First Lady Melania Trump visited Orchard Lake Middle School in West Bloomfield, Mich., Oct. 23 to speak to students about her anti-bullying agenda. This marked the second time that Melania Trump has recently taken a public stance on anti-bullying, which she has chosen as her first-lady mission of choice. Her public appearance to combat bullying comes after similar backlash in late September when she issued a similar message at a U.N. luncheon. However, the public seems less interested in her message and more interested in the irony of the topic choice, as her husband has been called out regularly for his own bully tactics.
The irony of Melania Trump’s visit to a middle school classroom to warn against the effects of bullying has not been lost on the public, attracting op-eds to major outlets such as CNN, The Washington Post and USA Today. Some have accepted that irony as blatant ignorance of the polarizing culture that the president has created in the past year. In reality, it’s much more likely that Melania Trump’s visit was a tactic to distract from the negative reputation that has consumed Trump’s administration since January.
Politics does not have to be nice, but it should be civil. Politics is divisive — that’s the nature of democracy — but at the end of the day, the American public needs to have the confidence that its politicians’ ultimate goal is to do what is best for the country, not for themselves. That guarantee only holds when politicians, at least to some extent, present a willingness to work together. From his campaign days onward, President Donald J. Trump’s antagonistic comments have continued to polarize the public. For most of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s bully tactics revolved around creating diminutive or accusatory nicknames for his opponents — “Lying Ted,” “Crooked Hillary” and “Little Marco,” just to name a few. However, his quips only worsened as the campaign progressed, going so far as to mock a disabled reporter during one of his stump speeches.
The president’s last 10 months in office have left nothing to be desired in the way of feebly crafted insults directed toward anyone who disagrees with him, much to the consternation of his advisers. In October, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) even claimed to The New York Times, “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” suggesting that internal dissent has escaped the confines of the West Wing.
Every U.S. First Lady is expected to have a mission. For Nancy Reagan it was “Just Say No” and for Michelle Obama it was “Let’s Move!” Melania Trump has chosen anti-bullying. During her trip in late October, she urged middle schoolers to “choose kindness and compassion.” Melania Trump visited the middle school about three weeks after the president’s late September feud with Corker resurfaced Oct. 8. In a series of tweets, Donald Trump insulted Corker’s stance on the Iran deal and insinuated that Corker “begged” him for an endorsement before Corker announced his retirement. Two weeks later, Donald Trump asserted that Corker “couldn’t get elected dog catcher,” and referred to him as “Liddle Bob Corker.”
Prior to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations luncheon, during which Melania Trump delivered a brief speech about anti-bullying initiatives, the Trump administration faced backlash for @realDonaldTrump’s retweet of a video of President Trump hitting Hillary Clinton in the back with a golf ball. Is the White House sending Melania Trump out to downplay the president’s domineering rhetoric? It’s unlikely that Melania’s speeches directly correspond to any specific comment made by Donald Trump, but rather are a generalized effort to distract from his bully-like rhetoric.
Perhaps now, whenever people bring up Donald Trump’s careless, derogatory manner and the influence Donald Trump’s platform gives him on political discourse, the White House will simply plan another well-timed middle school appearance. That strategy might be conspicuous, but with the constant barrage of controversy surrounding the president, White House Communications Director Hope Hicks doesn’t need a well-constructed public image scheme — she needs damage control, a temporary distraction before the press and the public move on to the next fiasco. However, if that is indeed the administration’s intention, Melania Trump will certainly rack up her fair share of frequent flyer miles over the next three years.
Alexandra Grouzis is a College freshman from Franklin, Tenn.
Correction (11/9/17): The article misidentified Grouzis as a College freshman from Syosset, N.Y. She is from Franklin, Tenn.