These low-key-by-design events at the Republican National Convention have not gotten nearly as much attention as some of the more fiery and high volume speeches
But really, they tell you everything about the President you need to know.
Put him in a room with regular folks, and he suddenly becomes like an alien from outer space struggling to find the skills to conduct even the most basic of interpersonal interactions with upstanding and quietly courageous members of American society. The level of detachment is astounding.
We’ve often argued the reason Trump liked rallies so much and almost never did intimate events of any kind aside from obligatory fund raisers full of rich folks, was that he could pull up in his plane as close as possible, give a rousing, incendiary speech, and then leave. Without ever having to come into direct physical contact with most of his supporters, which before Trump was a hallmark of campaigning. That way he could directly appeal to, but wouldn’t have to directly come in contact with “the dregs”, as a close friend of Trump’s we happen to know likes to call them.
The format of these RNC sit-downs is a familiar one, in that we’ve seen many a cabinet meeting play out this way: Trump goes around the room and people there are expected to praise him. “Under the leadership of the President” is a phrase we hear a lot. Because never hurts to remember to deliver all the glory to Trump if you want to keep in his good graces, and keep your job.
But these smaller RNC-specific gatherings, with participants a little less trained in what to do, show off even more deeply how shallow the President is.
First of all is Trump’s bearing and body language, which is always a little weird. Here, he appears even more uncomfortable about where he is in the moment than ever.
Then the questions begin. And clearly Trump knows nothing about any of the people in the room, since he asks them to recite their own stories. A real person, not from another planet, might ease a person nervous to be meeting the President by saying something like “heard you were…” Or “heard you did…”
On top of that, everyone has the same name: “you.”
“How about we start with you?” “How ’bout you?” “And you?” “You over there?” “What do you do?” “How long was your ‘problem'”? (To a recovered COVID-19 victim.)
These aren’t people he just randomly met, they’ve been screened and vetted. So while we realize what we’re about to say is more than a tab glib, a President who brags about remembering “person, man, woman, camera, TV”, should be able to remember about that same number of peoples’ names for a couple of minutes. Especially since during former pro-football running back Herschel Walker’s speech earlier in the Convention, he mentioned one of the very most important life lessons Trump taught him was to always remember peoples’ names.
Especially since these segments are not live, so if the President slips up, he can get a do-over. But no, they are “you”.
Meanwhile, as people do introduce themselves and tell their stories, Trump’s responses range mostly from “Good” to “Very good.” Unless they are gratuitously self-congratulatory: “I love the truckers. You know, they’re on my side. I think all of ’em, frankly.”
In a second small gathering, of former hostages in various countries whom Trump helped get released, we finally get a person introduced by name: “Pastor Brunson” who was held prisoner for 2 years in Turkey. That was a really high profile return: Brunson even asked Trump to pray with him in the Oval Office upon his return. (Does Trump even know Pastor Brunson’s first name? Hint: it’s not Pastor. But let’s let him slide on that one.) Because Trump can’t help himself even in this context to sneak in a shout out to Turkey’s authoritarian leader, “President Erdogan was very good”, even though he was directly responsible for detaining and holding Brunson in the first place. Also, Trump completely skips over the only woman in the group of returned hostages. Guess her husband speaking for her is sufficient.
Similarly, in a group of COVID-19 front line workers, he comments that a police officer from Englewood, Colorado, who is never identified by any name, who’s recovered from Coronavirus: “That means your blood is very valuable, you know that”. An obvious attempt at a joke, yes. But also dehumanizing in a way. It’s her blood, not her nameless self that’s valuable.
And until Melania Trump later brought it up, there’d been zero acknowledgement or remembrance paid to all the American victims of COVID-19, now edging steadily up to 200,000. Instead, a propagandistic video of how perfect the President did grappling with the disease every step of the way and saved lives. Never mind that U.S. deaths far outpace the rest of the world.
Oh, and in that same little gathering, Trump doesn’t fail to bring hydroxychloroquine into it, even though another former patient’s already described his course of treatment, which did not include it. “I won’t even ask you about the hydroxycholoroquine; it’s a shame what they’ve done to that one!” Again, shifting the discussion back to his own agenda vs. really reaching out and connecting with the interests and experiences of those with whom he’s speaking.
These may all seem like small things. We’re suggesting they’re not. Because these segments reveal a lot. And are so unintentionally telling that they should be getting a lot more attention. The President’s so incapable of being even a little human. Even when dropped into a setting deliberately manipulated and maximized by producers precisely to demonstrate that he does have empathy.