Saturday, December 30, 2017


Via Zenpundit.

I think that really gets it about right. I'll go further: I think the Michael Schmidt interview of Trump at the Palm Beach golf club isn't pure-stenography enough. I can't understand why they don't print the entire, unedited transcript, as with the one with the Washington Post editorial staff, Frederick Ryan, Fred Hiatt, Ruth Marcus, back in March 2016, where we could have learned everything we needed to know, as Taylor Dibbert blogged at the time:

Another takeaway from the interview (which has been mentioned by numerous commentators already) is that it’s still quite unclear how a Trump presidency would work in practice. Trump continues to have a hard time explaining how he’d implement his ideas. On other occasions, he doesn’t really answer questions. The Donald is, quite frankly, drowning in vagaries and obfuscation.
“I know China very well,” Trump tells us.
Shortly thereafter, Trump expands upon his nuanced view of Middle Eastern affairs. “My prognostications, my predictions have become, have been very accurate, if you look,” he claims.
“I’m an intelligent person,” he reminds us. And then he reminds us again, moments later.
It was all there, the inability to conceive what it is presidents do, the belligerent insistence on his superiority, the lack of basic information and the coping strategies with which he hides it, the repetitions and unawareness that he's repeating himself, the paranoid defensiveness, and the performativity.

A performative sentence (as defined by the English analytic philosopher J.L. Austin in the 1950s) is one that doesn't convey information but accomplishes a social task: "With this ring I thee wed" or "The meeting is adjourned". A unique feature of the way Trump talks above and beyond the signs of encroaching dementia (ably pointed out by Mr. Pierce) is that practically everything he says is performative, the way he's never really using the words to tell something but to do something, to shore up his defenses or send out a skirmishing party.

Immediately after introducing his foreign policy advisers off a piece of paper in his pocket, that's what the Wapo interview in retrospect became famous for, with the soon-to-be notorious Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, because not having any foreign policy staff or knowing anything about foreign policy was what he was being criticized for at the time, not to tell the interviewers what his foreign policy ideas were but to establish that the staff existed and he therefore shouldn't be criticized—
Walid Phares, who you probably know, PhD, adviser to the House of Representatives caucus, and counter-terrorism expert; Carter Page, PhD; George Papadopoulos, he’s an energy and oil consultant, excellent guy; the Honorable Joe Schmitz, [former] inspector general at the Department of Defense; [retired] Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg; and I have quite a few more. 
—he moved into attacking Wapo and maneuvering into a kind of deal posture with the newspaper, establishing what kind of reporter could expect a friendly reception from him:
we’re working hard, I think we’re all in the same business of trying to make our country better, a better place, so we have something in common. I’ve been treated very, very badly by The Washington Post, but, you know, I guess — and I’m your neighbor, I’m your neighbor right down the road, in fact we’re actually giving a press conference there in a little while, I think your people are going to be there. And by the way, Bob Costa is an excellent reporter, I’ve found him to be just an excellent reporter. I should tell you, because I have to give you the good and the bad. Not that he does me any favors, because he doesn’t, but he’s a real professional.
You can see him doing the same kind thing with Schmidt on Thursday, the minute the tape recorder is turned on, in response to a question about Jeff Sessions and his recusal from matters relating to the Mueller investigation:

DONALD J. TRUMP: I thought it was a terrible thing he did. [Inaudible.] I thought it was certainly unnecessary, I thought it was a terrible thing. But I think it’s all worked out because frankly there is absolutely no collusion, that’s been proven by every Democrat is saying it.
MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT: You’re O.K. with me recording, right?
TRUMP: Yeah. Virtually every Democrat has said there is no collusion. There is no collusion. And even these committees that have been set up. If you look at what’s going on — and in fact, what it’s done is, it’s really angered the base and made the base stronger. My base is stronger than it’s ever been. Great congressmen, in particular, some of the congressmen have been unbelievable in pointing out what a witch hunt the whole thing is. So, I think it’s been proven that there is no collusion.
He's not trying to offer an alternative to the picture of him and his henchmen colluding with Russian intelligence to steal the American electoral process. He doesn't even bother to try to convince you he knows what the word "collusion" means, with that weird grammatical construction, not "we never colluded" but "there is no collusion", as if it was some amorphous, gassy substance, like pollution, floating around. He isn't making any attempt to correspond to reality with these lies about "every Democrat" and that notion that something is "proven". He's trying to rule the concept of collusion off the field, like don't even bother to ask. He's making it impossible for Schmidt to go there (although he might try, "Mr. President, how would you define collusion?").

It's's a kind of Calvinball. Words in this game are "weaponized", as we say nowadays, and he's sweeping that one up like a mine and trying to defuse it.

Not strictly relevant, just liked it. Via.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

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