By almost any measure, Melania Trump stands alone.
Married to a president who has attracted arguably more vicious attacks in popular culture and the media than anyone in the office since Abraham Lincoln, the first presidential wife born abroad has been the target of attacks in her own right rivaling anything Eleanor Roosevelt had to put up with.
But according to a new book by a former investigative reporter and Trump friend, Melania stands apart for another reason.
According to an excerpt of Ronald Kessler’s “The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game” that was published by the U.K. Daily Mail this week, Melania has a behind-the-scenes power in the White House the mainstream media doesn’t understand.
In the liberal media, Melania is mainly an excuse for attacking Trump. Spurious stories about the first couple not holding hands in public surface occasionally to try to make the president look bad.
Then stories about the first couple holding hands come out, with anti-Trump outlets like People using the occasion as an excuse to remind readers about allegations the president is an unfaithful husband.
But Melania’s real role is much deeper, Kessler writes.
And he quotes current and former White House aides, by name and on the record, describing just how important it really is.
“She always seems to have the pulse on the right move and the right person at the right time,” former White House press secretary Sean Spicer told Kessler. “When she weighs in, it’s always spot-on. She knows where (Trump) is, where he should be, and how we could move an issue.”
Former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon used typically direct language when discussing Melania with Kessler.
“Melania knows who the bulls*** artists are,” he said, according to the excerpt. “She knows the promoters, the guys looking out for themselves and not Trump, and she lets him know it.”
Kellyanne Conway, the White House counsel who played such a key role in Trump’s campaign victory, credited Melania’s immigrant background in part with her success in the White House today.
“Those of us who have the privilege to know her and work with her also acknowledge and appreciate how brilliant she is,” Conway said, according to the excerpt. “She has amazing instincts, political and otherwise. She reads people exceedingly well. Her own story as an immigrant who heard about this wonderful place called America is inspiring.
“She was a little girl in Slovenia and came to this country to pursue her dreams. She is a successful entrepreneur in her own right, and is a devoted wife and mother.”
Of course, Melania’s two immediate predecessors were also devoted wives and mothers (Michelle Obama’s failings – though legion – have never included disloyalty to her family). And being politically astute comes with the territory of being a political spouse.
But Melania exercises her influence differently from Laura Bush or Michelle Obama, according to Kessler’s excerpt.
The dignified Laura Bush was more subtle. Michelle Obama was more grating, Kessler wrote. (Shocking, isn’t it?)
“Secret Service agents were dismayed to overhear Michelle Obama push her husband to be more aggressive in attacking Republicans and to side with blacks in police shooting controversies,” Kessler wrote.
“Having listened to their talk in the presidential limousine, a former Secret Service agent says, ‘Michelle’s agenda goes back to when she said about her husband running for president, ‘For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country.'”
Melania’s role is both more and less direct, according to the excerpt.
“Unlike either Laura Bush or Michelle Obama, Melania interacts with aides and discusses policy questions, helping to focus policy or strategy,” Kessler wrote.
But there is one point of behavior where even Melania’s considerable powers of persuasion fail when it comes to the president.
“She would tell him that he shouldn’t tweet so much, put the Twitter away, just do not tweet,” former Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told Kessler, according to the excerpt. “No tweeting. Stop tweeting. Slow down on tweeting.”
If that’s true, that’s one area where Melania not been so successful. She is, after all, only human, and one suspects it would take something on the order of the supernatural to keep Trump from the communication mode he’s used so effectively for so long.
But by just about any other measure, the first lady stands alone.
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