The US first couple has hardly gotten off to a conventional start. Now, after a period spent apart, it’s in for a very public test: life together in the Petri dish that is Washington.
President Donald Trump, for instance, all but ignored First Lady Melania ─ left clambering out of a limo in a sumptuous, light blue designer dress and bearing a goodwill gift ─ as he bounded up the White House steps in January to greet President Barack Obama and wife Michelle on Inauguration Day.
More recently the Slovenian former model appeared to swat away an outreached presidential hand as the couple walked along a red carpet upon arriving in Israel last month. The moment, captured on video during Trump’s first and very high profile overseas visit as president, quickly went viral.
But now it seems it’s time for the uber-wealthy Trumps ─ separated for months by political triumph and a parenting choice ─ to come together under another fancy roof.
After staying in New York in Trump Tower since the election so their young son Barron could finish the school year, 47-year-old Melania Trump and the boy are reportedly moving to Washington next week to take their place in the White House.
The Washington-news web site Politico, quoting people familiar with the family’s plans, reports that Melania and 11-year-old Barron will move in on June 14, the day Trump turns 71. CNN also said the move will be next week, but did not specify a date.
The reported move comes amid the seemingly endless barrage of self-inflicted wounds, damaging Russia-related news leaks, vicious White House infighting and other turmoil that have hobbled and distracted the Trump presidency since it set up shop in the executive mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on January 20.
Normally, when a new US president takes over, his family is an automatic component of the transition. Michelle Obama and the then young presidential daughters Malia and Sasha were instantly, albeit discreetly in the case of the girls, a part of the new US presidential hearth.
But Melania is the first First Lady in modern history to delay her arrival in Washington after an election win.
During the week at least, Trump has been living alone in the vast, private quarters of the White House as he fends off the flood of reporting over Russia having allegedly meddled in the 2016 US election with the aim of helping him defeat Hillary Clinton.
His family’s arrival is not going to change much other than to give his marriage an air of stability, Katherine Jellison, a history professor at Ohio University who specialises in first lady studies, told Politico.
“The move helps to give the impression that the president is currently in a stable, solid marriage and that his home life is under control,” she was quoted as saying.
Melania low key so far
Michelle Obama was very active politically on issues such as education and women’s empowerment during her husband’s two terms in office.
Articulate and personable, she became wildly popular and even generated talk that she might make a good presidential candidate someday. She has said she is not interested.
But Melania Trump has mostly kept a low profile since her real estate mogul husband became president.
Arguably, her biggest public outing came last month when she and Trump visited the Middle East and Europe on a trip that the White House later praised as a resounding success for the political and diplomatic neophyte president.
Trump has said that among other achievements he rallied Arab support for fighting the militant Islamic State group.
Critics say the high point of the trip was that the presidential couple did not commit any major diplomatic gaffes as they visited the centres of the Islamic, Judaic and Roman Catholic worlds, then Nato
Trump’s wife did stumble badly during the presidential campaign when, in a speech to the Republican National Convention in July, she made remarks that at times mimicked the wording and themes of a speech Michelle Obama gave in 2008 at the Democratic convention.