All of this came to mind yesterday when the First Lady unveiled her awkwardly named “Be Best” campaign, which as Rachel noted on the show last night, was accompanied by materials intended to help protect children when they’re online. While the information was presented as if it’d been prepared by Melania Trump, it wasn’t.
On Monday, Melania Trump formally announced the launch of an anti-cyberbullying initiative. As part of that initiative, the White House released a booklet that, in the words of Melania’s signed introduction, is intended to “help kids act thoughtfully and kindly” online. And, as BuzzFeed News’ Ryan Mac points out, it appears that the booklet was almost completely copied from a document released by the Federal Trade Commission in 2014.
The new materials updated the icon for a smart phone, and included a new introduction from the current First Lady, but otherwise, the contents were simply copied and pasted.
Which means that Melania Trump, who does not enter the public spotlight often, is now dealing with another embarrassment.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s easy to overlook this as a fairly minor story. Some folks in the White House probably thought they could pass off others’ work as their own and assumed they wouldn’t get caught. Even if this incident disappears from our memories quickly, those aides were mistaken.
The trouble is that we’re confronted on a nearly daily basis with evidence of rank White House incompetence.
Indeed, yesterday’s misstep came just a week after the White House issued a formal statement falsely accusing Iran of having “a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program” that does not currently exist. NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell asked, “How does a statement of this import, putting the White House at odds with the entire U.S. intelligence community, get sent out so carelessly?”
The answer, unfortunately, is that carelessness has become one of the trademarks of the Trump White House, on matters large and small.
Postscript: The Atlantic’s David Frum had an interesting Twitter thread on this earlier, noting that when then-First Lady Michelle Obama launched her “Let’s Move” initiative, it was a real policy effort that “led to plans for action by government and private actors, which then translated into real world changes.” That’s because the Obama effort was “built by people who understood what government can (and cannot) do, and who cared about achieving pro-social results.”
He added that Melania Trump’s “Be Best” effort, in contrast, featured a photo-op and booklet that already existed. It’s “the latest demonstration that the Trump White House has zero idea of how to use government for any purpose other than obstruction of justice,” Frum concluded.