President Trump frequently posts short videos online of him attempting to appear presidential — i.e., he is shot with professional lighting, he discusses the kinds of normal subjects presidents customarily address, he is not engaging in obstruction of justice at that very moment, etc. Unfortunately, Trump subverts the effect by declining to use any kind of script for his appearances. Even a polished, articulate speaker would struggle in such circumstances, and Trump is comically inarticulate.
In his latest video, Trump comments on Hurricane Florence. “This is a tough hurricane,” he proclaims, “one of the wettest we’ve ever seen from the standpoint of water.” Whether Florence is also wet from other standpoints is a question the president did not address.
Watching this video is very much like the common experience of making small talk about the weather with a stranger, except rather than ending the conversation after the normal ten seconds or so, the stranger believes his job and stature require him to elaborate with words that are not at his disposal. And so Trump adds that the hurricane “certainly is not good,” and that people have died (“That’s a tough one, it’s tough to understand”) and also that it “has been a nasty one, a big one.”
In the video, Trump is using his favorite dignified scowl. (The New York Times reported last year that the president told staff he wants to look “like Churchill” when he makes this face.) Except Churchill knew more words than an average 10-year-old, and he also wrote them down before he started speaking to the entire country.