FOR THE ARTIST, President Trump’s face can still be a fascinating study, from the ever-changing hair to the skeptical, brow-shaded squint to the aggressively petulant lower lip.
Yet how often do we get to glimpse a truly natural, toothy smile from this most-photographed man?
Perhaps that is part of why last week’s images of Trump in the Oval Office entertaining two Russian dignitaries were so visually striking. In official photo-ops, say with an Erdogan or Merkel or even Obama, Trump typically looks stiff, with facial muscles tensed and guarded posture leaning in for the occasion. But these uncommon images with Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador, by contrast, show him looking completely at ease. Why, that wide smile looks even genuine. (It’s worth noting that these photos were shot by a Russian photographer; the meeting was closed to the American media.)
In Trump’s young presidency, an image of the three men huddled is emerging as his most iconic yet. Its intimacy is so at odds in scale with potential international fallout; the photo would seem almost benign were it leeched of its broader political context.
For the political cartoonist, these behind-closed-doors photos are satiric red meat. The static shots almost invite outsider captions.
Fortunately, we have syndicated cartoonist Taylor Jones to provide his own.
Jones deftly renders the dynamic energy of this triad, tapping both the looseness and subtext of the moment.
In this cartoon, Trump — drawn as literally the most colorful character in the frame — stands with the poised lean of the self-satisfied charmer who deploys insult humor to build a bond, with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, right, as the target of his joking.
To the Russians, though, there is an entirely other game of intrigue unfolding. Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov is teasing back in underplayed fashion, but, like pickpockets working together to distract and filch, he is working a side con with Kislyak — who in an inspired thought-balloon quotes Nikita Khrushchev’s historic Cold War words.
Which all perfectly paints the study in contrasts. The body language may be warm, but the war is still cold — and in this visit, we see who is given the literal last laugh.
Bravo, Mr. Jones.