At the United Nations last week, Melania Trump followed her husband as a speaker, and she had a message that could well have been addressed to him. The topic was the bullying of children, and the child in him needed to hear it.
"We must remember that that they are watching and listening, so we must not miss an opportunity to teach life's ethical lessons along the way. As adults, we are not merely responsible; we are accountable," she said, citing the golden rule "to do unto others as you would have done unto you."
She continued: "We must turn our focus right now to the message and content they are exposed to on a daily basis through social media — the bullying, the experience online and in person."
Our first lady will never be mistaken for the next Eleanor Roosevelt, or for that matter Bess Truman or Abigail Adams, three of her most famous predecessors. Melania Trump's strongest claim for notoriety has been her exotic glamour appeal, equaled only among previous presidential wives by the stylish and aristocratic Jacqueline Kennedy.
Always perfectly turned out and radiant, this fashion queen from Eastern Europe stands apart from American womanhood as a pedestal figure.
From her mass media debut descending the Trump Tower escalator in front of her husband at his announcement of his presidential candidacy, she has been the world's most prominent arm-candy, silent and mysterious. No Rosie the Riveter or your boss's efficient but boring secretary, she.
In her first notable political remarks as Mr. Trump's better half, Melania committed a novice's stumble at the Republican National Convention by perhaps unwittingly plagiarizing a part of a Michelle Obama convention speech. But it was taken by many as more nonpartisan flattery than political larceny.
Thereafter, Melania was rolled out sparingly, more as a vision than as a mouthpiece, leaving to her husband the task of revving up and exciting his crowds with his sharply different if effective scorched-earth style of angry and divisive oratory.
As first lady, she was rationed out to the rowdy crowds as a rare delicacy in what brought to mind the late Republican Sen. Everett Dirksen's memorable line — that his press conferences were akin to "casting genuine pearls before real swine."
The great hurricane epidemic of 2017 soon presented a grand opportunity to humanize Melania. She comfortably rose to it at her husband's side as he toured the various destroyed sites in Texas, Louisiana and then in the Caribbean islands and Florida.
An unforgiving press caught her boarding Air Force One in stylish stiletto heels. En route to the hurricane zone she changed into sneakers, but never mind; the news photos of her shoes hit the Internet like daggers. She subsequently dressed down to the occasion, and as the storms subsided she came across as suitably part of a concerned, sympathetic Trump team.
Finally, Melania accompanied her husband to the United Nations, where with his customary chip on shoulder he lectured 150 world leaders to emulate his America First policy by paying attention to their own national sovereignty before peddling world peace abroad.
When Melania was given her turn, she told the UN leaders what she should be telling her husband. She made an impassioned pitch for an end to bullying by the powerful toward the young and poor, starting with the children of the world.
It's becoming increasingly clear that Melania as first lady is the better half of a manchild who lacks the maturity, compassion and heart to be the leader of a great country. She delivered the sort of encouraging and unifying message that the world needs right now, rather than her husband's blistering, provocative boast of readiness to "totally destroy" North Korea before the world body created for just the opposite goals.
Maybe, after all, this successor to Eleanor, Bess, Abigail and Jackie is not just another pretty face, but one with obviously a strong stomach for obtuse presidential behavior when it comes close to home.
Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power” (Smithsonian Books). His email is email@example.com.