Anyone who reads my work here or follows me on social media could readily tell you that I’m a big fan of the First Lady, probably even more so than of her husband. I’ve found her to be charming and gracious, demonstrating an ability to stay above (or at least outside of) the majority of the chaos swirling around the White House on a daily basis. And for the first (almost) two years of the Trumps’ time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, she’s stuck to the normal roles one would expect of the East Wing.
Sadly, that changed this week. There has been no denial (and in fact, we have confirmation) coming from Melania Trump regarding the story about her wanting Deputy National Security Adviser Mira Ricardel to be fired. Whether or not such a personnel change will happen or is warranted isn’t really the question here. It’s where it originated. (CNN)
A feud with the first lady’s office is expected to cost a senior national security adviser her job after she sparred with East Wing staff and other key members of the Trump administration.
The dispute spilled into public view in extraordinary fashion on Tuesday when the first lady’s office released a statement calling for deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel’s ouster as reports surfaced that President Donald Trump would fire the official.
A White House official confirmed to CNN that Trump has told people that Ricardel will be fired. But the official said she has been given some time to clear out her desk. It was not immediately clear when she would officially make her exit.
There’s no other way to put it: this is bad. As much as I may admire the First Lady, being publicly involved in any fashion with the firing of a staffer in our National Security infrastructure (or any other elected or appointed government official or federal employee) is not within the realm of the East Wing. This should not be allowed to stand, and Melania Trump should issue a retraction and an apology.
Before anyone in the loyalist camp begins firing broadsides at me, let’s just take a moment for a stroll down memory lane. One of my earliest and biggest beefs with Hillary Clinton back in the nineties was the way she inserted herself into the healthcare overhaul debate. My reasons then were crystal clear. Being First Lady (or First Dude when we eventually get a straight, female president who is married) is not an official office inside the machinery of the government of the United States. Nobody ever cast a vote for the First Lady. She has no constitutionally assigned duties. And more to the point, if she takes on some “job” in the government, the citizens have no recourse to remove her if we are not satisfied with her performance.
The same is just as true for Melania Trump as it was for Hillary Clinton. She has no authority to act and should not even be exerting public influence in the hiring or firing of government employees. Yes, I’m enough of a realist to recognize that First Ladies have influence over their husbands, but it’s exercised in private. Whether or not the President heeds her input is up to him. And that’s fine because the President remains accountable to the voters. We can, through our elected officials, remove him from office if we find him intolerable. There is no provision in our system of government to force a divorce on the First Couple and boot the First Lady from the East Wing if we don’t approve of the “job” she’s doing.
We tolerate sending First Ladies on goodwill missions around the world, though that’s rather dubious as well. If they have a favorite charitable cause they wish to promote (without having it bleed over into legislative action) we put up with that as well. I had no problem with Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden until she starting pushing her way into school lunch programs. But jumping into the middle of a National Security staffing situation, no matter how justified her anger may be, should not be tolerated.