Melania Trump has maintained a very low public profile of late, which made it all the more noteworthy when she took a surprise visit to Texas this morning. NBC News reported:
First lady Melania Trump arrived in McAllen, Texas on Thursday in an unannounced trip to the border area amid the administration’s crisis over the separation of families, first visiting a facility currently housing about 60 children, most of them teenagers.
Before embarking on a tour of Upbring New Hope Children’s Shelter, a part of Lutheran Social Services that receives Department of Health and Human Services grants, Mrs. Trump participated in a question and answer session with shelter workers while sitting in front of walls papered with colorful children’s art.
In terms of the White House’s message, there was something of a conflict: while the president adopted a hardline posture on immigration from the Cabinet Room this morning, the president’s wife was near the border, signaling a far less aggressive line.
But if Melania Trump’s trip was intended to send a message of compassion, there’s reason to believe things didn’t quite go as planned. CNBC reported:
First Lady Melania Trump wore a jacket emblazoned with the phrase “I REALLY DON’T CARE. DO U?” as she departed the White House Thursday morning to visit a shelter in Texas housing migrant children who had been separated from their parents.
The jacket caused a stir Thursday afternoon when the Daily Mail first reported on the green canvas military-style coat. The phrase about not caring covered the entire back side of the jacket, which came from the mid-market label Zara.
The first lady’s communications director, Stephanie Grisham, later told reporters, “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message.”
Right, but no one suggested the message was “hidden.” On the contrary, observers noted the literal text – in a large font – on the first lady’s back.
In all candor, I don’t know or care about fashion. I also try to resist temptations to focus on political “optics.” While we’re at it, I find it very hard to believe that the first lady was deliberately signaling indifference to the plight of suffering children with her choice in clothing.
What I do care about is White House competence, or in this case, incompetence. And it’s difficult to overlook the fact that Team Trump – between its outrageous typos in official documents, its staffing crises, its clumsiness on a variety of substantive and legislative priorities, etc. – too often doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing.
In this case, it’s hardly unreasonable to imagine someone on the first lady’s team recommending a different choice in clothing, recognizing the message on her jacket might send, but by all appearance, aides just didn’t think about it.
And as a result, what otherwise looked like a nice gesture will be overshadowed by the one thing much of the political world seems eager to talk about this afternoon.