Melania Trump the vase? The trophy woman? Donald Trump’s wife is as silent as her husband is extravagant. She doesn’t show anything, but her political role is more important than you might think. This is what Laurence Haïm reveals, who sees in her the face of a “conservative feminism”. Unlike the America of #MeToo, this current is the base of the female vote loyal to Donald Trump. A reserve of votes that could be as decisive in 2020 as it was in 2016. Because, even positive at Covid, Melania remains loyal to Donald. Laurence Haïm, French journalist posted in the United States since 1992 and specialist in the White House, devotes a documentary to him, broadcast Monday, October 12 on Arte.tv. Interview.
Le Point: You take on one of the most secretive and least talkative personalities in the world. Do you still hope that you can interview him in person?
Laurence Haïm: Yes, I never give up, I’m built like this. The interview request email has been in for a year and a half. Three times a week, I press the “send” button. Barack Obama, I got it like that. In France, you pass for a painful girl, but, in the United States, it is like that.
This almost silent first lady, do you think it’s her personality or is it a strategy of the White House?
This is his com. They decided to make him someone who only speaks through his clothes, that always perfect face. For a year and a half, I sought to understand the political construction of this former model. And I realized that she was a lot smarter than the dinners in Washington. In pro-Trump America, she is adored, we can see it in my report.
Read also Melania Trump: is there a first lady in the White House?
But the image of a poor child who escaped war and communism does not hold up. You went to Slovenia in his hometown, it doesn’t really match the story we’re telling.
She lived very well, in a small suburban lodge. A happy childhood with a loving father, who had – and still has – a lot of influence on her. Slovenia was very little affected by the war in Yugoslavia, it lasted ten days in 1992. We are therefore far from the dramatic story that Donald Trump makes when he talks about it. The odd thing – I discovered this during the reporting – is that she has never been back since she was in the White House. People in Slovenia told me “we want to see her”. But she left the country, it’s over in her head.
Read also American diplomacy: the omnipresent Ivanka Trump
Today, we wonder what is the nature of his relationship with Donald Trump.
I stick to the facts. They are not divorced, he takes her, despite the Covid crisis, to several ceremonies. She still supports him as much, even since his hospitalization. This is what I remember. The rumors, there are so many… Besides, the secret recordings which have just been revealed [on entend Melania Trump se plaindre, de manière crue, de son rôle dans les décorations de Noël à la Maison-Blanche, NDLR] show a first lady much closer to Donald Trump than one might imagine.
She notably defended her husband, before the poll in 2016, when women accused him of behaving badly with them.
It is a fundamental moment, politically. With less than 15 days of the presidential election, as Trump faces a woman, Hillary Clinton, she gives this interview to CNN to discuss the charges. She sends the message “I stay behind my husband, no matter what”. It is a turning point. It enabled her not to lose the female electorate. And, in 2016, it is notably the vote of women that will elect Donald Trump.
You can see what I call “mini-Melania” everywhere today.
What role is she playing in this 2020 campaign?
Today, we are really in what the Americans call “unknown territory”. How could we have imagined what is happening today, Trump’s hospitalization, his illness too? What is certain is that she will support him to the end.
You show her submissive woman side, “trophy woman”, in contrast to the free and independent woman.
She’s not stupid, I’m sure. It’s not the doll you take to a restaurant to show off. Like many models who have captured the attention of a man of power, she is very intelligent. Look at Carla Bruni, she’s brilliant too. Melania is the reverse of America MeToo. We never talk about it, but half the country is radically opposed to the MeToo phenomenon.
Does she embody what you call “conservative feminism”?
Be beautiful, intelligent, against abortion and for religion… This America exists. It is based on the “3 Fs”: faith, family, freedom. Even physically, these women are built on the same model: straight hair with extensions, high heels. Today we see what I call “mini-Melania” everywhere, they all look alike. A generation of young, very conservative candidates arrives and she sticks to the model Melania.
The reverse of Jill Biden, wife of Joe Biden.
Absolutely. Jill Biden is America that works, America that is courageous, feminist. She met her husband when he was a widower, he had just lost his wife in a dramatic car accident. She was a teacher in this small town in middle America… Storytelling works well on the Democratic side too. She has already indicated that she will continue to work if her husband is elected president. If she returns to the White House (Joe was Barack Obama’s vice-president, Editor’s note), she will be extremely important in the Biden administration.
Read also Biden asleep against Trump the fury: two campaigns at the antipodes
What will history take away from Melania Trump?
She will be remembered as the most mysterious and silent First Lady in American history. Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama… all had their own style. Melania Trump, we can just watch her.
“Melania, that obscure object of power”. Monday, October 12 on Arte.tv and LCP. Production: 3rd Eye. Fifty-two minutes