When Donald Trump unveiled tariffs on foreign steel and aluminium at the White House on Friday, he and his cabinet of billionaires and ex-Wall Street bankers were dressed in tailored business suits.
Standing on the other side of the Roosevelt Room, 10 steel and aluminium workers from Pittsburgh and Kentucky wore grey overalls and held white hard hats.
The former celebrity television star turned President was seen to be delivering for his working class voter base in America’s industrial heartland.
“You are truly the backbone of America, you know that. You’re very special people,” Trump said.
“If you don’t have steel you don’t have a country.”
There was one gaffe that suggested the preparation for the event was a bit rushed. Among the workers in the tableau, reminiscent of an episode of Trump’s The Apprentice, was Scott Sauritch, a maintenance worker and union representative from Irvin Works.
In an internationally televised spectacle, Sauritch told the cameras about his father Herman losing his job in the steel mill when he had six children at home.
“Your father Herman is looking down at you, he’s very proud of you,” Trump said.
“Oh, he’s still alive,” Sauritch replied.
“Then he’s even more proud of you,” Trump said to erupting laughter.
Another sign of a rush job is that Trump signed an informal proclamation, not a legally binding executive order, had promised to work out the details of exactly who will be hit byt tariffs in two weeks.
It looked like Trump was desperate to make the announcement before a campaign-style rally in Pittsburgh on Saturday, an area that has been decimated by steel mill closures over the past few decades.