The traditional role of the first lady is, in the clichéd language of our politics, to “humanize” her spouse. Melania Trump may in some sense appear to be nontraditional for the wife of a Republican nominee. But in her speech on Monday night she set for herself the same goal: showing a side of Donald Trump that voters had not seen. What she delivered, according to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, speaking from the convention floor, was the speech of the night. The CNN panel gushed. Hugh Hewitt got excited on MSNBC. But don’t believe it: Melania’s speech was just as morally questionable as Rudy Giuliani’s Mussolini-not-so-lite speech that preceded it.
The most striking feature of Melania’s speech was the lack of specifics: Perhaps because her husband is a gruesome demagogue rather than a halfway-decent person, there were no humanizing anecdotes or sweet stories to tell. The candidate’s public personality is clearly more than an act; those who know him have nothing truly nice or personal to say about him, just as he has nothing nice or personal to say about them. (People he likes in his orbit tend to be “absolutely terrific.”)
Bereft of specifics, Melania nevertheless did her best to humanize her husband. But humanizing Donald Trump really means sugar-coating Donald Trump. For Melania to get on stage and say that Trump will take care of Jews and Muslims and Mexicans and African-Americans after the various things her husband has either said about these groups, or let pass from his supporters, is a disgrace.
The thing to remember about this convention is that everyone there—from Melania to Bob Dole to Paul Ryan—is helping to normalize Trump. Her role in attempting to humanize her inhumane husband is no less icky then the rest of the Republican Party’s willingness to go along with him. Thankfully, you can’t put lipstick on a pig—or on a quasi fascist.