So, as it happens Melania Trump did finally, attend an event held at the White House on Monday, after 24 days of total silence -- though it was a private affair, with no press allowed. Fine. She wanted to just make an appearance and sit there, good for her.
What go lost in all the attention that this garnered was a cute side note: from those who attended the event came word that in his opening remarks Trump joked about a few outlier press reports wondering if his wife had left him. A little offbeat as far as quips go, you might perhaps think, fair enough, but it's far more than that, actually. In fact, it's mind-numbingly callous -- because this was at an event (are you ready...) of Gold Star families who had lost their spouse!!
Really. But then that's what you get from The Man Who Know No Empathy.
But okay, back to the subject at hand, and now, let's jump forward a day -- one day, for those keeping score, after Trump cowardly cancelled the White House celebration honoring the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles because too many players said they wouldn't be attending. Instead, he said in a tweet that there would be an event "celebrating our country" with the Marine Band and lots of patriotic pomp. It was also later announced that the First Lady of the United States would NOT be attending the big patriotic event with the Marine Band and accompanying hoopla "celebrating our country." No reason given. Who knows, maybe she just doesn't like the Marine Band. Or doesn't know the words to "God Bless America" either and figured that that would be a bad optic with both her and her husband mumbling along.
Then yesterday, Trump bizarrely brought her along to a full cabinet briefing about FEMA because...well, I guess she's always been interested in hurricanes or something like that. She didn't say a word again and just sat there, but perhaps she was merely trying to remember it all, in case she also had to know how to throw out rolls of paper towels the next time. What did stand out, though is that Trump took the opportunity to complain how "unfair" and "vicious" the press was being to his wife. Happily, I found it encouraging to know that Trump actually grasps the concept that one shouldn't be "unfair" and "vicious" to women. Shouldn't move on them and kiss them all over unwanted, grab them by their privates, shame them for having blood come out of their "wherever," slam them for their appearance, call them liars for saying they did what you paid them hush money to deny.
(Joe Scarborough had the best comment on all this, sending out a subtle, but deeply-pointed tweet to the clueless Trump, oblivious of his own past actions.)
(For those who don't know the story, Trump made a smeary, crude lie about TV host Mika Brzezinski -- and Scarborough's fiance -- about her supposedly having a bad facelift.)
But then, the point of all this media attention isn't about the press being "unfair" or "vicious" to anyone, It was (and still sort of is) about trying to find out where in the world the First Lady of the United States was for almost a month. Because when one is First Lady -- a low-meaning, but high profile symbol for the United States -- not being seen for 24 days and more...this is not normal.
I wish her well. I hope everything in her life has been good. There might be a perfectly benign explanation why the First Lady of the United States disappeared for 24 days. And only made a brief appearance at a private event without the press being allowed to attend. And skipped an event that will be "celebrating our country." And sat silently at a meeting about hurricanes. I don't suggest any "conspiracy." I happily accept as a starting point that there is a simple, basic explanation.
But -- even with that -- this is not normal. When Ronald Reagan was shot, there was communication during the subsequent month. Yes, yes, he was president. But he also was shot. And the total absence of the First Lady for 24 days is not normal, nor should it be accepted as such. If the reason is lovingly banal, then great, wonderful, extremely glad to know, but that makes a month-long silence bizarre and all the more "not normal." If there was, however, a serious issue or a matter of privacy, then that is equally and most-definitely "not normal."
And that's the point. Yes, I know that is seems like a tiny, pathetically insignificant. And in many ways it is. But in enough ways, it isn't. The First Lady of the United States -- on of the few symbolic personages we have in this country -- disappearing for 24 days, having no advance schedule, only showing up at one private event with no press, not attending an event "celebrating America," silently attending a science seminar --
This is not normal.
And that's the foundation of this administration. Not normal. And "not normal" is nothing that should ever be accepted as normal. Not at this level. Nor matter how ordinary -- or not -- the occurrence. Not everything having to do with the White House is worth attention. But everything this is "not normal" is.
I'm very glad the First Lady has showed up. I hope she's fine. I hope she's happy and healthy. I hope everything was absolutely ordinary for the past month. But the First Lady disappearing for 24 days, whatever the reason, and being told not to ask, and says it's "vicious" and "unfair" if you do (especially from a man who eats "vicious" and "unfair" for breakfast and as a late night snack in bed) --
This is not normal.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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