Glossary: Key memes, counterfactuals, dog whistles, canards, euphemisms, innuendoes, insinuations, fake outrages, and obsessions in The Wall Street Journal and other GOP language factories and fever swamps, April 8-16, 2018


rhetorical claim: America is great again because President Trump has reaffirmed our military supremacy, made America first when it comes to trade deals, restored pride in patriotism, and defended American freedom against liberals, globalists, the fake news media, the fake global warming conspirators, and the forces out to undermine the  Christian foundations of the family and marriage.

rhetorical effect: justifies a whole range of political departures from the norms of civil society and democratic rule: aligning ourselves with autocrats and dictators; undercutting  the authority of the courts, the press and the justice system; denying basic human rights for immigrants; destroying the foundations of environmental protection; trashing the State Department; instigating trade wars, denying science, etc. Trump’s definition of greatness does not include human rights, sympathy, equality, diplomacy, justice or workers’ rights. It is the opposite of the key values of democracy: tolerance, sympathy, equality and justice.


the reckoning

rhetorical claim: putting America first–whether in military power, trade, limits to immigration, etc.–is not rabid nationalism or an all out so-called trade war, but a reckoning, an end to China, Russia, Iran, Western Europe and even North Korea walking all over us. They have tested the limits of American patience. Not being willing any longer to be manipulated is not succumbing to isolationism.

rhetorical effect: justifies bellicose military initiatives; draconian cuts to foreign aid and the State Department; the abrogation of all treaties and trade pacts, and a new isolationism.


redistributionist and entitlement agenda

rhetorical claim: the Dems’ redistributionist and entitlement agenda has come to an end as the complacent era of cheap money and huge government debt grinds to a halt.

rhetorical effect: justifies huge budget cuts to all social safety net programs as well as to Medicare and Social Security. Claiming that no one is “entitled” to government benefits is an indirect way to phase out all government benefits as wasteful. Calling it an “entitlement agenda” instead of basic human rights undercuts its legitimacy, just as does calling social justice “redistributionism.” Calling it an “agenda” instead of a moral commitment makes it sound hypocritical, dishonest, and partisan. When did basic human rights such as health, education, equality, and human well-being become partisan?



rhetorical claim: For nearly a year before Mueller’s appointment, leaks have spread about collusion between Russia and the Donald Trump campaign that supposedly cost Clinton a sure victory. Most of these collusion stories, as we now know, originated with Christopher Steele and his now-discredited anti-Trump opposition file.

rhetorical effect: discredited in this case simply means disputed by Trumpinistas. Any claim against Trump is automatically labeled “discredited,” as if only Trump can be the Accreditor-in Chief. To Trump, all criticism is a lie.


progressivism’s savior complex

rhetorical claim: smug, moralizing progressives aim to change the way other people act—by force if necessary. Moralizing breeds intolerance and even tyranny because it springs from a belief that, like the pious Canadians, not only do you know the truth but you also have a solemn duty to impose it on others. They have a serious savior complex in which hubris and conceit mix with a tyrannical impulse, and it is one of the reasons we have so much moralizing in America today, yet so little morality.

rhetorical effect: undermines any oppositional progressive or liberal  moral judgments as self-righteous, hypocritical, self-serving, and absolutist. Of course, this accusation of moralizing absolutism is always framed in a moralizing, absolutist rhetoric of its own. As usual, Trumpinistas become the very thing they most excoriate.


The War Against America

rhetorical claim: as argued by Angelo Codevilla on the website American Greatness, writing about the media’s, the judges’, the bureaucrats’, the corporate executives’ continuing war on ordinary Americans.  

That war is unabated because the power of the people who degraded our lives in their own image is undiminished. For them, the rest of America is and will remain irredeemable. They well nigh removed Christianity and Judaism from the public square. Their schools have dumbed down a generation. They reduced raising children within marriage to a vanishing majority in the country at large and to a rarity among blacks. They have filled our streets with criminals. Their corporations try dictating what people may say and even think. They have stigmatized the verbal currency of two centuries, and bid to outlaw it as hate speech. And they continue to tighten their vise. In the process, however, these rulers are convincing the rest of Americans that they are irredeemable as well….

…When one side rejects persuasion in favor of war, what are the other’s options? To convince our opponents to accept us as equals? The culture, the institutions, bureaucracies, corporations, they have made their own will never again admit us as equals. To reform them? Fat chance! To punish them? To push them to the margins before they push us? What is the good of that?

…Safeguarding, restoring or re-growing, the precepts, habits, and institutions with which and in which we have lived freely requires acting on our own behalf, almost as if the other side did not exist…Separating from the educational establishment is essential to securing a culture in which we can thrive socially and politically. It is discrediting itself academically, and by showing enmity to the rest of America.

rhetorical effect: openly declares war on the media, the rule of law, the educational system, big business and government, rendering compromise and public discourse impossible. Lays the groundwork for a cultural Civil War.


The Comey-Media Collusion Machine

rhetorical claim: As Comey determined back in 2016, Clinton was “extremely careless” with her handling of classified information—but so was he. While she had classified and top secret emails on an unsecure server, Comey leaked memos about his conversations with President Trump to the press in retaliation for his firing, which ultimately led to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

 Comey and Clinton both had the luxury of being shielded by the mainstream media. 2016 set a dangerous precedent that a former secretary of state can abuse her power while in office and not be held accountable simply because journalists vehemently opposed her GOP rival. As argued by Victor David Hanson on the National Review website:

Comey, McCabe, Clapper, Brennan, Lynch, Andrew Weissmann, Bruce and Nellie Ohr, Harry Reid, Samantha Power, Clinton attorney Jeannie Rhee . . .If collusion is the twin of conspiracy, then there are lots of colluders running around Washington.

Robert Mueller was tasked to find evidence of Trump and Russia collusion that might have warped the 2016 campaign and thrown the election to Trump. After a year, his investigation has found no concrete evidence of collusion. So it has often turned to other purported Trump misadventures. Ironically, collusion of all sorts — illegal, barely legal, and simply unethical — has been the sea that Washington fish always swim in.

Christopher Steele, hired by the Hillary Clinton campaign through a series of firewall intermediaries, probably paid Russian sources for gossip and smears. If there is a crime of collusion, then Clinton-campaign contractors should be under investigation for seeking Russian help to find dirt on Trump, to spread smears around throughout the DOJ, FBI, and CIA, and to make sure that the dirt was leaked to the press in the final weeks of the campaign — for the sole “insurance” purposes of losing Trump the election.

Some sort of collusion likely occurred when the Obama DOJ and FBI sought FISA-court requests to surveille Carter Page and, indirectly, possibly many other members of the Trump campaign. On repeated occasions, they all made sure the FISA-court judges were not apprised that the Steele dossier, the chief basis for these requests, was paid for by the Clinton campaign, that the dossier was not verified by the FBI, that the dossier was the source of media stories that in circular fashion were used to convince the FISA judges to grant the surveillance requests, and that the FBI had severed relations with Steele on the basis of his unreliability. Such a collusion of silence was similar to James Comey’s admission that he apprised President Trump of every iota of lurid sexual gossip about him — except that his source was a dossier paid for by Hillary Clinton and written by a campaign operative hired to find dirt on Trump and who had been working with Comey’s FBI to get FISA approval to spy on Trump’s own aides.

rhetorical effect: reduces all charges against Trump to “leaks”, thus making a looming indictment or series of charges themselves illegal. Criminalizes the justice system and the rule of law by inverting its logic, spirit and integrity.


Comey’s prigishness

rhetorical claim: as argued by Rich Lowry on the National Review website:

James Comey has managed the seemingly impossible. The former FBI director is locked in a death struggle with an unpopular president who makes even his allies cringe with his belittling nicknames, foolish threats and strange view of the presidency — and somehow it is Comey who is coming away as the unlikable one.

That’s because no one likes a prig, especially when he has an ax to grind. Comey has good reason to disdain Donald Trump, who fired him in humiliating circumstances and whose warped view of the Justice Department as an institution for the protection of the president is rightly anathema to him. Comey is just the latest of Trump’s adversaries, though, who are diminished by the president dragging them down to his level and exposing their weaknesses.

Comey’s weakness is self-regard, clearly wounded by the widespread sense that he took an impossibly challenging assignment in 2016 and made a complete hash of it.

rhetorical effect: crminalizes Comey and Mueller. Equates the rule of law with “prigishness,” as if it is a distasteful technicality or partisan idea.  Morally judges the rule of law as immoral.


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