From the Left



High Heels and Higher Ground

Susan Estrich on

It was bad enough when someone handed Melania Trump one of Michelle Obama's speeches to give -- again. Bad staff work, extraordinarily bad.

But who was in charge of telling her what to wear to a disaster? Or rather, who was in charge of telling her that this was just not a moment for high heels?

Who thinks "stilettos" for a hurricane?

Answer: Not someone on the staff of a political figure.

I have never met Melania Trump's staff, but I promise you there was someone somewhere in the newly well-oiled Trump machine who pointed out that the weather in Texas was stormy. Even the coach-class displays tell you the weather. Presidential trips are worthy of much more detailed itineraries.

She wore them anyway.

I guess she figured she wouldn't be doing much walking. When you're with the president, you can always wear "valet park" shoes. Still, there was something symbolic about it, and the symbolism was all wrong.

Some first ladies (or, as they are known by acronym, FLOTUS, the counterpart to POTUS) embrace the job, and some warm to it; this one gives you the feeling that she'd rather be somewhere else. Actually, it was more than a feeling for a while, when she was somewhere else, in their New York home with her son rather than in the White House with her husband and his rival gangs. (The president says their New York home is much nicer than the White House, of course. You can image how nice the presidential suite of the Moscow Trump Tower will be someday.)

Notably, the press, which her husband so viciously attacks as treating him like a witch (an insult to my mother's hometown of Salem if ever I have heard one), has been surprisingly gentle with his wife. Her clothes on their European trip were scary expensive -- the sorts of things that even the expensive magazines don't print the prices of -- but no one hit too hard, and there were as many nods for her taking fashion seriously as gasps at just how seriously she took it.

But is bringing her own higher ground to Texas really one woman's answer to Hurricane Harvey? Or to the rest of us?

The president seems strangely unaffected by those around him. Melania Trump is an immigrant who speaks with an accent. Ivanka Trump is a Jew who is raising her children in the Orthodox tradition. We know, or we hear, that his daughter tries to influence him.

Does his wife? Does she have an agenda that goes beyond style? Understandably, she didn't grow up dreaming of being FLOTUS. But there she is. And here we are. And she has the opportunity of a lifetime.

Is there such a thing as looking too good? In a disaster, there is. When pictures have been widely circulating of an older person in an assisted-living facility stranded in water to the waist, there is. It was bad enough to hear Donald Trump commenting about the great "turnout" at his event: Generally, people don't track turnouts at disasters; generally presidents wait until the worst is over before complicating everything by doing a political hit, as Trump transparently described it. Bad as all that was, it was worse to see all the footage of his wife from the feet up, with that walk that only models can pull off, a swagger reminiscent of Gisele Bundchen on the catwalk at the Olympics. It leads one to question what the presidential equivalent of letting air out of the balls really is.

And then off Trump went to campaign for tax cuts for people like him, whose wives wear shoes like those, even to a hurricane, because people like that never really get caught in the rain. And they know it, even if we don't.


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