Friday, June 22, 2018
Politics

Analysis: Melania Trump takes a page from Hillary Clinton's playbook (w/ video)

The last time the country heard from Melania Trump, she was discovered to have been channeling Michelle Obama, in a political convention speech that turned into a plagiarism controversy.

On Monday night, the glamorous, reclusive wife of the Republican presidential nominee went before a national television audience again — but this time her role model appeared to be Hillary Clinton.

Melania Trump did not actually utter the words "vast left-wing conspiracy," of course. But her argument echoed one that the then-first lady used in the days after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke.

Donald Trump, his wife told CNN's Anderson Cooper, was not the perpetrator but the victim — of a television personality determined to "egg on" his guest to "say dirty and bad stuff," of "the left-wing media," and of a smear "all organized from the opposition."

Until now, Melania Trump has declined to fulfill the mundane tasks of political wives, saying her duties to her young son are more important than the demand that a spouse go along for the ride to "humanize" a candidate.

"It was my decision not to be on the campaign trail," the Slovenian native insisted in English so heavily accented that CNN posted subtitles on some versions of the interview. "I don't listen [to] anybody about what to do, what to say, when to say it, when to do interviews. If it would be, for example, for my husband or the campaign, they will have me on the trail all the time."

Now, however, Melania Trump has found herself in a time-honored duty for a political wife when a sex scandal hits — cleanup. It falls to her because no one else can do it.

Sometimes, they perform the role mutely, standing dolefully at a husband's side as he confesses and promises never to do anything like that again. I forgive him, the wife's presence is supposed to say, so you should too.

Melania Trump rejects women's claims that her husband groped them.

Melania Trump made that declaration herself.

"Those words, they were offensive to me and they were inappropriate," she told Fox and Friends host Ainsley Earhardt in a second interview, which aired Tuesday morning. "And he apologized to me. I accept his apology, and we are moving on."

But the more serious charge is that Donald Trump actually engaged in the kind of sexual assault that he boasted about on the now-infamous leaked audio from 2005.

Though at least nine women have now come forward to say that they have been the victims of precisely that kind of behavior, his wife says his word is enough for her.

It is the tack that Lee Hart took, when her husband, Gary, the front-runner for the 1988 Democratic nomination, was discovered to have been on a yacht named Monkey Business with a woman who was not her: "When Gary says nothing happened, nothing happened."

"I believe my husband. I believe my husband," Melania Trump said. "This was all organized from the opposition and with the details that they go — did they ever — did they ever check the background of these women? They don't have any facts."

She added that, when she heard the language her husband used on the video, "I was surprised because that is not the man I know."

If it is true that she had not seen that side of her husband, it reveals only that she has never tuned into his many interviews on Howard Stern's radio show.

The timing of her interviews with CNN and Fox News was inexplicable, given that it adds a few more news cycles to a story that had begun to die down and comes at a moment when his campaign strategists are desperate to change the subject.

The New York Times has reported that Melania had resisted entreaties by his aides and his children to do a joint interview with her husband shortly after the Access Hollywood video became public, in hopes that it would put the campaign back on track, as the Clintons had by sitting down with 60 Minutes when allegations of infidelity threatened to derail Bill Clinton's 1992 bid for the White House.

Instead, Melania Trump issued a written statement. And when the allegations of sexual assault began, her response was to threaten a lawsuit against a former People magazine reporter — not over the central allegation that Donald Trump had pinned her against a wall and kissed her, but over a peripheral point in the first-person account.

"She wrote in the same story about me that she saw me on Fifth Avenue, and I said to her, 'Natasha, how come we don't see you anymore?' I was never friends with her. I would not recognize her," Melania Trump told Cooper. "That's why I sent them the letter, because it discredited the story."

Even now, Melania Trump is willing to go only so far.

In a moment where the script would appear to call for her to share a little more about "the man I know," she offered no personal glimpses of their lives. There was nothing more revealing than what one might hear in a campaign ad — outside, perhaps, her observation that she feels like she is living with two boys, not one.

"As I always said, as my husband said as well, for a successful businessman, entrepreneur, entertainer to achieving so much in his life, being in so many shows, so many tapes, it's very hard to run for public office," Melania Trump said on Fox.

"And he did this anyway," she added. "He said, I want to help American people. I want to keep America safe. I want to bring back jobs, bring back economy, so our children, our futures will be the best way possible."

"Strategically odd" is how Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a political communication expert at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, described Melania Trump's appearances.

"She is certifying the public person who is Donald Trump," Jamieson said. "She's not certifying her personal experience with him as an individual with the kind of stories you would ordinarily expect the defending spouse to be telling."

But maybe that's because Melania Trump agrees with Hillary Clinton on another point. "In a better world," Clinton wrote in her White House memoir, "this sort of conversation between a husband and a wife would be no one's business but their own."

Comments
Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

So Hillsborough County commissioners — most of them, anyway — want voters to consider dropping political parties from certain elections, making those races nonpartisan instead.This would mean when you go to vote in those elections, you won’t know if ...
Published: 06/22/18
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to visit Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to insist that Congress produce comprehensive immigration legislation, while anxious Republicans explored a narrower fix to the administration policy of se...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.Trump’s meeting late Tuesday afternoon with...
Published: 06/19/18
Another detention center for immigrant children planned for Houston

Another detention center for immigrant children planned for Houston

Another facility intended for detaining undocumented children is reportedly in the works for Houston as the number of children separated from their parents at the border continues to swell.Southwest Key Programs, the same contractor that operates the...
Published: 06/19/18
Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

ST. PETERSBURG — They appear to rise out of nowhere — two enormous, reclaimed-water tanks with an artist’s white clouds scudding across a blue background.A closer view reveals silhouettes of a lone coyote howling at the sky, mangrove islands, oak, cy...
Published: 06/19/18