Reading the truly extraordinary ‘Fire and Fury’ – Michael Wolff’s account of life in the early Trump White House – terrifying and hilarious by turns, I ran into the opening of an early speech:
I was struck by the brevity of the sentences. Word counts of seven, six, three, three, four, four…
These are not the word counts of the average speech. Indeed, I don’t think you’d find many speeches above school debating society level featuring such brief sentences, one after another. But they work. In their bam bam bam simplicity, they connect at the most fundamental level with Trump’s core constituency. It’s the rhythm as much as anything you might call meaning that conveys the only message that really matters: he’s one of us; he’s like me.
These are not the best of days for those of us who believe in the written word.
Last week’s flurry of smirking delight over Rex Tillerson’s refusal to disown ‘fucking moron’ set me musing once again on the alchemy of the soundbite.
Those two words will hang around Trump’s neck for the remainder of his presidency. Supporters, detractors, players and commentators, no-one will ever forget them, or see the President without them muttering in the background. It reminded me of the dawn of the Trump candidacy. At first, in those long ago halcyon days, the whole idea was an absurdity. Trump was blowing off wind, as was his wont, but as to his becoming President – what, The President? Of America? Seriously?
And then I heard the words ‘Make America Great Again’, and I thought ‘uh oh’.
So, four words made him Mr President; now two hobble him forever as President dumbo.
Never underestimate the power of words.