These Photographs Show How Obama’s Former Photographer Has It Out for Trump
A picture is worth a thousand words, sure. Well, lucky for Barack Obama’s former White House photographer, Instagram offers the ability to add a poignant caption as well.
The man in question, Pete Souza, had the high honor of acting as the 44th POTUS’ official photographer during his eight years in office. While some the photos from Obama’s terms are archived under the account petesouza44, Souza still takes the liberty of posting some of his favorites — and often as a response to something President Donald Trump has said or done.
We offer several interesting examples of how Souza uses his photography as a commentary on our current political climate and leader, but first, let’s meet the man behind the lens.
Meet Pete Souza
Souza was the official White House photographer for both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. He actively covers Washington’s political scene and acts as Professor Emeritus of Visual Communication at Ohio University. Souza also covers stories worldwide. According to his website, he was one of the first journalists to cover the fall of Kabul, Afghanistan, following 9/11.
Souza recently released his book Obama: An Intimate Portrait featuring a foreword from Obama himself. He actively posts to his personal Instagram account, frequently offering commentary on the current administration and notable things Trump says and does. The following seven of Souza’s posts offer insight into the photographer’s views on the current POTUS.
Next: Obama and Trump handled these natural disasters a bit differently.
This photo of Obama embracing the victims of Hurricane Sandy
Souza took to his Instagram and posted this photo to provide a stark contrast between Trump and Obama. Last October, Souza posted the picture only one day after Trump visited Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, where he spoke of the “incredible” crowd there to see him and touted USA baseball caps with his wife, Melania.
Souza clearly felt Trump missed the opportunity — and point — of his Texas tour and shared a photo of Obama empathizing with a Hurricane Sandy victim to prove it. “There are no Democrats or Republicans hurting in Houston; there are just Americans,” Souza captioned the post, “At a time like this, it shouldn’t be about selling baseball hats or commenting on crowd size. It’s about helping our fellow human beings.”
Next: Souza recently commented on Trump’s controversial comments.
This commentary on ‘You-Know-Who’
While Trump denies reports that he referred to African nations as “s***hole countries,” Souza wasted no time sharing a picture of a touching interaction between Obama and former White House employee Gary Lee. He shared part of Lee’s response to what Souza called a “racist comment from you-know-who,” where Lee recounted Obama greeting him in Korean on his last day at the White House.
When Lee recounted the interaction to a colleague, the colleague replied, “think about what you just said. How incredible that is. On your last day of work at the White House, after your years of service, the first African-American president greeted you in your parents’ native language.”
Next: The photographer takes the liberty of expressing his views on his page.
When he simply said ‘God help us’
While the POTUS and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took to Twitter to publicly debate whose “nuclear button” was more powerful, Souza took to Instagram to post not one, but two pictures commenting on the debacle.
The first picture, above, shows an identified man boarding a plane carrying the “nuclear football,” or a briefcase that the president allegedly carries containing anything they would need to authorize a nuclear strike. His caption, while short, effectively reads, “God help us.”
Next: Souza’s post was two-fold.
Followed by this shutdown of the red button:
He followed up with this second photo from the Oval Office’s Resolute Desk. Below the “Hard things are hard” plaque is a small, red button, referencing the supposed “nuclear button” that Trump mentioned in his tweets to Kim Jong Un.
“And fortunately the red button on the Resolute Desk is to call for the valet, not to start a war,” Souza captioned the photograph, satirically assuring his followers that the actual red button at Trump’s fingertips can’t start a nuclear war.
Next: He couldn’t let this one thing go untouched.
He posted in honor of the lyrics of our national anthem
Late-night shows and daily news sources alike took to their respective platforms to address the question on everyone’s mind following the 2018 C.F.P. National Championship: Does the president know the words to our national anthem?
The Daily Show host Trevor Noah pointed out that Trump notably sang only a few lines of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and the “popular lines,” at that. Souza was quick to post this photo of Obama with his hand over his heart, tight-lipped, with the caption, “Yes he knew the words.”
Next: His photographs come in handy.
He couldn’t resist taking a dig at Trump’s former campaign members
Trump’s former top aides Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie co-wrote Let Trump Be Trump, a book that reveals some controversial actions the president allegedly took over the course of his campaign. Souza took the opportunity to share a picture of Obama with two of his top aides and political strategists.
“President Obama with two of his political strategists, David Plouffe and David Axelrod,” Souza captioned it, noting, “Both of them wrote books but alas neither book created much news.”
Next: There is one thing Obama and Trump have in common.
Golfing had to come up at some point
After criticizing Obama’s golfing habit and telling the American people, “I’m going to be working for you, I’m not going to have time to go play golf,” Trump appeared to hide some of his visits to his Florida golf courses. According to CNN, the president visited his courses nearly every weekend during the first month of his administration, but his aides tried to hide if he was actually golfing or not.
Souza didn’t comment on his opinion on Trump’s visits, but he did post a picture that showed Obama’s transparency. “President Obama hands one of his … golf balls to a youngster while golfing on his Christmas vacation in 2010. At the time, the White House informed the press corps about the fact that he was golfing and who he was golfing with. Press photographers also were granted access to take photographs of him golfing,” Souza wrote.
Next: These revealing photos really show the differences between Trump and Obama.
The 2 couples relate very differently
When we look at the Trumps and Obamas side by side, we can hardly help comparing the two. During Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, both appeared to hand off the baton to the new president. In one photo, Barack and Michelle Obama lean toward each other, grinning. On the other hand, Donald and Melania stood stiffly, frowns on both faces. A body language expert weighed in on the contrast between the two.
“While the Obamas stood at the top of the stairs sporting mirrored body positions that signal like-minded rapport, Trump came out of his car to walk up to greet them without performing the usual husbandly duty of waiting for his wife to walk with him,” Judith James explained. She said his approach looked more like that of a businessman than a team player. “It’s his show and his job rather than a double act.”
Next: The way Obama related to Vice President Joe Biden also differs from his successor.
Obama and Biden seem to genuinely like each other
Multiple accounts show Obama and his second in command held a genuine affection for one another. The pair shared not only the job, but personal and emotional times together. When Biden’s son Beau had brain cancer, Obama offered him support. “He’s the only one I told anything to, other than family,” Biden told Today. “He’s a generous guy, he’s a genuine guy, and Michelle is an incredible lady.”
By contrast, Trump and Mike Pence do not share that same conviviality. Pence approaches his job as a public servant and seems to take that pretty literally. According to The Atlantic, Trump found Pence “prudish, stiff, and embarrassingly poor.” Pence, for his part, shook his head at Trump’s antics and had serious reservations following the Access Hollywood tape. And his wife, Karen, finds Trump “reprehensible — just totally vile.” That’s not exactly the bro-mance we saw in Obama and Biden.
Next: Obama also showed himself as a family man, unlike his successor.
The 2 presidents relate to their families very differently
When Obama took office, his two daughters, Malia and Sasha, were just 7 and 10 years old, respectively. Barack and Michelle Obama moved into the White House with their family, and both parents remained active in their lives. First Dads: Parenting and Politics From George Washington to Barack Obama found that unusual for presidential dads. According to the author, the Obama family ate dinner together five nights a week. Obama also scored a “perfect attendance record” for both daughters’ parent-teacher conferences. Trump, on the other hand, did not do as well.
Trump has five children from three marriages. With Ivana Trump, his first wife, the president had his oldest, Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric. When Trump married Marla Maples in 1993, they had Tiffany. With first lady Melania came Barron. After the inauguration, the first lady and Barron stayed behind in New York City so Barron could finish out the school year — an unusual move for a first family. Trump maintains a reputation as a hands-off dad. “It wasn’t a typical ‘let’s go play catch in the backyard’ sort of father-son relationship,” Donald Jr. said, according to Vanity Fair.
Next: How the two relate to kids in general also tells a pretty clear story.
Just look at the way Obama looks with kids
Barack and Michelle Obama both appear at ease with kids, routinely interacting with them throughout their eight years in the White House. His familiarity with them sparked scores of photo collections, many taken by Pete Souza, his official photographer. That humanized the president and made him more relatable for scores of parents across the world. One of the most iconic photos taken of him encapsulates that idea.
As an Education Post editorial put it, Barack and Michelle Obama provided role models to both kids and parents of all races and creeds. “They saw a president who made it a point to celebrate children, be it through hosting princess parties for little black girls to promote literacy and positive self-image or talking to children from all over the world, children of all different colors, creeds, and costumes. He seemed equally delighted to meet a young Muslim girl refugee as he did the son of British royalty.”
Next: The Trumps do not have the same easy rapport with kids.
Trump does not look as comfortable with children
If Trump looked standoffish with his own offspring, he does not do much better with other people’s. It may have to do with his age, his businesslike quality, or the way he comports himself. Or it may be his sense of humor. When he invited journalists’ kids to the White House for Halloween, for example, he could not resist a jab at the press.
“Do you know who they are? They’re the friendly media,” he said to the kids. “So, how does the press treat you? I’ll bet you get treated better by the press than anybody in the world, right? Huh? I think so.” The joke did not land so well.
Obama did not take himself too seriously
While he took the job of running the country very much to heart, Obama knew how to lighten up. He made dad jokes and goofed off with his children. The president cracked jokes at himself and made videos trying to predict pop culture phenomenons. At a White House correspondent dinner, he even threw some shade at Pence. “I tease Joe sometimes, but he has been at my side for seven years, I love that man,” he said. “He’s not just a great vice president, he is a great friend. We’ve gotten so close in some places in Indiana, they won’t serve us pizza anymore.”
When watching Barack and Michelle Obama, their jobs seemed legitimately fun. While the pair had many serious moments throughout their eight years in office, they knew how to keep the life alive. In any relationship, maintaining that spark makes a real difference. It also set an example for the American people, in general.
Next: The current White House occupant has yet to learn that lesson.
Trump does not know how to lighten up
Unlike Barack and Michelle Obama, Trump does not seem to enjoy his job. The president even said in an interview that the gig did not meet his expectations. “I loved my previous life,” he admitted. “I had so many things going … this is more work than my previous life.” While he regularly comes under fire for his golf habit, his TV-watching, and his lack of work in general, he does not maintain the appearance of balance Obama did.
While different people express emotions in different ways, Trump rarely looks genuinely happy or excited. He makes plenty of animated faces, but they always look somewhat forced. A psychoanalyst wrote in The Atlantic that Trump has exhibited “sky-high extroversion combined with off-the-chart low agreeableness.” People low in agreeableness often seem callous, rude, arrogant, and lacking in empathy. As the writer put it, “If Donald Trump does not score low on this personality dimension, then probably nobody does.”
Additional reporting by Lizz Schumer.
Follow The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!