Trump sought the world’s attention and got it. Now the White House reality show ends
A red tie, often tied too long. A raised fist, often held high to a supportive crowd. A scowling face. A raised voice.
President Donald Trump never hid how he felt. His words and body language made his thoughts clear.
For more than four years, Trump, a Republican, cultivated a political base by sharing his thoughts and emotions - pride, happiness, indignation, rage - on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis, creating an omnipresence of sorts that completely dominated the news cycle.
(Left to Right) U.S. President Donald Trump leaves after delivering remarks during an "Unleashing American Energy" event at the Department of Energy in Washington, June 29, 2017, President Trump talks to reporters as he departs to Louisiana from the White House in Washington, May 14, 2019, President Trump talks with reporters as he departs the White House for Indianapolis, in Washington, September 27, 2017, the shadow of President Trump as he talks with reporters during his departure from the Oval Office of the White House for Indianapolis, in Washington D.C., U.S. September 27, 2017.
Like no U.S. president has done before, he made himself the center of attention, the star of a literal reality show that was his administration, always with an eye for the camera, a flair for the dramatic, an instinct for the outrageous.
His supporters loved it. His opponents hated it. Regardless, nearly everyone tuned in. The country and the world watched, and were consumed.
The show may have had deadly consequences. Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States died of the disease associated with the coronavirus while Trump played down the danger of the pandemic and did not model wearing a mask.
(Left to Right) President Trump speaks as he takes part in the commemoration ceremony for Armistice Day, 100 years after the end of World War One, at the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial in Paris, France, November 11, 2018, President Trump observs a demonstration with U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division troops, an attack helicopter and artillery as he visits Fort Drum, New York, August 13, 2018, U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division troops listen as President Trump speaks before signing the National Defense Authorization Act at Fort Drum, New York, August 13, 2018, members of the U.S. military during event where President Trump signs an executive order he said would impose tighter vetting to prevent foreign terrorists from entering the United States at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., January 27, 2017.
U.S. racial and political divides widened under Trump and migrant children were separated from their parents.
The president used the power of his words and his office to attend to his political base, with which he kept a direct line of communication via his now-suspended Twitter feed.
He remembered what he had promised them as a presidential candidate and sought with some success to deliver on those pledges to build a border wall, upend immigration and cut taxes.
(Left to Right) President Trump prepares before a family photo at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2017, President Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron look to flypasts in the Normandy American Cemetery to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, Normandy, France, June 6, 2019, President Trump inspects an honour guard during a welcome ceremony in Buckingham Palace, in London, Britain, June 3, 2019, President Trump delivers remarks on North Korea accompanied by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida U.S., February 11, 2017.
He threatened and irritated world leaders during trips abroad, complicating relationships with U.S. allies who he felt were not carrying their financial weight in global alliances.
(Left to Right)Television anchors prepare to go on air in front of the White House the day after the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, in Washington, January 21, 2017, a member of the White House staff prepares the assigned sits for journalist to attend an event with President Trump in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, May 16, 2019, members of the media wait to access an event rewarding the "Medal of Honor" to David G. Bellavia for his actions taken while serving as an Army staff sergeant and squad leader in November 2004 in Fallujah, Iraq, at the White House in Washington, June 25, 2019, a journalist sleeps in briefing room of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 16, 2019.
He criticized and vilified the press, while craving journalists' attention and respect. The base enjoyed his demonization of the media and rewarded him with applause and cheering for the pejorative monikers he assigned.
(Left to Right) President Trump tosses out 'Keep America Great' caps as he arrives for a campaign rally at Oakland County International Airport in Waterford Township, Michigan, October 30, 2020, supporters cheer at a campaign rally with President Trump in Estero, Florida, October 31, 2018, supporters listen as President Trump speaks during a campaign rally for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Rosendale at the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport in Belgrade, Montana, November 3, 2018, nuns react as President Trump holds a campaign rally at Oakland County International Airport in Waterford Township, Michigan, U.S., October 30, 2020.
Trump gave his all to his supporters. He fired them up at regular rallies and drew energy from their adulation and enthusiasm for his unconventional - critics said unpresidential - style.
"I see Trump as a fighter for the people that actually work and put the backbone into this country," said Will Williams, who attended Trump's June campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as the coronavirus pandemic raged. "I will remember him as (a) hero."
History may not.
(Left to Right) Baby Trump balloon makes an appearance at Independence Day celebrations in Washington, July 4, 2019, supporters attend a campaign rally by U.S. President Donald Trump at Michigan Sports Stars Park in Washington, Michigan, November 1, 2020, a man wears a mask of President Trump posing for a picture with opposition supporters during a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, February 2, 2019, a supporter of President Trump wears a mask as people participate in a "Stop the Steal" protest after the 2020 U.S. presidential election was called for Democratic candidate Joe Biden, in Washington, U.S. November 14, 2020.
With the riot on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters who believed his false assertions of election fraud, the legacy of a second impeachment for spurring a deadly uprising will almost certainly overshadow any accomplishments, real or perceived.
"When a president incites an insurrection that could have killed his vice president, could have killed the speaker of the House and other members of Congress, could have destroyed a free presidential election and might have permanently impaired our democracy, there is very little good you can find that's going to outshine that," said historian Michael Beschloss.
(Left to Right) National security adviser John Bolton, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney depart Shannon Airport on route to Caen, France, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, in Shannon, Ireland, June 6, 2019, Air Force One as President Trump prepares to depart Washington on campaign travel to Orlando, Florida from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, June 18, 2019, a runway as seen from Air Force One as President Trump departs Washington on campaign travel to Orlando, Florida from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, June 18, 2019, Air Force One crew wait for the arrival of President Trump and first lady Melania Trump as they travel to Britain from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. June 2, 2019.
On Wednesday, Trump will leave the White House for the final time as the 45th president of the United States, taking his final flight on the Marine One helicopter to Joint Base Andrews, where he will board Air Force One for Florida.
The trappings of the presidency will be taken away afterward and he will watch his successor, Democrat Joe Biden, seek to undo much of what Trump did during his term in office.
(Left to Right) Steam billows from the White House early in the morning following the 2020 U.S. presidential election in Washington, November 7, 2020, President Trump departs after speaking about the 2020 U.S. presidential election results in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, November 5, 2020, a truck with a sign which reads "Loser" near the White House in Washington, November 6, 2020, White House staff members watch and listen as U.S. President Donald Trump holds an event about the "Operation Warp Speed" program, the joint Defense Department and HHS initiative that has struck deals with several drugmakers in an effort to help speed up the search for effective treatments for the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., November 13, 2020.
The reality show from the White House will be over. But his base, at least in part, will remain, still hanging on his statements, in whatever medium he finds to get them out.
"I think he does understand the power of his words. I think he relishes in it," said one senior administration official who considered resigning in the aftermath of the riot. "And I think he will continue to do so."
PHOTO EDITING GABRIELLE FONSECA JOHNSON; TEXT EDITING PETER COONEY AND KIERAN MURRAY; LAYOUT JULIA DALRYMPLE
(Left to Right) Attendees at the presidential inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, January 20, 2017, birds fly after President Trump was sworn in on the inaugural day in Washington, January 20, 2017, Secret Service agents walk alongside President Trump's limousine as it passes empty viewing bleachers as he participates in the inaugural parade after his swearing in at the Capitol, January 20, 2017, outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama and outgoing first lady Michelle Obama watch as U.S. President Donald Trump embraces members of his family, wife Melania, and children Barron, Donald, Ivanka and Tiffany, after he was sworn in during inauguration ceremonies at the Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.