For reasons I don’t understand, he continues to promote news that’s unflattering to him by publicly responding to it instead of ignoring it. It must stem from his self-image as a “counterpuncher.” If you get hit, you must swing back, even if you’re likely to end up punching yourself in the face.
Last night anti-Trumpers on Twitter were abuzz about signs of frailty in his movements during commencement at West Point. The smart move for a pol in that situation would be to stay silent. Don’t give the media more reason to cover it than they already have.
The ramp that I descended after my West Point Commencement speech was very long & steep, had no handrail and, most importantly, was very slippery. The last thing I was going to do is “fall” for the Fake News to have fun with. Final ten feet I ran down to level ground. Momentum!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 14, 2020
Here’s the clip of him descending the ramp. Why it would have been “very slippery” is unclear. The weather was fine.
Trump descended a ramp extremely carefully at the end of his West Point speech today pic.twitter.com/uMG3KyB1V1
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 13, 2020
The way President Obama runs down the stairs of Air Force 1, hopping & bobbing all the way, is so inelegant and unpresidential. Do not fall!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2014
It might not be health-related, though. One theory kicking around to explain why he seemed tentative and deliberate on the ramp is the possibility that he wears lifts in his shoes, which would make descending more treacherous. There’s no proof of that as far as I’m aware, although Trump wanting to exaggerate his height in order to tower over the people around him would be in keeping with his penchant for projecting dominance. Another reason to doubt that it’s health-related (or at least that it relates to a *recent* health problem) is the fact that we’ve seen him move awkwardly on slopes before. When he visited the UK a few years ago, he and Theresa May held hands while ascending some stairs. May was asked about it later:
Asked if she always took his hand because he has a medical problem, Ms May said: “What you notice is that whenever he takes me down a slope or stairs – he did it up the steps at Blenheim Palace – he takes my hand to help in going up the steps.”…
Ever since she was first pictured hand in hand with Mr Trump at the White House in early 2017, Ms May has come in for attacks from her critics that she is being too friendly with the president – with Labour MPs often citing it in the Commons.
After that incident of hand-holding, Ms May’s official spokeswoman said: “They were walking along. There was an unseen ramp. He put out his hand. She took it.”
If it’s a health thing, it’s something that he’s managed successfully for awhile now.
At first blush, this second clip seems more concerning. Did the glass slip, or was his right hand or arm not equal to the task?
Trump still hasn’t totally figured out how to drink water pic.twitter.com/IO8CDXmD9i
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 13, 2020
This isn’t a recent thing either, though. Slate flagged this clip from November 2017 of Trump also using both hands when taking a drink of water during a speech. Maybe it’s just a behavioral quirk. If not, if it’s a health issue, again it looks to be an issue that he’s seemingly managed well enough for the past few years.
As the two clips above made the rounds, the hashtag “#TrumpIsNotWell” began trending on Twitter yesterday afternoon. If it’s true that he was unwell, there was no option for him to cancel in hopes of obscuring it: He had insisted weeks ago that West Point cadets return to campus and congregate despite the pandemic so that he could address them on their big day. If he had canceled on them at the last minute after that, the uproar would have been withering.
To my surprise, the Biden people have mostly declined to highlight what happened yesterday. The only reference to it that I know of was by Andrew Bates, Biden’s rapid response guy, who retweeted this last night:
— Keith Edwards (@keithedwards) June 13, 2020
You might counter that Team Biden has very good reason not to engage on the issue of candidates’ health given how their guy has plainly lost a proverbial step. But that war is already being waged against them. The RNC routinely clips and posts bits from Biden interviews when he expresses himself clumsily as evidence of his senescence. Trump is certainly going to accuse Biden of being out to lunch mentally once the campaign heats up this fall. Look how well the innuendo about Hillary Clinton’s health worked for him and the GOP in 2016. The easiest way for Biden’s campaign to deflect what’s coming is to go on offense about Trump’s mental and physical fitness. Instead they seem to be taking the high road, for now — or they’re quietly encouraging surrogates to do their dirty work for them while they remain nominally “above the fray.”