If I had to sum up President Trump (and all that he has done in the six days he's been in office), it would take me only two words: Appearances matter.
As in, how things look often matters more than how they actually are. Ratings, suit fit and, of course, crowd size.
That's why I was particularly struck by one moment in Trump's remarkable interview with ABC's David Muir in which Trump is showing the anchor around the West Wing. Here it is:
Trump on inauguration photo: "I would actually take that camera and take your time if you want to know the truth" pic.twitter.com/MrmriVaJTu
— Ethan Klapper (@ethanklapper) January 26, 2017
Here's what Trump tells Muir while a camera pans to a photo hanging on the wall of him delivering his inauguration speech on Friday:
“The audience was the biggest ever. But this crowd was massive. Look how far back it goes. This crowd was massive. I would actually take that camera and take your time, if you want to know the truth.”
There's so much wrapped up in those 14 seconds.
First, Trump desperately wants Muir to know that lots and lots of people came to his inauguration. He's like a kid making sure his big brother knows he hit a home run. “Did you see that one? I really knocked it out of the park!” The emphasis on the “massive”-ness of the crowd and Trump's mock amazement (“Look how far back it goes!”) are dead giveaways that he wants to impress Muir.
Then there's Trump's tremendous media awareness. “I would actually take that camera and take your time,” he advises Muir's camera man. Full stop. Can you imagine ANY other politician — much less the president of the United States — offering up advice to a camera man on how best to shoot an interview? Sure, lots of politicians would be aware of where the camera was and how they looked in its lens. But there isn't another politician alive who would — in the middle of an interview with a national news anchor — offer his take on how best to capture the immense, massive crowds that came to his inauguration.
Trump's obsession with appearances explains several of the seemingly inexplicable moves he has made since being sworn in as the 45th president. Most notably, his obsession with the inauguration crowd size debate and his insistence — despite lots of evidence to the contrary — that there were millions of fraudulent votes cast in the 2016 election. If how things look matters most, then it would grate on you if people kept saying that your inauguration crowd wasn't the biggest/best. Or that you lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.
You'd fight both of those things like hell — even if your advisers begged you not to and insisted it was pointless. It wasn't — isn't — pointless to you. It's the entire point.