Melania Trump’s RNC speech attracted attention from both sides of the aisle. How much of the criticism is fair?

Melania Trump’s RNC speech attracted attention from both sides of the aisle. How much of the criticism is fair?
Source: Evan Vucci, The Associated Press

First Lady Melania Trump, President Donald’s Trump’s wife, gave a speech at the Republican National Convention on August 25. In her speech, she sought to defend her husband’s record and portray him as a caring and authentic leader who defends the country and its people.

While the responses to these lines of reasoning were highly contested by political observers, especially on the left, her speech was generally viewed as an attempt to highlight the moral underpinnings of Melania Trump’s journey and outlook – a stark contrast to the kinds of speeches generally given by President Trump.

For example, one of the first topics she focused on in the speech was the coronavirus health crisis and its toll on the country. “My deepest sympathy goes out to everyone who has lost a loved one and my prayers are with those who are ill or suffering. I know many people are anxious and some feel helpless. I want you to know you are not alone,” she said.

In addition, she also portrayed her journey to America as an example of the unique opportunities afforded to immigrants, emphasizing the view that everyone has a chance to succeed in America regardless of their ethnic background or what country they were originally from.

“I arrived in the United States when I was 26 years old. Living and working in the land of opportunity was a dream come true, but I wanted more. I wanted to be a citizen. After 10 years of paperwork and patience, I studied for the test in 2006 and became an American citizen,” she continued, adding that [gaining citizenship is] still one of the proudest moments in my life, because with hard work and determination I was able to achieve my own American dream.”

Many Democrats criticized Melania Trump’s speech on the grounds that the vision and rhetoric underpinning it were not in line with the policies and behavior of the Trump administration. In this sense, many critiques were focused on the content of Melania’s speech.

But there was at least one instance where anti-immigrant rhetoric that’s often lamented by liberals was directed towards her.

During Melania’s speech, Bette Midler, an American actress and longtime critic of President Trump, suggested that she couldn’t speak English and wrote “get that illegal alien off the stage.”

Midler later admitted that she was wrong for making fun of her accent, but made no mention of the comment that called her an illegal alien.

Others acknowledged Melania Trump’s message

For David Brooks, a columnist for The New York Times who leans conservative but is no fan of President Trump, the First Lady’s speech should at least be noted for its decency.

“Stop scoffing. Melania’s speech is at least relatively decent and humane,” he tweeted.

Others, like Brooks’ NYT colleague Nick Krisfof, a left-leaning opinion columnist, agreed, noting that, “she both expressed sympathy for Covid victims and quite rightly called for more attention to the opioid crisis.”

Rachel Maddow, a progressive broadcaster on MSNBC, also highlighted Melania’s words on COVID-19, noting that it was “the first time in two days [during the convention] that we’ve had a straightforward expression of sympathy to the more than 179,000 American families that have lost a loved one to the coronavirus.”

Maddow also argued that Melania’s remarks on COVID-19 were “unremarkable from a human standpoint,” suggesting that such sympathy has been sorely absent from the Trump administration.

Thoughts from anti-Trump Republicans

While many Republicans reacted positively to Melania Trump’s speech, some conservatives who don’t support the president were also critical of it.

David Frum, a conservative and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, called Melania’s remarks “rambling, vapid, and disconnected from reality.”

“It mixed sad laments about the partisan and cultural divides that her husband foments and exploits,’ he continued, adding “that she herself has done little to overcome [the growing divide] with partisan slams at opponents and the media.”

At several points during her speech, Melania highlighted her agreement with the president that he has been unfairly treated by the media and his political opponents.

Steve Schmidt, a longtime Republican strategist who in 2018 became an independent after his unease with the direction of the party under President Trump, also characterized Melania’s speech as dishonest.

“Melania’s dishonesty is more soft spoken and less angry than the other speakers but it is dishonest nonetheless. She speaks for a vile cause that has wrecked the country in 3.5 years.”

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