The low point of Thursday night's Republican debate came when Donald Trump held up his hands. Marco Rubio, Trump said, "hit my hands. Nobody has ever hit my hands. I have never heard of this. Look at those hands. Are they small hands?" While the crowd laughed, Trump went on: "He referred to my hands, if they are small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there is no problem. I guarantee."
"OK," moderator Bret Baier said, clearly not knowing what to do with that. "Moving on."
But the mogul wasn't ready to move on. After the debate, Trump approached a reporter to compare hands, saying, "My hands are bigger than yours" and insisting that his hands were "good-sized" and "very beautiful."
This obsession with telling people about the size of his hands goes back decades—decades—and apparently began when Graydon Carter, now the editor of Vanity Fair, decided to start an inside joke. He explained it last year in an editor's note:
"Like so many bullies, Trump has skin of gossamer. He thinks nothing of saying the most hurtful thing about someone else, but when he hears a whisper that runs counter to his own vainglorious self-image, he coils like a caged ferret. Just to drive him a little bit crazy, I took to referring to him as a 'short-fingered vulgarian' in the pages of Spy magazine. That was more than a quarter of a century ago. To this day, I receive the occasional envelope from Trump. There is always a photo of him—generally a tear sheet from a magazine. On all of them he has circled his hand in gold Sharpie in a valiant effort to highlight the length of his fingers. I almost feel sorry for the poor fellow because, to me, the fingers still look abnormally stubby."
Like many topics that consume the public political debate, the size of Trump's hands and the slimness of his fingers is a controversy with two sides, but only one side can be correct: Are his hands the big, beautiful appendages he claims they are, or are they pathetic little stubs?
To get an unbiased opinion, I reached out to Dani Korwin, an agent at Parts Models. Parts does exactly what its name suggests: cast models for jobs that require magnificent parts. The agency has been placing hand, leg, feet, and body models in advertisements and catalogs work since 1986.
Obviously Korwin couldn't examine Trump's hands in person, but I sent her a collection of photos of them and asked her opinion.
She was not kind.
"They don't look stubby," she said over the phone from her uptown Manhattan office. "But they do look child-sized. Childlike. They are somewhat smaller than what you would expect, certainly from someone of his stature."
"He's not a short man, and you would expect him to have longer, more masculine fingers," she added.
This, of course, echoes what Rubio has been saying to crowds on the campaign trail. "He's like six-two. Which is why I don't understand why his hands are the size of someone who is five-two."
Beyond the size of his fingers, Korwin said that Trump's hands are "severely weatherbeaten" and speculated that he plays lots of golf in the sun between stump speeches. When Korwin casts hand models, she's mostly looking for an even skin tone, she said. A nice shape, good nails, and nice cuticles are also something she considers.
Upon examining one close-up shot, she said, "You can actually see the redness and sun spots. Whatever the underlying problems are, he's obviously been in the sun too much, and hasn't taken care of his hands."
Rubio, on the other, er, hand, has world-class paws. "If he doesn't make it in his political career, he can come work for me as a hand model," Korwin said. "His hands have nice shape to them, his skin looks good, not too vascular. A good-looking hand. If I was going to cast an executive type of hand, his hands I could use."
What about Ted Cruz? According to Korwin, his hands are very slender, "which you wouldn't expect, given his body type." (Burn.) She could cast him for an executive ad as well, she said. His hands "have an elegance to them."
That's no small feat, considering Parts is looking for perfection. "Because we work with the leading advertisers and products in the world, we are highly selective about the models we choose to represent," reads the agency website.
Trump, as you might have guessed, could not get work as a hand model, according to Korwin. "Not unless he was the before in a before-and-after campaign," she said.
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