In a development that could be looked at as either humorous or embarrassing, perhaps both, social media users lampooned President Trump after it was revealed that yet another government resorted to a simple, colorful display of information in order to get through to him. Trump rather notoriously has an extremely short attention span, refusing to read full briefings, preferring short, simple bullet points and visual displays instead. Japan went this route in presenting Trump with a “Japanese Investment Update”, a simple, colorful one page map of the U.S. with just a few text items, which did not escape the notice of New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker, who tweeted a photo of the visual aid, leading to many comments lampooning Trump. This particular visual aid was aimed at thwarting Trump’s complaints about a trade imbalance between Japan and the United States, and the aid appears, at least in part, to have worked in that capacity. According to The Hill:
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe presented President Trump with a colorful map Friday meant to explain Japanese investments in the U.S., Axios reported Friday. …The chart, titled “Japan has five additional investments in just one month” in big red letters, underscores how foreign leaders approach negotiations with Trump, believing that visual aids could help further their causes. The tactic appeared to work, with the president referring to the map when speaking to reporters after the meeting with Abe. …Reports have emerged that Trump is not inclined to read long briefing documents before meetings and instead prefers to visualize policies. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reportedly used colorful cards with simple explanations last year to discuss trade policies with Trump.
This was Peter Baker’s original tweet showing a picture of the map, with Baker adding, “Like others around the world, the Japanese have figured out how to play to a visiting Trump. Abe gave him this chart showing how much Japan invests in the United States.”
This led to a lot of comments making fun of Trump, such as this tag team effort, where one person asked “Did they give him a small packet of crayons to go with it? My kids always enjoyed that at restaurants”, with another replying “He does too” and showing a photoshopped picture of a shortened Trump being very pleased to enter a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant with Melania in tow.
Another made some presidential comparisons, noting that President Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar and President Obama went to Harvard Law, while President Trump’s accomplishment was that he “Identified Photos”, showing Trump along with a picture of the cognitive test Trump took, and passed, as part of his 2018 health exam. Trump appeared to boast about passing that test, which involved tasks such as the simple identification of animals like camels and lions, but that test is meant to help identify cognitive problems, not identify genius.
Another person expressed the other possible point of view on governments finding that they need to talk down to Trump, saying simply “This is so embarrassing”.
It is a bit embarrassing (along with worrisome) that Trump often seems unwilling or incapable of engaging on an adult level in his role as President of the United States. In speaking and in writing (i.e., tweeting in Trump’s case), Trump has shown this limitation with the press, with foreign dignitaries, with members of Congress, with everyone really, it’s just that it is more of a problem with official interactions. Trump may see efforts such as this visual aid from Japan as a nod to doing what he wants, as therefore some sort of appeasement or willingness to conform to Trump’s will that Trump finds pleasing. While many of the rest of us see this talking down to Trump, while likely necessary, as also embarrassing, this may be lost on Trump.