Melania Trump “did a tremendous job last night,” said Paul Manafort, Trump campaign chair. “This is a woman who doesn’t speak in public much. But, she wanted to speak … she said it was important to her that people understand the compassionate side of Donald Trump.”
Yet the fact that some 50 words in her roughly 1,400 word speech were almost word-for-word what First Lady Michelle Obama expressed at the 2008 Democratic national convention is distracting from all those wonderful things she said about her husband.
Melania Trump, it is reported, worked on the speech for five weeks and wrote much of it herself.
That’s impressive in and of itself. But, enough of saying it was sheer coincidence that she used the same words that Obama used. If the facts are as reported, it’s obvious that she read past speeches of prospective First Ladies and that Obama’s inspiring words were like the beat of her own heart. Then, as she wrote her own speech and thought about Obama’s universal message that so closely aligned with her own thoughts and feelings, she unwittingly incorporated a literally-aligned message, likely due to a near-photographic memory.
But, does it matter?
Not really. She’s not going for a PhD, tenured professorship or even running for president, herself. And, she obviously did not read Michelle Obama’s speech and say, ‘I like that. I think I’ll borrow — i.e., plagiarize — those words;’ then after cutting and pasting them, said, ‘Done. Fifty less words to write.’ That is patently absurd.
However, what this episode does show is that Melania Trump needs to assent to the role of professional political staff, as disagreeable as that might sound. Because, in this instance, they could have more carefully vetted her words and with more time could have realized, oh my goodness, that passage is almost word-for-word Obama’s speech.
Now for the VP pick.
Melania Trump did not show up for last Saturday’s announcement at the New York Hilton Midtown Manhattan, it is reported, to protest how her husband was being forced into making his VP selection before he had more time to think about it.
He had a lot of good people to choose from. But, in the end, Donald Trump bent to the will of his advisors, especially Manafort, who’s a skilled political operative and knows just what’s needed.
The choice was a masterstroke.
Was Pence’s selection designed to bring home that part of the base still wandering in the wilderness, confused over what the heck hit them during the primary process, and looking for a way not to vote for Trump?
No question. That Pence is a close friend and soul mate of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) signals that. And, he’s got a record on social conservative issues that convinces those leery about Trump in this regard that he’s their man.
At the same time, Pence resonates with economic conservatives given his record on jobs, taxes, trade, immigration, early-education funding, etc.
The “law-and-order” aspect of Trump-Pence is strong, as well, and could not have coalesced at a more perfect time, given the brutal assault the police are under across America, including last Sunday’s attack in Baton Rouge in which six officers were shot, three killed — just ten days after five officers were killed in Dallas.
Was Pence the most simpatico with Trump? Absolutely not. The reserved, once-married, Bible-thumping, Midwestern father, husband and governor with Irish-Catholic working class roots — and seasoned Washington insider — is the exact opposite of Trump.
But, Pence is right. Donald Trump is Reaganesque. Right down to his VP pick — reaching beyond his comfort zone to the wing of the party where he needed shoring up for the sake of unity. Like Ronald Reagan, he’s also lucky (i.e., blessed) that Pence was there for the picking.
That Melania Trump disliked the process by which Pence was chosen is understandable.
But, that process is the art of politics which will help keep the focus on “making America great (safe, strong, etc.) again” — instead of playing into the media’s hands of seriously sidetracking this winning message, or what’s called the “line of the day.”
By the way, great job Melania! You will make a lovely First Lady.
Mary Claire Kendall is a Washington-based writer and author of Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends. She served four years in the George H.W. Bush Administration as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Health.