The old adage that opposites attract does not apply in the case of Donald and Melania Trump. In fact, to allude to another well-known adage, two peas in a pod is more to the point. In many instances the two personalities mesh and reinforce each other.
We learn this and much more in this book by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Mary Jordan.
The terms prevarication, distortion of the truth, vain, self-centred, isolated and calculating are shared and reverberate in their personalities. This extends even to the point of their signatures, which are strikingly similar.
Melania’s calculating personality has allowed her to maintain her marriage to Donald for more years than any of his previous wives managed (they got married in 2005). And she certainly got the most lucrative pre-nup, which will be handy when she decides to walk away.
Social distancing is certainly applicable in their relationship: nothing to do with the virus! She has been seen on several occasions to either reject his hand or pull away from his hand when offered. Furthermore they maintain separate bedrooms and very rarely eat together. The only real thing they share in common is the symbiotic relationship to further their own aims.
One would think their son Barron would be what they share, but not so. Melania, her parents (who live in the White House), and Barron all speak Slovenian, so they can converse without Donald understanding (both Melania and Barron are, as of 2020, Slovenian citizens). Nonetheless, Donald believes that everyone around him has an agenda except his wife. He believes that she just wants him to succeed.
Melania played a big role in choosing Pence as vice president, believing he would be content as the #2 spot and not gun for the top job as other candidates would have done. The fact others see him as anti-gay and anti-abortion was not a major factor.
On her early years, Jordan states Melania began modelling children’s clothes at her Mother’s factory in Slovenia. People who knew her said she had no trouble cutting people loose who had helped her. She never looked back. Her mother managed her career, which remarkably enough featured a 1993 video on Slovenian TV in which Melania portrayed the first female American president! Her real ambition was to be a bigger star than Sophia Loren, but even by 1998 a reporter who was about to interview her said “Who the hell is Melania Knauss?” This is the now infamous press conference in Paris where she would falsely claim “People all over the world know my name and my work.” But “within weeks,” writes Jordan, “Melania’s name would appear in the New York tabloid’s gossip columns; she was identified as the date of Donald Trump.”
The book is replete with Melania lies. For example, she claimed to have a degree from the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. In reality she dropped out of college in her first year, age 19, but the false claim was on her website as recently as 2016. For those of us who earned real degrees, at great expense in time and money, there should be a special place in Hell for anyone who lies about getting a university degree. And how many times have we heard she is fluent in Italian, German and French? Again, a big lie.
And why is it one can scarcely point to anything she has done for the country in nearly 4 years? (Come on, the anti-bullying theme she promoted was one of the grandest farces ever perpetrated on the public. She is married to the most extreme bully on the planet). And of course she worked really hard (actually wearing a hard hat) on the renovation of a tennis pavilion at the White House! The comparisons to Marie Antoinette were made, only Queen Marie really did care about her people. The author quotes Phillip Bloch, who worked on Donald’s beauty pageants, that a key reason she is not active as a first lady is that she knows the White House is really the Donald Trump Show.
Considering how closed Melania’s life is, the author was able to get a lot of people to talk who would not normally discuss her. Jordan’s research, backed up by 281 footnotes, shows she got to the heart of her subject, while others have only glossed over it.
Melania, now 50, is playing the long game. Perhaps the November election will be a game-changer.
The Art of Her Deal, $28, is published by Simon & Schuster
File photograph: Julien De Rosa/Pool/AFP/Getty