Me­la­nia’s Ab­sence Raises Ques­tions about Her Role

The Economic Times - - Around The World -

Wash­ing­ton: When Pres­i­dent Trump trav­elled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware this week to pay re­spects to a fallen mem­ber of the Navy SEALs, it was his daugh­ter Ivanka — not his wife, Me­la­nia, who ac­com­pa­nied him. Me­la­nia’s con­spic­u­ous ab­sence at the solemn cer­e­mony only un­der­scored the fact that she van­ished from pub­lic view days after her hus­band’s swear­ing-in two weeks ago. And it raised new ques­tions about what role, if any, she plans to play as first lady.

Me­la­nia. Trump shat­tered decades of tra­di­tion when she de­cided last year that she­would­not­movein­totheWhiteHouse when­her­hus­band­tookof­fice,and­would re­main in­stead in the fam­ily’s lav­ish Man­hat­tan pent­house.

It was not un­til Wed­nes­day that she named Lind­say Reynolds, who worked in the White House un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush, as her chief of staff, a po­si­tion that most first ladies fill be­fore In­au­gu­ra­tion Day. She has still not filled other cru­cial po­si­tions, in­clud­ing so­cial sec­re­taryand­com­mu­ni­ca­tions­di­rec­tor.

Unan­swered re­quests for White House tours, tra­di­tion­ally run by the first lady’s of­fice, have been pil­ing up by the thou­sands, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the process. It is not clear how much plan­ning has gone into the elab­o­rate White House events that are among the heav­i­est tasks for first ladies, such as the an­nual Easter Egg Roll, which draws 35,000 at­ten­dees. “She is far be­hind the curve com­pared to where mod­ern first ladies have been by the time their hus­bands are in­au­gu­rated, in a quite un­prece­dented way,” said Myra Gutin, a pro­fes­sor at Rider Univer­sity who spe­cialises in first ladies. “We are in un­charted ter­ri­tory here.”

After an­nounc­ing her chief of staff on Wed­nes­day, Me­la­nia on Thurs­day chose an in­te­rior de­signer, Tham Kan­nalikham, to over­haul the White House pri­vate quar­ters. In the com­ing days, she plans to an­nounce the hiring of Natalie Jones as her so­cial sec­re­tary, and Stephanie Win­ston Wolkoff, the for­mer di­rec­tor of Fash­ion Week at Lin­coln Cen­ter as her se­nior ad­viser.

But for now, the lack of staff has de­prived Me­la­nia Trump of con­trol over her im­age, lead­ing to spec­u­la­tion about every­thing from her state of mind to her mov­ing date.

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