Trump told not to look at sun, so he looked
WASHINGTON — Of course he looked.
Monday’s solar eclipse — life-giving, eye-threatening, ostensibly apolitical — summoned the nation’s First Viewer to the Truman Balcony of the White House around 2:38 p.m.
The executive metaphor came quickly.
US President Donald Trump lumbered toward the railing, behind the official seal, joined by a familiar assemblage of relatives, aides and at least one relative-aide, his daughter Ivanka Trump.
Trump’s wife, Melania, wore sunglasses, clutching another pair of protective eclipse shades. The president’s eyewear was ready for him, too. Somewhere.
He was disinclined to wait.
First came a wave of the right hand, a restless jacket adjustment, another wave. Staff members were gathered beneath him — primed, for at least a few moments, to absorb a spectacle of another sort, and nothing else.
First danger sign
It was not to be. Trump’s hands shot out in front of him, as if to view the sky through an invisible telescope — the first danger sign. He reset himself for a beat.
And then he went straight for it, cocking his head back, turning to his right, toward the object of everyone’s attention.
“Don’t look!” an aide shouted from below.
The president looked. He half-smiled. He pointed. Looking was fun.
And with that, Trump had done it once more, on as cosmic a scale as any. He has run afoul of party officials, historical precedent, political gravity, stately decorum. Why not the sun?
The instincts seemed familiar:
The same instant gratification — retinas be damaged — that drives him to Twitter at all hours, seeking appraisals in real time.
The same heat-seeking impulse, validated anew, to insert himself into a viral news event without fail, with the timed precision of an astronomer.
The contrarianism in the face of experts who think they know better, who lack the audacity to look, who said he never had a chance in Pennsylvania.
Across town, at the US Naval Observatory, Vice President Mike Pence welcomed a group of teenage students for a more scrupulous viewing party.
“You’ve got to have the shades on,” he reminded them.
Eventually, Trump covered his eyes, too.
He gazed up, glasses on, appearing to grimace a bit. He murmured something to his wife. He tugged on his jacket again. He chopped at the air.
After some 90 seconds, the glasses came off for a moment. He stole another glance skyward, then found something new to look at, something looking back at him.
He returned to the crowd, his thumb shooting up, up, up in three quick jabs.
There was the smile.
Comedian Michael Moore later purported to read the president’s mind: “Dishonest, fake news media said don’t look at eclipse w/o glasses, so I did!”
As millions of awestruck Americans cast their gaze skyward on Monday at the extraordinary sight of a total solar eclipse, one Connecticut man had his eyes set firmly on a different prize.
Joseph Fleming, 43, went down on one knee in the darkness near the harbor in Charleston, South Carolina, and asked Nicole Durham to marry him.
“The sun, the moon and my love, all in a straight line,” Fleming said, laughing, after Durham, 40, said yes.
The first total eclipse in a century to sweep across the United States from coast to coast inspired Americans to make marriage proposals, hold family reunions and take time from work to witness with wonder one of the cosmos’ rarest phenomena.
“It’s more powerful than I expected,” Robert Sarazin Blake, 40, a singer from Bellingham, Washington, said after the eclipse passed over Roshambo ArtFarm in Sheridan, Oregon.
“All of a sudden you’re completely in another world. It’s like you’re walking on air or tunneling underground like a badger,” he said.
As the sun slipped behind the moon at Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho, stars became visible, coyotes howled and the temperature dropped precipitously. —Reports from the New York Times News Service and the wires
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