Michael Shannon, 8/11/2015 [Archive]

The (Marbled-Mouth) Donald

By Michael Shannon

Eugene Robinson, a Washington Post leftist columnist, wrote a unusually generous column about the surprisingly inarticulate Donald Trump. What's interesting is how Robinson's interpretation of what Trump said during the first debate is so much better than what The Donald actually blurted out.

Robinson's analysis: "Trump made it through the first Republican debate by avoiding the one mistake that could have seriously damaged his insurgent campaign: sounding like a professional politician..."

There was certainly no danger of that. The way he mangled the language, it sounded like English was his second. Did "Celebrity Apprentice" come with subtitles?

Take one exchange Robinson thought Trump clearly won: "One particularly telling moment...came when Trump was asked about his previous support of Democrats...The gist of the answer was this: 'Hey, I gave lots of money to politicians of both parties because that's what rich and powerful people do...It's a rotten system, but that's the way it works, and let's not pretend otherwise.'"

Key word is "gist." What Robinson wrote is a good answer, but it's not even close to what Trump said: "I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people, before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me. And that's a broken system."

That answer is disjointed, self—important and pompous. It does nothing to relate the problem to the angry Republican base. Robinson's answer is the English translation.

What typifies Trump's communication problem most clearly is his answer to Bret Baier's question regarding an independent campaign, which was both fair and germane. With the exception of Megyn Kelly's "Women's Studies" question, all the topics were what Republicans have been wanting for years — debate questions that deal with matters of concern to the GOP base and not the MSNBC base.

When Trump said he would not take the pledge I thought it was a stupid, flippant answer that attempted to make a joke of a very serious topic for conservatives: "I cannot say. I have to respect the person that, if it's not me, the person that wins, if I do win, and I'm leading by quite a bit, that's what I want to do. I can totally make that pledge. If I'm the nominee, I will pledge I will not run as an independent. But — and I am discussing it with everybody, but I'm, you know, talking about a lot of leverage. We want to win, and we will win. But I want to win as the Republican. I want to run as the Republican nominee."

It was only the next day seeing the answer in print that I realized what marbles mouth was attempting to say. The crucial word for Trump diviners is "leverage."

The answer he should have given was: The Republican establishment hates me more than it hates Hillary Clinton. They act like I'm something stuck on the bottom of their shoe. An independent campaign is the only leverage I have over them. I'm leading by double digits, but if a Chris Christie—sized asteroid hits me and I don't win AND the process has been fair, then I'll give up my leverage and support the nominee. But if the establishment steals it, then I will go independent to show them they can't cheat the base again.

That answer is 11 words less than Trump's flailing about and reassures loyal Republicans that he's not another ego—driven Ross Perot. He's an ego—driven Donald Trump who intends to be taken seriously.

Trumps problem is he says a lot, but communicates mostly by body language and bombast rather than by content. Listening to him on the stump is like reading chicken entrails on the fly — you're trying to sort through this pile of adjectives, verbs and self—promotion before he lurches on to the next topic.

Even his post debate fracas with Kelly is needlessly provocative. Trump could have said she came at me breathing fire, which is something everyone understands.

Instead he says something that sounds like the plot summary of Saw IV, "You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever. In my opinion, she was off base."

Trump now towers over the rest of the field. He should stop being so defensive and spend a few bucks on a speech coach that will help him frame the issues he instinctively knows are important. That's not selling out, it's reaching out.

——

©Copyright 2015 Michael Shannon, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Michael Shannon is a commentator and public relations consultant, and is the author of "A Conservative Christian's Guidebook for Living in Secular Times." He can be reached at mandate.mmpr@gmail.com.

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