She may as well have said: “Let them eat roses!”
The news that Melania Trump had announced this morning a plan to renovate the Rose Garden at the White House was greeted with incredulity over the tone-deafness of the time, attention, and federal tax dollars that will be dedicated to the project at a time when the country is not only suffering from a pandemic and its resulting record unemployment but is in the midst of massive street protests over exactly the type of inequality that the garden restoration symbolizes.
The project, as The New York Times reports, “includes electrical upgrades for television appearances, a new walkway, and new flowers and shrubs, is meant to be an ‘act of expressing hope and optimism for the future,’ according to remarks Mrs. Trump delivered to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House on Monday morning.”
“Our country has seen difficult times before, but the White House and the Rose Garden have always stood as a symbol of our strength, resilience and continuity.”
Many people saw the symbolism quite differently, including former California Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill.
That’s some Marie Antoinette shit right there. https://t.co/oA2UZ1r72M
— Katie Hill (@KatieHill4CA) July 27, 2020
The Rose Garden has seen greater than normal use as the pandemic has prevented Donald Trump from traveling around the country and holding his ego-stroking rallies.
Instead, he’s been forced to campaign largely in the form of Hatch Act-violating press conferences held outdoors in the Rose Garden to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, when weather permits.
According to The New York Times, another reason that the garden has become such a popular location for presidential news conferences of late is the fact that Trump believes that natural lighting favors his complexion, White House aides said.
Nothing complements that ghastly, unnatural shade of orange better than the direct rays of the sun, the president apparently believes.
Other people saw the First Lady’s new initiative as an attempt to project a more traditional image in the mold of Jacqueline Kennedy’s famous redecoration efforts at the White House in the early 1960s.
“It’s just such a traditional venue when a president wants to get national attention for something he’s doing or something he’s saying,” said Lori Cox Han, a political science professor at Chapman University in California who has written about how presidents use the Rose Garden. “There’s not a lot that’s been traditional about this presidency or about how we view the president or the first lady, but for Melania, this is one of those opportunities to be seen as a traditional first lady.”
The move to embark on a major renovation of the Rose Garden would include improvements to the area’s electrical infrastructure that would make it easier to broadcast video of the president from the garden.
Still, some people see the project, coming so late in Trump’s term as an acknowledgment from Melania that her time in the White House is limited and that if she wants to have any legacy left behind, now is the time to act.
“’One reading of this project is that maybe Melania Trump is sensing that she has a relatively brief time in the White House,’ said Katherine Jellison, a professor at Ohio University who studies first ladies. ‘And if she’s going to make her mark in the way Jackie Kennedy did in her brief time, a project of this sort would be appropriate,’” vreports.
Perhaps, but, given the impending homelessness crisis that our country is about to face now that eviction moratoriums are expiring, there are much better ways to spend federal tax dollars than indulging the whims of wealthy First Ladies.
If Donald Trump is really so rich and so patriotic, why isn’t he donating the money for the renovation from his personal fortune which has been amply contributed to by his many federally-funded golfing trips to the resorts he owns?
Original reporting by Katie Rogers at The New York Times.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.