Melania Trump’s visit to Texas raises the wrong kind of questions

Updated

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.

Melania Trump

Melania Trump's visit to Texas raises the wrong kind of questions

Updated