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Melania Trump
Seldom seen, rarely heard: Melania's tenure is most notable for her absence

Melania Trump appears to have little interest in being first lady. But she’s in
good company – many ‘weren’t very keen’ on coming to the White House

Lucia Graves in Washington

Sun 21 Jan 2018 06.00 GMT
Last modified on Sun 21 Jan 2018 08.18 GMT

Melania Trump may not be as popular as her predecessor Michelle Obama but she is
far more popular than her husband.

The most notable thing about Melania Trump’s tenure as first lady so far has been
her absence: it took her five months to relocate from New York to the White House,
a spell unheard of for a modern first lady.

Seldom seen and even more seldom heard, the former model may not be as popular as
her predecessor Michelle Obama, but she is far more popular than her husband.
Unfortunately for his Republican administration, she seems to have little interest
in using that popularity to do anything of substance with the post.

It is a bit unclear what can fairly be expected of a first lady in 2018, given that
the role is ill-defined, involuntary and – remarkably, at a time when it has
expanded to be a near full-time occupation resembling political surrogacy – unpaid.

What is clear is that Melania – who greeted her husband’s election win with “tears
– and not of joy”, according to Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury – is in good company
in her antipathy for the position.

Melania greeted her husband’s election win with ‘tears .and not of joy’. when there were far fewer expectations for first ladies than at present. as Barack Obama reminded Americans in a newly released conversation with David . ‘I do. according to recent data from the White House Transition Project. “weren’t very keen on the idea that they’d come to the White House because they’d said. Jackie Kennedy with her iconic status.’ Photograph: Domenico Stinellis/AP Today.The role of first lady has evolved significantly since Martha Washington set the mold by regularly playing hostess to visiting dignitaries and members of Congress during George Washington’s presidency.’ Facebook Twitter Pinterest Melania’s public addresses have been rare and her statements so carefully curated she has been dubbed ‘the Instagram first lady. refused to give press conferences while in the White House because. many. Facebook Twitter Pinterest According to Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury. a nonpartisan group that provides information to new White House staff. the first lady’s perch can be among the most influential in the country. Bess had become something of an exception in bucking the growing duties of first ladies. Since then.” But by the television age. as she put it: “I am not the one who is elected.’ to their husbands”. who wrote a book on Mary Todd Lincoln. confiding to a niece she felt “more like a state prisoner than anything else”. Elizabeth Virginia “Bess” Truman. By that time Eleanor Roosevelt had established a high water mark for what presidential wives were capable of. Melania greeted her husband’s election win with ‘tears . like Lady Bird Johnson with her solo whistlestop tour of 47 American towns. Even in the 19th century. I have nothing to say to the public. public appearances of spouses on the campaign trail and in the White House have only grown more central to presidential strategy. According to Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury.” Melania’s public addresses have been rare and her statements so carefully curated she has been dubbed ‘the Instagram first lady. But she also set a precedent by chafing at her duties. Melania Trump framed – a history of first lady portraits Read more Other first ladies. even where they were less overtly political. More than a century later. further reshaped the role. “We’re in a time in terms of all kinds of public policies where we’re regressing with regard to what we want as a progressive society. according to Baker. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP Louisa Adams.” she said. Melania’s predecessor in the White House capitalized on this to no small effect. “And it seems to me that First Lady Trump reflects that. the London-born wife to John Quincy Adams – and the only other foreign-born first lady besides Melania – reportedly spent her time in the White House depressed and binge-eating chocolates. with higher rates of name recognition than vice-presidents.and not of joy’. according to historian and first lady biographer Jean HBaker. and Hillary Clinton with her outspoken push for healthcare reform. In that sense Melania fits nicely in the tradition of America’s early first ladies.

” the former president said. was part of your ability to lead the country doesn’t have to do with legislation. A recent tweet marking Martin Luther King Day on Monday in which she said “I am honored to be First Lady of a nation that continually strives for equality & justice for all” was similarly criticized for the sense that it sought to obscure the truth about Trump and the record of his administration.” Recent staffing announcements – Melania has hired directors of policy and operations along with a communications aide to her East Wing press team – may well indicate a move to become more active in the role. it has to do with shaping attitudes. ignore the ways in which she has meaningfully bucked recent convention.Letterman on Friday. increasing awareness. Ivana. Melania is as much a modern first lady as recent first ladies that we’ve seen – it’s just very different. Wright said. Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images Unlike other recent first ladies who took leave of salaried jobs to take up the demands of one they did not choose and were not compensated for. “One of the things that Michelle figured out. in some ways faster than I did. Melania’s recent staffing announcements may indicate a move to become more active in the role. it has often been ill-advised. “In some ways she’s eschewing the pressure of these first ladies to be these promoters of their husbands. Trump’s political conversations only go one way: his. By contrast. her public spat with Trump’s first wife. Melania has not been in a hurry to please anyone. Take. By the end of her husband’s administration. Yet she shouldn’t be made to answer for her husband’s missteps.” said Wright. Her public addresses have been rare ever since and her statements so carefully curated she has been dubbed “the Instagram first lady”. author of On Behalf of the President: Presidential Spouses and White House Communications Strategy Today. over who the real first lady is – or her much-criticized campaign to end cyberbullying. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Melania’s recent staffing announcements may indicate a move to become more active in the role. Indeed the chief takeaway from a year’s misplaced liberal hope in Trump’s daughter Ivanka would seem to be that though she proved a powerful tool in currying public favor for him. according to Lauren A Wright. Nor should we. Where Melania has spoken up. Topics . shaping culture. adding: “Looked at this way. for instance. a mission which (given her husband’s reputation as “the world’s most powerful troll”) was widely perceived to be tone-deaf. although the idea that she might publicly disagree with her husband on policy is surely fantasy. doesn’t have to do with regulations. what might have been an impressive political debut for Melania at the Republican National Convention was tarnished by the revelation that parts of her speech appeared to have been lifted from an address given by Michelle in 2008. Michelle was among the most popular political figures in the country. Her speech at the Democratic National Convention was tweeted more than those of the presidential candidates themselves.

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