WASHINGTON -- It was meant to be a relatively brief photo op to celebrate a relatively modest trade agreement with the Chinese.
But President Donald Trump has never been one to honor "brief" when combined with "photo op," much less risk accusations of modesty.
So as four Chinese government ministers and senior trade officials stood like blank-faced statues beside him in the gilded East Room, Trump began talking. And talking.
There's "the great Lou Dobbs," the Fox Business Network personality, in the front row, Trump said, "a man who always liked me because he's smart."
"Tremendous audience. Everybody in this room watches," Trump said, recounting the times Dobbs praised Trump as the greatest president ever, "even better than Reagan." Or Lincoln. Or Washington, the president added.
Trump gave shout-outs to dignitaries from Congress, from Wall Street, from his Cabinet and elsewhere. He offered effusive comments about dozens of friends and allies before he let the Chinese officials -- who had flown across the world to sign the trade deal -- speak.
There was lavish praise for Nixon-era diplomat Henry Kissinger, whom Trump pronounced "impressed" with the deal. He hailed casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, "tremendous supporters of us and the Republican Party."
He named members of Congress, thanking them one at a time for their support against the "hoax" impeachment battle, while urging them to keep up the fight.
He talked about South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham's golf game, assuring everyone it was better than they might realize. He gave a cheery nod to the new Boeing chief executive, David Calhoun, telling him the 737 Max crashes were "not your fault" while reassuring that Calhoun could fix the company.
The teleprompter in front of Trump was a mere suggestion. Trump, who has been furious and anxious over the ongoing impeachment proceedings, was returning to his place of comfort, a microphone and a captive audience.