When Melania Trump joined President Trump on stage following her angry debate performance Tuesday night, there was a brief exchange between the first lady and her husband that once again raised doubts about the nature of their relationship.
Melania Trump didn’t greet her husband with a hug and a kiss, like Jill Biden enjoyed with Joe Biden. Instead, the first lady received a collegiate caress and she and Trump exchanged a nod and stiff, knowing, professional smiles. Even though Jill Biden wore a mask and Melania Trump wasn’t (as at the start of the debate), Jill Biden’s showing of affection to her husband projected warmth and closeness. The Trump interaction projected something else.
Trump and Biden greet their spouses after the debate. pic.twitter.com/AFeNAqFN8v
– The Recount (@therecount) September 30, 2020
And what did Melania’s smile say? She has become known as one of the president’s most loyal and trusted political advisers, according to recent books about her. Did she think her husband did a great job of “being Trump,” which Tuesday night meant bluster, interrupting Biden’s responses, spinning out proven lies and exaggerations, and inviting white supremacists Proud Boys to “stand and watch”?
People on social media also noticed that Trump quickly grabbed Melania’s hand on stage, but only after seeing Joe and Jill Biden fall into each other’s arms. Of course, Donald and Melania Trump have never had an easy time showing public affection, as evidenced by the numerous memes over the past four years in which Melania has pushed her husband’s hand away.
As soon as Joe and Jill hug, you can see Trump whisper to Melania “oh we should show some kind of affection” and hold hands 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/daX2pBXvjL
– Francisco Marroquin (@ CiscoM99) September 30, 2020
After these post-debate moments, “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah offered his biting assessment of what’s going on between Melania and Donald Trump. He said the explosive New York Times report of Trump’s shockingly low tax payments and $ 421 million debt – which expires in four years – shows that Melania may be stuck and can’t leave him.
“If she divorces him, she gets half of the $ 400 million in debt,” Noah said.
But the post-debate moments also showed to what extent the Slovenian-born former model and the former real estate mogul continue to live up to the impression of their relationship offered by the books – two from journalists and one from an ex. confidant of the first lady.
The books quote people saying there is love between Melania and Donald Trump, but the books also feature the couple as husband and wife acting as partners in a long-standing transaction involving money and status.
The first lady has always been “incredibly pragmatic” in her dealings with her husband, wrote CNN correspondent Kate Bennett in her book “Free Melania”. When Trump and Melania began dating in the late 1990s, he was 52 and she was 28. He was reluctant to get married for the third time and would only choose a girlfriend or wife who would leave him the center of attention, bent over. to his needs and support him unconditionally.
As her subsequent alleged affairs with porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal have shown, Melania Trump also had to learn how to project unwavering loyalty, even after showing interest in or enjoying the company of other young and beautiful women, they explained. Bennett and Mary Jordan, a Washington Post reporter and author of “The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump.”
“It was under zero delusion that at least some aspects of her relationship were transactional, no matter how much she loved him or how much he loved her,” Bennett added. “Part of their ‘fairytale’ was not a fairytale, but the centuries-old story of a rich, elderly man who strengthens his vitality and ego by marrying a beautiful young woman / model. She takes the baby; she gets the money. “
“After all, Melania is a realist, a girl from a communist country who understands that materialism, for all its charm, is not enveloped in romance,” Bennett added.
Indeed, according to Bennett, Melania Trump got what she wanted from Trump. Thanks to her wealth and fame as a real estate developer and reality TV star, she enjoyed some time in the spotlight as a model before settling down and becoming the mother of her son, Barron. After the 2005 marriage, Bennett wrote, Melania has gained “a rich husband; comfortable life; happy child; more houses; glamor when she wanted it, privacy when she didn’t want it; independence.”
But in Melania, Trump has gained an important ally, someone he trusts in ways he doesn’t trust others, Jordan wrote. So, in those post-debate moments on Tuesday, it’s fair to assume that Trump was really looking for his wife’s first impressions.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Trump’s 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told Jordan that Trump’s first call to someone after a rally was to Melania.
Christie said, “He would get on the plane, settle down, and call her and say, ‘Honey, were you watching? What did you think?’ And she would say to him, “I liked him, I didn’t like him.” … You know, he’s famous for calling dozens of people, including me, for opinions sometimes, but she’s the first. “
Lewandowski said that Melania Trump “would give him such good, solid and concrete advice. I would say 95% of the time he followed that advice … He has an incredible political instinct. “
Notably, Melania Trump has challenged her husband’s aides who wanted to keep him in check during his 2016 campaign and presidency, Lewandowski told Jordan. Melania Trump would instead say to her husband: “Be yourself, let Trump be Trump”.
Jordan quoted Melania Trump as saying that, in her, Trump found “the person who is compatible, at ease, has a trust. We trust each other. We are loyal to each other. We respect each other. “
But in her book, ex-friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, like Noah, offered a less flattering take on what binds the first lady and her husband. In “Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady”, Winston Wolkoff wrote that Melania and Donald Trump are both essentially selfish and corrupt people.
“The strength of Melania’s personality blinded me to the truth about her and Donald’s lack of character,” wrote Winston Wolkoff, who quarreled with Melania Trump after serving as her White House adviser. “But I wasn’t the only one. They pulled the same trick on (about) half of the country. I didn’t see it from the inside out, but once I was from the outside looking inside it became glaring. Now I can’t believe how blind I was to the depth of their deception and lack of common decency.
“I thought she was different from her husband,” Winston Wolkoff continued. “I saw rivers of light between them and thought Melania was more principled, kind and honorable than Donald and all his offspring. I was wrong about this. A Trump is a Trump is a Trump “.