On Friday, President Donald Trump met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the White House for a horrifically awkward encounter. As the President and the Chancellor sat side by side in front of cameras, Merkel and several reporters asked for a handshake between the two leaders of the free world.
Trump sat still, not responding to Merkel’s query and ignoring the reporters’ pestering. Immediately the internet took notice and thousands around the world were trying to figure out what exactly happened and why Trump would not shake Merkel’s hand in the very room where he has shaken hands with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau.
ATTN: spoke with an expert in body language, media strategist Joel Silberman, to discuss what happened amid wild speculation on all sides.
“It isn’t whether [Trump] ignored [Merkel] or not. It’s the discomfort of the situation. Look at her body language first. Look at what her body is saying. As you see the picture of her, and as she sits there — I haven’t seen legs that tightly crossed and a body so firmly sitting over the genitals so that no possibility of any part of them would be exposed.
“Number two, her shoulders are up and she’s over her heart. She doesn’t trust him at all. So when she asks him for a handshake, there is no trust in her body coming toward him. Look at his body language. His body language is hangdog. There is no question who the leader of the free world is there, and it’s not Donald Trump. The leader of the free world is the strong woman, which we know is Donald’s weakness — he doesn’t like that.”
Silberman continued, explaining Trump’s response to his own inadequacies,
“And so [Trump] was getting smaller and infantile — that was a child, with his hands hanging in between his legs, leaning way over his private parts, no chin out like he normally does, no thumbs-up, no Trump grin, no throwing his shoulders back the way he can — there was none of that. He looked like ‘I’m suffering through this moment and I look weak next to her and I know it.”
Silberman did note that our pathetic, infantile leader did shake the German Chancellor’s hand when she first arrived at the White House that day. However, that handshake did not go well either:
“His [other] hand looked like it was trying to reach behind her back. She didn’t like it one bit, her jaw was stiff, there’s a line of tension in her jaw that shows how she really feels. And he doesn’t look comfortable at all, either. There’s just genuine discomfort all the way around. There’s just no trust. I found it a very disingenuous handshake.”
Trump has not managed to appear presidential for a single moment in his entire lifetime. It says something about his competency as a leader that he cannot even manage the handshake photo-op. If he cannot handle a handshake, how could we ever expect him to handle international crises?