A new book comparing Melania Trump and Michelle Obama has brought out predictable slaps against the current first lady from bullies who seek to attack the president through his family.
Pitting two women against each other just never gets old, does it?
“Melania & Michelle: First Ladies in a New Era,” by Tammy R. Vigil, is presented as a mere bipartisan assessment of the public images of both women.
But it thinly veils its criticism of one and its admiration of the other. No prizes for guessing who’s who.
Vigil, a Boston academic, notes that Melania “ranks among the least liked of all modern first ladies, [and her] professional life prepared her to serve more as a visual adornment.”
The afterword belatedly acknowledges that “pitting the two women against one another is a troublesome (though common) practice.”
But, hey, if it damages the Trumps, go for it.
The Daily News got the message about who is more impressive: “Michelle was a polished attorney and huge asset to Barack; Melania, a top model, is nearly invisible,” goes the headline promoting the book.
Vigil declares that Melania’s “difficulties” are exacerbated because she “followed a popular and competent first lady” in Michelle Obama.
After writing an entire book comparing the two first ladies — one only halfway through her first term with a wildly hostile media and the other who completed two terms — Vigil concedes that “directly contrasting these women is fraught with challenges.”
There is a good reason Melania, 49, might be “aloof” with the media, and that is because the attacks on her are more vicious, personal and unrelenting than any first lady has endured.
Whatever you think of her husband, you can’t say she has behaved with anything but dignity in her role, despite ugly provocations, which include attacks on her young son, Barron.
When it comes to the former Ms. Knauss, there are no boundaries to bullying at all.
Her Christmas decorations have been pilloried, her accent mocked. She has been depicted as a victim of domestic abuse.
When she visited a hospital after the El Paso massacre and cradled an orphaned baby with a smile, she was slammed for insensitivity.
In December, visiting Texas, first lady Melania Trump comforted family members living in a FEMA trailer after their home was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey. (Photo: White House/ZUMA Press/Newscom)
When she recited the Lord’s Prayer at one of Trump’s rallies, she was branded a “whore.”
Just last week, an entire story ran in Newsweek claiming President Trump had called her to his side like a dog, with three taps on his thigh.
Clearly, since the president has proven impervious to abuse, his enemies want to get at him through his wife.
Melania is right to regard herself as one of the “most bullied people in the world,” as she once told CNN.
There is nothing she can do right in the eyes of media gatekeepers.
Despite her exquisite style and promotion of American brands, she has been snubbed by fashion’s elite. Vogue editor Anna Wintour recently dissed her by pointedly praising Michelle Obama’s style when asked about Melania.
Does she deserve no respect because of the man she married?
It doesn’t seem to occur to Melania’s critics that, rather than being a docile Stepford wife, she might actually share her husband’s political worldview and encourage his policy positions on such topics as illegal immigration.
But, unlike Hillary Clinton, whose aggressive foray into health care policy when she was first lady caused considerable political fallout for her husband, Melania doesn’t flaunt her influence.
Michelle Obama was a fine first lady and deserves plaudits for writing a bestselling memoir since. But her school lunch interventions showed she was an elitist nanny-stater at heart.
Melania has not committed the same errors of arrogant overreach. She has the humility to understand that she is not the main game. Such command of ego is the first requirement of a first lady.
Melania is much more than an airhead former model, in any case.
For starters, she speaks six languages: her native Slovenian, English, French, Serbian, German and Italian.
She may not have finished college, but she had the street smarts to escape her tiny town in an impoverished Eastern Bloc country and survive on her wits in America. She’s no political naïf, either: If your family has experienced communism firsthand, you have a pretty attuned sense of politics and ideology.
At the recent G-7 in France, she did not put a foot wrong.
With the eyes of the world on you, it must be nerve-wracking to ensure you don’t trip or have a wardrobe malfunction or say something silly to embarrass your husband and nation. Anyone who has accompanied a spouse to an important business function would know the pressure.
But Melania always looked lovely and engaged charmingly with world leaders. She kissed Canada’s Justin Trudeau on the cheek (and was accused, weirdly, of coming on to him). On an excursion to a Biarritz beach, she got on so well with French first lady Brigitte Macron, they wound up holding hands.
The inclusion of spouses makes these international powwows as much about personal relationships as highfalutin’ policy, and Melania’s schmoozing ability is an asset that shouldn’t be underrated.
She is a woman whose poise and dignity speaks volumes.
When people say, “Poor Melania,” she says, “Don’t feel sorry for me. I can handle everything.”
Any honest assessment of her track record would tell you there’s no doubt she can handle anything. The Trump haters will have to find a new victim.