We have got tons of information and stories about what is happening in the White House from Michael Wolff’s new book, Fire, and Fury. One of the most striking images that were reported is a sullen Melania Trump after her husband’s surprising victory in the presidential election 2016. Mrs. Trump, “who had been assured by her husband that he wouldn’t become president,” Wolff writes, “was in tears—and not of joy.”
Wolff continues with saying that even Trump himself didn’t really want to win just like his wife.(For her part, Mrs. Trump denies Wolffs claims, with her office releasing a statement that “she was confident he would win and was very happy when he did.”) While Trump didn’t hesitate much when he won the election and concluded that “he deserved to be, and was wholly capable of being, the president of the United States,” even after a year in office we still aren’t sure where Melania stands in this situation. How will she embrace the historic role of First Lady-especially when your husband is the most controversial and scandalous president.
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) January 9, 2018
“I don’t think people in America think that a First Lady has to do anything. They know that she isn’t elected,” Tammy Haddad, CEO of Haddad Media and the former vice president of Washington at MSNBC, told Vogue. “The question is, will this First Lady see how big the opportunity is and want to step through that door in a way to lift up others?”
Compared to her predecessors, Mrs. Trump has kept a lower profile(recall that for the first five months of the Trump administration, she remained in New York so as not to uproot the Trumps’ 11-year-old son, Barron, during the school year). She has made only a few public appearances, rarely grants media interviews and maintains a smaller East Wing staff than Michelle Obama (a few reports have called it a “ghost town”). This has led some to ask What is Melania Trump doing? (see: the Newsweek headline “What Is Melania Trump Doing?”). She is yet to officially announce what nonpartisan cause she will advocate for—like Mrs. Obama and childhood obesity, Laura Bush and literacy, or Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” to drugs campaign.
“We have, certainly in modern times, come to expect a lot out of our First Ladies,” Anita McBride, who served as chief of staff to Laura Bush, told Vogue.“There’s a growing expectation on behalf of the public and the media that they use their position for something that’s important.”
Mrs. Trump’s spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, stated for Vogue in October that an announcement is to be expected soon. “The First Lady looks forward to announcing her formal platform in the coming months,” Grisham said. “For now it is safe to say that her focus is the overall well-being of children. This can include many things, including drug addiction, poverty, disease, trafficking, hunger, or teaching children the values of empathy and communication, which are at the core of kindness, mindfulness, integrity, and leadership.”
To this end, Melania Trump has stepped up the number of public appearances in recent months to make statements about bullying. (“I encourage you to find a new friend and eat lunch with a new friend,” she urged Michigan middle schoolers this fall) and the opioid crisis and visiting a West Virginia recovery center for babies subjected to prenatal drug addiction, among other roundtables and luncheons. This is all new to her, unlike other First ladies, who were wifes of senators and political figures before becoming First Ladies, Melania is at a disadvantage here. She has no previous political experience besides the campaign.
“She’s the spouse of someone who has been in public life . . . but she’s never been in public life with him,” says Haddad. “She never used her voice to advocate for anything, really. She chose to be a private person.” And as McBride also notes, Mrs. Trump “has only been an American citizen for about 12 years. She grew up in a Communist country, (Slovenia), and now she has this responsibility as First Lady of the United States.”
Critics, being the best people they are, are not so fond of Mrs. Trump’s so-called lack of activity. Wolff writes that she lamented her husbands win because she wanted to “return to inconspicuously lunching.” Even in her pre-White House years in New York, as the wife of a real-estate impresario known for his gilded penthouse, Mrs. Trump was no “next-gen Mrs. Astor.” Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist at public affairs firm SKDKnickerbocker, said for Vogue. “[Melania] is very different from the wives of most Manhattan moguls, who either have careers of their own or dedicate their time, energy, and grit to philanthropy, education, healthcare, or cultural nonprofits.”
But now its a bit different, being a First lady and all. First ladies usually have higher ratings than their husbands as they usually support causes that almost everyone can get behind. Almost everyone can agree that Melania Trump decision to bring attention to cyber-bullying is a righteous cause, even though some might say that she is hindered by how her husband acts on social-media as well. But normal people with common sense shouldn’t let her be affected by what her man does because of that so politically incorrect. She should be known for herself, not as Trump’s wife.
“People are skeptical. You can understand why” McBride said. “I have no doubt that she is serious about the issue, but what’s in question is how seriously she’ll be taken.”
Taking everything into consideration, Trump’s wife should be carefully thinking about which cause she will back and take her time, as there is no rule when the First Lady should announce her platform. Michelle Obama formally launched Let’s Move in February 2010, a year after President Obama took office.
“It takes time to recognize the power and potential (of the role). It’s a learning process,” says Haddad. “I think it’s pretty smart to not jump into something and act like you’re the singular expert when you’re not.” Sage advice for both the First Lady and the president.