It's actually pretty hard to know who to root for in the emerging war between U.S. President Donald Trump and the mainstream media.
I mean, seriously people, I find Mr. Trump as scary as the next sane person -- although apparently not for the same reasons as the MSM, which seems to think he hates Russia with insufficient fervor.
I admit, though, I felt a smidgen of sympathy for the man when I read Canada's National Post yesterday morning, wherein some sort of commentator complained at tiresome length about the fact Melania Trump, the First Mister's Mrs., is apparently missing in action -- the action, just to be clear, being defined as fulfilling the duties of what our American cousins quaintly call a "First Lady."
As an aside, one of the great disappointments of Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton's loss in last November's presidential election was that we didn't get to hear what the Americans would have called Mr. Bill, who is certainly no gentleman. Probably just "President Clinton," seeing as American heads of state get that title for life, go figure.
Whatever, the Post's starting point about what the World Book Encyclopedia my parents bought me used to call "the Mistress of the White House," a term that almost makes one glad almost no one actually prints encyclopedias any more, was not that Mrs. Melania is missing, or even that Mr. Donald's daughter Ivanka seems to be fulfilling her duties as First Lady, but that the younger Ms. Trump, the daughter of another mother, was photographed sitting in the president's chair in the Oval Office with the dreamboat leader of a neighbouring country. (Enrique Peña Nieto? Don't think he was in Washington. Or do you mean Joe Trudeau? -- Ed.)
I'm not making this up. Here, you can read it for yourself if you have the fortitude.
I'm here to tell you that whatever we have to worry about Mr. Trump getting up to in the Oval Office, it’s not where he lets the First Daughter sit, with whom, or even what the Post calls her "ambitious agenda." Which is what? Getting her dad to make stores buy her frocks?
Fact is, there's absolutely nothing new about presidential daughters (and others) filling in as First Ladies. Consider:
- One of the daughters of Thomas Jefferson, President No. 3, fulfilled the role, even if the title wasn't bandied around until Dolly Madison, wife of No. 4, James, came along. This was because President Jefferson's wife had died before he got the job. (Another of his daughters was deemed a slave at birth in the strange alternate reality we call the Land of the Free.)
- The wife of James Monroe, No. 5, was very ill. Consequently, his daughter served as First Lady.
- Martin Van Buren, No. 8, was a widower. His daughter-in-law served … or, at least, oversaw the servants.
- The wife of No 9, William Henry Harrison, hated Washington so much she refused to move to the White House. This turned out to be a shrewd decision, as President Harrison only lasted a month in office before dying. Until then, the position of First Lady was filled by Jane Findlay.
- The wife of John Tyler, No. 10, was disabled by a stroke. His daughter performed the First Lady's duties.
- No. 15, James Buchanan, was a bachelor. He asked his niece to step in as First Lady.
- Chester Arthur, No. 21, was a widower. His sister was First Lady.
- Grover Cleveland, No. 22, married during the time he occupied the White House. Until then, his sister did the job.
- Benjamin Harrison's wife died while he was in office and his daughter stepped into the breach for the remainder of No. 23's term. (He later married his first wife's niece, not that that would matter to the Post, because he wasn't president by then.)
- Woodrow Wilson, No. 28, moved into the White House with one First Lady and moved out with another. But who did the job between the death of his first wife and his marriage to the second? No idea.
The point being, if you want to worry about Mr. Trump and his family, you could more profitably occupy your mind, say, with the fact a man with the maturity and impulse control of an eight-year-old now has the firing codes to 4,000 nuclear weapons.
Or that, if he manages not to start a war, he says he'll deport 11 million or more people, which would be a humanitarian disaster that would prompt calls for the UN to implement responsibility to protect if any other country were proposing the same thing. Or that he may already be causing a European-style refugee crisis right here in Canada. Pick your poison!
Speaking of which, the CBC has reported with astonishment that that Alberta's many "preppers" -- folks who stockpile canned goods, energy bars, batteries, gold bars, guns, ammo and the like in the expectation of an impending apocalypse -- have been on a buying spree since the election of Mr. Trump as president of the great Republic next door.
This is an interesting phenomenon in that "prepping" is an activity historically associated in this part of the world with only the looniest and most paranoid corners of the political right, who, up to now have also been expressing their joy at Mr. Trump's election.
Does this indicate a glimmer of common sense emerging beneath the thick skulls of the black helicopter crowd? By recognized a real threat, are they tacitly admitting they've just been fooling around up to now?
Or maybe it's a matter of a whole new market for prepping, sensible people coming to the darkest conclusions about the future of the failing state next door. Or maybe there's a sudden realization that climate change, whether you deny it or not, may make it hard to find a grocery store or an automatic bank machine if a dam blows out upstream from your riverside mobile home or a catastrophic forest fire is approaching.
As for Melania Trump, who knows or cares? She may sensibly be concentrating on getting her assets offshore as quickly as possible for entirely different reasons.
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.