One of the most intriguing things about Melania Trump is the pointed yet cryptic way she seems to have found to drag her husband.
She leaves clues that appear to be subversive invitations to draw larger theories about what she’s really trying to tell us.
Perhaps we, her followers, should start calling ourselves MAnon.
Our oracular first lady was at it again on Saturday, seeming to issue a deft smackdown to a childish tweet President Donald Trump had fired off late the night before.
“Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon,” Trump tweeted. “He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!”
First, let’s unpack the tweet: The interview in question was on CNN, a network that Trump has claimed he does not watch. The topic was the admirable work that King James is doing in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. Among the projects he has funded is a public school for at-risk third- and fourth-graders. But the discussion veered into politics, as they all seem to do these days, and James criticized the president for using sports to divide the country.
That was enough to trigger a presidential eruption, capped off by a kicker - “I like Mike!” - that was almost certainly a reference to the current debate over who’s the best basketball player of all time, LeBron James or Michael Jordan. Then CNN jumped in with a rejoinder that alluded to a New York Times report that the president had gone into a rage when he discovered that his wife’s television on Air Force One was tuned to CNN.
“Sounds like @FLOTUShad the remote last night. We hope you both saw the incredible work of @KingJames,” CNN’s communications team tweeted.
Ah, but it was Melania Trump who added the coup de grace, with a statement issued by her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham.
“It looks like LeBron James is working to do good things on behalf of our next generation and just as she always has, the First Lady encourages everyone to have an open dialogue about issues facing children today,” Grisham said.
“As you know, Mrs. Trump has traveled the country and world talking to children about their well-being, healthy living, and the importance of responsible online behavior with her Be Best initiative,” the statement continued. “Her platform centers around visiting organizations, hospitals and schools, and she would be open to visiting the I Promise School in Akron.”
We’ve seen this kind of apparent trolling from our first lady before, starting with her choice of anti-bullying as a cause - one that by its very nature reminds everyone that her husband is the worst imaginable role model for the children whose behavior she is hoping to change. Similarly, she weighed in through Grisham in June when her husband’s administration began separating migrant children from their parents at the border, saying she “believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”
Then again, just when we think we have figured out what she is trying to tell us, Trump can confound - as she did by making a trip to visit an immigrant children’s shelter near the border, donning a jacket before and after the visit that said, “I really don’t care. Do u?”
What’s significant is not just what a first lady says but when she decides to speak up.
There is no requirement that she say anything at all, and this particular presidential spouse has been the most reticent going at least as far back as Pat Nixon. So, Melania, I think I know what you are saying here. And I do hope you visit that school in Akron. But if you do, please find something else in your closet to wear.
Karen Tumulty is a Washington Post columnist covering national politics.