Opinion / Politics

Mocking the First Lady – Media Dishonor History

FirstWill it never stop – liberal indifference to American history, ugly media smears, snide sideswipes of the First Family? The disdain is transparent. Last week, CNN – with other outlets – decided to re-up the narrative of Trump’s family insensitivity. The narrative is, itself, insensitive to American history.

Specifically, CNN decided to ridicule our First Lady over restoration plans for the 18-acre White House south lawn buildings, elevating their utility, improving appearance and elegance – to serve as an outdoor gathering place of future first families.

In truth, the buildings are overdue for renovation, the entire layout overdue for rethinking. The First Lady – like First Ladies before her – took on the thankless mission of overseeing preservation and enhancement of the White House compound.

Nevertheless, where former First Ladies, including Jacqueline Kennedy, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, and Barbara Bush, were praised for parallel leadership, Melania Trump is mocked. History shines a bright light on the contrast in treatment.

Wrote CNN: “First lady (sic) Melania Trump announced on Tuesday afternoon that she had – ceremonial shovel in hand-marked the start of construction for a new White House tennis pavilion on the South Lawn.” CNN then proceeded to blast her for not talking coronavirus.

CNN’s next headline: “Melania Trump defends work on White House tennis pavilion as coronavirus spreads.” To this: “Melania Trump has been silent on coronavirus, which has spread to 28 states, though one of the three pillars of her ‘Be Best’ initiative is ‘health and well-being of children.'” So instead of crediting the management of two initiatives, they use one against the other.

Let’s review some history. In 1961 and 1962, President Kennedy managed crises, including the Berlin Crisis of 4 June to 9 November and the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, while First Lady Jaqueline Kennedy announced a White House compound restoration project, specifically refurbishing the Old Executive Office Building.

During Kennedy’s tenure, America battled deadly epidemics, including tuberculosis – which in 1960 afflicted 55,494 Americans, infecting more than 50,000 per year over the next three years. The disease, unlike coronavirus, came with a high death rate and was a top-ten global killer.

Rather than impugn First Lady Jaqueline Kennedy for her elegance and focus on White House compound restoration, national media praised her as “an international icon of style and culture.” Without disputing that description, she was not mocked for her causes during these crises.

One is hard-pressed not to add First Lady Melania Trump, like Jaqueline Kennedy, is both elegant and composed, mother of a young child, and indisputably educated. Our current First Lady speaks seven languages, five more than Jaqueline Kennedy.  Nevertheless, Melania Trump is treated poorly for continuing to lead in her lane, as the President leads in his.

Other historical examples are instructive. Official histories credit First Lady Rosalynn Carter with putting “attention on the performing arts” and social programs. Regardless of how one compares, Mrs. Carter conducted her projects while President Carter managed the “energy crisis,” what he dubbed the “moral equivalent of war.” On health, a violent crime epidemic gripped America. Mrs. Carter was never taken down for her leadership. How soon we forget …

Likewise, Nancy Reagan – no favorite of the media – focused attention on saving children from drug abuse and restoring the Old Executive Office Building’s “trompe l’oeil” interior. Her priorities were respected, even if she was mocked for encouraging young Americans to “just say no” to illegal drug use.

While mainstream media are historically inclined to ridiculing Republican First Ladies – even Barbara Bush having to suffer tasteless questions from NBC’s Katie Couric – the vitriol inflicted on Melania Trump is inexcusable.
In the end, some things are predictable. In each, we can take comfort. First, the coronavirus will pass – whether the First Lady talks about it or not. Less deadly than flu, this “crisis” will end.

The virus is also less dangerous than SARS, MERS, or Ebola – all of which were weathered without a Vice President managing our national response.
This crisis is less risky than tuberculosis in Kennedy’s time, or drug abuse in Reagan’s, let alone – to hear him tell it – the “moral equivalent of war” in Carter’s.

In short, blaming a First Lady for not leading in this health crisis, or blaming her for continuing to work, announce and advance projects as we wrestle coronavirus is more than catty – it is inconsistent with American history.

What strikes a reader of daily news, beyond coronavirus hysteria and mocking of the First Family, is that the “narrative” – a term once used for children’s stories – does not fit history.

Presidents and First Ladies have always pursued their respective roles through crises. First Lady Melania Trump is no different. She continues to focus on missions worth her leadership. In this, we should be happy, not disconsolate – even if the media continue to mock, disrespect, and disdain the First Family. Dishonor resides in the media, not those who lead.

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