Apparently, Melania did not get along with one of her husband’s hires, a woman named Mira Ricardel, a deputy national security adviser who is a top aide of John Bolton, the head of the National Security Council. The Office of the First Lady released a statement reading: “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she [Ricardel] no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House.” Ricardel, it seemed, had clashed with members of Melania’s staff on her recent trip to Africa over, of all things, plane seats. It was also reported that friction arose between Ricardel and the office of FLOTUS over availability of NSC resources.
First Ladies previous to Melania, by tradition, had adopted causes when their husbands entered the White House. Michelle Obama trained her sights on childhood obesity; Laura Bush, a former teacher and librarian, campaigned for childhood literacy, and so did Barbara Bush when she served as First Lady from 1989-1993. Jacqueline Kennedy championed arts and culture and during her tenure, embarked on an extensive redecoration of the White House as a showcase for the best of American art. Hillary Clinton was perhaps the most ambitious of the lot, taking charge of overhauling the healthcare system of the United States which, unfortunately, flamed out during her husband’s presidency. Melania herself announced that she would be concentrating on cyberbullying. But never before had a First Lady directly intervened in personnel matters, unless one counts Nancy Reagan, whose pet cause was the “Just Say No” campaign against juvenile drug addiction, who maneuvered behind the scenes to have Don Regan removed as Chief of Staff from her husband Ronnie’s administration.
A First Lady’s role is unofficial. She has no official portfolio unless one counts her role as the nation’s hostess. Her functions tend to be ceremonial and she is expected to have no or little voice in national policy. When Hillary Clinton tackled health reform, her efforts were stymied by her opponents on Capitol Hill, not to mention the lobbyists of the insurance industry, whose byzantine ways of conducting business stood to suffer the most if the initiative pushed through. Objections to her personal involvement were, I think, fair considering that the American public did not vote for her—they voted for her husband Bill. For a while, the odd notion was peddled that, in voting for Bill Clinton, America would be getting two for the price of one. In hindsight, Hillary was the right person at the wrong time.
Here at home, First Ladies, not counting Imelda Marcos, do not really court controversy or become controversial. Noynoy Aquino, the bachelor, never had need of one; Rodrigo Duterte does not have an official one; Loi Ejercito wasn’t really heard from, and Ming Ramos had the Pasig River, but that’s about it. No one can say definitively if these ladies exerted influence on their husbands behind closed doors, but the absence of evidence does not discount the possibility that they exercised some form of influence.
What is truly funny about the Melania-Mira debacle is that Donald Trump is reportedly irate—“pissed” is the word—at his hand being forced to fire Mira Ricardel by, of all people, his wife, who hitherto, had been a beautiful yet largely mute presence. My impression is that Donald is all riled up, not because his staffing choices were being called into question, but because he was painted to look like he was being “bossed around” by his wife.
Let’s face it: after that terse 24-word statement, Melania did indeed force her husband’s hand, yet what was he to do? Ignore his wife? No sane husband would counsel him to do that, at least no sane husband still married to his spouse, especially if the spouse is the First Lady. Of course Trump had to fire Ricardel—that done, he will not have to sleep with one eye open on the lookout for wayward pinking shears. The situation had become untenable for the most powerful man in the world.
Prince Charles could commiserate—probably. A Vanity Fair article entitled “The Mouse that Roared” once described him as being “pussy-whipped from here to eternity” by Princess Diana. But Donald Trump won’t appreciate the comparison: he is, after all, the man who boasted he “grabs” p*****s, not whipped by them.
Kudos, then, to Melania, for doing to her husband what millions of women offended by his misogyny have long longed to do: grab the pair. G