260,000 Words Later

The New York Times has analyzed every word the President has uttered during his daily press conferences/campaign rallies. Equivalent to a 700-page book.

Some context from Charles Duhigg in The New Yorker:

“During the H1N1 outbreak of 2009—which caused some twelve thousand American deaths, infections in every state, and seven hundred school closings—Besser and his successor at the C.D.C., Dr. Tom Frieden, gave more than a hundred press briefings. President Barack Obama spoke publicly about the outbreak only a few times, and generally limited himself to telling people to heed scientific experts and promising not to let politics distort the government’s response. ‘The Bush Administration did a good job of creating the infrastructure so that we can respond,’ Obama said. . . . At no time did Obama recommend particular medical treatments, nor did he forecast specifics about when the pandemic would end.”

One of The Times conclusions:

“. . . the self-aggrandizement is singular for an American leader. But his approach is even more extraordinary because he is taking credit and demanding affirmation while he asks people to look beyond themselves and bear considerable hardship to help slow the spread of the virus.

“He doesn’t speak the language of transcendence, what we have in common,” said Jennifer Mercieca, a historian of American political rhetoric at Texas A&M University. Instead, Dr. Mercieca said, he falls back on a vocabulary he developed over decades promoting himself and his business.

“Trump’s primary goal is to spread good news and information and market the Trump brand: ‘Trump is great. The Trump brand is great. The Trump presidency is great,’ she said. “It’s not the right time or place to do that.”

“Transcendence”, shit, the nation would settle for silence.


“The coronavirus briefings have often contained the same phrases and themes that he used in his 2016 race.

“It’s consistent with the way he campaigned when he said, ‘I alone can fix it,’” said John Murphy, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who studies the rhetoric of American presidents and politicians.

Dr. Murphy said that most presidents avoid taking personal credit because they appreciate the fact that Americans can draw the connection themselves between presidential leadership and the country’s successes.

With Mr. Trump, there is no such subtlety. “The level of self-congratulations that occurs every day at these press conferences is unprecedented,” Dr. Murphy added.”

I’ve been wondering, what would my dad think about the President? He was a free-market capitalist, a successful businessperson, lived in Florida, and leaned right. Despite all of that, I’m convinced he’d be damn near as critical of him as me because he couldn’t stand self-promoters.

He grew up poor, during the Depression, in Eastern Montana. Sometimes in the West self-promoters are said to be,”All hat, no cattle.” Dad was “All cattle, no hat.”

When I was a young professor, the President at my college resigned. He wrote a letter for the campus community that detailed his accomplishments. I was impressed, dad was anything but. Why? Because of John Murphy’s insight—he trusted that people could draw the connections themselves between leadership and a business’s or university’s success.





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