What, people wondered, did Melania Trump think of the president’s tweet?
Now we know. There is a lot to unpack in this four-sentence statement that White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham issued Friday afternoon: “BeBest is the First Lady’s initiative, and she will continue to use it to do all she can to help children. It is no secret that the President and First Lady often communicate differently — as most married couples do. Their son is not an activist who travels the globe giving speeches. He is a 13-year-old who wants and deserves privacy.”
Let us all agree that the last sentence is absolutely correct, and we should give the president’s youngest child some space. After Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan invoked his first name to make a pun during her recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, she recognized her mistake and apologized.
Everything else in Grisham’s statement is offensive. Trump was not communicating “differently” Thursday, when he tweeted to his 67.5 million followers that Thunberg “must work on her Anger Management problem.” He was melting down in his own fit of rage over her selection as Time magazine’s Person of the Year.
Nor was Trump airing his differences with her over the issue of climate change. He was calling attention to her demeanor. Thunberg has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Those who have this condition often do not express their emotions as others do.
But the worst part of all of it is the suggestion that, somehow, Thunberg brought this act of aggression by the most powerful man in the world upon herself. That by speaking up about an issue that she sees as an existential one for her generation, this teen has forfeited any expectation of being treated with decency.
Is this really the “best” that Melania Trump believes that we can be?