Hardly anything that’s happened in these first 100 days of the Trump presidency has ever happened before. From the early morning tweets, to the frequent trips to Mar-a-Lago to the hundreds of government positions waiting to be filled, to the signature campaign promise of healthcare reform scuttled by the president’s own party —- it’s all different from past presidents.
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So it shouldn’t be surprising that the first lady is handling her role in mold-breaking fashion as well. But by not moving to the White House and seldom appearing in Washington, Melania Trump has spawned an internet industry plus a snarky story in Vanity Fair about whether she is miserable in her marriage.
#SaveMelania and #SadMelania started trending on Twitter on Inauguration Day after pictures of a frowning first lady circulated. The next day at the Women’s March the meme morphed into a tongue-in-cheek #FreeMelania —- certainly another first.
Adding to the speculation that all is not perfect in paradise is the unique position occupied by the president’s daughter. Ivanka seems to hold a portfolio entitling her to participate in everything from sessions in the Oval Office to summits overseas. The images conveyed to the public: first daughter rushing from one important event to the next, first lady waiting in a car pool line.
Here’s what’s not new -— curiosity about and a certain amount of censure of the woman married to the president of the United States. From Martha Washington on, first ladies have had to try to please the public, not themselves. After the first Cabinet met to discuss what Mrs. Washington could and could not do, she complained to a niece that she was “the chief state prisoner.”
Melania Trump has managed to avoid the well-appointed prison for a time, but she has taken on more and more of the undefined and undefinable duties of first lady. She has hosted the wives of other heads of state, taking them to see sites of interest to them. She has presided over a ball for the governors, a lunch for International Women’s Day, a rollick on the lawn for the Easter egg roll and a ceremony for the International Women of Courage Awards.
She has visited wounded soldiers in the hospital and wounded women in a domestic abuse shelter. And she has climbed in public opinion polls to approval ratings double digits above her husband’s.
The first lady has also hired a decorator to turn the White House family quarters into her home. Now all she has to do is move there.
Cokie Roberts is a political commentator for ABC News. Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of ABC News.