Donald Trump Is Bad At Doodling. Which Presidents Were Better?

As a wise Twitter commentator yesterday observed, we’ve lived through, uh, less stressful times.

But now it’s Friday, and you can rely, probably, on having health care until at least next week. Let’s unwind with an assessment of how President Trump is not just a bad artist, but an artist so bad that he represents a break with presidential tradition.

For context, a drawing by Trump of what is ostensibly the New York City skyline sold at auction, yesterday, for almost $30,000 dollars.

It looks like this:

While a few presidents have dedicated themselves to making serious art — Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush are two, with varying results — most presidents, it turns out, have liked to doodle.

Thomas Jefferson doodled plans for a macaroni machine. (We can only imagine how he’d react to Kraft-laden shelves in modern American grocery stores.) Dwight Eisenhower liked to sketch knives. Lyndon B. Johnson was, apparently, a secret surrealist. Based on the whatever is going on in the image below, Warren G. Harding might have been a master of art deco.

They all shared one thing: A modicum of imagination. Johnson likely never saw a fire-breathing cat-creature take down a tiny UFO under the auspices of a three-headed angel-thingie, but he drew it anyway. John F. Kennedy anthropomorphized his own sailboat, perhaps the most WASP-y doodle in history. Theodore Roosevelt was Edward Gorey before Edward Gorey was born.

Trump lived in New York for most of his life, and has notoriously, cruelly bragged about his influence on its skyline. (He responded to the 9/11 collapse of the Twin Towers by remarking that his building at 40 Wall Street was now Manhattan’s “tallest.”) He did this sketch of the city’s skyline for a 2005 charity auction. Is drawing a bunch of blocks with some triangles at the top really the best he could do for the sake of global literacy?

If the answer is yes, that means the president has no imagination, no skills of observation, no interest in reading and, ok, a commendable ability to draw straight lines. If no, well, 2005 was the same year Trump told Billy Bush, on a hot mic, that he exploited his celebrity to sexually assault women. Only a man with that unimaginably perverse sense of entitlement and lack of interest in the wellbeing of others would think someone might pay a meaningful amount of money to own his boring, inaccurate drawing of a generic city centered on his own overlarge signature.

Does the creativity of his predecessors make up for their own failings in office? Absolutely not. Does someone’s interest in doodling correlate to their cognitive functioning? Let the science speak. Is this analysis petty? Yes. Will I apologize? Just as soon as Johnson’s three-eyed octopus-alien-debutante comes to offer me a goddamn cigarette.


Talya Zax

Talya Zax

Talya Zax is the Forward’s deputy culture editor. Contact her at or on Twitter, @TalyaZax.

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Donald Trump Is Bad At Doodling. Which Presidents Were Better?

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