Why Melania Trump has done 'the absolute minimum necessary' to help her husband
Melania Trump gives an interview/Screenshot

Melania Trump is a cipher, a more elusive woman than any other First Lady in memory. She chooses to remain in a different residence than her husband while exuding body language that many believe indicates she is less-than-totally supportive of him.

Because Melania Trump says so little, people are left to wonder what she really thinks. Is her anti-bullying campaign a sly diss of Donald or a Trumpian meta-troll? Is she totally miserable because she's married to a cheating lout or because the press is pushing into her private life and examining the legality of her parents' immigration?

An expert quoted in the Los Angeles Times says that we should look at what Melania is not doing—namely, helping her husband. Robert Watson, an American studies professor at Lynn University in Florida, has studied first ladies and says that Melania is softly undermining her husband.

"The first lady can be a secret weapon and … Melania could soften his image," Watson said, but instead she has chosen so far to do "the absolute minimum necessary."

The Times also talked to Ohio University professor Katherine Jellison who said that she believes Melania Trump just wants no part of the divisive politics her husband practices because she doesn't want to endure ridicule in return.

"Trump critics can point to Mrs. Trump and say she's been an enabler or she's a victim of the Stockholm syndrome," she said. "I think if she did have a more upfront role, in an effort to soften his public image, she'd come in for more slings and arrows. Part of the reason she is more popular than her husband is that she is lower profile."

Melania Trump did not call in outsider helpers to plan the Tuesday state dinner, which seemed like a low-conflict situation. And that's what we will see more of, according to Jellison.

"I think what we see now is what to expect the remainder of his time in office," said Jellison, who has studied first ladies. "We're going to see a woman who does not want to be involved politically much, and sometimes does not want to be in the fishbowl at all."