Trump’s language — and Obama’s

What do you think about Donald Trump’s use of language? A lot of people criticize it. On the other side there were even people who criticized Obama’s language, so where does the truth lie?

Frances Brown, who worked for the National Security Council in both administrations, has tried to answer this question.

“How the president chooses his words is how he governs,” she claims.

Here is an excerpt of what she says about the Obama years:

All the sports talk didn’t just reflect the high adrenaline. It also mirrored a particular vision of ourselves as public servants: teammates with a shared mission. Our job was to “move the ball down the field” toward solving big, complex problems — sometimes, problems so complex we needed to plot out the first 10 “plays.”

… Above all, we spoke in terms of opportunities. NSC staffers inevitably had to respond to unforeseen crises every day, but our leadership urged us to stay focused on what we, in Obama-speak, called our “affirmative agenda” — and to put “points on the board” to achieve it. Someone passed out stickers exhorting us to “FIGHT CYNICISM” and “UNLOCK THE IMPOSSIBLE.”

And what about Trump? Brown says this (again just an excerpt):

First, getting the words right didn’t matter. The precise phrase to explain a U.S. policy position didn’t matter. Perfect talking points for the president’s conversations with foreign leaders really didn’t matter, because he wouldn’t use them anyway. In fact, the lack of clarity often let the president claim his words were misconstrued. The lack of clarity was the point.

Second, we had shifted from the language of opportunity to a language of threats. I filed away my “UNLOCK THE IMPOSSIBLE” stickers and adjusted to “protect our sovereignty” in an “extraordinarily dangerous world.”

And third, unlike the sports-team lexicon of the Obama White House, there was no longer a “team” at all. In the Trump administration, national security priorities were indistinguishable from personal interests.

Do I need to say more?



Categories: Life, Linguistics