Why Trump Is Right To Worry About That Glass of WaterBreaking News
tags: presidential history, Donald Trump
What to call it—“Photo-oops”? “Glass of Watergate?”
Whatever the label, when the videos appeared on Saturday of President Trump shuffling down that ramp at West Point, a general walking attentively by his side, and using two hands to guide a water glass to his lips, the response on liberal Twitter threatened to deplete America’s Strategic Schadenfreude Reserve.
The images led to some elaborate online speculations and diagnoses, and for Trump, the attention clearly struck a nerve. Why else would the president take to Twitter to offer the excuse that the ramp was “very slippery” (a claim that a New York Times story labeled highly dubious)?
He might well be revealing his own insecurities. But he’s also right about one important thing: just how damaging such a picture of weakness can be. It may sound trivial, and it’s often unfair, but when a modern president, or even a candidate, exhibits physical weakness, it comes with a political cost.
Is this simply a demonstration of how the image has replaced reality in modern days? The preoccupation with physical vigor certainly isn’t new; in flogging his strength and stamina, Trump is drawing on a public fixation that has been part of our politics since, literally, the beginning. Of course George Washington would be our first president; he not only commanded the winning army, but was one of the tallest of public figures at the time. The U.S. has consistently turned to military heroes as presidential nominees, from Andrew Jackson to Zachary Taylor to Ulysses Grant to Benjamin Harrison to Theodore Roosevelt to Dwight Eisenhower to JFK. (It doesn’t always work, of course, or John Kerry, a tall military vet, pilot and impressive athlete, would have walked off with the 2004 election.)
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