In my second favourite moment in the interview – the first being when he inexplicably drops the word “hamlets” – Trump describes a meeting with Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings:
“Well he said, you’ll be the greatest president in the history of, but you know what, I’ll take that also, but that you could be. But he said, will be the greatest president but I would also accept the other. In other words, if you do your job, but I accept that. Then I watched him interviewed and it was like he never even was here. It’s incredible. I watched him interviewed a week later and it’s like he was never in my office. And you can even say that.”
Cummings remembers the exchange differently, explaining that he told Trump he “could be” a great president if he stopped doing literally everything that he was doing and started doing other stuff that wasn’t horrible instead.
Whether or not Trump is capable of calculation (and, judging by his largely noun-free syntax in this interview, it’s debatable), his rhetorical style, untethered from both meaning and reality, serves his agenda well. Language is where we find common ground, where we define ourselves and teach others how to treat us, where we name problems so we can see and fight them. There’s a reason why social justice movements care about things such as pronouns and racial slurs and calling a Nazi a Nazi and saying “abortion” out loud – it’s the same reason why rightwingers, Trumpists in particular, are so eager to cast language as a frivolous abstraction and any critique as “political correctness”
Without language, there is no accountability, no standard of truth. If Trump never says anything concrete, he never has to do anything concrete. If Trump never makes a statement of commitment, Trump supporters never have to confront what they really voted for. If his promises are vague to the point of opacity, Trump cannot be criticised for breaking them. If every sloppy lie (ie: “Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower … This is McCarthyism!”) can be explained away as a “generality” or “just a joke” because of “quotes”, then he can literally say anything with impunity. Trump can rend immigrant families in the name of “heart”, destroy healthcare in the name of “life”, purge minority voters in the name of “justice”, and roll back women’s autonomy in the name of “freedom”. The constitution? Probably sarcastic. There are “quotes” all over that thing!
If criticism is “political correctness” and “political correctness” is censorship, then aren’t all ideas equally valid? Is the most qualified presidential candidate really more qualified than a person who is not qualified at all?
It's a word-salad of terms designed to evoke emotional reactions.
See also SocialMediaThought