Peggy Noonan: Melania Trump’s misstep and Michelle Obama’s mysteryPeggy Noonan: Melania Trump’s misstep and Michelle Obama’s mystery

Melania Trump’s misstep and Michelle Obama’s mystery

First lady of the United States is a hard job. It’s not formally defined yet entails many demands; it has an impact on history but no formal powers; it’s the focus of all eyes, but people like to make it clear nobody elected you. Its locus is the East Wing, which the West Wing considers the silly place. You must be guided by tradition but be open to novelty so no one accuses you of being boring.

Melania Trump has been a figure of sympathy, at least in this space, lauded for her grace, elegance and stoicism. She’s married to a man who, emotionally and intellectually, is not exactly in the middle of the bell curve. She wound up in a job she never particularly wanted, in a time of unprecedented national division. She has done it pretty well. She has brought chic, American glamour and beautiful manners to the world’s capitals. (There was the “I Really Don’t Care Do U?” jacket, but at least that was spirited.) She humbly presented a gift in a Tiffany box to the Obamas on Inauguration Day, while her husband forgot to help her out of their car. She has self-control, and the independence to disagree with her husband — when she said separating families at the border is no good, when she stood up for LeBron James after the president called him stupid. She’s slapped his hand away when he gropily attempts to portray normal unity. She’s put up with many scandals, some personally mortifying.

Melania Trump’s misstep and Michelle Obama’s mystery

So it was a surprise to see her issue a hissy-fit of a statement about the deputy national security adviser, Mira Ricardel. “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House.” Yowza.

Granted, Ricardel’s public reputation suggests she’s quite a blunderbuss. But Mrs. Trump’s statement added to — and included her in, for the first time — the White House’s reputation for chaos, the sense that nobody’s in charge, that it’s all factions, head-butting and rumors about who’s going to get fired next. Wednesday Politico had a quote from an unnamed former White House staffer describing the atmosphere: “It’s like an episode of ‘Maury.’ The only thing missing is a paternity test.”

Smoke from Camp Fire smothering California cities, shuttering popular attractions in San FranciscoSmoke from Camp Fire smothering California cities, shuttering popular attractions in San Francisco

Smoke from Camp Fire smothering California cities

As the country’s deadliest wildfire in a century burns through Northern California, smoke-clogged air is flooding into communities across cities throughout the region, forcing people indoors and prompting health warnings.

The Camp Fire has so far killed at least 76 people, turned the town of Paradise into rubble, and left more than 1,300 people unaccounted for a week after it sparked in Butte County.

The blaze has brought unhealthy air conditions to Northern California as thick, sooty smoke moves slow enough to stall over coastal mountains, instead funneling through the Golden Gate. There is also no ocean breeze to help clear the air.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index was measured at 164, or “unhealthy” on Sunday morning for parts of the greater San Francisco area. The index warns that people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children “should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion,” adding that “everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.”

“Bottom line is, this is terrible,” Sam Atwood, spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, told KTVU.

Air quality readings in San Francisco and Oakland soared well above 250 on Friday, making it the worst air quality in the world compared to places like New Delhi and Beijing, which are known for having severe pollution.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed urged residents to remain indoors throughout the weekend and urged people to check on vulnerable groups, such as seniors.

“Ultimately during this very challenging time in San Francisco, our goal is to provide the additional resources and really just ask that we look out for one another as we get through this,” she said.

Smoke from Camp Fire smothering California cities

The National Park Service closed several popular visitor facilities in the San Francisco area due to the unhealthy air. Sites such as Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center, and Muir Woods National Monument Visitor Center in Marin County are shuttered through Monday.

Area residents have been flocking to stores to get face masks in order to shield themselves when going outside. Many stores have placed limits on how many masks people can buy in order to keep the now-popular items in stock.


President Trump visited the area on Saturday, where he walked through the ashes of a mobile home and RV park in Paradise and met with families and first responders.

“We’ve never seen anything like this in California; we’ve never seen anything like this yet. It’s like total devastation,” the president said.

Air quality conditions may finally improve this week, as widespread rainfall is expected to develop across the region by Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Peru says ex-president has sought asylum in UruguayPeru says ex-president has sought asylum in Uruguay

Peru says ex-president

LIMA, Peru – Former Peruvian President Alan Garcia has sought asylum in Uruguay’s diplomatic mission hours after a judge retained his passport as part of a corruption probe, Peru’s foreign ministry announced Sunday.

The ministry said it was informed by Uruguay’s ambassador that Garcia entered his residence Saturday night seeking protection. It vowed to provide unspecified information to Uruguay as it evaluates Garcia’s request.

Late Saturday, a judge in Lima granted prosecutors’ request that Garcia be banned from leaving Peru for 18 months as investigators probe allegations he received illegal payment from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

Odebrecht is at the center of Latin America’s biggest corruption scandal after admitting in a 2016 plea agreement with the U.S. Justice Department that it paid corrupt officials across Latin America nearly $800 million in exchange for major infrastructure contracts.

The scandal has led to the jailing of numerous senior politicians across the region, especially in Brazil and Peru, where former President Pedro Pablo Kucyznski was forced to resign for hiding his past work as a consultant to Odebrecht and Garcia as well as two other former presidents, Ollanta Humala and Alejandro Toledo, are under investigation for allegedly taking illegal payments.

Garcia, who splits his time between Madrid and Peru, downplayed the threat of arrest when he arrived home on Thursday.

“For me it’s not a punishment to be confined 18 months to my homeland,” he said on Twitter while denying that he had ever received money from Odebrecht.

President Martin Vizcarra, who has made tackling corruption the focus of his administration since taking over from Kuczynski, rejected Garcia’s claims the case against him was built on false testimony.

Peru says ex-president

“Political persecution doesn’t exist in Peru, and all of us Peruvians must obey justice, without exceptions,” he wrote on Twitter shortly after news of Garcia’s asylum request.

Garcia is under investigation for bribes allegedly paid during the construction of Lima’s metro during his 2006-2011 government.

Garcia, 69, was a populist firebrand whose erratic first presidency in the 1980s was marked by hyperinflation, rampant corruption and the rise of the Shining Path guerrilla movement.

When he returned to power two decades later he ran a more conservative government, helping usher in a commodities-led investment boom in which Odebrecht played a major supporting role.

This is the second time Garcia has sought to flee to another country amid corruption charges. Following the end of his first government he spent nine years in exile in neighboring Colombia and then France after his successor, Alberto Fujimori, raided his house and reopened a corruption probe.