Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Melania Problem

When I'm on vacation I turn off politics, but I learned too late that both republicans and Democrats scheduled their conventions at the exact same time that I would be away.  How rude.

Anticipating high -- and low -- times at the conventions, I made an exception to my usual no-politics rule.  I informed friends and family of my plans and all were gracious about sneak peaks (republican) and full-on binging (Democrat).

On Monday night, we shared the reaction of the American viewers over Melania Trump's speech:  wow, she can use words to form actual rational thoughts.  A nice break from her husband, many of us agreed.  And with that low bar easily breached, there was a newfound respect for the candidate's wife (excuse me if I DO NOT say "potential first lady").

And then we tuned in the next morning.  Could it be that the Democrats were exaggerating when they said "plagiarism?"  But no.  There were the actual videos of Michelle's speech juxtaposed with Melania's.

Hilarious, right?  Even better than Donald coming onstage through the mist -- or was it steam?

But as the week went on, and was proceeded by the truly professional, intelligent and exciting performances during the Democratic convention, I had some thoughts about how we had reacted to Melania, and what it all means.

We didn't expect her to sound intelligent.  Beautiful (at least in the fashion world) and intelligent, and Trump's wife?  How did that happen?  And then, as the plagiarism was discovered and the Trump forces scurried around trying to get rid of the problem, many of us just accepted that Melania was an unwitting dupe.  But was she?

Melania Trump did not just starve and learn how to apply makeup.  She came from Slovenia for goodness' sake, got as far as college, became a successful model, and ended up the wife of a wealthy and powerful real estate mogul.  This took quite a bit more than fashion sense.

In Melania's world, the rules may be different than in the world most of us Americans know.  I imagine she had to be scrappy and tough.  She had to compete with other beautiful women.  She needed to not just learn the rules, but learn how to stretch them, how to test limits.  She needed to watch, closely, what others like her were doing, and she needed to take what worked and run with it.

In retrospect, it would not surprise me if Melania herself studied Michelle's words, from the speech that she gave at the same moment in her history.  Doubtless she saw Michelle as the epitome of what a presidential candidate's wife should be, based not only on the speech itself, but on the world's reaction to it, and in Michelle's successes and popularity as a first lady.

I am saying that we should give credit to Melania for having a mind of her own, and one that got her far.

Where Melania went wrong is the same place that Donald has gone terribly wrong.  The rules that worked in the game that they had been playing don't work in this one.  Up till now, nobody checked Donald's lies.  Bullying and name calling won high ratings, sponsorship deals and fortune.  People seldom looked behind the name "Trump" to find the con man.  If they did, it didn't matter, because there were always more chumps to rip off.

But after a year and then some of letting Donald spout his ugliness, mock his opponents, and make claims to dubious success, there is a new game.  This time the people he has taken on are smarter.  They know the rules.  And they won't be bullied.

The media, pushed around and insulted, are now confronting him with inconsistencies.  Democrats -- and those republicans who possess a moral compass -- are calling him on his anti-American rhetoric, his threats to the constitution, and his attacks on the American people.

Last week, even Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell, who love to play the game my husband would call, "Let's you and them fight," stood up and drew accurate contrasts between the Trump and Hillary.  And I must say that to date, our own Lindsey Graham continues to refuse to endorse Donald Trump.

I imagine it must be hard for Paul Ryan to sleep these days because he thought that what Donald Trump wanted was the presidency, and that he would do whatever he was told to do to gain it.  And then it was just a matter of telling him what to do when he got there.  But he is reminded, over and over, that Donald Trump is playing a different game.  He will take from Ryan and the other republicans who are tagging along, and, when all is said and done, stomp them out.

When Melania plagiarized Michelle, she hadn't realized the game had changed.  Donald hasn't realized it either.  And as it goes with bullies, when they are backed into a corner by righteousness, reason and fearlessness, he will either quit or come apart; we will see Donald Trump come unglued on the national political stage.

And then, in November, if this is the America I think it is, he will return to his golden walls and reality shows, leaving us all a bit wiser and a great deal more relieved.


  1. Melania also concocted her history. Her website said she had graduated from a university in Slovenia with a degree in architecture. The press poked around and found out she completed freshman year (except for a course she flunked and a required internship) and then threw in the towel, flying to Milan to start her modelling career. She and The Donald are well-matched.

  2. Wow! Terrific analysis. Have not seen or read this anywhere. Good job, Agnes.
    And I have been saying for months that America is going to have the chilling, thrilling pleasure of watching the Donald have a very public breakdown or crackup or whatever will happen when the thin skin covering that enormous, pathological ego gets punctured irreparably by the polls and the pundits. We might get to see it in the debate with Hillary. I wouldn't miss this for the world!