There Is No Excuse for This

On Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Donald Trump at the White House. During a press appearance, the two sat side-by-side in familiar chairs, while the sounds of cameras clicked away. The press called for a handshake. Merkel asked Trump if he wanted to do a handshake, the same handshake that U.S. presidents do with visiting foreign dignitaries in those chairs each time. Trump ignored the requests. They did not shake hands.

Later, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer would claim that Trump simply did not hear the requests. The video makes that explanation seem very unlikely.

TRUMP: Send a good picture back to Germany, please. Make sure.

MERKEL: [chuckles]

REPORTER: How did your talks go, Mr. President?

TRUMP: Very good.

REPORTER: Talk about NATO?

TRUMP: [nods] Many things.

MERKEL: [answers in German]

REPORTERS: Handshake? Handshake?

MERKEL: Do you want to— Mr. President? Can we have a handshake, please?

TRUMP: [continues to look straight ahead, as Merkel leans toward him; ignores her utterly]

REPORTERS: Handshake?

WH HANDLER: Okay. Thank you, fellas. Thank you. Over here.
The debate, such as it is, since then has been about whether Trump heard the requests for a handshake. Spicer told the German newspaper Der Spiegel that Trump hadn't heard them. Were that indeed the case, and given the ensuing commentary about how rude he'd been to the leader of a key U.S. ally, one might imagine Trump would issue an apology. He has not.

But. BUT. All of that misses the larger point, which is that, even if it were true that Trump simply did not hear the press nor Merkel request a handshake, he shouldn't have to be prompted to engage in what is a basic (and expected) diplomatic gesture.

If Trump didn't hear the prompting, all that means is that he needed to in order to do his job. One of the most rudimentary functions of his job.

I don't know why any American would find it satisfactory that the president can't perform basic diplomatic tasks with our allies, without being instructed to do so. Especially the Tremendously Successful Businessman Donald Trump, who wrote (ahem) an entire book on "the art" of U.S.-centered business deal-making, which virtually always ends in a handshake.

By saying he simply didn't hear the request, they're essentially arguing: "Oh he wasn't being rude! He's just catastrophically ignorant about his job!" Anyone who finds that reassuring has set a bar for the presidency so low that any expectation of competence is "unfair" to Trump.

If you don't believe a president shouldn't have to be told to shake a foreign leader's hand, I can't imagine what basic competency is reasonable to expect.

Do you think Hillary Clinton would've needed to be prompted to shake Angela Merkel's hand? The answer to that question is an unequivocal no.

There is also this: Trump has previously made headlines by shaking men's hands in a way that is inappropriate. I wrote previously: "Trump's handshake with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe today was distressing. He held the PM's hand far too long, jerking him toward him, just like he did to Neil Gorsuch during the SCOTUS nomination announcement. It is also a feature of serial abusers of women that they have no respect for men's bodies/consent either. It just manifests differently."

He also tried it with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but was infamously thwarted.

That we know Trump habitually uses handshakes as displays of dominance is just another datapoint suggesting it wasn't that he "didn't hear" the request to shake Merkel's hand, but ignored it. To prove a point.

The only point he made, however, is that he is a man who will boast about grabbing women to humiliate them against their wills, and refuse to shake a woman's hand in a sign of respect at her request.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus