Sorry New York Post, but you need some pun-ditry lessons from The Telegraph in Kolkata.
When Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel threw in the towel in Gandhinagar, The Telegraph had this to say:
“Go, Rakhsak tells Anandiben.”
Puns might not be the highest form of wit, but that piece of bilingual sacred cow rustling took some work.
When New York Post got hold of nude pictures of Melania Trump in the throes of the kind of soft-lesbianish-ism that drive straight men bonkers they managed a feeble – “Ogle Office”.
Yawn. That’s rather lame really. And you know what else is lame? Trying to stir up a frisson of shock with some decades-old pictures from a photo-shoot for a French magazine.
For a change I found myself wholly in agreement with the Donald Trump campaign when campaign advisor Jason Miller told CNN, “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. She’s a beautiful woman”.
Admittedly the Trump campaign specialises in being embarrassed about nothing – going after bereaved Goldstar parents, not quite knowing Putin annexed a chunk of Ukraine, being caught trying to hire foreign workers in Palm Beach while ranting about American jobs for American workers in Cleveland.
But in this case, they are 100% on the money.
Melania Trump’s risqué photoshoot from when she was 25 has no bearing on this campaign whatsoever. And it should not even matter that she did it before she met Trump. If Justin Trudeau can pose nude or with a topless woman, why not Melania?
In a campaign that’s increasingly resembling a schoolyard bullying fracas, the Melania moment actually felt vaguely grown up. Not because of the nudity, but because of the reaction to it.
Americans for all their Hollywood-acquired reputation of lust and debauchery are in reality quite prudish, especially when it comes to political campaigns. They like their First Families to exude a certain apple pie wholesomeness.
The Clintons exuded that in public till Monica Lewinsky entered the picture in private - and that almost derailed the presidency. George W Bush might have sowed a few wild oats in those mysterious missing years of his youth, but by the time he came to the White House he was a God-fearing family man. The Obamas, to the frustration of their implacable enemies, have remained relentlessly lovey-dovey.
That Melania Trump’s nude pictures should be largely a non-issue is actually a good thing.
Even before New York Post splashed her all over the cover, Trump’s opponents have tried to make Melania’s past an issue. A conservative, anti-Trump Super PAC ran ads featuring a nude Melania Trump lying on a bed in an effort to shock Mormons into not voting for Trump. The tag line went, “Meet Melania Trump, your next First Lady. Or, you could support Ted Cruz…”
Well, Ted Cruz still lost. And the Christian right managed to overlook Trump’s rather chequered love life and get into bed with him.
This is no longer the Miss America championship where old nude pictures can wrest the crown away from Vanessa Williams. (Thirty-two years later the Miss American Organisation publicly apologised.)
In a weird way, the tables have turned.
While nude pics were once a dirty trick to bring down a candidate, these pics are being seen as campaign assets instead. Donald Trump makes no bones about his three marriages, his adulterous escapades, his fascination for beautiful women and high living. The New York Post, hardly a liberal bastion anyway, merely buttresses that image. In fact, given the current firefight his campaign is involved in, these pictures could serve as a double-breasted distraction.
Gawker suggests that they would come in handy to try and change the conversation from the patriotism of Khizr and Ghazala Khan. “Perhaps the most convincing argument that they were purposefully leaked is the fact that Trump hasn’t tweeted about it,” writes Brendan O’Connor in Gawker saying it uses Melania as a “political plow” that only “feeds into his self-conception as a Strong Man and Great Leader, further exoticising and eroticising his (largely silent!) mysterious European wife”.
As ultimate proof of how times have changed, Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf who worked for Bill Clinton in the 90s tells New York Post that voters “will be more focused on what Donald Trump says than what his wife looks like…Her beauty can’t save Donald Trump from his own mouth.”
Whoa! Naked women were supposed to derail campaigns, not save them.
Trump might brush off the New York Post cover or indeed hail it as a tribute to his wife’s beauty, but let’s not read more than what’s warranted into the moment. There’s still misogyny in spades in this campaign and not all of it is about slut-shaming Melania Trump.
While Melania Trump’s bare everything has not caused a conservative blowback, Michelle Obama’s bare arms certainly riled them up. Michelle Obama became the first First Lady to wear a sleeveless dress in an official photo. Virginia voter Bobbie Lussier told NPR, “It's just she just doesn't act and look like a first lady. I mean she's more about showing her arms off. ... I think that's very inappropriate for a lot of functions that she goes to." No word what Ms Lussier thinks of the Melania cover.
Trump once tweeted out a very unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz as a riposte to those Super PAC photos of the nude Melania. He’s told Fox News’ anchor, Megyn Kelly that she had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her whatever”.
When Carly Fiorina was running against him for the Republican nomination he said, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” He’s called Hillary Clinton’s bathroom break “too disgusting” and even more infamously once remarked that she got “schlonged”. Recently when asked what he would do if Ivanka was sexually harassed at work, he said, “I would like to think she would find another career or find another company if that was the case”.
Trump’s nonchalance about Melania’s photospread might be more about his own self-image as UberMan with Hot Wife than anything else but in this season of misogyny unlimited, we’ll take what we can get.
Now if he would only make a clean breast of his tax returns.