The New York Post was at its Postiest Monday when it ran a cover story about potential First Lady Melania Trump’s decades-old nude modeling photos. Impressively good-slash-bad pun notwithstanding (the headline was “The Ogle Office”), by publishing those photos, the Post attempted to do something to Melania media outlets have yet to do to her husband; that is, shame her, tear her down and convince a sweeping majority that she’s unfit for office. It was especially strange since the Post endorsed Trump in April.
By many, many arguments, Trump is not a good—or even worthy—pick for president. But his non-stick powers are stunning. In an age of apology and social-media shaming, Trump has won the Republican nomination by refusing to admit more than a modicum of error and, perhaps most importantly, by never saying he’s sorry. A rich man with a giant chip on his shoulder has bulldozed his way to a mere stumble from the White House, and as completely unqualified as he is, so is his third wife when it comes to would-be First Ladies. She’s a former Slovenian model. She’s been photographed naked. She doesn’t care about saying anything original or inspiring. And the same people who favor Trump in spite of his many sins have seemed disinterested in shaming his wife, even after a plagiarism scandal.
When asked about the photos, the candidate himself said, “Melania was one of the most successful models, and she did many photo shoots, including for covers and major magazines. This was a picture taken for a European magazine prior to my knowing Melania. In Europe, pictures like this are very fashionable and common.”
The only hint of Trump distancing himself from her is his mentioning that the photos were taken before he met his wife and that, well, it happened in Europe. Things are different over there, don’t you know? A campaign spokesperson doubled down on the forthrightness, saying, “They’re a celebration of the human body as art, and [there’s] nothing to be embarrassed about with the photos.”
And that’s good. For once, Trump’s response is exactly as it should be.
Melania Trump’s former occupation was to be beautiful, and the photos are testament to how good she was at her job. The idea that that could make her unfit to be a First Lady is odd. A First Lady, after all, can be a fashion icon (Jackie Kennedy) or overly powerful (Hillary Clinton, Eleanor Roosevelt) or on the wrong side of history (Nancy Reagan) and she can even be totally forgettable. She can even be a model.
First Ladies were once supposed to be demure. Now, no matter how highly educated or competent she is before landing the strange role of president’s wife, a First Lady is expected to pick a safe-but-still-important cause to advocate. Laura Bush took on literacy, Michelle Obama has diet and exercise. Melania remains coy about her actual political beliefs, but perhaps she should pick an issue soon. Maybe it could be a public-awareness campaign against the media’s enduring obsession with body-shaming women. Because if an unapologetic attitude, a clear lack of concrete idealogy, a socially conservative GOP platform and a rightwing veep can’t stop Trump, nude photos of his wife defintely won’t be able to either.