Trump’s power grabbing handshake yank

What defines Donald Trump?

If you were to ask Mike Pence or Neil Gorsuch I suspect that each would remember a defining moment in their relationships with Trump — the moment when a handshake veered towards a shoulder dislocation.


When I first saw this I wondered whether Trump had some kind of involuntary muscular spasm as he yanked on Gorsuch’s arm. But then I saw this:


On both occasions, it’s as though Trump thought he was leash-training his new puppy with a yank to show who’s the boss.

Yet to be on the receiving end of that yank must have been at least unnerving and perhaps even haunting.

A mafia boss knows that loyalty can only be sustained with fear — that the possibility of disobedience needs to be seen as posing an existential threat to anyone who steps out line.

I assume Trump’s never threatened to kill anyone, but if he has, that would hardly seem surprising.

And even if no one in Trump’s orbit fears getting their feet set in concrete and then getting thrown into the Potomac, Trump seems to go out of his way to make himself appear menacing in a variety of ways.

Trump’s handshake/yank could signify many things — “I’ve got you now,” “don’t stray from me,” “I’m in control.”

What it certainly fails to convey is a shred of respect for the person on the receiving end.

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4 thoughts on “Trump’s power grabbing handshake yank

  1. hquain

    A striking observation. Perhaps this hints at why the most effective opposition so far has come from women. Many, perhaps most, live in a world in which big-bodied males are constantly trying to jostle them out of the picture; clumsy attempts at physical intimidation become (for many) mere background noise.

  2. Paul Woodward Post author

    I think that Trump and those who compromise themselves by getting close to him recognize that his proclivity for assaulting people (especially women) is his greatest vulnerability — hence the swift dismissal of Corey Lewandowski for grabbing a woman journalist long before the world learned about Trump’s pride in grabbing pussy.

    There is so much photographic and film evidence that Trump frightens people (including his family) who get within striking distance, it perplexes me how relatively little attention has been given to his grossest characteristics as a physical bully.

    Trump’s a thug — even the term “strongman” is mildly flattering since it connotes the ability to provide protection rather than a tendency to crush opposition.

    Once the Nixon tapes came out, his image as a crook was sealed. Come the day that the President Trump tapes get released, I expect he’ll make Nixon seem mild-mannered.

    As for the role of women in opposing him, I absolutely agree, and given the size of the Women’s March in January, I hope the next one will come before long and turn out to be the largest demonstration in the history of the universe, or at least large enough to shatter Trump’s confidence.

  3. Óscar Palacios

    I hadn’t seen that Pence handshake! I am a firm believer that small details like that are very, very telling of a person’s personality. They speak volumes about the character of Trump. Your analysis is right-on.

  4. Paul Woodward Post author

    The more I think about it, the more striking the symbolism is.

    As far as I understand, the history of the handshake is that the purpose of extending an open hand is to show that you are not baring a weapon and pose no threat and yet Trump has managed to invert that by turning his handshake into an act of aggression.

    Whereas conventionally, a handshake expresses equality and friendliness, for Trump it becomes something he does to someone else. Anyone who came away from an arm-yank like that from a stranger would most likely thereafter avoid further contact.

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