First Lady Melania Trump has developed a rather enigmatic reputation during her husband’s time in office, particularly when compared to other presidential spouses of recent years. Her seeming reluctance to wade into the shark-infested political waters has led countless observers to speculate about her true leanings.
As her four-country African tour drew to a close this weekend, Mrs. Trump offered a rare glimpse into her perspectives, particularly with regard to the highly controversial confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court, declaring him “highly qualified” to ascend to the seat vacated by recently retired Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Though the first lady expressed approval of Kavanaugh’s qualifications for the high court, she also indicated her belief in the importance of providing an opportunity for women alleging sexual assault to articulate their allegations fully in the proper forum, stating:
“I’m glad that Dr. Ford was heard. I’m glad that Judge Kavanaugh was heard, FBI investigation was done – is completed- and [the] Senate voted.”
Mrs. Trump did not reveal whether she was inclined to believe the accusations made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford or those made by other women during the confirmation process, but emphasized her opposition to all abuse and highlighted the need to “help all the victims, no matter what kind of abuse they had.”
In the aftermath of the extraordinarily close confirmation vote in the Senate on Saturday, President Trump went a bit further than his wife in assessing the situation, suggesting that “a lot of women are extremely happy” with the ultimate outcome of what became an extremely contentious process.
First Lady reveals independent streak
Mrs. Trump’s comments in Africa marked something of a departure from her characteristic reticence regarding her marriage. She asserted that she does not always see eye-to-eye with the President, particularly when it comes to his prolific tweets.
The First Lady stated that she is committed to providing President Trump with her “honest opinion and honest advice” and that “sometimes he listens sometimes he doesn’t.” In an amusing aside, a reporter’s question of whether she ever urges her husband to put the phone away, perhaps to prevent him from a potentially ill-advised Twitter comment, was met with an emphatic “Yes!”
Solo debut on the global stage
The tour of several African countries represented Mrs. Trump’s first significant solo journey abroad since her husband’s inauguration and included stops in Malawi, Ghana, Kenya and Egypt. Calling her experiences during the trip “incredible” and “unforgettable,” the First Lady opted to make official visits that were centered largely on children’s causes, including stops at a school, a hospital, an orphanage and Obama Hall in Ghana.
Mrs. Trump endeavored to shine a spotlight on the positive effects American aid initiatives have long had on the African continent, particularly the successful endeavors undertaken by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Though she was pressed on whether she would urge her husband to boost funding for that organization, the First Lady stated only that the United States will continue to help as it has in the past.
Mrs. Trump urges focus on work, not wardrobe
While the First Lady’s tour of African countries was viewed by many as a successful foray onto the world stage, she did not escape derision from detractors about her sartorial choices while on safari in Kenya. Commentators were quick to find fault with the pith helmet donned by Mrs. Trump to protect against the hot sun, calling it an offensive symbol of colonial domination.
Succinctly and effectively responding to the criticism, Mrs. Trump expressed her wish that people would focus on her actions, rather than her clothes.
Prime-time interview set to air
Despite being one of the most glamorous and intriguing first ladies in our collective memory, Melania Trump has not enjoyed the breadth of media coverage lavished on many of her predecessors. Particularly vexing is her absence from well-known fashion publications such as Vogue, a magazine which featured Michelle Obama on its cover three different times.
Perhaps bucking the mainstream media trend of essentially ignoring Mrs. Trump except to lob insults and criticisms, ABC News Chief National Affairs Correspondent Tom Llamas conducted an extensive, exclusive interview with the First Lady while in Africa, which is set to air on October 12.
It seems all but assured that countless Americans will be looking forward to learning more about this intensely private, yet eminently fascinating public figure and the principles that guide her as she navigates life in the White House and beyond.