Sunday, July 5, 2020

Literary Corner: Swiftian

One of Trump's reading glitches, when he couldn't lift the word "sweeping" off its spot on the teleprompter, landed him into spectacular territory in his Fourth of July speech:

These Planes
by Stephen Miller and Donald J. Trump

These planes once launched 
off of massive aircraft carriers 
in the fiercest battles 
of World War II 

They raced through the 
skies of Korea's MiG Alley 

They carried American 
warriors into the 
dense fields and jungles 
of Vietnam

they delivered a swift 
and Swiftian—
you know that—
it was swift and 
it was sweeping like nobody's
ever seen anything happen

it was a victory in 
Operation Desert Storm
a lot of you were involved in that
a lot of you were involved
that was the quick one

Somebody's deceptive edit of the video (above) made it sound as if Trump thought Operation Desert Storm was in Vietnam instead of Iraq, but of course there is no evidence of that (his interpolation "that was the quick one" suggests he remembers pretty well, in its contrast to the slow Iraq war, which the speech naturally wouldn't mention at all because it wasn't a victory).

It's Stephen Miller's knowledge that is represented here, not Trump's, and Miller wasn't making anything up, either; he was clearly working from the list of historical planes doing the flyovers that were the evening's main entertainment, allowing Trump to cast himself as a kind of MC for the occasion (last year was a similarly structured guided tour, but the flyovers were ordered by service branch instead of time period). The interpolation "a lot of you were involved" does suggest to me that Trump doesn't remember Desert Storm was 30 years ago, and few of the active military among the "front-line workers and their families" who made up the guest list could have participated in it. 

It's clear, on the other hand, that at the Swiftian moment, Trump isn't himself aware that his text has left Vietnam and moved on to Iraq; the huge font on his teleprompter screen doesn't allow enough words to get him there. And as usual he hasn't read the speech in advance.

I'm the only one who thinks Trump said "Swiftian", by the way. Partly because I long for it to be true, but it still sounds plausible, not that Trump knows the word. I thought it would apply very well all the same to the Vietnam War—savage, sarcastic, scatological, and conducted by higher-ups who wouldn't have refused to consider the costs and benefits of eating babies, if it had been suggested to them.

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