In normal times, the practice of the president using multiple pens to sign bills so that the pens can then be given away as gifts is viewed as one of the “frivolous little quirks” of American politics. On a day like Friday, it leads to excruciating experiences like this agonizingly long display of forced chumminess, inexplicably aired in its entirety by CNN.
Let me set the scene for you. Trump is signing proclamations making his Cabinet nominations official. Each nominee’s proclamation has a corresponding pen, and he’s giving those pens away as souvenirs to the people in the room. Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Paul Ryan are there, among others. Trump, of course, is now right where he wants to be, at the center of attention dispensing goodies to people who hate him but think they have to be nice to him anyway.
Trump: We’ll take that pen. This one I’m signing quite a few times, folks. [Signing] This is for Rex. Assume he was approved today.
Chuck Schumer: Not yet
Paul Ryan: It’s coming though, right, Chuck?
Schumer: We’ll see. [LAUGHS]
Ryan: [To Trump] Looks like you added some letters into your name.
Trump: [Something inaudible like ahhhhvahhhvahhh.] These beautiful children keep pushing me, but that’s OK. [Signing]
Someone off camera: We’ve got another stack coming. [Signing]
Trump: Thank you. I’d like to give some pens out.
Ryan: Each Cabinet secretary gets their own pen.
Trump: How about we do Nancy first? Is that OK? [Hands pen to Nancy Pelosi … Signing … hands a different pen to Schumer.] All right Chuck!
Schumer: Depends on the name.
Trump: Very nice.
Ryan: Ben Carson.
Pelosi: I got Tom Price.
Trump: He’s going to be terrific. He’s going to get approved. But I’ll give you a different one. Do you want Elaine? I’ll give you Elaine.
Pelosi: All right.
Trump: Tom is not insulting.
Pelosi: Mr. President, the leader wants Elaine.
Trump: The leader should have Elaine!
Schumer: [To Pelosi] You get Price back.
Ryan: I’ll take him!
Trump: You did very well yesterday. Rick Perry. Look, Chuck.
Schumer: Better than Carson.
Trump: OK. Who would like Rick Perry?
Kevin McCarthy: I want him.
Trump: Tough group of people here. They’re learning the hard way. OK, Betsy. Education, right? [McCarthy gestures at Ryan.] Oh, I thought Chuck wanted it.
Schumer: Not that one. No, thank you, Mr. President.
Trump: This is a rough group.
Ryan: It is. I’m happy to take it.
Trump: Next … I think we’re going to need some more pens by the way. Labor. Puzder. He’s going to do a good job.
Schumer: Oh no.
Trump: This is a person who has gotten great reviews. Not well known. This is the Veterans’ Administration. I think Chuck might like that.
Schumer: I’d like that one. I’ll make a trade.
Trump: OK, I’ll let you make a trade.
Pelosi: Who did you trade?
Schumer: I traded Carson for the veterans. [To Trump] Thank you. Good pen! This is a good one!
Trump: This is one a lot of people are going to want: John Kelly.
Schumer: Oh yeah, he’s a good one.
Trump: He’s a good man.
Ryan: Chuck, put the cap on it or you’ll get your shirt stained.
Trump: Reince, you should get something. Here. Are you getting more pens back there? This is fun!
Ryan: It’s an equal number for the cabinets.
Someone: I think the vice president should get Coats.
Trump: [To Mike Pence] I think Dan is your man, right? If we run out of pens, we will use the same one.
McCarthy: We may have to recycle a couple pens.
Trump: OK. A great trade negotiator. I’ll tell you, Chucky’s a great trade negotiator. Smart.
Schumer: I have a pen already.
Trump: Mike Pompeo. They tell me he’s going to be approved momentarily.
Schumer: Depends how you define momentarily.
Trump: Here’s one that I think Nancy would like. She would like a double. Scott Pruitt.
Trump: He’s going to do a great job.
Pelosi: The speaker would like that.
Trump: Just won the World Series with his team and the family. He’s going to be helping Wilbur.
Roy Blunt: Secretary of commerce.
Trump: You like Wilbur, right? [Signing.] Vincent Viola. Everybody likes Vincent.
Schumer: I like Vinny. I can’t get too many pens.
Trump: No, no, you’re only getting one.
Trump: Jay Clayton. Going to be fantastic. Head of the SEC. Linda McMahon, terrific woman. Small business. Seema, you know Seema? Mike, that’s your person. Very talented. Indiana. Nikki Haley. I think Nikki is going to do a great job.
Someone off camera: You can give a few more out. Just keep one.
Trump: OK, We’re running out of people to give them to. We have two Nikki Haleys. Is she applying for two positions? Okay, Terry Branstad. The governor. Longest serving governor. China loves him and he loves China. He’s a good man.
Pelosi: I was hoping he would get natural resources, because he’s for the renewable standard.
Trump: I’ll tell you he’s a terrific guy. Longest serving governor in history. 24 years. Longest in history. Here’s one that’s not at all controversial: David Friedman. He’s from New York. [To Schumer.] You should know him.
Schumer: I never met him.
Trump: You sort of said that about me too! David is going to do a great job. Back there. Somebody. OK. Thank you.
Unidentified: One more: proclamation.
Trump: Proclamation. Proclamation of what?
Unidentified: Day of national patriotism.
Trump: OK, day of national patriotism:
Someone: What is it?
Someone else: Day of national patriotism.
Someone else: I think we’re done. [Applause]
Enjoy the next four years everyone!