Today, during a panel discussion hosted by Fox News' Maria Bartiromo, talking head Morgan Ortagus insisted that Michelle Obama had been out of pocket last week in sharing her "disdain" for President-elect Donald Trump, and that speaking her mind had been inappropriate for a for a woman of her stature. The first lady's job, Ortagus goes on to insist, is not to comment on current affairs, but rather to be something akin to a polite hostess.
Last week, first lady Michelle Obama, a woman who graduated cum laude from Princeton before going on to earn her Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law, expressed her deep concerns about Trump's impact on the American public's ability to dream and strive for a better, stronger future.
Speaking to Oprah Winfrey, Obama described that the days since Trump's election have reminded people what it feels like to lose hope and belief in the American dream that she and President Barack Obama symbolized during their eight years in the White House.
For many, Obama's words were a truthful, poignant articulation of the fear and anxiety that they've felt as the right's game plan for Trump's America has taken its disturbing shape.
Ortagus' argument went like this: “You didn’t hear Laura Bush saying anything eight years ago….She was gracious, she was classy, she was warm and welcoming to the new first family. And I think that Ms. Obama needs to take a cue from Laura Bush and probably just smile and be helpful to Melania Trump.”
Historically, there has never been a formal role for the wives of American presidents other than to legitimize the idea of their husbands being Loving Family Men™. But many first ladies, including Michelle Obama, have used their unique positions within the White House to champion worthwhile causes and, in some cases, provide powerful commentary about the contemporary political climate.
While the optics of Obama taking Melania Trump under her wing to perhaps teach her how to write her own speeches and deftly wield the title of first lady like the elegant tool that it is might be nice, Mrs. Obama has no obligation to Mrs. Trump other than to give her control of the @FLOTUS Twitter account on January 20. If anything, Obama is doing Trump a favor by speaking her mind and proving that the wives of politicians are meant to be both heard and seen.
One can only hope that Ivanka Trump, Trump's eldest daughter and the frontrunner to become the next true first lady, is taking notes.