A world leader’s image defines their entire career for many people. To see shots of Presidents and Prime Ministers at home, at work, in their free time, plays an integral role in defining their public persona. Many understood this. American Presidents in particular have learned to use imagery to portray precisely what they desire to the American public, and the rest of the world. John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama are some of the most famous faces in world history, and with good reason. They knew the importance of image. They knew that, while millions of their own people were watching, so also were enemies of their nation. Charismatic but strong, stable but never boring. What they never, never, would have done, is retweeted a gif of themselves striking a political opponent in the back of the head with a golf ball.
It will have been said countless times already since the Trump administration began, but it still feels necessary to say: the President did that? Was it ever even a plausible thing to consider that Obama would have promoted violent, photoshopped images of himself attacking John McCain? The list of Trump’s actions so far look more and more like the signs of when a relative might need more care than the family can provide. He is the most public President to date, and he is also the most clumsy and farcical. He may not be the most dangerous President yet, but his potential to cause more of it is always a breath away. Or more accurately, a tweet away.
When Trump retweeted the gif of him and Hillary Clinton, he reiterated something he has known since he ran for office: image defines a President. To those who despise him, who question his every move, who are sceptical of any honesty, who are suspicious of his motives for even running at all, his public image is so ridiculous that it has become a cliché to call him ridiculous. He hasn’t been in office for a year and already, to say the US President is a long-winded joke is akin to calling Kim Jong-Un unstable. Obviously he is, everyone knows that. Except that, not everyone knows it. Trump caters his profile to his core supporters, and they respond positively to his strangeness, to that violence that you feel is just beneath Trump’s skin, a violence he lets slip here and there. I said he isn’t yet the most dangerous President, but by the very fact he can do what he does, and continues to run the country, might mean that he is.
From Trump has come an ostensible redemption story: Sean Spicer. Since his removal from Trump’s team, Spicer has miraculously recovered from the storm of journalists and commentators and managed to wrangle an appearance at this year’s Emmy’s. Another danger of the Trump administration: you can say whatever you please, you can help deny the Holocaust and mutilate facts, but the moment you’re off the team, all is forgotten. Hollywood embraced Spicer, and yes, the backlash since that night has proved to be a counter to acceptance, but it already took place. Spicer cosied up with the A-listers while thousands railed against it on Twitter. There is the argument that, while he worked for Trump, Spicer was simply a mouthpiece, only rewording his boss’s proclamations. The trouble is, that ‘don’t shoot the messenger’ mentality does not apply to a man who willingly accepted the job, who knew precisely what Trump was, and still shook his hand. But: image is everything, and the photos coming from Spicer’s post-Trump career are glamorous for him, ugly for us.