The first lady, Melania Trump, has laid out a vision of the role of the United States in the world that is markedly different from her husband’s America-first policy, while seemingly breaking with the president’s stance on restricting immigration.
By – Josh Wood
Speaking to ABC’s Tom Llamas in an interview recorded in Kenya last week, Trump also said the MeToo movement had at times gone too far. “If somebody is accused with stuff that it’s not correct … as they say you are guilty before you innocent and I don’t believe in that,” she said. “I do stand with women but we need to show the evidence.”
On America’s role in the world she said: “I think it’s very important that we show the world that America cares and that this administration cares and I care. When other people have more opportunities, then the world is more freer.” It was a far cry from her husband telling the United Nations last month that the US rejects the ideology of globalism.
During her four-nation Africa trip the first lady highlighted the role of the United States Agency for International Development (USAid) when she visited a school in Malawi helped by the organisation to donate 1.4m books. The president has twice tried to slash funding to the agency by a third, only to be rebuffed by Congress.
Asked if she agreed, she deflected: “They’re looking into it. The USAid is helping the countries for self-reliance and it will take a long time. We still need to help them but we will see.
“I will give him my feedback, what I saw and what I learned,” she added, when asked what she would tell the president.
She gave the impression of believing her stance on separating children from families detained at the US-Mexico border helped change the president’s mind.
“I told him at home and I said to him I feel that it’s unacceptable. And he, he felt the same,” she said.
Asked if immigrants should be allowed to bring their parents to the United States, the first lady said she did and that the president agreed. “I think he believes the same, that chain migration, he doesn’t just want to cut it off completely,” she said. “We need to vet the people and we need to make sure that they believe in our system.”
In fact, the president has repeatedly and forcefully railed against family sponsored-visas, which he calls chain migration, saying sponsorship should be limited to spouses and minor children. During the State of the Union address in January he said: “This vital reform is necessary not just for our economy, but for our security and for the future of America.”
As Trump spoke, a white pith helmet sat prominently on the table next to her. The unusual headgear was a lightning rod for criticism during her trip to Africa, evoking images of a history of European colonialism on the continent to many. “I wish people would focus on what I do, not what I wear,” she told reporters one point during the trip.
But while she has in the past insisted that her outfits are not about sending a message, during her CBS interview she made clear is not always the case. In June she wore a drab olive jacket emblazoned with the words “I really don’t care do u?” while travelling to visit migrant children separated from their parents in Texas. “It was for the people and for the leftwing media who are criticising me and I want to show them that I don’t care,” she said. “It was kind of a message, yes. I would prefer that they would focus on what I do and on my initiatives than what I wear.”
Trump made clear that she felt she was the target of hate, calling herself at one point one of the most bullied people in the world. Her own experiences pushed her to found the Be Best initiative, which aims to combat cyber bullying. Given her husband’s bullying behaviour both online and in real life, the initiative has attracted a degree of scorn and ridicule.
“I don’t agree always what he posts, but his action is his action and I tell him that,” she said. “I know I will be hit with criticism to talking about cyber bullying, but it will not stop me to do what is right.”
Of the president’s stance on the Be Best initiative, she said: “He didn’t say not to do it. He understands that he is very tough on Twitter. But he understands I want to help next generation and the children.”
Llamas, the interviewer, pointed out several times that no question was off limits during his conversation with Trump. However he did not ask her directly whether she believed her husband had an affair with Stormy Daniels while discussing allegations of infidelity, and did not appear to push hard when she was reticent to provide details on some subjects.
At one point Llamas asked Trump if the president had apologized for anything to her since they had been in the White House. She said he had. Asked what he had apologized for, she said: “I’m the first lady, but I’m also a mother and a wife, so I will keep some private parts for myself. So I will leave it at that.”
On Thursday the first lady’s staff sent a clarification to ABC about her answer: “The president often apologizes to Mrs Trump for all the media nonsense and scrutiny she has been under since entering the White House.”
Read more: From 2018/10/02