A handshake is never just a handshake with these two.
The last time we saw the hands of President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron meet, it didn’t look pleasant for either man. While Trump was visiting Paris in July, Macron grabbed the president’s hand and held onto it for a full 10 seconds, tightening his grip and pulling it further and further into his chest, as if Macron could bend the president of the United States to his will through sheer strength.
It was as aggressive as a handshake could be, and that’s precisely what Macron was going for, he told The Washington Post later: “My handshake with him — it wasn’t innocent. That’s how you ensure you are respected. You have to show you won’t make small concessions — not even symbolic ones.” It seems like Macron had done his homework on Trump’s own handshake style.
Fast forward a few months, and their posturing for the cameras is still noticeably awkward. Macron is in Washington for an official state visit this week, and the two took every opportunity to reach for and clasp each other, often in ways that seemed more passive aggressive than outright aggressive.
The body language between the two leaders mirrored their broader relationship. Trump and Macron get along personally but are diametrically opposed on major policy issues: Macron wants Trump to stay in Syria, the Paris climate agreement, trade deals and the Iran nuclear deal; Trump has gotten out of most of those.
As such, some of their touching was chummy. There were bro-y back slaps. We saw a few cheek kisses — one initiated by Trump, who is a frequent exception to the norm in a country doesn’t generally engage in man-to-man cheek kisses. “I like him a lot,” Trump said after Macron returned the favor with a peck a few hours later.
But when Marcon and Trump hugged, their faces were tight, their grips even tighter. When their handshakes went on a little too long for Trump, he would pat Macron’s hand as if to say: “Enough.”
And then Trump brushed off an alleged piece of dandruff from Macron’s shoulder. How do we know it was dandruff Trump thought he saw? Because Trump made a big show of it and then announced to the running cameras that the president of France had dandruff on his shoulder.
“I’ll get that little piece of dandruff off,” Trump said. “We have to make him perfect, he is perfect.”