White House publicity stunt showing Trump pretending to work backfires


Desperate to avoid blame for the Trump shutdown, the White House only succeeded at highlighting Trump's incompetence.

As the Trump shutdown enters its second day, Donald Trump's White House is hard at work failing.

In yet another transparent attempt to burnish the sad presidency of Donald Trump, the White House press office celebrated Trump's one-year anniversary in office by feeding reporters a set of photos, via email, purporting to show Trump "working in the White House during the Democrat shutdown."

The point of this exercise was to once again shift blame for the shutdown from Trump and the Republicans, who control both houses of Congress and the White House, to the Democrats, who are supporting a deal that Trump himself promised he would sign.

The result, however, was to show Trump for the fraud that he is. The first photo the White House sent out purports to show Trump at his desk, hard at work trying to end the shutdown he created. What it actually shows is Trump posed with a phone to his ear, staring directly into the camera, elbow resting on a completely empty desk.

Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

The second shows Trump strolling back to the Oval Office from the upper press office, once again sporting the campaign hat that he relentlessly promotes in official White House photographs.

Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

But it is the third shot that most undermines the White House's preferred narrative, that Trump is hard at work doing anything but avoiding blame. The shot features Trump addressing a grinning coterie of staffers in the White House upper press office, which is exactly where you would go to order your team to put out some photos that make it look like you're working to end the shutdown. The effect is a magnification of Trump budget chief Mick Mulvaney's declaration that it's "kind of cool" to shut the government down.

Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

The PR photos were dutifully distributed on social media by the likes of press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and social media director Dan Scavino, yet another indication of their true purpose.

This episode marks another sad milestone for the Trump administration, which has spoon-fed official White House photos to reporters 41 times in one year. President Obama's press office did it 20 times in eight years, usually to highlight light fare like the Easter Egg roll or the White House science fair.

But the Trump team's use of official photos has read more like a map of Trump's incompetence, as when they sent a photo of Trump looking at a weather map to bolster his lie that he had seen hurricane devastation "first hand," one in a series of hurricane photo releases that seemed designed more to sell campaign merchandise than demonstrate competence.

Trump's laughable attempt to shield himself from blame cannot erase the fact that this is exactly the "good shutdown" he was looking for.