Among the many norms destroyed during the presidency of Donald Trump, civility and White House traditions have been among the biggest victims.
Now with just hours to go before Trump will be summarily evicted from the White House, his wife Melania is refusing to participate in a long-standing presidential transition tradition that has the current first lady giving a personal tour to her incoming replacement of the private living quarters on the second and third floors of their new residence.
Journalist Kate Andersen Brower, the author of First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies, a definitive history of presidential spouses, detailed the unprecedented snub in an opinion column for CNN.
“From Bess Truman and Mamie Eisenhower’s meeting, to the visit Laura Bush hosted where Jenna and Barbara Bush showed Sasha and Malia Obama how to slide down the banister in the Residence, to the visit where Michelle Obama invited Melania Trump even after Donald Trump had questioned her husband’s citizenship, this tradition has long been one of the first lady’s many unwritten obligations,” Brower writes. “And Melania Trump has discarded it,” she laments.
Brower explains in her op-ed why “Ceremony matters. Traditions matter.”
“It’s a rare event when we’re reminded that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, and while a meeting over tea served on silver platters in the Residence between two powerful women married to presidents might seem quaint, that tradition is meaningful. It grounds us, knowing that two people who may have very little in common are acknowledging that something as momentous as the transfer of presidential power also touches the lives of real families not so unlike ours,” she explains.
Those traditions matter to many who saw the news on social media and responded with reflections on how the immigrant first lady’s snub to Dr. Jill Biden reflects on her own character and that of her deplorable husband.
Dr. Jill Biden doesn’t need a tour from Melania.
— Jo (@JoJoFromJerz) January 18, 2021
Jill Biden does not need Melania for a smooth transition. She has Michelle to give her all the information she needs.
— s.richart (@Ssrichart11) January 18, 2021
Dr Jill Biden should tweet, “I’ve seen enough of Melania, already.”
— mana’olana (@MakahaMelody) January 18, 2021
Jill Biden probably considers herself lucky not to be forced into the same room with Melania.
— Mike Nietzel (@MikeNietzel) January 18, 2021
Jill Biden's probably spent more time than Melania in the WH private quarters.
— Enid Shelmerdine (@eshelm) January 18, 2021
It would be wild if all Jill Biden's predecessors came to receive her, Melania can attend or not. Her choice.
— Crissy Ryan (@ChristineRyan9) January 18, 2021
From Melania’s perspective, she would be scolded (or worse) by her abusive husband if she disobeyed his implied or direct orders. I can’t say Dr. Jill Biden is taking offense, after all what can we really expect from this couple? https://t.co/cx9cx1DE2y
— Marietta Arce (@marietta_arce) January 18, 2021
It seems like the outgoing first lady has not made many new fans with her decision to break with precedent.
Her petulance here and her “Be best” hypocrisy may be the reason she and Donald Trump are such a perfect match.
Hopefully, Melania won’t miss him much if he’s remanded to prison after being tried for his many alleged crimes in his post-presidential career.
She always has her own modeling career to fall back on once Donald spends his remaining fortune on legal fees.
Original reporting by Kate Andersen Brower at CNN.
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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.