“Be Best” is Hypocritical, Problematic

Logo for the Be Best campaign

Melania and Donald Trump at the launch announcement for the Be Best campaign
Let’s be brutally honest. Last week’s big launch of the “Be Best” campaign was nothing more than a transparent attempt to give Melania Trump a noble reason for spending time away from her husband. From now on, the media won’t have to report that the First Lady is traveling separately from the President because she doesn’t like flying with an adulterer, and instead, they can report that she is leaving D.C. to tour a school in Montana, or a hospital in Louisiana. The problem is that “Be Best” is as transparent as the reason for creating it.

Forget the fact that the name of the campaign makes no grammatical sense. It’s the broken English, twitter-age version of “Be Your Best”, which is a rip-off of the Army’s old slogan, “Be the Best You Can Be.” Beyond that, “Be Best” strives to tell us that cyber-bullying and opioid abuse are bad things. Thanks for the news flash. The question is: Why combine the two issues into one confusing campaign?

As you recall, Melania’s big issue from day one was cyber-bullying, but when you’re married to the nation’s leading cyber-bully, you can’t make your husband’s offensive behavior the sole focus of your campaign. And so, some brilliant White House advisor probably said, “Hey, let’s add opioid abuse to our program so that the media won’t attack us for the hypocrisy of a war on cyber-bullies.” The diversion didn’t work, and the First Lady is getting hammered by the media any way, as well she should. Her husband fills his daily tweets with disparaging remarks that serve to bully his intended victims, and there’s no indication that he will cease and desist that behavior out of respect for Melania’s campaign.

Beyond the hypocrisy of it all, “Be Best” also dilutes the message of its disparately dual objectives, and, in the process, does a disservice to both, each of which deserves its own campaign. True, some teens who are victims of cyber-bullying also turn to drugs, but the opioid crisis has more to do with adults who mix and abuse their meds than it does with kids who get high from their parent’s prescription drugs. At any rate, it’s no wonder that Melania couldn’t and didn’t announce any specific elements of her “Be Best” program because there are none, beyond a few lofty aspirations. Toward the end of her Rose Garden presentation, it looked like she was about to offer up some substantive ideas when she called on several teenagers to stand and be recognized for their achievements in the war against cyber-bullying and opioids. Instead, the three teens were trotted out for window dressing. Melania recognized one young man for encouraging every school in his district to install a “buddy bench”, where lonely kids could sit and invite a friend to join them. Pardon me, but what in the hell does a buddy bench have to do with preventing cyber-bullying and opioid abuse?

The First Lady’s moment in the sun was hard to watch. Her English was badly broken (it took me awhile to figure out that “body beach” meant “buddy bench”), she never spoke from the heart, her campaign had no substance, and, as it turns out, much of the language she used to describe “Be Best” had been lifted from an Obama-era brochure, a reminder of the convention speech she once plagiarized from Michelle Obama. But perhaps the most painful moment came at the end of her presentation, when she called on “The President” to join her at the podium. There was no affectionate hug, no kiss on the lips, no look of love between them. Instead they exchanged what can only be described as a diplomatic peck on both cheeks. It was a visual reminder of the chill that exists between the Trumps, and of why she needed a national cause that would give her a reason to keep her distance from her philandering, cyber-bully of a husband. It’s sad that our current First Couple can’t be more like some of our past ones. Bush 41 wrote daily love notes to his wife. Bush 43 and wife Laura worked puzzles together and bedded down each night at 9:30 sharp. Barack Obama made a point of eating dinner with the family every evening before returning to the Oval Office. In contrast, the lame, impersonal cheek peck by the Trumps wasn’t affectionate, instead it was like a greeting between two foreign adversaries. Maybe that’s what they are.

Up until now, Melania has kept a low profile, but this will be her first foray into the public policy arena, which means she will endure a different kind of public scrutiny. I hope “Be Best” can make a difference, but in its present form, the odds are against it. Right now, “Be Best” is in need of a reboot, and the First Lady is in need of a loving hug. I fear neither are forthcoming.


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