It was not Donald Trump’s diplomacy that was the talking point during the US President’s first visit abroad, but Melania’s hands as she brushed him off on a couple of occasions.
The first foreign trip of US President Donald Trump has been a sour one. Two ladies stole the limelight putting Trump in a spot. One was his wife Melania and the other UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
On social media, it was not Trump but his wife who captured eyeballs and comments through a series of hand gestures. She literally handed some left-handed compliment to the most powerful person in the world.
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It all started when she refused to lock hands with her husband as he alighted from Air Force One. Trump was seen waving to his hosts and then tried to grab the hand of his wife. But Melania refused to do so. She literally handed over the first major story to the media even before Trump had set foot on a foreign soil as President of the United States.
Then came the famous backhand flick from Melania. On the second leg of their trip, Trump and his wife were seen walking down the tarmac at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport. Video cameras caught Trump trying to reach back to take his wife’s hand. Instead of giving her hand, Melania gave a quick flick of the wrist and it looked as though she was trying to swat it away. The swat moment, captured on video, went viral of social media, raising several questions.
Was Melania unhappy? Did the couple have a fight on board Air Force One?
As the stories went viral, the First Lady tried to make amends. When they departed Israel the next day, they were seen holding hands together as they walked to Air Force One. Trump and his media managers ensured that the photographers had enough time to capture the scene.
But the social media was uninterested and the hand-in-hand picture was less commented upon than the apparent brushoff.
Apart from the uncommon glimpse into the first couple’s personal life, the First Lady dominated the trip. She was more visible as she strode along the President. She seemed deliberately keeping a few strides behind so that photographers could `shoot’ her alone, rather than with the burly Trump.
It seemed as though she wanted to be alone in the limelight.
She was also seen greeting dignitaries with charm and she stood over Trump’s shoulder as he signed guest books. She ventured out on her own a few times, primarily to meet with women and children.
The nine-day trip had rumour mills spinning on mother of all jet fuels back in the US. Trump’s critics reignited their old but unsubstantiated charges that the all is not well among the first couple.
But Trump has repeatedly proclaimed that Melania is doing a wonderful job as first lady. “She was always the highest quality that you’ll ever find. . . and I’ve known her for a long time,” he said at a news conference earlier this year.
He even boasted that his wife is “Jackie O on steroids.” Not many takers for this boast.
Trump and Melania have been married for 12 years and together for 17. They are classical example of how opposites attract; he is impulsive and decisive, while she is quiet and cautious.
The hand theories may have spawned many rumours. But who knows what goes on in the confines of any relationship they are not a part of? First couples — like celebrities — are subject to endless rumours, analysis and interpretation of their every action. As cameras click endlessly and the spotlight is on them, they are expected to perfect the political performance of marriage.
Barack and Michelle Obama nearly perfected this art. They teased each other and held hands in public. She fixed his tie while the cameras snapped photos of them on the North Portico of the White House waiting for guests to arrive for state dinners. He kissed her cheek.
But there were times when Michelle looked the other way as Obama expected a supportive glance.
Then there were the famous Clintons. In 1998, the Clintons were photographed dancing together in swimsuits with love seeming wrapped around them while on a beach vacation. But many thought that this was staged for the media. Later that same year, when the infamous sex scandal broke out, Bill and Hillary Clinton made a memorable photo by walking slowly and gracefully across the White House lawn together holding hands. Their then-teenage daughter, Chelsea, was added to make the picture perfect. Another stage managed one at that.
There was also the episode of Al Gore planting a full-mouth kiss on wife Tipper at the 2000 Democratic National Convention. The crowd went wild for the show of passion by a man who was perceived as stiff. A decade later, they separated.
Recently, Melania was seen gently nudging her husband as the national anthem was played, to remind him to place his hand over his heart.
This summer Melania Trump is expected to move to Washington, where the media glare and public interest in their marriage could intensify. Social media is waiting breathlessly for this.
The other lady who made life for Trump a bit rough was British Prime Minister Theresa May. She was justifiably upset over leaks by US intelligence of classified and secret information on the Manchester blast. At the NATO summit, she had Trump pulled aside to give him a dose and the news that Britain will not share any secret or intelligence report with the US for some time on the blast.
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