The media erupted when First Lady Melania Trump wore a $39 jacket emblazoned with “I really don’t care. Do U?” during her visit to a detention center in Texas. While this seems like an odd jacket for an actual adult to wear in any serious setting, it certainly seems extremely inappropriate for the context.
As would be expected, people divided on the explanations of the jacket. The initial claim that that the jacket was just a jacket—no message intended. If the first lady was someone who dressed without thinking about what she was putting on or had a very limited wardrobe, this explanation would have more plausibility. Others speculated that the jacket was worn to express her lack of caring for the children being held apart from their parents—which would make her a terrible person. This claim is offset by the fact that she did say the right things during her visit. One rather odd but not absurd claim is that the jacket was a statement to her husband; perhaps the public revelations of his past affairs have troubled her to the point of making statements via jackets. President Trump advanced the claim that Melania wore the jacket as a statement that she cares not about the “fake news media.”
On the face of it, a sensible reply to all this speculation is to adopt the attitude expressed by the jacket: to not care. After all, it is just a jacket being worn by a former model who is the latest wife of Donald Trump. It is not a policy statement, a treaty, a law or anything of real significance. While this approach has merit and the jacket itself is just a jacket, what it revealed about the administration is quite significant.
As noted above, the official tale of the jacket shifted from the “it is just a jacket” narrative of the first lady’s communication director to the president’s claim that she was making a statement to the news media. This sort of revisionist explanation and chaotic inconsistency is par for the course in the Trump administration. The expression of what seems to be something awful (apparently not caring about the children) followed up by awkward attempts to shift blame and explain it away is also a common occurrence in this administration. Even if the jacket was initially just a jacket, it has now become much more. First, it has become yet another a point of inconsistency and example of poor management in the Trump administration. Not being able to handle something as minor as a jacket effectively illustrates the general skill and competence of this administration. Second, the jacket is now a metaphor for these problems. Sometimes a jacket is just a jacket, but not when ineptitude makes it into a symbol.