By all appearances, First Lady Melania Trump has bounced back nicely from her recent kidney surgery and a rather lengthy recovery. While Trump critics in the media enjoyed some rather silly speculation because she was not in the spotlight as she recovered, Mrs. Trump left no doubt she is ready to get back to work as she accompanied her husband to Europe this week. By all accounts, she was a hit.
The Trumps kept a tight schedule, with the president attending meetings with the other leaders of NATO’s member nations while the First Lady participated in activities for the spouses. While President Trump was busy leaving his mark in the press for his blunt talk and his demands of the other nations to fulfill monetary commitments, Melania socialized with the other political spouses.
Joined by 10 other NATO spouses — including one husband — the US first lady enjoyed a concert, a chocolate tasting by the Belgian royal family’s official chocolatier and a fashion display that included hats by Belgian milliner Fabienne Delvigne.
While her husband discussed world affairs and openly critiqued his European counterparts at NATO headquarters, Trump smiled warmly at multiple photo opportunities, greeting Amelie Derbaudrenghien, who is the partner of Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, and Ingrid Schulerud, wife of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. She did not say a word in front of the press.
Seated between Derbaudrenghien and French first lady Brigitte Macron, Trump observed the concert of Hubay, Tchaikovsky and Piazzolla, at one point clapping prematurely with her counterparts, then smiling and continuing to listen.
Music, chocolate, and a fashion show? I’d be smiling, too. What’s not to like? Plus, she had the bonus of hanging with her new bff, Brigitte Macron. It all played out like a good cop/bad cop routine from the Trumps. He’s the one to lower the boom on the leaders while she brings the softer, gentler side of international diplomacy.
A great visit in Belgium! Proud to represent the US at the spousal program during @NATO. Thank you to our host Belgium, @usembbrussels, @musicchapel & @Nato for a wonderful program. These opportunities are important to building lasting relationships w/ our foreign allies. pic.twitter.com/79AMLwNjKI
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) July 12, 2018
From Brussels, the Trumps traveled to the London area for a state visit with Prime Minister Theresa May. According to Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, this was a ‘working visit’. There was a formal dinner at Blenheim Palace and Melania’s gown wowed the world.
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) July 13, 2018
Oh, yeah. Trump sat in Winston Churchill’s chair at Chequers.
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) July 13, 2018
Melania was escorted by the Prime Minister’s husband, Philip, as she toured the Royal Hospital Chelsea. She met military veterans and pensioners. This is not surprising as she often visits hospitals as First Lady, especially for veterans and children.
1/2: Thank you Royal Hospital Chelsea for the warm welcome! I enjoyed my tour of the Wren Chapel & Great Hall & mtg your lovely Pensioners. pic.twitter.com/ZKz6axd9QW
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) July 14, 2018
She visited George’s Primary School during a presentation of their “Be The Best You Can Be” program.
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) July 14, 2018
Naturally, the fashion choices of the First Lady were scrutinized. As usual, she did not disappoint. The yellow chiffon gown referenced above was the real newsmaker. She wore outfits by European designers as a part of her fashion diplomacy yet I noticed an article full of bitter snark by the Washington Post’s fashion writer. Robin Givhan. It seems Ms. Givhan can’t get over Melania’s $39.00 Zara jacket so now the First Lady’s fashion diplomacy simply doesn’t really matter. Or something.
Can there be fashion diplomacy after detonating the nuclear option? After the crude fashion equivalent of throwing up the middle finger? That, after all, is what Mrs. Trump did in June when she flew off on a humanitarian mission to visit detained migrant children wearing a fast-fashion jacket inscribed with “I Really Don’t Care. Do U?” Few garments have caused as much of a media storm as that Zara jacket with its dismissive white graffiti scrawl. In response to the brouhaha, her spokesperson advised, “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message.” Thus instructed, there was no reason to believe that there was any sly misdirection, no bitter irony, no mistaking the intent. Take the general message at its word.
It is a challenge to believe she was interested in the musical prowess of a couple of students at a Belgian music school. Or concerned about strained relationships between longtime allies. Or delighting in the creativity and business acumen of American companies. Or attentive to the protocol of a spouses’ dinner. Or mindful of the historical resonance of a meeting with Prime Minister May. Is she even pleased to be there at all?
For her public appearances in Belgium and England, she filled her wardrobe with designers and brands that speak to the moment in ways that are both respectful and thoughtful. Without saying a word, she has offered a visual tale of international cooperation and collaboration. The question is not whether she is engaging in diplomatic outreach. Of course she is. That is what first ladies do. It is their silent strength.
So, Givhen approves but just not too much because she can’t really praise Melania Trump now and be accepted at Washington cocktail parties is what this all amounts to if you ask me. What a load of malarkey. She’s beautiful and performs her role as First Lady with grace. They hate her for it because they hate President Trump. Only Democrat first ladies are allowed complimentary coverage on fluffy stories about fashion. It’s all too predictable.
I’ll end with this tweet from President Trump. It’s a nice video round-up of the trip.