Why is Trump so bad with words? Blame reality television, Twitter and political talk shows.Trump “cannot give a speech without his hosts distancing themselves from his rhetoric.”.. Consider Trump’s three biggest rhetorical own-goals over the past week.
- His “fire and fury” statement on North Korea forced Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to try to talk the United States off a ledge.
- Trump’s belated response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ejection of U.S. diplomats was even worse:
- Trump attempted to address the violence triggered by white nationalists in Charlottesville with a namby-pamby statement that blamed “many sides” for the violence.
- It is odd that a president who claimed to despise political correctness with respect to Islamic terrorists suddenly chose to be circumspect in describing homegrown neo-Nazi terrorists.
- Trump was more willing to call his country’s intelligence community Nazis than he was to call actual Nazis Nazis.
.. Running for office repeatedly tends to hone one’s rhetorical instincts. At a minimum, most professional politicians learn the do’s and don’ts of political rhetoric.
.. Trump’s political education has different roots. He has learned the art of political rhetoric from three sources:
- reality television,
- Twitter and
- “the shows.”
His miscues this past week can be traced to the pathologies inherent in each of these arenas.
.. I have seen just enough of the “Real Housewives” franchise to know that this genre thrives on next-level drama. No one wants to watch conflicts being resolved; they want to watch conflicts spiral out of control. So it is with Trump and North Korea. He never sees the value in de-escalating anything, and North Korea is no exception. Calm resolution is not in the grammar of reality television.
.. I am pretty familiar with Twitter, and the thing about that medium is that it is drenched in sarcasm. It is a necessary rhetorical tic to thrive in that place. The problem is that while sarcasm might work on political Twitter, it rarely works in politics off Twitter.
.. Finally, there are the political talk shows. If there is one thing Trump has learned from that genre, it is the “both sides” hot take. Pundits are so adept at blaming a political conflict on both sides that the #bothsides hashtag is omnipresent on political Twitter.
.. These people are bigots. They are hate-filled. This is not just a protest where things, unfortunately, got violent. Violence sits at the heart of their warped belief system.
.. substantive problems with Trump’s reaction to each of these three crises
- .. He seems overly eager to escalate tensions with North Korea and
- steadfastly does not want to call out Vladimir Putin or white nationalists by name... his limited grasp of the bully pulpit. He ad-libbed all these rhetorical miscues. In doing so, he relied on tropes he had learned from reality television, social media and political talk shows.Those tropes might work for a reality-show hack desperate to engage in self-promotion. They do not work for the president of the United States.