Seeing is believing

Writing under the handle “Bronxiniowa,” Ira Lacher, who actually hails from the Bronx, New York, is a longtime journalism, marketing, and public relations professional.

It’s all about image.

“Although we are admonished ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ we repeatedly defy that warning as we go about our daily lives responding to people on the basis of their facial appearance,” Dr. Leslie Zebrowitz of Brandeis University and Dr. Joann Montepare of Emerson University wrote in the psychology journal Social and Personality Compass.

“The concept of image management applies to anyone … who has ever wanted to get an idea across to someone else, to influence opinion or action … ” agrees Judith Rasband, founder of the Conselle Institute of Image Management in Orem, Utah. She adds, “[R]egardless of who you are, how old, and what your role or goal, ongoing image management can give you the personal/professional presence you need.”

Seldom in my lifetime has there been a presidential election that didn’t hinge on image. Jimmy Carter’s kindly, pastoral visage against an apparently clumsy Gerald Ford. Rugged, cheerful, upbeat, athletic Ronald Reagan against the hapless Carter, who couldn’t rescue Iran-held U.S. hostages. World War II combat aviator George H.W. Bush against wannabe-helmeted Mike Dukakis. Have-a-beer-with-me-pardner George W. Bush against Al “Gore the Bore.”

And now, we have a man whose nearly entire life has been made up and fabricated vs. a knowledgeable, worldly, experienced man who, in a face-to-face matchup, seemed to be trying hard not to nod off as his bedtime approached.

Most foreign media agreed, as did many Americans, that Biden realized the assertions of those who claim he’s too old to wage a winning campaign against the mega-Maga-in-chief. “I was worried Biden would show he’s not up to the job, but he was even worse than I feared,” 63-year-old Scott Harrington of Massachusetts told Reuters. Most dismaying, in the same article, 65-year-old Gina Gannon, who told Reuters she voted for Biden in 2020, added she is “absolutely voting for Donald Trump now.”

Yes, there are issues in this year’s election, as there are issues with all elections. Immigration. The economy. The future of democracy. And they matter. But not enough.

“If you think you purchase the goods and services you do based upon rational thinking, think again,” author and marketing consultant Douglas Van Praet wrote in Psychology Today. He added: “Recent research reveals, we make brand purchase decisions based on the associations and feelings as opposed to the facts and stats. This conditioning can happen without your knowing. And it is a tendency so strong that it can make you purchase products that are actually inferior to the competition.”

In his seminal book, The Selling of the President, 1968, Joe McGinniss described how Richard Nixon’s team remade the man known as “Tricky Dick” into the candidate that assured he would extricate America from the turmoil of the Sixties. That campaign resorted to still shots of favorable crowd images and Nixon portraits while the candidate uttered sound bites. Trump’s people required no such subterfuge: Viewers saw what they saw.

Trump was Trump Lite—not as typically weirdo as he is in many of his rallies, such as when he rambled about shark attacks. But Biden “often wasn’t able to show vigor or consistently convey what he wanted to say,” NPR’s Domenico Montanaro reported. And worse, Montanaro continued: “he looked genuinely shocked and confused, which is never a good look.”

It didn’t matter that during the debate Trump spouted lie after lie; research has found that people don’t pay attention to the steak nearly as much as the sizzle—even if that sizzle means the pan has burst into flames. Van Praet cited a study by psychologists Melanie Dempsey and Andrew A. Mitchell in which subjects reported they liked brands that had more positive images despite facts that proved those products inferior. “Choice decisions of consumers,” the researchers concluded, “are not only determined by evaluations of rational information [product attributes] but are also driven by forces that are generally outside of rational control.”

Added Van Praet, “Every day our decisions are being molded by our media environments.”

More than any president in history—maybe more than anyone in history—Donald John Trump knows how to use media. Fawned on by New York City journalists smitten by tangible glamor, he cultivated that image as a Gotham developer, aided and abetted by the how-to-be-a-millionaire book The Art of The Deal. Supposedly written by Trump, it was a ghostwritten volume, which the author has regretted writing.

The linchpin was the NBC-TV series The Apprentice, which, according to one of the show’s producers, Bill Pruitt, “elevated Donald J. Trump from sleazy New York tabloid hustler to respectable household name.” In his Slate article, Pruitt describes the misnomered “reality TV” genre as “the illusion of reality by staging situations against an authentic backdrop.”

What viewers saw last week was the image crafted by reality TV versus the image crafted by reality. Reality lost.

“Voters … cannot be expected to ignore what was instead plain to see: Mr. Biden is not the man he was four years ago,” The New York Times editorialized, urging that Biden quit the race.

Added Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, who has known Biden for years: “I had been ready to give Biden the benefit of the doubt up to now, because during the times I engaged with him one on one, I found him up to the job. He clearly is not any longer.” Friedman’s colleague NIcholas Kristof agreed: “We see the world through narratives, and one of the narratives about Biden is that he is too old. His performance reinforced that narrative when he needed to shatter it.”

I join the Greek chorus who firmly believe that if Biden remains in the race, he will lose. And while four more years of a second Trump administration probably won’t cause all the chaos his detractors predict, the prospect of a repeat of 2017–2020 is enough to terrify scientists and environmentalists, foreign and domestic diplomats, officials of European nations and heads of large corporations, as well as immigrants, women, gay and trans people, and many Jews and Muslims.

All because an 81-year-old sitting president stammered, was indecisive, and appeared lacking in confidence for 90 minutes?


“Have you ever wondered why ads feature beautiful models, adorable puppies, cute babies and hilarious gags?” Douglas Van Praet asks. Trump knows.

Top image created by SewCreamStudio, available via Shutterstock.

About the Author(s)


  • Its impossible to spin that debate performance

    “What viewers saw last week was the image crafted by reality TV versus the image crafted by reality. Reality lost.”

    Not quite. In fact,

    “What viewers saw in the debate was the disturbing reality versus the reassuring image crafted by Biden’s loyalists. People suddenly understood that most media were playing with them.”

  • Dementia is on the ballot in 2024

    First the propagandists at the White House lashed out at the so called “altered videos” that DJT and his pals were supposedly showing of a stumbling and mumbling President Joe Biden. Last week’s debate made it clear to all but the worst of the Biden sycophants/cult members that “dementia Joe” is not in charge. Dementia is on the ballot in 2024. Take a look at RFK, Stein, and Chas. Oliver as there are much better choices out there than the “bad orange man” and “dementia Joe”.

  • Not hearing the theme song...

    When I was a Fifties child, my parents strictly limited TV-viewing, for which I’m grateful. I can still, however, warble the Mighty Mouse theme song, in which the super-powered rodent delivers his happy message, “HEEERE I come to save the DAAAY!”

    Completely apart from the debate over whether Biden should step aside, I haven’t heard the happy singing of any newly-proposed alternative political super-powered Mighty Mouse who would have a really great chance of saving the day by winning against Trump. Maybe my hearing isn’t good enough.