clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Trump’s weird, gloaty video about a political prisoner: a scene-by-scene analysis

Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

Thursday afternoon, the young Trump administration scored an undeniably significant win: It got Egypt’s dictator, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to release an American aid worker, Aya Hijazi, who had been unjustly detained in a Cairo prison for three years.

On Friday afternoon, the Trump team succeeded again — this time, in cheapening their accomplishment with an exceptionally bizarre video.

President Donald Trump tweeted out the video in question, which looks like it was made on a computer that still runs on Windows 95 and exists solely to glorify the president (and Ivanka Trump):

Let’s run down the weirdness:

  1. It starts with a flapping American flag GIF, while “Proud to be an American” blares in the background.
  2. It then crawls through a Washington Post article for an extremely long time, as if scrolling through a newspaper article while listening to “Proud to be an American” is some kind of sublime experience.
  3. Next, we see a number of photos from the Oval Office. The president is with Hijazi, as he should be, but there’s sure an awful lot of focus on Trump’s face.
  4. Then there are multiple photos of Ivanka talking to Hijazi, including a close-up on the two of them, despite Ivanka having nothing to do with Hijazi’s release, as far as we know. For some reason, the release of an American political prisoner is now about the president’s daughter.
  5. “Proud to be an American” is still playing.
  6. A shot of a George Washington painting in the Oval Office, which seems to be even less related to Hijazi’s release than Ivanka was.
  7. More Trump photos, and then a cut back to the George Washington portrait. At this point I’m assuming this was originally made for a school project, and that Barron Trump just really loves that damn painting.
  8. As the chorus of the song swells — “aaaaaaaaand I’m proud to be an AMERICAN” — the frame zooms out on the George Washington portrait to reveal Trump sitting below it. Subtext!
  9. We’re at the end of the video, thankfully. In case you’ve forgotten who was president when Hijazi was released, there’s this helpful reminder:

Then it just cuts off — and it does so, inexplicably, in the middle of the final chorus of the song.

Not in the video: any mention of who Hijazi is, what her humanitarian work was about, why she was detained so long, or really anything other than pictures that make Trump (and his daughter) look good, set to kitschily patriotic music.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.