Was it a âshove?â Or more of a âbrushâ or âjostle.â Or perhaps just a friendly slap on the arm, a casual guy-greeting.
In fact, âshoveâ was probably the most common wordÂ used to describe the fleeting, at best awkwardÂ interaction between Trump, the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth, and Dusko Markovic, the leader of Montenegro, a small Balkan nation of 600,000 attending its first summit as a NATO member after a nine-yearÂ accession process.
It occurred as NATOÂ leaders strolled towardÂ a group photo in Brussels.
According to the Merriam-Webster definition, âshoveâ is on target:Â âto push alongâ or to âpush or put in a rough, careless, or hasty manner.â
Letâs break it down.
A slow-motion viewing of the video indicates no words spoken by Trump as he approaches the group from behind. No âExcuse meâ or âPardon me.â
Trump reaches out his right arm, grabs Markovicâs right shoulder and pushes him aside. Markovic looks surprised. Trump doesnât acknowledge his existence as he moves past him. Itâs as if Markovic isnât there.
Markovic abruptly looks back at Trump but gets no eye contactÂ from Trump in return.
Then he pats Trump on the back, or perhaps the arm, displaying a slight grin as Trump, at the front of the group, stands tall and adjusts his suit coat. TrumpÂ begins conversing withÂ Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite as Markovic looks on from behind.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer later told reporters that spots for the âfamily photoâ for which the leaders were preparing were predetermined, as is usually the case â implying that Trump was not trying to get a better position, The Washington Post reported, but rather that he was heading for the position reserved for him.
But of course, where Trump was headed was not the issue. It was the way he got there.
Markovic, afterward, responded to questions by shrugging it off.
âThis was an inoffensive situation,â Markovic said. âI do not see it in any other way.â
He said he had the opportunity Thursday toÂ thank Trump personally for his support of Montenegroâs entry into NATO and âof course the further development of our bilateral relations.â
âBut, when journalists are differently commenting this scene,â the prime minister said. âI want to tell you that it is natural for the president of the United States to be in the first row.â
Montenegrin news websitesÂ were brimming with articles describing how this minor exchange captured the attention of many major U.S. and European news outlets.
Some Montenegrin news outlets includedÂ headlinesÂ quoting author J.K. Rowling, who tweetedÂ the video, saying âYou tiny, tiny, tiny little manâ along with a retweeted video depicting Trump as a small man.
Montenegrin radio station Antena M included a photo of Trump above the story with the words âDays without being a national embarrassment: 0.â (Thatâs the numeral zero.)
âIt seems Donald Trump did not want anyone overshadowing his presence at the summit,â said the Montenegro newspaper Vijesti.
Other Balkan websites ran headlines such as âAmerica Firstâ and âWhere do you think you are going?â
As expected, the Trump shove captured the late-night shows.
âThe President Showâ on Comedy CentralÂ depicted an exaggerated scene, replacingÂ the Montenegro prime minister with the secretary general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg.
âExcuse me, excuse me, get out of my way,â the showâs TrumpÂ says to the secretary general, pushing him aside as they walk into a press briefing. âAmericaÂ first.Â America first.â
Seth Meyers, host of âLate Night With Seth Meyers,â alsoÂ riffed on the exchange, saying âLook at this guy. Wow.â
âYouâre a world leader at a meeting of dignitaries and you act like they just called your number at KFC,â Meyers said.
âMe, thatâs mine, the 12 piece,â Meyers said, mimicking someone pushing and shoving others out of the way.
Others on social media also viewed the âshoveâ as an attempt by Trump to revel in the spotlight and assert hisÂ âAmerica firstâ mentality.
It did not go unmentioned that Trump brushed aside the leader of a country thatÂ last month defied Russia and pro-Russian opposition by ratifying its membership in NATO â a historic turn toward the West.
The Balkan country is joining the allianceÂ as its 29th member; Thursday was its first summit. Only 18 years ago, NATO aircraft were bombing targets in Montenegro â then part of Serbia â in a campaign that forced troops out of Kosovo, as the Guardianâs Alec LuhnÂ reported. The bombing remains a painful memory for many Montenegrins, and polls have shown the population evenly divided on NATO membership.
âMany hope NATO membership will end the tumultuous east-west struggle in Montenegrin politics,â Luhn wrote.
With that tense history in mind,Â some on social media did not take Trumpâs gesture as the kindest welcome to the allianceâs new member.
âTrump shoved Prime Minister of Montenegro at NATO meeting to please Putin, once again,â said one Twitter user.
Others presumed Trump was simply moving to his assigned spot, and that the uproar over the âshoveâ or âpushâ was just another media dig at Trump.
As Dan Calabrese wrote in the Canada Free Press: âLook, I understand thereâs a frenzy out there now to alert on anything and everything Trump does and to characterize it as insane, out-of-control, evil and whatever else. But if you see this and think you see a âshove,â I donât know what to tell you.â
On the other hand, whatever it was, President Trumpâs treatment of Montenegroâs prime minister was a sharp contrast to say, the little curtsy he performed for King Salman bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia.
The person Trump shoved out of the way was the PM of Montenegro. The country had recently defied Russia to join NATO.
â Gary Shteyngart (@Shteyngart) May 26, 2017
No silly. That’s just a ‘locker room’ shove. Nothing Trump does is offensive if you put ‘locker room’ in front of it. https://t.co/O92qRyvvnm
â FrugalistaBlog (@frugieblog) May 25, 2017
Trump would push Rosa Parks out of the way to get to the front of the bus. pic.twitter.com/NJnFirgN7U
â Trump’s Thoughts On: (@trumpthoughtson) May 26, 2017
I’m from Jersey. That isn’t what a shove remotely looks like.
â Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) May 25, 2017
Travis Andrews contributed to this report.
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