The Handshake That Didn’t Happen

My old journalism professor at El Camino Community College, back in the day, used to call them ‘grip and grin’ photos and, in her opinion, they were the worst kind of photograph a photojournalist could take.
You know the ones. Somebody’s holding a trophy, or an oversized check, or its just two politicians smiling and shaking hands. The picture is posed, uninteresting, and the only reason to have it accompanying the article is to have SOMETHING accompanying the article.
The handshake that didn’t happen would have been a grip and grin photo. Not much newsworthiness there. The articles would have said “Trump Meets With Merkel; NATO, Other Issues Discussed.
But, the handshake didn’t happen. Merkel and Trump sat, and let photographers take pictures of them, without speaking much. Then a photographer said “How about a handshake?” which, honestly, is about the journalistic equivalent of the damned Kiss Cam at basketball games. Still, it was a chance for Trump to salvage some respect out of the meeting, the reporters were throwing him a bone, and he blew it. The request for a handshake was ignored.
Now, I confess that my initial reaction to the hullabaloo was ‘people are over-reacting again. If Trump didn’t shake Merkel’s hand, that also means Merkel didn’t shake Trump’s hand, so which is it? And why is it a big deal?’ Then I thought about it a bit more. It wasn’t Merkel avoiding the handshake. She’s been a world leader for a while, and knows the protocol. She even managed to deal with Silvio Berlusconi after he called her ‘an unfuckable lardass.’ (My Italian speaking friends assured me that that was an accurate translation.) She’d have willingly shaken his hand and pretended the talks went well, because that’s what world leaders do.
Trump reminded me of a student (8 years old) earlier this week who folded his arms across his chest and refused to say ‘congratulations.’ Trump was even less classy than that. He sort of looked down and pretended he didn’t hear the suggestion while his handlers herded (yes, herded is the correct verb) the photographers out of the room.
No class, no courage, and no social skills whatsoever. My guess is that the meeting was very uncomfortable for him because he had to sit there with Merkel and be reminded, with everything she said, that that is what a real world leader looks like, that is what a real world leader sounds like, and it pissed him off.


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