The Corner

Politics & Policy

Trump in the Shadows

Toward the end of his presidency, George H. W. Bush was caricatured as a wimp — a strange thing for a genuine war hero. But politics is funny that way: First, they tried to paint Bush as a war criminal (strafing Japanese lifeboats) and, when homicidal maniac didn’t work out, he became the nation’s sissy-in-chief, with editorial cartoons depicting him as a little old lady in a gardening hat and pearls. The depiction kind of stuck, for a while, though, of course, today’s progressives would crucify a cartoonist for suggesting that there is something funny about a man in a gardening hat and pearls.

Donald Trump is a distinctive-looking creature in Washington, and also, of course, an intensely hated one. That inevitably is reflected in how he is portrayed in the press. (He is very sensitive about unflattering photographs.) I was thinking about that when I saw the cover of Sara Posner’s book on President Trump and evangelicals, which reminded me of something — about every third photograph of Donald Trump.

(Cover image via Amazon)

The shadowy presence, the just-the-hair lighting, has become a bona fide media cliché.

President Donald Trump prepares to address the annual March for Life rally from the White House Rose Garden in Washington, D.C., January 19, 2018. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump (left) and Sen. Ted Cruz check their watches together during a break at the Fox Business Network Republican presidential candidates debate in North Charleston, S.C., January 14, 2016. (Chris Keane/Reuters)

Etc. I like that Senator Cruz is fully in the darkness there. No half-measures for our man in Texas.

The visual precedents of chiaroscuro Trump are pretty obvious. One is The Apprentice, with Trump’s occasionally shady boardroom scenes:

And, of course, what some of Trump’s bitterest enemies and fiercest admirers both see him as:

 

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