Walking It Back

Donald Trump Doesn’t Know the Meaning of Rhetoric

“Walking it back” has emerged as a familiar trope in describing the verbal actions of the Trump regime. The Donald’s zinging tweets force his press secretary to say nearly everything is metaphorical, in quotes he says as he visually demonstrates to the press the quotation marks that render the aforesaid a joke, sarcasm, fantasy, rhetoric. Walking it back is a euphemism itself for “backpedaling”, what a politician tries to do after saying something stupid. To pedal backwards on an old style bicycle meant you engaging the coaster brake, you were preparing to stop. This suggests you understand the risk of proceeding, or going forward with your thoughtless notion. When I was a kid, if you had a two-speed Bendix hub on your bike, you could backpedal to switch gears, which might also offer an option to the politician criticized for an ignorant stand. The contentious platitude then changes to “what I meant to say….” The brakes on road bikes today are operated by hand, so backpedaling just means you’re spinning the free wheel to no advance, like “blowing smoke,” another idiom that suggests a coverup, because “where there’s smoke there’s fire.”

“Walking it back” emblazons a press corps dutifully driven to account for a president who bamboozled the nation with The Art of the Deal. I don’t think I need to read it – his actions speak louder the aphorisms he employed to win the hearts of a population who thought they had been ignored. The Donald will say whatever it takes to make a deal – he’ll run down the aisle at Monty Hall’s or Wayne Brady’s urging – and now the press politely refers to his positions as rhetoric. He has no positions or plans except what pleases his worshipers and makes him money. We use the word “rhetoric” to talk about the hidden meanings behind a politician’s words, but in actuality, in curricula across the country, students have been learning principles of rhetoric as it relates to persuasive writing, argument, and debate. School systems dropped classes in rhetoric in the 1950s, after young Donald was birthed. Colleges and universities acknowledged decades later that most students didn’t know how to write an essay. They had not learned the logic of developing a theme supported by sentence structure and evidence. Rhetorical terms have since been introduced to students at the middle and high school levels, and comprise the core of the Advanced Placement English Language writing course.

Donald Trump inherited money and could pound deals ignoring contractual obligations – it was all a show, little substance, eventually evolving into a brand, after several bankruptcies. In my world, bankruptcy spells failure, stiffing your investors or creditors of their money. My mother knew a woman named Theodople – an impressive mouthful – who declared bankruptcy numerous times, with a seven-year hiatus before she could crush more creditors. In the business world, apparently it means risking ventures with other people’s cash. That’s what his plan for health reform does – we’ll hear the logic during the subsequent phases. “Believe me” he states, trust him. Is there anyone who has ever benefitted from his dealings besides he and his family? He has ignored the social contract with his broken promises to his constituents, like “draining the swamp.”

Explaining a politician’s guile by saying he’s full of rhetoric implies he knows what he’s talking about, simply avoiding the logical outcomes for the sake of ideology or pragmatic selfishness. Donald Trump doesn’t know the meaning of rhetoric. He fallaciously uses logic to lure an audience. He’s the boss and we are all apprentices, and only those who suck up to his business teats and tweets of self-endowment win his favor. He’s a twit and a twat.

The president employs nearly all the logical fallacies that students are cautioned to avoid. The examples of fallacious arguments often come from politicians, those who intend to persuade their supporters with messages that play to their emotional prejudices. They are manipulators, and he’s the celebrity boss. Attack his opponents, his predecessor, rather than debating policy: the ad hominem argument. He doesn’t use rhetoric, he baldly equivocates, lies by using language that dispenses with logic and exaggerates emotion. His exaggeration expands to hyperbole, making it necessary to explain away his alternative facts. Trump has reached a level of logical fallacy that persuades the press to shoot all the red herrings in a barrel he has netted as so many distractions through his tweets. He begs nearly every question asked of him, and the post hoc consequences are seldom causal. Students relish constructing arguments comprised solely of logical fallacies. They find it amusing albeit frightening as their compositions too often mimic the reality of political positions. The president walks the walk and talks the talk of a con man without equal, of the degenerate salesman you heard of from your parents when they got stiffed on a purchase of a used car or trade appliance they needed in a pinch. Pinche president.

Have you seen the rooms he lives in? The White House doesn’t sport enough gold or dental white furnishings to satisfy his sparkly ego. Mark Twain lambasted the Gilded Age a century ago, but this politician reeks of gold-flake mascara, tanning salons, red ties that don’t work without Scotch tape. He posed as his own publicist years ago, compounding the fakery behind the doors of Trump Tower. A sports writer Rick Reilly called Trump a golf cheat unparalleled, yet said playing with him was fun, although it may not be “so much fun when it starts to count.” His lies, his exaggerations, his illogical stands, his political faux pas became the gist of late night comedy during the campaign, but now that he’s president, the press is more inclined to backpedal and call it rhetoric, because it’s started to count. The president’s weekly excursions to Florida suggest that he has learned how to handle his clubs, but when it comes to government of the people, by the people, for the people, we stand as the apprentices of a rehearsed reality show with Trump barking orders ignorant of the circumstances, except for his golf score. That’s not rhetoric; Trump is giving himself a “gimme chip-in” on the slippery slope off the democratic green.

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