Melania Trump, Jane Sanders and the First First Man

Although a few articles have been written by now on the wife of Donald Trump, she remains to a large degree a mystery. When it comes to human beings, mystery is usually the sign of a very complex person, or else, the opposite: the sign of a person so one-dimensional she appears mysterious—no one can tell what lies beneath. Or rather: is there anything behind that doll-like appearance?

Two items from Melania’s CV are mentioned when one asks the above question: her studies in architecture and design, and her knowledge of five languages. These items would be impressive if they weren’t bogus. Melania Trump dropped out of college in her first year. As for her knowledge of several languages, one only needs to hear her speak English. She has lived in this country for about 20 years, yet her English is rather rudimentary. If this is how she speaks English, one can imagine that her knowledge of other languages is pretty much akin to that of any average European, a few sentences that are enough to get one by when traveling. I am an immigrant myself, have met numerous immigrants since I’ve come to the States, and Melania Trump’s linguistic performance is among the poorest I’ve encountered.

No, Melania Trump is exactly what she appears to be: a surface. A while ago a Yahoo headline mentioned a gaffe that MSNBC’s Chris Matthews apparently made when he was unaware that his mic was on: “Did you see her walk?” The Yahoo headline read “MSNBC host objectifies Melania Trump.” I generally have a problem with the use of the word “objectify” because it implies that there is something wrong with looking (if looking is objectifying, then we are all constantly objectify each other). But, beyond that, there is a problem with that word applied to a (former) supermodel. There are certain occupations—and being a supermodel is one of them—in which the individual uses his or her body as an object: in this case, a (supposedly) beautiful object on which beautiful clothes are put so we can all admire them. A model objectifies herself—this is not necessarily a bad thing. So does a dancer, for instance. In fact, according to the French modernist poet Stéphane Mallarmé, all true artists aspire to become objects, i.e., beautiful signs).

No, I don’t think Melania Trump has a problem with being “objectified”—frankly, I think she wouldn’t know what to make of these words, if anyone brought them up with her. Journalists from the left have been careful even when talking about half-naked photos of Melania that have surfaced on the Internet, in an attempt to reconcile their disdain of her with their political correctness. They needn’t worry. Melania Trump’s whole raison d’ętre from a social point of view is to be looked at (not that she is that pleasant to behold). Most of the time, when on stage next to her husband, she seems bored out of her wits. But what is she like behind closed doors? We know that she takes seriously her role as a mother and a wife—so in this sense, she is a traditional wife. We know what she wears and we know that she doesn’t mind excessively gaudy interiors. So, we can imagine what she might be like in the White House: a diaphanously dressed supermodel enacting a surreal version of “Housewives of …,” who will redecorate the place in a style I dare not imagine.

I confess I have a hard time picturing Jane Sanders in the White House—which is probably because she is so different from our previous first ladies. There is a certain type of wife politicians tend to have, whose epitome is John McCain’s wife (and Melania Trump falls into this category). The perfect wife from this point of view was Jackie Kennedy—stylish, beautiful, a perfect hostess, the kind of woman who in the 19th century played the piano to entertain the guests. By contrast, Jane Sanders seems almost like a hippie mama with her large, printed blouses and equally large body. She is certainly no decorative object meant to enhance her man’s credentials with his male audience. Both of them are, indeed, what the bumper stickers sported by Bernie’s supporters say: “real people.” From the interviews I’ve seen with Jane Sanders she appears smart, deeply engaged in the campaign of her husband, a woman who could one day run for office herself. At the same time, like other spouses defending a candidate, she can come across as pushy and belligerent.

As for the man who could be our first “First Man”—I find it interesting that no one is talking (much) about this. I mean, not about the fact that Hillary Clinton may be our first woman president, but the fact that Bill Clinton would be our first First Man. It would be, of course, an interesting role reversal: the image of the presidential couple walk to their plane, the woman saluted as the commander in chief, and the man accompanying her as an appendix. And then, the question(s): what kind of first man would he be? Would he choose to redecorate the oval office? Would he choose to fight the many problems faced by our youth? Or, maybe, as a new grandfather, he would launch a book club for children and read them stories? Or, who knows, now that he is a vegan, he will follow in Michelle Obama’s footsteps, and take care of the garden she will bequeath him. I know, I am dreaming. Very likely, Bill Clinton will continue to work for his foundation (for which he would be criticized, and about which we will keep hearing dubious stories) and to pull strings behind closed doors.

I don’t know about you, but I look forward to seeing Bill Clinton again in the White House, if for no other reason, at least because I know how annoyed the Republicans would be.

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