Trump’s Presidential Challenge Coin is Very Trumpian
For two decades, the commander in chief has doled out distinguished-looking coins as personal mementos. Now, the presidential “challenge coin” has undergone a Trumpian transformation.
The presidential seal has been replaced by an eagle bearing President Trump’s signature. The eagle’s head faces right, not left, as on the seal. The 13 arrows representing the original states have disappeared. And the national motto, “E pluribus unum” — a Latin phrase that means “Out of many, one” — is gone.
Instead, both sides of the coin feature Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
The changes don’t stop there. In addition to his signature, Trump’s name appears three times on the coin, which is thicker than those made for past presidents. And forget the traditional subdued silver and copper: Trump’s coin, a White House aide marveled, is “very gold.”
The coin is, as one might expect, gaudy. There are comparison photos with the piece.
The gaudiness is one thing, but the true norm-breaking is the alteration of the presidential seal and, more significantly, the inclusion of his campaign slogan. Indeed, rather than tokens associated with meeting the President of the United States, these seem to be campaign trinkets.
The White House offered conflicting accounts of which funds were used to purchase the coins, with one aide saying they were paid for by the White House and a second aide later saying that the Republican National Committee is covering the expense. An RNC spokeswoman confirmed Friday afternoon that the party is paying for the coins.
“They’re going to be used in ways they haven’t been in the past,” said the second White House aide, adding that they may be distributed at campaign rallies and to donors. Aides were not authorized to comment on the record and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Some ethics experts questioned the unprecedented decision to include a campaign slogan on the coins, which are often distributed to members of the military.
“For the commander in chief to give a political token with a campaign slogan on it to military officers would violate the important principle of separating the military from politics, as well as diminishing the tradition of the coin,” said Trevor Potter, a Republican former chairman of the Federal Election Commission.
On the one hand, this a trivial issue (while I am aware of the concept of the challenge coin, indeed I have four on my office desk, I was unaware that of the POTUS iteration), on the other it is just another example of Trump’s egoism (three instances of his name on one coin!) and he lack of respect for the institution he currently occupies. It is always about him and his brand, and never about the dignity of the office or of service to the country.
By the way, I know that it takes a person with a huge ego to run for the presidency. This is not new. Trump, however, takes this fact to a whole new (and ultimately cheap and petty) level.
Further, it is disturbing when a president acts in such a way as to personalize the office, that is to make himself more important than the office. Trump is doing Trump, of course: it is all about brand. The only good news there is that there isn’t much to the brand save for glitz and noise.