rhetoric

A Particularly Straightforward Example of an Extraordinarily Mundane―That Is To Say, Neurotic―Rhetorical Accident

This is one of those straightforward distillations; Alli Joseph, for Salon:

“Once Obama called all people from Texas ‘swamp crazy,’ people pretty much decided to vote for Trump next time,” she said matter-of-factly. There’s a germ of truth there: At an Ohio Democratic dinner on Oct. 13, President Obama said that some Texas officials who had believed that a routine military exercise might lead to martial law belonged to the “swamp of crazy.”

See how that works?

No, really; it’s an essential transformation that, in other circumstances, actually looks like people rushing to throw in with undesirable outcomes in order to complain that the politician they already don’t like has somehow insulted them. It comes up quite a bit, actually.

This is just a particularly straightforward example.

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Joseph, Alli. “Deep in the heart of TrumpLand―even Texans want our national nightmare to be over”. Salon. 30 October 2016.

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The Mrs. Donald Trump Show (Family Values)

Melania Trump discusses her husband, Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, during an interview with Anderson Cooper of CNN, 17 October 2016.

Important point:

In recent campaign history, certain myths have taken hold in ways that obscure what actually happened. Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign, for example, was already collapsing at the time of his “scream” in Iowa. Mitt Romney’s support was already falling in 2012 when the “47 percent” video reached the public.

And Donald Trump’s support was already fading when Americans heard his 2005 boasts about sexual assault, so his candidacy’s current difficulties cannot solely be blamed on the “grab them by the p***y” audio.

That said, it certainly didn’t help.

(Benen)

Sometimes it seems a fine line; in either case, Dean or Romney, we might respond to Benen by pointing out that what we really mean by something wrecking the campaign is that it was a proverbial final nail, as if until that moment there was some hope of saving the patient, and then the surgeon went and removed the gall bladder with a shotgun.

This is an American marketplace; there are days when people really can’t tell the difference. Never mind.

Another important point:

Complicating matters, Trump and his allies still haven’t thought of a credible way to explain the recording, though the candidate’s wife did her best during a CNN interview yesterday.

Melania Trump defended Donald Trump against allegations that he sexually assaulted women, saying in a rare interview Monday night that her husband was “egged on” to make lewd comments about women that were caught on tape in 2005. […]

[She dismissed the conversation between Trump and Billy Bush] as “boy talk” and speculated that her husband “was led on―like, egged on―from the host to say dirty and bad stuff.”

That’s not much of a defense. Donald Trump didn’t want to brag about sexual misconduct, but he fell sway to the persuasive powers of the host of an entertainment-news show? For all the talk about Trump’s persona as a tough guy, he succumbed to pressure from Billy Bush?

This is just one of those things that people do because so little of what we do is tasked to its ostensible purpose. Really, who thinks things through like that? And, yes, plenty are going to raise their hands, and some are going to be annoyed that anyone asked. But that is also the point. Watching the people around us, we will see and hear similar quirks. Do not focus on what she said, so such, as what it means in the context of what those words actually do.

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The Donald Trump Show (Dehumanization)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Everett, Washington, 30 August 2016. (Detail of frame via YouTube)

“In this election, it shouldn’t be hard to figure out who believes in humanity and who is subhuman.”

Jonathan Allen

So … yeah. Jonathan Allen has something to say:

It can be hard to tell how Donald Trump thinks. The man switches directions with all the forethought of a cat chasing a flashlight spot.

For days, Trump’s top campaign aides seemed to be making pronouncements based on what they hoped he’d say about immigration in Phoenix on Wednesday night, not out of any real knowledge of his plans. He then proceeded to make anyone who had said anything about what he’d do―including himself―look foolish.

In talking about immigrants, he offered everyone a Windexed view of his blackened soul and the morally bankrupt way he thinks about people.

Ouch. Damn.

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The Marco Rubio Show (Flying Spaghetti Something)

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, heads to the Senate floor for a vote on July 9, 2014. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“It’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)

This is a stupid joke: I almost thought Mr. Rubio was an atheist until the flying spaghetti hit the wall.

What? I said it was stupid, but when it comes to rhetorical innovation, randomly sticking clauses together with no regard for their functional compatibility is also pretty damn stupid.

Ladies and gentlemen, Marco Rubio.

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Walker, Hunter. “Marco Rubio just made another confusing comment about his Middle East policy”. Business Insider. 4 June 2015.

Something Useless

Sometimes it happens that something strange and seemingly inconsequential occurs, and for some reason you can’t let it go. To wit, Steve Benen of msnbc, earlier today:

It’s generally been assumed that the Republican presidential field in 2016 wouldn’t just be competitive – it’d be enormous. The Huffington Post’s Pollster chart ranking the GOP presidential hopefuls by poll support shows literally 15 candidates.

Now, the truth is that Benen goes on to discuss what is wrong with that thesis, but I also think some of the problem is his own setup insofar as he seems to be simply reminding people of the obvious:

Looking ahead, it’s easy to imagine a Republican presidential field that includes (in alphabetical order) Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Mike Pence, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, and Scott Walker. That’s 17 people. It’s also easy to imagine a handful of fringe figures – John Bolton? Herman Cain? – dipping their toes in the water, too.

msnbcBut I’d bet good money that some of these folks will do exactly what Paul Ryan did: think about running, have some serious conversations with their families and aides, enjoy some of the media attention that comes with being a possible candidate, and then stand down.

Every once in a while, I pause to wonder if Benen one-drafts his blog posts the way we often do in our insignificant corner of the world. And, yes, those occasions often arise because of something like this; one would expect him to tack the punch line onto that first paragraph like a proper thesis, or even in the guise of mere foreshadowing.

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