The cameras clicked and the photographers asked Angela Merkel and Donald Trump to shake hands. “Do you want to have a handshake?” she asked.
Trump looked straight ahead with a presidential grimace frozen on his face but gave no response. If he had heard her, he did not show it.
The most powerful leader in Europe was offering an opening to start mending bilateral ties that have frayed badly since Trump’s stunning rise. But the president was preoccupied with looking resolute for the cameras, and behind them, his supporters.
The moment passed and its embarrassment washed over the chancellor’s face. This was a man who, after all, held hands with Theresa May – the messenger of Brexit. Merkel, the embodiment of European unity, could not even get a perfunctory shake.
That eventually came, at the joint press conference, but the personal chemistry did not improve. On the podium, Trump talked past Merkel, launching into a version of his campaign speech about the need to rebuild the American industrial base in the wake of a string of bad trade deals.