State visits have come to be defined by weird touching by President Trump, and this week’s visit with French President Emmanuel Macron was no exception.
Trump debuted two new moves on Macron during the French leader’s three-day visit. During a press spray in the Oval Office on Tuesday, Trump brushed at Macron’s shoulder, removing what he said was dandruff.
“They’re all saying what a great relationship we have, and they’re actually correct,” Trump said to Macron and reporters. “We do have a very special relationship. In fact, I’ll get that little piece of dandruff off — we have to make him perfect. He is perfect.”
Patti Wood, a body language expert, called Trump’s behavior “primate grooming.” She told the Washington Post: “It said, ‘We have an intimate relationship, but I’m dominant, I’m the alpha gorilla, I’m going to groom you,'” Wood said. “‘But I’m going to criticize you by saying you have dandruff, and I’m going to do that on the world stage and see how you handle that.”
The second maneuver was what Esquire dubbed the “finger cling” — “to extend the handshake into a never-ending grasp.” Trump shook hand with Macron, then kept hold as he dragged Macron away from reporters in the Rose Garden. It was similar to an awkward hand-hold he maintained with British Prime Minister Theresa May in January.
But turnabout is fair play, apparently, and it was first lady Melania Trump who was getting the headlines yesterday afternoon, after brushing off the president’s attempt at a hand-clasp for the third time on the world stage.
The awkward Trump handshake over time
Trump previously engaged in an over-prolonged handshake with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during their first state visit, which caused Abe to roll his eyes as the clinch went on and on. (For 19 seconds, to be exact.) After that video went viral — and Trump attracted headlines for manhandling Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch during his confirmation hearing — all eyes were on Macron during his first visit with Trump in Brussels last June. He earned triumphant reviews for a firm, confident squeeze that whitened both men’s knuckles and seemed to caused Trump to cry uncle first.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came under similar scrutiny. He also emerged victorious after pairing the first handshake with a firm shoulder clasp, preventing Trump from literally jerking him around.