As illustrations go, this one isn't terribly flattering. The latest cover of Time magazine depicts a dripping Donald Trump with a single-word headline: "Meltdown." It looks as if someone took a flame thrower to the face of Trump's wax statue at Madame Tussauds.
The Republican presidential nominee should hate this cover. But it'll probably be hanging on his office wall before long.
If that sounds ridiculous, remember that Trump has a thing for displaying magazines that feature his own mug, as he showed The Washington Post on a tour of his Trump Tower workspace last year.
And lest you think positivity is a requirement for inclusion, consider how Trump reacted to this Time cover in March:
Descriptions like "bully" and "demagogue" aren't exactly complimentary, yet Trump apparently loved the cover.
"Look at that picture of me on Time," he said to a People magazine reporter after the Time issue hit newsstands. As he spoke, People reported, Trump was gesturing to a huge stack of the magazines in his office. "It's a movement! Isn't that an amazing picture? It's been a lot of fun."
In the story that accompanied that "amazing picture," the business mogul explained his media philosophy to writer David Von Drehle, who joined Trump on a Super Tuesday flight from Virginia to Georgia and observed the way the candidate watches news.
When he flips to Fox News, Trump notices a caption that sums up everything: “News outlets around the world are covering Trump.” Turning to me on the sofa, he gestures at the screen and remarks with satisfaction, “The key word is covering.”
So much exposure comes at a price. As he watches, Trump maintains a quiet but constant critique of “dishonest” and “inaccurate” statements. He would like to “open up the laws” on libel to protect people like himself, he says — but adds with a shrug, “I don’t know exactly what it means to do that, or exactly how it works.” Nor does he care, because what matters more than accuracy is the sheer fact of being covered. Own the airwaves, own the campaign, run the world. To be certain that I’ve grasped this point, he expands on the theme:
“You see what this is, right? It’s ratings. I go on one of these shows and the ratings double. They triple. And that gives you power. It’s not the polls. It’s the ratings."
More recently, Trump reiterated his belief that attention is all that matters after his wife, Melania, delivered a partially plagiarized convention speech that triggered a media frenzy.
To be sure, the GOP standard-bearer complains plenty about "unfair" coverage by the "dishonest" media. He might even gripe about his latest cover at some point. But it seems clear that he would rather be portrayed negatively than not portrayed at all.
Plus, Trump is a master of using virtually any kind of coverage to his advantage. The way he tells it, positive stories accurately reflect his greatness, and negative ones confirm bias by the mainstream media, which he says he is "running against." Either way, Trump reinforces two central narratives of his campaign: He is amazing, and he is a political outsider who threatens the "establishment," including the media.
It shouldn't be hard for Trump to spin Time's "Meltdown" cover to his advantage. In fact, finding available wall space might be harder.