Melania Trump sat down with Fox News' Ainsley Earhardt on Monday to discuss the multiple sexual assault allegations her husband is now facing — her first on-camera interview since video leaked of Donald Trump bragging in 2005 about his ability to commit sexual assault with impunity. Trump has denied all allegations of sexual assault and unwanted advances, calling them "fabrications" and "without merit." Melania was asked her whether, in this context, it's really fair game for the Trump campaign to bring up Bill Clinton's alleged sexual improprieties. Surprisingly, and perhaps counterproductively, Melania said the Clinton campaign is "asking for it," and defended Donald's attacks on the former president's past.
"Well, if they bring up my past, why not?" Melania Trump told Earhardt. "They're asking for it. They started [it]."
Melania's last statement is incorrect: Donald retweeted in 2015 that "If Hillary Clinton can't satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?" over a year before Hillary Clinton's team started knocking Donald for bragging about being able to "do anything" to women, so it was Donald who "started" it, if that even matters. (It doesn't.)
What's more significant is that Melania, by doubling-down on her Donald's attacks on Bill, is essentially giving Hillary and her campaign license to hammer Donald relentlessly on the wave of sexual assault allegations. There's really no other way to slice it: If it's valid to attack Bill's past, it's valid to attack Donald's, especially given that — and this can't be emphasized enough — Bill is not running for president.
Although Melania's response was odd, it did perfectly encapsulate the pickle Donald finds himself in — a pickle wholly of his own construction.
The GOP candidate has made fleeting references to Bill's affairs in the past, but he didn't truly press the issue until the 2005 video tape of his own comments leaked. By highlighting the accusations against Bill, Donald was making it clear that past sexual improprieties are, in his mind, in-bounds as a topic of debate in this election. Then, days later, multiple women came forward accusing Donald of sexual assault.
At that point, Trump had effectively boxed himself in. Had he declined to bring up Bill's past, he could have argued that decades-old accusations aren't relevant to this election; this would have given his campaign at least a veneer of credibility when arguing, as the campaign has tried to argue, that it's a waste of time to talk about Donald's assault accusations.
But by attacking Bill often and with glee, Donald has made it clear that he does see decades-old accusations as a fair subject of discussion in 2016. This means, of course, that it's legitimate to discuss his own past behavior and comments as well. Donald played himself.
At least Melania is on the same page as her husband. But it's unclear how this strategy is supposed to help the Trump campaign win in November.