Melania Flexes Her Muscles

Melania Flexes Her Muscles


Leonard Zwelling

No one voted for her. The ex-model naturalized American who is the third wife of the current occupant of the Oval Office has decided to raise her public profile. Apparently, upset with the way her staff was being treated, she is calling for the ouster of Mira Ricardel (it happened as I was writing this), a deputy national security advisor. She has also gotten crossways with Chief of Staff John Kelly and her husband is supposedly ready to rid himself of another Cabinet secretary, Kirstjen Nielson, Secretary of Homeland Security, and a Kelly acolyte. This is all very internecine warfare stuff, very East Wing-West Wing.

Let’s start with the obvious. No one really cares what Melania Trump thinks except perhaps Donald Trump. Oh, that’s right. He’s got the last word so I guess it does matter what the First Lady’s opinion of various Cabinet officers is. Nancy Reagan pulled the same business many years ago ousting Don Regan as Chief of Staff in her husband’s administration.

I think what is happening here is that no one really knows how to behave around a First Spouse and in the case of this First Spouse’s husband, it’s hard to know how to behave around him as well.

I find all of this offensive because not only did I not vote for her husband, Melania Trump was not even on the ballot. She should have no power to do anything beyond looking good for the cameras and doing various good deeds when those cameras are on her. Notice—the emphasis is on good. Ousting Cabinet secretaries is not part of the First Lady’s job description, if she even has one. It’s certainly not in the Constitution.

Now I speak from experience. I have been a first spouse. My wife was the Head of the Division of Pediatrics and had to make many difficult decisions over her years of service including those involving personnel. No one cared what I thought about her decisions—nor should they have. At public events when my wife was representing MD Anderson and the Division of Pediatrics my job was to be amiable. Now admittedly, in my case, that was a tall order, but somehow I managed. Then, I didn’t.

I became an outspoken critic of the president of MD Anderson even going so far as to blog about his missteps and foibles. I am sure it annoyed him. He told me as much in his office once. Eventually he relieved my wife of her leadership role. Actually, he didn’t. He had his two henchmen do it. I suspect that there were multiple reasons for the change in leadership in Pediatrics at MD Anderson. The person who replaced Coach K was subsequently replaced herself and here we are.

So my message for Melania from a former first spouse is to cool it. No one chose you except your husband. If he wants your opinion, give it freely, but in private. There is no accounting for you taking a public position on affairs of state. It’s not your job.

When I spoke up, it did not go well for my spouse. Be careful, sister.

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