Contemplating On What Kind Of First Lady Melania Trump Would Be
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Donald Trump's older children, sons Eric and Donald Jr. and daughter Ivanka, are intimately involved in his campaign. They're part of the inner circle that makes decisions. They issue fundraising appeals, give interviews and appear as surrogates for him on the campaign trail. Less involved in a public way is his wife Melania Trump. Of course, if Trump wins the White House, she will have the most prominent role of any family member, first lady. NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson has this story on what kind of first lady Melania might be.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Melania Trump may be quiet, but she's not invisible. She spends most of her time at home raising the couple's 10-year-old son, Barron. But she occasionally appears with Trump at rallies and sometimes even introduces him.
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MELANIA TRUMP: He's kind. He has a great heart. He's tough. He's smart. He's a great communicator. He's a great negotiator. He's telling the truth.
UNIDENTIFIED TRUMP SUPPORTER: Yeah.
M. TRUMP: He's a great leader.
M. TRUMP: He's fair. As you may know by now, when you attack him, he will punch back 10 times harder.
LIASSON: And in television interviews, she defends her husband from criticism. Here's Melania Trump on CNN answering a question about her husband's rhetoric.
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M. TRUMP: He's not racist. He's not anti-immigrant. He wants to keep America safe. He wants to have illegal immigrants taken care of - that they will not be in the country, that they don't pay taxes, that they are criminals and so that they're not good for the America. He wants - he was talking about the illegal immigration, not about everybody.
LIASSON: If Donald Trump becomes president, Melania Trump, a native of Slovenia, would be the first first lady since John Quincy Adams' wife, Louisa, to be born abroad. She immigrated to the U.S. in 1996 and became a citizen in 2006. She'd be the first first lady whose first language is not English, and she'd be the first first lady who was a supermodel. And she would be the first first lady who is her husband's third wife. Exactly what kind of first lady she'd be is not so clear. Katherine Jellison is a professor of history at Ohio University who studies first families.
KATHERINE JELLISON: She really hasn't been forthcoming about how she would see herself as a first lady. So, you know, scholars have nothing to go on there.
LIASSON: But Melania Trump has left some clues.
JELLISON: I think she will be a quiet first lady because that's been her demeanor throughout the campaign, someone who doesn't weigh in on policy issues. If history is any guide, she might be sort of a Jackie Kennedy-type - you know, a well-dressed woman who will be seen as popular in the women's magazines, but largely stays quiet and on the sidelines in terms of her public image.
LIASSON: Of course, Jackie Kennedy, in addition to being a fashion plate, had issues that she championed like historic preservation and American art. All first ladies, even the ones who aren't comfortable in the public eye, find something to focus on. Barbara Walters asked Melania Trump about this on ABC.
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BARBARA WALTERS: First ladies are expected to have a cause. If you have a cause, what would it be?
M. TRUMP: I'm very involved in charities now - many, many charities, involving children, involving many different diseases. And I will - you know, if the time comes, I will choose what is dearest to my heart and work on that 100 percent.
LIASSON: And like many political wives, Mrs. Trump is a constant and trusted adviser of her husband's.
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M. TRUMP: I follow the news from A to Z. And I know what's going on. I'm on the phone with my husband few times a day. He calls me. I call him. I tell him what's going on. He's on the road. And I give him my opinions.
LIASSON: What might some of those opinions be? Donald Trump disclosed one.
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DONALD TRUMP: She said you could tone it down a little bit on occasion, which I understand.
LIASSON: She's been even more specific than that when asked.
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SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: What's the one habit you wish he'd give up?
M. TRUMP: Let's see.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: McDonald's.
M. TRUMP: The tweeting.
LIASSON: That's advice her husband has only occasionally followed. Mara Liasson, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.