In the Watergate era when Nixon would tell a whopper and then contradict himself, then-press secretary Ron Zieglar would characterize the invalidated statement as “no longer operative.” The Trump administration is carrying on that tradition. Melania Trump dropped from sight from May 10 to June 6, ostensibly recovering from an embolism procedure that takes 45 to 90 minutes on an awake patient. She spent five days recuperating at Walter Reed and her aides wore hospital scrubs. The obvious inconsistencies in this story bred rumors, which Trump angrily lashed out at, saying that the “fake news media” was “unfair” and “vicious.” That’s all no longer operative, because today Trump told a completely different story. Washington Post:
As he prepared to leave the White House, Trump said that first lady Melania Trump wanted to accompany him on his travels to Canada and Singapore but that she was unable to go.
“Can’t fly for one month, the doctors say,” the president said. “She had a big operation. That was close to a four-hour operation.”
Trump, however, said his wife is “doing great,” pointing upward toward the White House residence.
Trump gesticulated for the cameras, “she’s up there, she’s right there.” Who is he trying to convince, himself or us? Now granted, a person is entitled to privacy about medical issues, no matter who she might be, but a compelling competing interest in this case is that the First Lady owes it to the country to be accountable.
Political strategist Stephanie Cutter, who was an adviser to former first lady Michelle Obama and served as her campaign chief of staff, interprets the intense interest in Trump as concern by Americans for a popular and well-liked first lady.
“She holds a certain position in this country, and while we need to respect her privacy on personal issues, there needs to be some level of transparency,” Cutter said. “I can’t imagine a previous first lady disappearing for 24 days without some level of concern.”
Every game has its rules and while, admittedly, the interest in Melania’s whereabouts and doings has a gossipy streak to it, we are entitled to know the basics, like why she dropped from sight for almost a month. We live in a digital age where information moves at the speed of light. The White House is a fishbowl, like it or not, and since we the taxpayers pay for Melania’s staff, security, other expenses, we do have a right to know these things.
Cover ups are always worse than the truth and it makes a powerful statement about the Trumps that they would rather test float a lie and see if it flies, rather than tell a simple truth. This issue would already be history by now, if they had just been honest to begin with.
Or are they still lying, for reasons known only to them, and today’s statement will eventually be non operative as well? Not exactly a confidence inspiring move on their parts, is it?