At the Helsinki summit, critics have described Trump as weak. They have noted his body language, his behaviour, and his posture to argue Trump looked soft, weak, and outclassed by Putin who looked, solid, strong, and in control.
Trump’s defenders respond by saying that the critics project their own weakness and insecurity onto Trump. For Trump supporters, the President was in his element as he stood up to America’s “Deep State”. He showed them he is in control.
To judge the competing claims, we need a standard. One way is to compare how their audiences react. In many ways, we can see someone’s political or personal power by the way their audience react to them. A person can have institutional power that people respect. Or, they can have personal power that others respect. However, another measure of power is the ability to generate fear such as the physical fear that makes a person reflexively cringe or shrink before it. Finally, the truest, deepest, and most fearsome power is love. Love, not fear, endures as the greatest power. However, neither Trump nor Putin have ever been known to evoke love except, especially for Trump, a transactional “love”.
Putin’s power is on display when he holds Russian oligarchs to account for their failure to keep factories open. See this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_BQaV13C6o&feature=youtu.be
The powerful men in this meeting fear him. They know what he can take from them. He demonstrates his power, his anger, and presents a figure of substance as he radiates, in a barely restrained manner, his outrage on behalf of the people. His words and his behaviour show a man in charge, a man with authority. He does not ask for their support or their respect.
Trump’s power is on display with his meeting with Silicon Valley’s CEOs.
No one fears Trump. Their posture and behaviour are of men who are more inconvenienced than concerned. Trump does not present a figure of substance or attention beyond an institutional sense what he can do for them, not what he can take from them.
Even though the situations are different, Silicon Valley is not a failure, the audience hardly hold him in respect, awe or concern.
Trump appears to confuse his ability to berate a subordinate like Michael Cohen with power. Trump demands praise from them in a transactional sense because his ego comes before any higher duty. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCMigZq0_zE
Putin gets respect because he knows how to appear to dominate the powerful on behalf of the weak.
Against this standard we can see who appeared calm, collected, and in control at Helsinki. Trump’s behaviour reflects his dependency on Putin for foreign policy successes to assuage his insecurity about the election. Trump’s deference is part of his New York political education since he thinks it means Putin will invest in Trump’s survival. That is, if Putin supports Trump he gets what he wants with less effort. Putin though will give Trump symbolic gestures in exchange for tangible rewards. Machiavelli’s Prince roasted a marshmallow at Helsinki.