In a moment of peak millennial internet political coverage, Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin, founders of the women- targeted newsletter The Skimm, met with Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau. Somehow managing to keep their cool, the interviewers—who savvily maximized on Trudeau’s absurdly dashing persona by publishing a video of their sitdown—questioned him on a series of subjects including Nafta negotiations, his socks (shocker, they’re cool), and Donald Trump.
The two North American leaders could hardly be more different—one is a feminist, respectful of minorities, welcoming of refugees and immigrants, and looks like an amalgamation of all Disney princes, while the other, well, is Donald Trump. Still, it’s to be expected that Trudeau would want to be moderate in his comments about his downstairs neighbor.
Trudeau’s attempt to highlight something positive about Trump produced fainter praise than Hillary Clinton did in one campaign debate, when she said the one thing she admired about her adversary were his kids.
“In your interactions with President Trump, has there been anything that surprised you?” The Skimm asked.
His reply was a bit disjointed: “It may be surprising to some that he’s [long pause] he’s authentic in that the person he is on camera, in public, is very true to the person he is in private. So, there’s a consistency there, that is, one can work with.”
Though Trudeau highlights this as a good trait, there are multiple levels on which this is a worrisome answer.
First, the very idea that the president of the US isn’t just acting in front of the world but is actually the same person in private and in public is a bit disconcerting as a revealing bit of insight. It feeds one of the beliefs that got Trump elected: Too many voters chose Trump because “what you see is what you get” with him, even if his stances on issues didn’t match their own. That kind of “authenticity” should be a pre-condition of being president, not a remarkable quality worth praising at the same level of, say, having a decent sense of the democratic process, or knowing when to criticize Nazis.
Equally problematic is the reason Trudeau found this characteristic “surprising.” It demonstrates the remarkable persistence of another campaign myth: that Trump would at some point show a tamer version of himself. It’s more than troublesome that it has yet to happen, with Trump showing no outward sign of moderating his ideas, or his behavior, since becoming president.