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Friday, February 23, 2024

Trump’s illogical state of the union


“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation” seems to be the most oft quoted and discussed line from Trump’s State of the Union speech. As messaging it works fairly well despite the fact that as a sentence it is so disconnected it borders on nonsensical. As poorly stated and illogical as it is, we know what he means. He conflated several unrelated issues into one, and it is an example of an “if this, then not this” statement.

As a sentence it is poorly structured. “If there is going to be peace, there cannot be war” is nonsense. It’s like saying if it’s going to be hot it cannot be cold. This is obvious. You can’t have peace at the same time as you have war.

What the president really wanted to say that is “if there is going to be legislation helping the country, there cannot be investigations into unfounded allegations against Donald Trump.”

Wrong again. Congress can pass legislation and conduct investigations concurrently. In fact, it is the role of Congress to do both.

Perhaps if it made sense this would be a half-decent two-line verse/chant for a rally rendered in a sing-song ballad style:

“If there is going to be peace and legislation,

there cannot be war and investigation.”

This doesn’t hold a candle to the Weavers:

I ain’t gonna study war no more, study war no more

I ain’t gonna study war no more


Hey, hey LBJ!

How many kids did you kill today?

Merely because two words end with that same sounds and letter, in this instance “-ation” doesn’t mean that will become a meme. In this era of slogan driven campaigning an effective meme can replace the most thoughtful messaging.

Trump should stick to the simple three word crowd pleasers like “build the wall” and “whose gonna pay for it?” Trump’s best line was courtesy Chris Christie and the audience who started chanting “lock her up” after he mentioned Hillary Clinton’s supposed transgressions at the Republican National Convention. Evoking Hillary Clinton and her emails was Trump’s best rally line and he didn’t even invent it. The Washington Post describes how it all came about.

The New Jersey governor was in the middle of an attack on Hillary Clinton, listing what he saw as her many missteps as secretary of state. After each perceived misstep, he asked the crowd, “Is she guilty or not guilty?”

“Guilty!” the crowd thundered back again and again.

But this time, it sounded different. ….

His eyes narrowed for a moment, seeking out the disruption. But then a smile slowly took over his face. He nodded as he figured out what they were saying. The chant swelled to a roar, and delegates began standing up from their seats. They waved their red, white and blue “Trump” signs. They shook their fists. They screamed and hollered and made the building shake, in that now-familiar three-beat chant: lock her up! Lock Her Up!

Trump’s trying to rail against the Mueller investigation in his fractured Trumpian way has become one of the most critiqued part of the speech and for good reason. I wonder if this was the only part of the address he wrote himself.

In this column I thought I’d just focus on how unsuccessful President Trump was in trying to make a meme out of a foolish partisan Democratic investigations would make legislation impossible, and trying to connect this to blaming the Democrats for being responsible for being the pro-wars and anti-peace party.

Not only did Trump fail in making a meme which would benefit him, he opened himself to intense media criticism for bringing the Mueller investigation into the State of the Union.

Updated  – Slate’s Jim Newell had a similar take on these lines as I did in “A least he rhymed:” writing:

Donald Trump turned to the most lethal of oratorical tools in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address: the rhyme. To summarize his argument that Democratic investigations into his administration could imperil America’s economic gains, he said: “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.” And then—copying directly from the prepared text here—the follow-up: “It just doesn’t work that way!”

In political speechwriting, flat attempts at cleverness are often made to paper over a total lack of substance, and this little rhyming number was no exception. Democrats in the chamber laughed at the line….


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