Melania Trump says she is worried about the children.
At a Donald Trump rally in Pennsylvania Thursday, Melania — a former fashion model and wife of the Republican nominee — presented her plans for serving in the office of the first lady of the United States. Chief among them, she said, would be protecting America’s youth from constant negativity and bullying on social media.
“Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough — especially to children and teenagers,” Trump said. “We have to find a better way to talk to each other, to disagree with each other, to respect each other.”
Kids are “fragile,” she said. “They are hurt when they are made fun of, or made to feel less in looks or intelligence. This makes their life hard. It can force them to hide and retreat.”
The irony of her call for civil discourse online was not lost on many; she was taking a stand against cyberbullying while on the stump for a man notorious for personally attacking people on social media.
Melania Trump: "They are hurt when they are made fun of, or made to feel less in looks or intelligence." Hmm: pic.twitter.com/Bhv0O5xrGm— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) November 3, 2016
It’s a mainstay of Donald Trump’s personality. He’s a “counterpuncher,” he says, with a habit of insulting anyone remotely critical of him — whether that’s journalists, the former Miss Universe candidate he once called “Miss Piggy,” or the bereaved father of an American Army captain.
The first question at the second debate — “do you feel you're modeling appropriate and positive behavior for today's youth?” — was in direct response to an audio tape capturing Trump bragging that he could grab women “by the pussy.”
But the biggest irony of them all was that Melania’s call to protect the children from ugly and mean language is straight out of Hillary Clinton’s strategy against Trump. It’s the message Michelle Obama had on the Democratic National Convention stage, and it’s the subject of multiple striking Clinton attack ads against Trump.
Melania is concerned about cyberbullying, about a culture that has gotten “too mean and rough.” So is Clinton — and it also happens to be her most successful argument against Trump.
Melania Trump just took another page out of Michelle Obama’s book
This isn’t the plagiarism case from the Republican National Convention when Melania Trump lifted Michelle Obama’s exact words. No, this time, Trump is standing for the cause at the crux of Obama’s argument against Donald Trump.
When Obama got up onstage at the DNC, she didn’t name Donald Trump once. She didn’t need to. Her speech was about being a role model — how American children look up to the president and first lady and the moral and cultural responsibilities of the highest office in the United States. She was talking about her own family:
That is what Barack and I think about every day as he tried to guide and protect our girls from the challenges of this unusual life in the spotlight. How we urged them to ignore those who question their father’s citizenship or faith. How we insist that the hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country. How we explain that when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don't stoop to their level. Our motto is, when they go low, we go high.
With every word we utter, with every action we take, we know our kids are watching us. We as parents are the most important role model.
To her audience, the message was clear: Donald Trump is not that role model.
It’s a message that has proven particularly successful for the Clinton campaign — she has framed herself as the candidate of women and children. As my colleague Matt Yglesias writes, “The goal is to present a message that a person who thinks abortion should be illegal or who doesn’t like the idea of big government spending programs could conceivably find persuasive.”
Now Melania is trying to convince those same women that she will make it a priority in the White House, too. You just have to ignore all the things her husband has said and done.