Back to Trump!
What is a columnist to do?
Whenever the time seems propitious to write about something else, Trump stands up at a podium somewhere in the dark American heartland and opens his mouth, invariably releasing something stupid, odious or puzzling, and sometimes all three at once.
His latest gaffe, a perfect literary trifecta, is to suggest that if Hilary Clinton should win the election and start selecting judges less than robust on the interpretation of the second amendment of the constitution – the one about Americans having the right to bear arms – certain people might have to take the law into their own hands. Trump claims his remarks have been taken the wrong way.
For the record, what he said was this: “Hilary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the second amendment. If she gets to pick judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the second amendment people maybe there is, I don’t know. But I tell you what, that will be a horrible day.”
Spokesmen for Trump, along with various fellow travellers, notably the National Rifle Association, immediately and predictably jumped on the ‘liberal media’ for twisting Trump’s words. He did not advocate violence, they insisted, he was talking about voting.
That does not quite stand up, though. He was talking about Hilary Clinton’s actions after being elected, not before, so voting does not come into it.
So exactly what is this potential reaction to his actions, if not violence? To concede a point, it is often hard to tell what Trump is saying without knowing what he intended to say. But who knows what he intended to say. Does Trump?
It is Trump who does the twisting of words. He may not mean to, but invariably he leaves us, listeners and readers, to fathom what they might mean. Sometimes it is hard to detect any meaning at all in a murky stew of words. It is like trying to work out clues in a cryptic crossword.
Trump’s problem, and potentially ours, is that he himself does not seem to know what he means to say even as he is saying it. The words just tumble out, either randomly – which would be worrying – or calculated on the fly to invoke an instant response from hero-worshippers – which is merely sad. Whichever way round it is, there can be no regard for how they might be translated, or what impact they might have. And this is a man who could be called upon to conduct diplomatic relations with difficult adversaries.
He has unconsciously turned inarticulacy into an art form. It is impossible to hear or read most of his quoted remarks without wading through the mangled syntax, wondering about the grammatical lacunae, trying to discern in the kaleidoscope of words some semblance of meaning. Some of those who have tried have simply concluded that he is mad.
Laughably, his supporters like to say that he is just ‘telling it like it is’, talking in straightforward language that omits the weasel words and studied ambivalence that characterise the speeches of members of the despised political establishment. But that is nonsense, as the effect is the opposite of the one intended. ‘Telling it like it is’ by definition requires clarity. Few of the confused sentences that emerge from Trump’s brain meet that criterion, or many others, for that matter.
This is a man who wants Americans to repose in his office the responsibility for running the world’s biggest economy, leading a Free World presently under siege, and making decisions of war or peace. He alone can make a decision about using a nuclear weapon.
If that does not make American skins crawl – and there is plenty else besides that – then they must have hides of silicon. Or brains reduced to porridge.
These truly are troubling times.