An Evergreen Question: What Is Melania Trump Thinking?


There have been several attempts to get under the glossy veneer of first lady Melania Trump, and unpack the nearly four years she’s inhabited the East Wing. Always the question is the same: what is she thinking? They each seem to use a series of anonymous sources and Sean Spicer to complete the picture, but all pull on similar threads. The first lady is savvier than she lets on. She supports her husband and his most racist conspiracy theories, such as birtherism, so any claims that she’s “part of the resistance” is merely wishful thinking. He trusts her because she supports him without, apparently, ulterior motives, etc.

The latest unauthorized biography, Mary Jordan’s The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump, out Tuesday, reiterates some of these broad strokes as well. The revelation in the excerpt printed in the Washington Post is that Melania’s delayed arrival at the White House at the beginning of the Donald Trump presidency was simply a matter of leverage. She reportedly wanted to renegotiate her prenup and cool off after the alleged affairs that came out in the election—and the “grab them by the pussy” tape—got to her.

What’s more, as Jordan writes, is that Melania’s time lost in D.C. was Ivanka Trump’s initial gain. “Among other proposals, Ivanka suggested renaming the ‘First Lady’s Office’ the ‘First Family Office,’” Jordan wrote. “Melania did not allow that to happen. It was tradition, and she was not going to let her stepdaughter change it.” After her father appointed Ivanka as an adviser, the first daughter used the White House theater and other “perks” at her leisure. Melania put a stop to that when she finally arrived. She closed the “revolving door” to the first daughter with “firm boundaries,” per Jordan.

Melania’s spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, denied to People that any of it is true: “Yet another book about Mrs. Trump with false information and sources,” Grisham said. “This book belongs in the fiction genre.”

The fiction genre or not, most discussion of the dynamics between the stepmother and stepdaughter tends to revolve around how much actual influence they have on a man we all must think about whether we like it or not. Ivanka obviously solved LGBTQ problems on behalf of the world by talking to her dad, plus posting a few tweets during Pride. But as Spicer, the administration’s first faithful mouthpiece, told Jordan, Melania’s take is more subtle: “Melania is very behind-the-scenes but unbelievably influential. She is not one to go in and say, ‘Hire this person, fire this person.’ But she lets the president know what she thinks, and he takes her views very seriously.”

So she has her own way, apparently. It might not be an obvious way but it works for the two of them. Like, for example, his birthday on Sunday, I’m sure they did something together. Maybe there was an exchange of words in private. Possibly they had a meal, his choice. She didn’t need to meet the president where he is (on Twitter) to say happy birthday, so she didn’t offer a little birthday wish for her Gemini king. That’s not what they’re about, you know.

She did, however, tweet out happy birthday to the Army on Sunday, and if you really think about it in a particular kind of way, Trump is Army. And what does he love more than his own show of force or, you know, actual force? Not much! So in a way, isn’t that romantic for this funny couple to say happy birthday to the Army on the president’s birthday?

They’ve always shown love oddly; it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Little hand slaps and half-hearted attempts at smiling when told to—this is the stuff of simpatico third wives. Using your very presence as leverage to renegotiate your prenup so your husband doesn’t biff his own son out of the family business? That’s amore. So, yeah, happy birthday to the “Army.” Congratulations on yet another year in the life of marital bliss.

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