NOTE: I wrote the following immediately after Melania Trump’s speech last night but pulled it from publication when I learned of the allegations of plagiarism by her (and/or her writer) from passages in Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech. As a professional writer for decades, plagiarism does not sit well with me to say the least, even though I realize many — including Joe Biden (more than once) and Obama himself — have done it. This was a bush league play and does not speak well of the vetting process within the Trump campaign. Something’s seriously amiss that should be investigated thoroughly. Nevertheless, in the clear light of morning, I decided to publish my piece as a first response. Read it with the foregoing knowledge…
This is supposed to be the year of breaking the glass ceiling on the presidency itself but — call me cis-gendered — I’m far more interested in potential first lady Melania Trump, who was a one-woman smash of poise and glamour speaking at the Republican National Convention opening night Monday. (The writing of the speech was banal, as it almost always is on all sides of the political spectrum.)
As most realize, that presidential glass ceiling could have been broken years ago — it happened in Pakistan, of all places, in 1988 — if the right person presented herself and Hillary Clinton (yawn) is (finally, after paying more dues than any of us can imagine) supposed to be that person.
She’s about twenty years too late, make that thirty. These days women are outstripping men at virtually every academic level straight up to graduate and professional school and soon enough male presidents will be scarce. The UK is now on its second female PM. For all we know, Trump may be the last male American president, should he win. We should treasure him.
But that brings me to Melania. Why shouldn’t that (possibly last) cis-gendered American president have a wife who looks like that? Give the man a break! (Sexist of me to comment on a woman’s looks? Well, I’m cis-gendered too. Sorry, as the lady said, I was born that way).
But beyond the looks, Melania is no dummy. She speaks five languages — that’s four and a half more than the average American. But she doesn’t parade her knowledge, as opposed to, say, former Harvard prof turned politico Elizabeth Warren, who apparently speaks one and a half languages. (“My Spanish may not be great, but it’s coming from the heart,” Warren said at an immigration rally.) In deference to Warren, Serbian and Slovenian aren’t particularly easy.
Elizabeth Warren, and for that matter Hillary Clinton, are products of the seventies feminist movement that Melania Trump decidedly is not. That movement dealt with inequalities between the sexes that are largely gone, but as happens with so many movements, the cause lingers on… and on… long after it has outworn its usefulness, often to the point of being counter-productive. Young women tend not to take Hillary’s shrill and dated feminism seriously, as well they shouldn’t. Most people know self-interest when they see it.
So back to Slovenian-born Melania Trump. What does she and their marriage tell us about the kind of president Donald Trump might make? Is he a sexist because he likes beautiful women, albeit intelligent ones? Is he sexist because he makes nasty cracks at Megyn Kelly and Rosie O’Donnell (and plenty of men as well)? Is he a sexist at all, as the Democrats would insist?
I seriously doubt it. Between his daughter Ivanka and his wife Melania — who seems destined, after Monday night, to emerge as a new Jackie Kennedy, if Donald is elected — I would hazard a guess that Trump trusts women, in all probability, more than men The attack on Trump as a sexist, like the attack on him as a racist, is a lie based on the exploitation of his sloppy use of language. Unfortunately, for that reason, Donald gives his opponents far more opportunities than he should to hang these labels on him. (Paradoxically, Trump is at once a terrific and a lousy communicator, riveting and fumbling. I’ve never seen anyone quite like that.)
Seventies feminism — I know from, alas, firsthand experience — did not make for good and lasting marriages. Whatever view you may have of its ideology, it often turned what should have been a union of mates into a perpetual dialectical debate and (sometimes) sexual competition. The Clintons are an example of a couple who had to deal with this and made compromises to survive that are more than slightly eerie — almost, to be cruel, a form of Macbeth Family Values. Everything is held together by ambition — and then just barely.
This does not compare well with what we have seen of the Trump family, a close-knit group that could almost be the subject of a 1950s sitcom were they not billionaires. What we saw from Melania on Monday night is something I have never seen from Hillary — that she really loves her husband.
Roger L. Simon is a prize-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. His book—I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already—is just published by Encounter. You can read an excerpt here. You can see a brief interview about the book with the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal here. You can hear an interview about the book with Mark Levin here. You can order the book here.