Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photo illustration Greg Ruben / Axios

President Trump doesn't view life through the lens that most people do. In ways small and sweeping, he sees himself as The Producer, conducting The Trump show, on and off stage.

This is the man who noted the movie-like awesomeness of Marine One taking off on Inauguration Day, moved a lamp that might mess up photos of himself with British Prime Minister Theresa May, and scolded his press secretary for not wearing a stark suit that pops on TV.

This is the man who was captivated by watching coverage of himself while flying between campaign stops. Aides quit trying to show him tapes of previous debates while getting ready for the next one, because he would only focus on himself — and always applauded what he saw. Chuck Todd, moderator of "Meet The Press," noted that Trump used to replay his appearances on the Sunday shows — without sound — like a quarterback reviewing game film. "He's a very visual guy," Todd said on a Politico podcast. "He thinks this way. And look, it's an important insight in just understanding him."

This is also the man who, when picking his Cabinet, was obsessed with whether a candidate "looked the part." Mitt Romney looked like a secretary of State, so his stock rose. He went with the more commanding Rex Tillerson. Gary Cohn, Trump's swaggering economic adviser, was an instant hit because he carried himself like someone to reckon with, aides told us.

Trump remarked to aides how short retired Gen. David Petraeus was, but was smitten with the John Wayne strut of "The Generals" he wound up picking — especially retired Gen.James Mattis (stage name: "Mad Dog"). A witness recalled Trump being introduced at a campaign to a veteran of the International Space Station, who resembled a young John Glenn. Trump exclaimed: "You LOOK like an astronaut!"

Let's be honest: Trump's gut on what sells on stage often works. He knew instinctively how to to appeal to the celebrity- tabloids in the '80s, sell America on "The Apprentice," starring him, beginning in 2004, and own the national and world stage for most of 2015, all of 2016, and at least the next four years.

His obsession with optics, style and TV glam are central to his being. Here are some gems we picked up reporting this:

  • Trump judges men's appearances as much as women's. A source who's worked with Trump explains: "If you're going to be a public person for him, whether it's a lawyer or representing him in meetings, then you need to have a certain look. That look —at least for any male — you have to be sharply dressed. Preferably, I would say, solid colors. … You should have a good physical demeanor, good stature, hair well groomed."
  • Trump pays close attention to ties. Says a source who has worked with Trump: "You're always supposed to wear a tie. If it's not a Trump tie, you can get away with Brooks Brothers. But I'd suggest Armani." Trump prefers wider, traditional ties, this source says. Regarding Trump's rakish policy adviser Stephen Miller, the source adds: "I've always been surprised about how Stephen Miller survives with those thin ties."
  • Trump likes the women who work for him "to dress like women," says a source who worked on Trump's campaign. "Even if you're in jeans, you need to look neat and orderly." We hear that women who worked in Trump's campaign field offices — folks who spend more time knocking on doors than attending glitzy events — felt pressure to wear dresses to impress Trump.
  • Staff knew Trump would be hacked off at press secretary Sean Spicer for not dressing fancy enough for his first briefing-room appearance. "It'd be one thing to wear a pinstripe that fit him perfectly," said one person who has spent a lot of time with Trump. "But, it was like, he had a gap in his collar. I was like, 'Oh God, he's going to get reamed.'""I was getting text messages: Can you believe what he's wearing?" the person continued. "Four people texted me, because we know the boss. … Trump is very much about: Present yourself in the best light. If you're going to represent him, even more so." Spicer seems to have learnt his lesson. Since then, he's only appeared in well-tailored dark suits, coupled with perfectly knotted ties.
  • One exception: Steve Bannon, who wouldn't be caught dead in Armani and has been photographed in the Oval Office without a tie, gets a pass. A source explains: "Steve is Steve ... He's cavalier almost about what he wears."

Why this matters: Over many years at "The Apprentice," Trump perfected the image of a decisive boss — a successful, brutal, but sometimes charming, authoritarian. Trump's mastery of imagery — particularly through television — is perhaps, more than any other factor, the reason he's the current occupant of the Oval Office.

It's also why he was so effective connecting with his audience and winning free media coverage. Whatever ideas his aides may have up their sleeves, Trump is always going to want to be The Producer and the popular leading man of the Trump Show.

It's not the polls. It's the ratings. — President Donald J. Trump
Previously, on Trump 101:
Subscribe to Axios AM/PM for a daily rundown of what's new and why it matters, directly from Mike Allen.
Please enter a valid email.
Please enter a valid email.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Subscribed! Look for Axios AM and PM in your inbox tomorrow or read the latest Axios AM now.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology

Google's parent shuts down effort to deliver internet via balloons

Image: Loon

Alphabet is shutting down Loon, one of its "moonshots," which aimed to deliver internet service via high-altitude balloons.

Why it matters: The effort was one of several approaches designed to get high-speed connectivity to some of the world's most remote spots and proved useful in the aftermath of disasters that shut down traditional infrastructure.

Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

What has and hasn't changed as Biden takes over U.S. foreign policy

Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden swiftly recommitted the U.S. to the Paris climate pact and the World Health Organization, but America's broader foreign policy is in a state of flux between the Trump and Biden eras.

Driving the news: One of the most striking moves from the Biden administration thus far was a show of continuity — concurring with the Trump administration's last-minute determination that China had committed "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: New coronavirus cases down, but more bad news ahead — Fighting COVID-19's effects on gender equality.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: NYC postpones vaccine appointments following shipment delays — Private companies step in to fill vaccine logistics vacuum.
  4. World: Biden will order U.S. to rejoin World Health OrganizationBiden to bring U.S. into global COVAX initiative for equitable vaccine access.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!