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Melania Trump beats Donald at his own game

Twenty-four hours after Melania Trump went public about her displeasure with the deputy national security ad...

Posted: Nov 16, 2018 9:07 AM
Updated: Nov 16, 2018 9:07 AM

Twenty-four hours after Melania Trump went public about her displeasure with the deputy national security adviser, the first lady's husband did her bidding and sent Mira Ricardel packing. Melania showed she knows how to play like a Trump and the President is likely none too happy about it.

Recapping the Ricardel story requires going back to the first lady's trip to Africa in October. Ricardel clashed with the first lady's staff over travel arrangements as she accompanied Mrs. Trump and apparently behaved in ways that bothered the President's wife so much that she concluded that the White House would be better off without Ricardel.

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Although Mrs. Trump made her opinion known, the President did not act immediately. Despite the "You're fired!" character he played on TV, Trump is not someone who enjoys dismissing people face-to-face. If he went to Ricardel's superior, John Bolton, he likely met resistance. Bolton is as ornery in real life as Trump pretended to be on "The Apprentice." So it was that the matter was left to fester.

The idea that Bolton tried to protect Ricardel makes sense when you consider her reputation. Like Bolton, Ricardel is regarded as a master of bureaucratic infighting who isn't shy about letting people know how she feels. She and Bolton made for a matched pair.

In an administration where intrigue consumes inordinate amounts of time and energy, the Ricardel-first lady tussle might have remained a standoff as long as Bolton was around to protect his second-in-command. However Bolton left for Asia on Sunday and Melania Trump apparently saw her opening.

With Bolton half a world away, the first lady took the unprecedented step of ordering the release of a statement expressing her opinion of Ricardel. "...She no longer deserves the honor of serving in the White House," said Melania Trump's communications director.

With this unprecedented declaration, President Trump was cornered. (When Nancy Reagan was first lady, she quarreled with the White House chief of staff, who was forced out, but the conflict took place less publicly.)

The public nature of the first lady's statement put the President in an extremely awkward position. He couldn't find a way to look strong in the face of his wife's public call for a top aide's dismissal.

Consider the choices Trump faced. On the one hand he could defy his wife. Given how she had crossed a bright-line boundary with her statement, the President had to believe she would escalate the conflict. And who, out of all the people in the world, would be more dangerous to Trump than his wife? The answer is obvious. No one.

Trump's less-worse option was to get Ricardel out, and this is the action he chose. He attempted to save face by saying the deputy adviser would be transferred to an unspecified job, but no one should accept this fiction. The President caved.

If Trump feels the victim of pressure from his wife, it's because he has created in his marriage a perfectly Trumpian dynamic. As a man who believes that life is about winners and losers, Trump has long approached every human endeavor as a desperate battle for primacy. If you are not the boss, then you are being bossed, and for him this condition is unbearably humiliating.

Humiliation is the name of Trump's game. When he calls people names, declares them to be "low IQ" or observes that a man like John McCain wasn't a hero because he was taken prisoner in Vietnam, he attempts to deprive others of their dignity. He also reveals that his own great fear is to be diminished in the same way.

Beating Trump requires finding a way to turn the tables without lowering oneself. This can only be done by someone whose decency is fully established and whose status cannot be ignored.

Melania Trump has distinguished herself from her husband by showing concern for the asylum-seeking families he separated at the border and developing an anti-bullying initiative. The goodness in these activities, both of which contrast with her husband's cruelty, gave her the standing to act against Ricardel.

In a week when midterm election losses continued to accumulate and criticism of President Trump's failure to attend an event honoring America's veterans grew, Melania Trump's challenge was perfectly timed. She added one more problem to his agenda -- one he could only resolve by allowing himself to be humbled.

The lessons in this episode are many. First, it's plain Mrs. Trump knows her husband's game and can play it. Second, the President can be beaten. Third, and most importantly, he's his own worst enemy, the victim of the concept that everything is about winning and losing and that defeat comes with humiliation. As a man who has always acted with this calculus in mind, he cannot trust that anyone will feel genuine concern for his feelings. The man who relishes humiliating others is destined to suffer it himself.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 947918

Reported Deaths: 15377
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1291181990
Lake635721103
Allen53899761
Hamilton44082449
St. Joseph42122590
Elkhart33803491
Vanderburgh30574449
Tippecanoe26915251
Johnson23727418
Hendricks22410342
Porter21832347
Clark17562231
Madison17492385
Vigo16302285
Monroe14545191
LaPorte14389239
Delaware14183222
Howard13971273
Kosciusko11498135
Hancock10935166
Warrick10737178
Bartholomew10635170
Floyd10514208
Wayne10077226
Grant9213204
Morgan8928160
Boone8463111
Dubois7791123
Dearborn769490
Henry7691133
Noble7466101
Marshall7409128
Cass7219118
Lawrence7026153
Shelby6647111
Jackson661386
Gibson6190107
Harrison609386
Huntington604495
Montgomery5853105
DeKalb581091
Knox5535104
Miami548888
Putnam543268
Clinton537465
Whitley529354
Steuben501768
Wabash488692
Jasper483861
Jefferson474492
Ripley457777
Adams446068
Daviess4231108
Scott409165
Clay394957
White393858
Greene393392
Wells389884
Decatur388797
Fayette378578
Posey362341
Jennings356056
Washington334747
LaGrange325175
Spencer321136
Fountain318455
Randolph317190
Sullivan309449
Owen287064
Starke282864
Fulton280454
Orange277859
Jay257038
Perry254152
Carroll245229
Franklin242838
Rush237030
Vermillion235050
Parke221420
Tipton212055
Pike211740
Blackford170534
Pulaski168551
Crawford147318
Newton145845
Benton143916
Brown135846
Martin130217
Switzerland126910
Warren115616
Union98511
Ohio80511
Unassigned0482

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1385749

Reported Deaths: 21820
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1538881574
Cuyahoga1358332341
Hamilton987081326
Montgomery679671161
Summit568451051
Lucas51531869
Butler48000663
Stark42232983
Lorain32046539
Warren30404338
Mahoning27463643
Clermont25990297
Lake24809422
Delaware22566147
Licking20767246
Fairfield20730223
Greene20611275
Trumbull20257516
Medina20074290
Clark18170332
Richland16680236
Portage16389231
Wood15926209
Allen14333261
Miami14018261
Muskingum12927155
Wayne12185244
Columbiana11980242
Tuscarawas11204271
Marion10908150
Pickaway10606129
Scioto10531127
Erie9864171
Ross9612177
Lawrence8934125
Hancock8603143
Ashtabula8474187
Geauga8251156
Belmont8236188
Jefferson7691175
Huron7537131
Union742651
Washington7380126
Athens709365
Sandusky6963135
Darke6875137
Knox6812122
Seneca6519137
Ashland6051115
Auglaize595388
Shelby5820104
Brown575372
Mercer565190
Defiance5564101
Crawford5563117
Madison551071
Highland549282
Fulton542583
Clinton533781
Logan518687
Preble5102111
Putnam4900107
Guernsey484364
Williams468982
Perry462254
Champaign454264
Ottawa442484
Jackson434563
Pike398345
Morrow396451
Coshocton391969
Fayette383753
Adams369275
Hardin366170
Gallia355458
Holmes3321111
Henry329869
Van Wert320771
Hocking310770
Wyandot285458
Carroll266352
Paulding246443
Meigs221742
Monroe192749
Noble174142
Morgan170029
Harrison160741
Vinton141319
Unassigned05
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