“Trump Reminds Me Of Viktor”

Oh good, I can fit both hands.

Julia Ioffe of GQ wrote a very reasonable and well-researched profile of Melania Trump, somehow making the former middling model interesting, no mean feat if you’ve ever heard the QVC peddler speak. The candidate’s spouse is a sun-addled Stepford Wife, her frozen face always staring off into the distance as if she were a statue of a feral cat, seemingly convinced that at any given moment a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue photographer might emerge from the sea in need of an expression that could pass for vaguely erotic.

Melania voiced her displeasure over the piece, and some Trump supporters reacted to the journalist with anti-Semitic threats. That’s no surprise because the hideous hotelier’s campaign, for the all the theorizing of Thomas Frank and his ilk, has always been about identity politics, not concerns over trade deals or technological unemployment. The identity happens to be a bigoted, white male. When it comes to Trump’s appeal, which is not mainly socioeconomic, the writing has always been on the wall, the wall he insists Mexico will pay for.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the piece reveals the Slovenian immigrant might have something of a father complex, her dad a portlier, lower-case version of her god-awful groom. An excerpt:

Jelančič remembers Melania’s father, Viktor, spending every Saturday lovingly washing his antique Mercedes, another rarity. “It was like a ritual,” Jelančič tells me. After leaving his job working for the mayor of Hrastnik, Viktor, then a member of the Slovenian Communist Party, became a salesman at a state-owned car company. Police files from the time indicate Viktor aroused suspicion for illicit trade and tax evasion in 1976. (He was charged with a tax offense, though his record was later cleared on account of Slovenia’s statute of limitations, a process the courts described to me as “legal rehabilitations.”) Melania blocked my efforts to speak to Viktor, and she denies that any such investigation took place. “He was never under any investigation, he was never in trouble,” she snaps. “We have a clean past. I don’t have nothing to hide.”

While working for the car company in Ljubljana, Viktor had an apartment there, in one of the city’s first residential high-rises. It was a prestigious address and provided the girls a place to stay in the capital so that they could attend design school—another luxury. Meanwhile, in Sevnica, a place where most people still lived in drab apartments doled out to them by their factories, Viktor managed to build a house situated in what was considered the toniest part of town.

“Trump reminds me of Viktor,” Viktor’s friend and neighbor Tomaž Jeraj tells me. “He’s a salesman. He has business in his veins.” It’s a sentiment unanimous in Sevnica, where Viktor and Amalija still own their house and visit two or three times a year.

Indeed, if you look at photos of Viktor Knavs and Donald Trump side by side, you wouldn’t be surprised at the comparison. Donald is just five years younger than his father-in-law. Both are tall, portly men with blond hair and sharp suits; they’re brash men who like the finer things in life. “He likes quality,” says Melania. “Viki”—as Viktor is known to his friends here—“likes good food,” Jeraj tells me. “He loves cars.” He was one of the many people who would tell me about Viktor’s extensive collection of Mercedes. “You’ll never see him in another car.”

Those who know the Knavses say that Viktor is boisterous and strong-willed. “Jokes come naturally to him,” Ana Jelančič, a neighbor and friend of the Knavses’, tells me. “If he goes into a bar, people pay attention.” Viktor sucks the air out of a room, she says. “He is the strong one in the relationship. Amalija supports him. She is a wonderful mother and wife.”•

Tags: , , ,