement issued by former First Lady Laura Bush, endorsed by former First Lady Michelle Obama. Laura Bush did not equivocate: she called the Trump policy "cruel" and "inhuman."

Five days after Melania Trump issued her offensive statement, the public opposition to the Trump policy was so great, the "I-never-back-down" President was forced to fold. (Of course, he did so in a classic Trumpian manner that still leaves 2,000 children separated from their parents with no effective program to re-unite them, and no clear policy going forward.)

In the midst of the public outrage, Melania Trump made a carefully staged visit to a facility where unaccompanied immigrant minors were confined. Only sixty-five kids were maintained there, and less than ten of them had been separated from their parents by Trump's Zero Tolerance policy. The video of the visit showed her scripted interview with the institution Director, in which she thanked the keepers for doing good work, and then inquired about the welfare of his inmates.

The Orwellian Doublespeak video could have been titled "1984 in 2018, Produced by Kellyanne Conway."

And of course, the dominant feature of Mrs. Trump's visit was her attire. While she never before had appeared in public wearing anything costing fewer than four figures to the left of the decimal point, for this visit the First Lady donned a $39.00 (retail) coat bearing the printed message, "I DON'T REALLY CARE, DO U?" She wore it boarding the plane to visit the facility where the children were kept, and the press went nuts over the insulting language. She nevertheless donned it again on the return trip to Washington. The White House immediately offered contradictory  explanations. None is explicable. WYSIWYG.

Even before the coat incident, Charles Blow had published a piece in the New York Times that said it much better than I could. It was entitled "The King and Queen of Cruelty," and in case you missed it, here it is. If you have read it before, please read it again.

A bientot.