People are making bets on whether Melania Trump will divorce Donald Trump. But that might be a bad bet.

Is Melania Trump really looking forward to being rid of President Trump as much as tens of millions of Americans are? Or is it just another fantasy that Trump critics are projecting on a first lady who has succeeded in shrouding her true self in mystery?

Many who despise Donald Trump imagine that his wife does, too. They point to a few videos of her seeming to refuse to hold her husband’s hand as proof. They also notice that Melania spends a lot of time apart from her husband, and she’s not as publicly affectionate with him as, for instance, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama or Jill Biden are with their husbands. Some have baselessly claimed that Melania has a body double who stands in for her when (they imagine) she refuses to make appearances at her husband’s side.

“Never, not with any previous first lady,” has there been a rampant

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Melania Trump glosses over the president’s worst tendencies; Jill Biden highlights her husband’s best instincts

One woman stands on stage as glamorous misdirection. First lady Melania Trump puts a thin coat of gloss over the xenophobia and racism that runs through her husband’s administration. She ratchets down the temperature of his heated rhetoric with her cool demeanor and unruffled silence. She is the president’s better-dressed alter ego.

a person wearing a striped shirt talking on a cell phone of a flag: First lady Melania Trump is the president's better-dressed alter ego. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

© Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post
First lady Melania Trump is the president’s better-dressed alter ego. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The other woman, Jill Biden, draws the focus to the heart in her husband’s message — one that includes gratitude.

The country last saw its current first lady in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday posed just behind the president in the East Room as he erroneously declared victory in his reelection campaign. Melania Trump wore an all-business black pantsuit with a white shirt and her signature heels. She was smiling when she entered the room, the

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Melania Trump is having a hard time distancing herself from the president

The timing of the statement, about the care she is taking to prevent the spread of the virus while her infectious husband returned to the White House, was its own kind of statement. It seemed to be her way of answering an outcry of concern over the safety of the residence staff. This first lady with what can at times seem like an antagonistic relationship with the press, who rarely gives interviews or deviates from her prepared remarks at public appearances, was following her own playbook.

“It’s extraordinary in history, and it’s a direct contradiction to the way in which he is behaving,” says Myra Gutin, a professor at Rider University and author of “The President’s Partner: The First Lady in the Twentieth Century.” Gutin says she cannot think of any other first lady who’s released a separate statement from her own office so diametrically opposed to the president’s messaging

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