How to Listen to Donald Trump Every Day for Years

“America is totally unstoppable” sounds like a schoolyard brag.

.. “Look, having nuclear — my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at M.I.T.; good genes, very good genes, O.K., very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart — you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, O.K. …”

.. The issue is talking versus “speaking,” a more crucial distinction than we have reason to think about until someone as linguistically unpolished as President Trump brings talking into an arena usually reserved for at least an attempt at speaking.

.. Mr. Trump has the privilege of talking as he pleases with no concern for how he sounds. He can string his impressions together as they come, while a black politician who sounds too “street” gets only so far. (Hillary Clinton, too, was boxed in, by gender.

.. Mr. Trump’s come-as-you-are speaking style was part of his appeal, making the scion of a wealthy New York family seem relatable to someone in the rural Plains.

.. Mr. Trump talks the way any number of people would over drinks, and many of us might be surprised to see elements of that style in our own downtime speech if transcribed.

.. Mitt Romney, with his perfectly square speaking style complete with “gosh’s,” lost in 2012 partly because he sounded what used to be called “presidential” but now translates to many as stiff.

.. Meanwhile, part of Barack Obama’s visceral appeal was his ability to summon up black preacherly cadence.

.. Mr. Bush, however, always gave the impression of at least trying to “speak” rather than “talk,” with a deer-caught-in-the-headlights quality so perfectly captured by Will Ferrell on “Saturday Night Live.” Sarah Palin was a kind of next step, blithely unconcerned with her swivel-tongued syntax and yet revered by millions.

.. His career has never given him a reason to even pretend to speak rather than talk; he reportedly doesn’t read, and he lacks introspection — none of this bodes well for carefully considered self-expression.


Anthropologists have documented a tribe, the Kuna of Panama, whose chief gives a long speech in elevated terms and is followed by an assistant who explains what the chief said. This sounds exotic to us until we realize that commentaries after the State of the Union speeches are all but the same thing.

This is why Keegan-Michael Key’s “anger translator” routine with President Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in 2015 worked so well. We essentially never heard Mr. Obama “talk” as president. He always had to be performing, to some extent.

.. First, we have to realize that his talking style isn’t as exotically barbaric as it looks on the page — the oddness is that it winds up on the page at all.