Who has not seen what looks like water on a highway on a hot summer’s day? Or a three-dimensional image that was actually a picture on a flat surface? The nature of illusion is that we mistake what we perceive for reality.
That is true whether an illusion is cognitive or political. Depending on how a particular event develops, it can lead us to formulate erroneous interpretations of what is actually happening.
Such perceptions are often mediated by ideas and previous experiences. And, as Robert Jervis argued in Perception and Misperception in International Politics, published during the Cold War, the illusions that we create have an enormous influence on decision-making – even becoming a fundamental cause of conflict.
I think it's unusual for the chief of staff to go on a trip, particularly on a trip this long. The chief of staff is usually more of a chief operating officer in the White House itself, and normally when your principal—whether it's the president himself or the head of Cabinet agency—goes abroad, you have his deputy and those folks staying behind to help manage operations in his absence.
Putting the context of [Trump's speech in Saudi Arabia] aside, the imagery is striking: Here is Donald Trump in the birthplace of Islam speaking to Muslim leaders from across the world, and the Koran is bring recited before he gives his address...That's at least somewhat positive in showing that he's going out of his way to address Muslim leaders in a way that's not overly antagonistic.