Op-ed: A helping hand

  • By Bob Franken
  • Wednesday, May 31, 2017 9:54am
  • Opinion

Melania and Donald Trump have a problem, and obviously the hands-on approach isn’t working.

Twice on their overseas trip, video showed the president reaching for the first lady’s hand and her avoiding his like the plague. Let’s not forget that this is a guy who is a germaphobe, so Melania shouldn’t have to worry about the digital plague — no matter what size hubby’s digits are. Still, there she was; one time pretending to deal with her hair when he reached out and the other clearly swatting away his attempt at photo-op affection. Even if that was her rebelling against the irritatingly phony handholding charade between politicians and their spouses — remember Bill and Hillary Clinton used to grit their teeth and lock fingers — Melania’s refusals to touch paws gave the world pause.

The video of her dexterous rejections went so viral that not only did they infect the internet, but they contaminated every TV news show on the planet. Even newspapers in their digital (pardon the pun) editions offered links to Melania’s refusal to link with Donald.

So then what happened? Obviously somebody performed an appendagectomy, which was accomplished by super-gluing their palms together. I defy you to spot a picture of them anymore where they are not holding hands. They may be scowling, but they are determined not to be seen together in any way but attached at the wrist.

In their desperate effort to stifle speculation that all is not well behind the closed doors of their gilded relationship, they are giving not just one finger to the trolls, but all of theirs. In Trumpworld, after all, image is everything. That’s a variation on perception is reality; but with all Trump’s lies, there is no reality. Alternative facts, yes. Reality, no.

So now Mel and Don are presented as a happy couple — as happy a couple as can be when both are scowling most of the time. There are some practical problems with the new hand-holding mandate. First of all, often it’s awkward. It’s not always easy for a 70-year-old man to reach for Melania when she’s occupying her usual space somewhat behind him (which explains why Mr. Trump was so comfortable with the Saudis). Besides, as Donald himself explained on the video that’s not usually where he grabs a woman.

These days, he mainly uses his fingers for tweeting, although in his overseas trip, his staff was able to prevent most of his usual Twitter damage. Perhaps they tied his arms by his side, releasing them only when he was walking hand in clenched hand with Melania. In any case, his travels produced only a series of minor boo-boos, particularly the European part of it. But there were no huge gaffes, nothing visibly mortifying. That was enough for him to describe his foreign venture as a “home run.” But now that he’s run back home, he’s discovering the messes he left behind. And he’s also rediscovered his little Twitter finger, firing off the usual cyberhate. In between his tweetrums, he faces struggles with health care, tax reform and the debt ceiling, to say nothing of the crushing “Russia thing” that is his biggest distraction. Characteristically, he’s blaming his subordinates, so he’s started a gutting of his White House staff.

His most gut-wrenching problem is the staff member named Jared Kushner. Jared is sinking deeper and deeper into the morass of Russia collusion investigations. Given how Kushner is POTUS’ son in law (SILOTUS?) it’s not likely President Trump will get rid of Jared. If he’s smart though (which millions seriously doubt), he will recruit some people with Washington experience. In addition to Melania, he desperately needs some others to give him a hand.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

More in Opinion

A roll of “I voted” stickers sit at the Alaska Division of Elections office in Juneau in 2022. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Strengthening democracy: Native vote partners to boost voter registration

GOTNV and VPC are partnering to send over 4,000 voter registration applications this month to addresses and P.O. boxes all over Alaska

Priya Helweg is the acting regional director and executive officer for the Region 10 Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
Happy Pride Month

This month is dedicated to acknowledging and uplifting the voices and experiences of the LGBTQI+ community

Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
Former President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower after he was found guilty of all counts in his criminal trial in New York on May 30.
Opinion: Trump’s new fixers

Fixers from Alaska and elsewhere step in after guilty verdict

Ballot booths are set up inside Kenai City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Perspective from an election worker

Here is what I know about our Kenai Peninsula Borough election system

Apayauq Reitan, the first transgender woman to participate in the Iditarod, tells the House Education Committee on March 30, 2023, why she opposes a bill restricting transgender rights. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: The imaginary transgender sports crisis

House Bill 183 is a right-wing solution to a problem that doesn’t exist now and never will.

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Session ends with budget, dividend and bills passed

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

The Alaska State Capitol. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Listen to PAs; support Senate Bill 115: Modernizing PA Practice in Alaska

Health care is rapidly evolving, demanding a more flexible and responsive system

Mount Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file photo)
Opinion: Hilcorp Alaska: Powering Southcentral Alaska — past, present and future

Hilcorp Alaska has and will continue to fully develop our Cook Inlet basin leasehold

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024 (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Collegiality matters

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Juneau Empire file photo
Larry Persily.
Opinion: Alaska might as well embrace the past

The governor, legislators, municipal officials and business leaders are worried that the Railbelt will run short of natural gas before the end of the decade

The Alaska State Capitol on March 1. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: Physicians oppose Alaska Senate Bill 115 — Independent Practice for PAs

Alaskans don’t want access to just any health care, they want access to high quality care