When I read reports that first lady Melania Trump, en route to visit immigrant kids detained at the border, wore a jacket that read “I REALLY DON’T CARE DO U” I thought it was, like, an implication. Not, you know, literal.
Turns out the first lady is just tone deaf enough to wear a jacket with those exact words in giant letters on the back, which really seems to highlight superficial concern for the victims of a humanitarian crisis of her husband’s manufacture.
The first lady’s trip to the border comes one day after President Donald Trump signed an executive order ending a practice he’d begun about six weeks before, of removing children brought across the border by their parents to holding facilities, and then to foster care or group homes across the country. (Kids already detained seem to be stuck in limbo, with dim prospects of reunification with their parents any time soon.)
Melania Trump’s spokesperson told a reporter that the jacket, which the first lady did not wear to the actual detention facility, holds no “hidden message”; sure, there’s really nothing hidden about giant letters.
It’s outrageous, tone deaf, nearly unbelievable, and will wrest the next 24 hours of news cycle from substantive questions. If the Trump administration were an item of clothing, it would be this jacket.
And that’s where covering this administration has always been complicated. Trump and his confederates do and say outrageous things constantly, dominating the news with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s taxpayer-funded trip around D.C. to find luxury hand lotion or Trump’s alleged legal shenanigans over alleged Trump ex-lover and exotic dancer Stormy Daniels or pig-ignorant tweeting about, well, everything. It’s frivolity that masks substance: The rapid and terrifying changes Trump’s administration is making to the structure of the U.S. government, the damage it is dealing to the social safety net, the regulations it’s slashing, the ethics it has abandoned.
But those very excesses, the frivolous ones that seem like distraction, inform the administration’s policy moves. That Trump has been willing to damage thousands of children and parents in what was seemingly a game of political chicken aimed at coercing his political opponents to accede to his demands for an unforgiving immigration policy is all of a piece with his petulant tweets. The constant thrum of low-grade lies and the media’s earnest scramble to debunk and disprove the most significant, which register not at all with the president’s Fox News-dependent base (that network still places the entirety of the blame for child separation on Democrats) begins to seem like a tedious exercise, schoolmarm preaching about minutiae whose moment has past.
What’s signal and what’s noise? No one knows anymore.
But while it pains me to rebut a jacket, I think Melania Trump’s is wrong.
Trump ended the child removal policy because Americans cared a lot about this child separation crisis. We expressed our care publicly and loudly; diligent journalists on the border and in D.C. exposed the conditions children were placed in and held the administration accountable. Constituents showed lawmakers that this was not the time to capitulate to the administration’s draconian immigration policy.
When we care, we win.