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, July 29-Aug. 5, 2017

conscience rights

rhetorical claim: rights activism now includes freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. Government wants to edge itself into all aspects of human life, but believers have expressive rights to put their religious beliefs into practice. The force of the state should not be used against conscience.

rhetorical effect: paves the way for discrimination based on religious preferences, and will soon be the rhetorical wedge to open the gates of denying birth control. “Rights”  are thus  defined as exclusive rather than inclusive: not as a way to honor the wishes of others but as a way to practice your own prejudices and impose your beliefs on others.



rhetorical  claim: When it comes to the gender-confused,  for nearly the whole history of the U.S. military, and for almost as long as the idea of a “transgendered” person has existed, and for reasons that sounded-minded people have long understood and accepted, individuals who imagined themselves “trapped in the wrong body” (or some version of such perversion) have been barred from serving in any branch of the U.S. armed forces.

The only thing that should be up for debate here is why this took so long. Perhaps it was just some measure of politics, but this decision should have been easy and quick. In other words, the decision whether to ban the mentally ill from serving in the U.S. military should have happened within the first couple of weeks of the Trump administration. The absurd claim that people can’t tell men from women is just further proof that liberalism corrupts and that sexual deviance seeks to dominate American culture.

rhetorical effect: calling liberalism vile and vulgar discounts claims about sexual identity, likening them at best to confusion. This so-called “objectivity” normalizes prejudice in the name of common sense, and reduces any LGBTQ claim to a form of “mental illness.”


political loyalty

rhetorical claim: according to The Mooch, disloyalty to the President is unpatriotic.

rhetorical effect: Scaramucci defines political loyalty to the president as a patriotic duty, not just for the White House staff but for journalists too. And in his mind, patriotism justifies smearing political rivals and making baseless accusations of criminality. There used to be a word for this sort of behavior: McCarthyism.

So here we have a man who thinks McCarthyite tactics are justified to support Donald Trump. Scaramucci says he’s doing this to advance the “president’s agenda” to make America great again. But it seems more obvious that his first priority is to curry favor with the boss and solidify his own power.



rhetorical claim: Dem claims that the TrumpCare bill cuts Medicaid are fake news–pure Swamptalk. In reality, the bill would have only slowed the growth of Medicaid expansion, not cut it. Swamptalk is often in the guise of clickbait fear-mongering, hyperbolic piling-on and Beltway binge-watching.

rhetorical effect: preemptive undercutting of every anti-Trump policy or position as fake news. Makes it impossible to debate any points using fact-based evidence because all so-called evidence is tainted as being straight from the swamp.


viewpoint diversity

rhetorical claim: progressives are the new fascists because they suppress dissenting voices. In the name of diversity, they exclude any viewpoint not their own; their sense of diversity only confirms their own rigid uniformity.

rhetorical effect: justifies the limiting of press freedoms, suppression of demonstrators and political speech, college curriculum choices, the teaching of science and Darwinism, etc. In the name of diversity, removes all possibility of objectivity.


the war on work

rhetorical claim: Fewer and fewer men of work age actually have jobs. Proposed solutions that focus solely on providing material benefits are a false path. Well-meaning social policies — from longer unemployment insurance to more generous disability diagnoses to higher minimum wages — have only worsened the problem; the futility of joblessness won’t be solved with a welfare check. The loss of work for so many also reflects the emergence of a modern labor market with little interest in less-skilled job seekers. American wages were high in the 1960s and 1970s because of steady demand for unionized labor in Detroit and Allentown. Automation and globalization have destroyed many of those jobs, and the process is likely to continue. Technology gurus like Elon Musk believe that future innovations will make the human contribution to other economic sectors, including services, increasingly obsolete as well. Every underemployed American represents a failure of entrepreneurial imagination

rhetorical effect: provides the argument to oppose $15-an-hour minimum wages, and blames the unemployed for their lack of work. This is akin to stigmatizing alcoholism as moral weakness rather than the result of multiple contributing factors. Also falsely labels progressives as being lazy, and belittles talk of wage inequality as an excuse for not working at all.


legitimate voters

rhetorical claim: Trump’s Election Integrity Commission is doing nothing more than making sure the right to vote is protected against fraud and cyber attack. No legitimate voter need fear the commission’s work.

rhetorical effect: “legitimate” is the wedge word here, since the commission is staffed with an all-star team of voter suppression champions. They will use the concepts of “integrity” and “legitimacy” to purge as many voters as possible, impose onerous registration barriers, limit voting times and places, etc. In the name of fictitious claims of voter fraud (such as people being registered in two states–who hasn’t been?), the will strip voting of all legitimacy and integrity.


demeaning to the Constitution

rhetorical claim: as President Trump put it in his Aug. 3 West Virginia speech, ““They can’t beat us at the voting booths, so they’re trying to cheat you out of the . . . future that you want. They’re trying to cheat you out of the leadership that you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us, and most importantly demeaning to our country and demeaning to our Constitution.” Progressive politics cannot win in a free country, so the country and its Constitution have to go.

rhetorical effect: as well explained by Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post,

Trademark Trump. He takes the very thing that he is doing — in this case, demeaning the Constitution — and flings that accusation back at his opponent. Trump’s campaign and now his presidency have been an unceasing effort to demean the Constitution. From “fake news” to “so-called” judges, from his ill-considered travel ban to encouraging police officers’ roughing up of suspects, Trump is a one-man assault on the rule of law.

Inciting supporters to equate a criminal investigation (and potential prosecution) with a usurpation of their democratic choice is the most chilling yet. What Trump decries as a witch hunt is an authorized investigation being conducted pursuant to Justice Department rules, by an experienced prosecutor, selected for this job by another experienced prosecutor, who was nominated by Trump himself. That Trump and his allies are scheming to undermine Mueller’s legitimacy underscores that their sole goal is retaining power, the law be damned.





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, July 21-28, 2017

poor medical decisions

rhetorical claim: if someone’s poor driving decisions cause their car insurance rates to skyrocket, no pone expects the government to bail them out. Likewise, if someone’s poor health decisions–obesity, smoking, drugs, etc.–lead to high insurance premiums, why should the government bail them out? Health care coverage is a privilege, not a right.

rhetorical effect: shifts the conversation from a care model to a blame-the-victim model, and the idea of responsibility-for-others into individual responsibility and independence.  Releases government from any notion of caring or helping.



rhetorical claim: government is a disease masquerading as its own cure. It only creates a sense of entitlement, laziness, and dependency, and undermines personal freedom.

rhetorical effect: the disease model of government leads to the anarchy and Darwinian state of an unfettered free market. And when you conceive the free market as not just an economic model but as the key to all human freedom, characterizing governing as disease-spreading also makes it psychological permissible–even required– to fire and even jail the vermin spreading the disease.

An alternative model of government is explained by linguist George Lakoff:

When it comes to politics, progressives and conservatives essentially have different brains. The unconscious beliefs conditioned in their brains are nearly exact opposites.

Here are two statements you will almost certainly agree with if you’re a progressive:

1) In Lincoln’s words, the American government should be a government of, by, and for the people.
2) Citizens care about other citizens, and work through their government to provide public resources for all — resources required for the wellbeing and freedom of all.

These imply just about all of progressive policies.

With a government of the people, those in the government are not separated from those outside. There is two way communication and transparency, and response to the people’s concerns.

With a government by the people, those in the government have the same basic experiences as those outside. The government therefore responds with empathy to the basic needs of its citizens.

A government for the people cares for its citizens and gives necessary help as a matter of course. There is no democracy without care.

The second principle – the need for public resources – has been essential to American democracy from the start. From the beginning, the Private Depended on Public Resources.

Public resources, including roads and bridges along with public education, a national bank, a patent office, courts for business cases, interstate commerce support, and the criminal justice system are necessary to have private enterprise. These public resources include protection — not just a military and police, but protection from harm by unscrupulous corporations either by poisoning products, the air, water, etc. or by unscrupulous banks, mortgage holders, and investors. These protections are carried out by “regulations”: protective laws and agencies.

Over time those resources have included sewers, water and electricity, research universities and research support, and technologies like computers and satellite phones.

Private enterprise and private life utterly depend on public resources. These public resources provide freedom: freedom to start and run a business, and freedom in private life.

You’re not free if you are not educated, because your possibilities in life are limited.

You’re not free if you have cancer and no health insurance.

You’re not free if you have no income — or not enough for basic needs.

And if you work for a large company, you may not be free without a union. Unions free you from corporate servitude. They free you to have a living wage, safety on the job, regular working hours, a pension, health benefits, dignity.

If you’re a progressive, you most likely agree with these ideas. If you’re a conservative, you may be apoplectic by now.


the Judeo-Christian West

rhetorical claim: Trump is not only defending the Judeo-Christian West against barbarism, , but civilization itself.

rhetorical effect: stigmatizing non-Christians and non-westerners as uncivilized lays the groundwork for justifying their extermination.


voter integrity

rhetorical claim: there were at least 5 million illegal votes for Hillary in the last election, and The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity will find out why. The future of the country is at stake when fraudulent voters are permitted to hijack the electoral system.

rhetorical effect: cloaks a predetermined conclusion in the rhetoric of voter integrity. ‘”Getting to the bottom” of this “fraud” actually means more voter intimidation and suppression. As explained by  NY Times editorial:

It was born out of a marriage of convenience between conservative anti-voter-fraud crusaders, who refuse to accept actual data, and a president who refuses to accept that he lost the popular vote fair and square. Its purpose is not to restore integrity to elections but to undermine the public’s confidence enough to push through policies and practices that make registration and voting harder, if not impossible, for certain groups of people who tend to vote Democratic.


growing the welfare state

rhetorical claim: the Democratic Party’s plan for health care: constrain markets to create monopolies that can be controlled by a federal regulatory regime (this is why liberals oppose markets expanding across state lines); and rather than worrying about access, choice, or cost, continue to incentivize the growth of the welfare state. When this situation becomes untenable, pass single-payer. What Democrats understand, but Republicans often don’t, is that you can reach your goals incrementally. The ACA is the Trojan Horse for single payer and choking social engineering and coercion.

rhetorical effect: equates all social safety net and human health and welfare programs and policies with the dependency model, and reduces Progressivism to a cynical attempt to get and hold power and deprive the “real Americans” of their liberty.


people losing Medicaid

rhetorical claim: A law that was sold as a tool to reign in rising costs quickly became a moral edifice that alleviated an imaginary humanitarian crisis (the ACA defense is now almost exclusively focused on people losing Medicaid).

rhetorical effect: ridicules millions losing their insurance as an “imaginary” crisis, part of Dem hysteria over health care reform. Makes it easier to justify removing Medicaid altogether, leaving everything up to the free market.


conflicts of interest

rhetorical claim: Robbie Mueller and his investigative team aswell as Ron Rosenstein have disqualifying conflicts of interest when it comes to investigating Donald Trump.

rhetorical effect: undercuts their credibility and conflates their personal politics with their integrity and professionalism. Makes the argument that no Dem can or should ever be in a position to legally investigate or convict Trump because politics and loyalty.are everything. To Trump, anyone opposed to his interests has a conflict of interest. The rule of law is reduced to the rule of any law that protects Trump.


let Obamacare fail

rhetorical claim: Obamacare will collapse of its own accord because it is an unworkable redistribution scheme that forces government onto people who don’t want it interfering in their lives.

rhetorical effect: shifts the blame for ACA market failures from GOP attempts to sabotage it to the bill itself. “Letting” it fail actually is a euphemism for ‘”making” it fail. “Letting” something to fail is either a cruel or negligent act, and often a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s Trump who is  failing, not Obamacare.


American greatness

rhetorical claim: America is great again because it is re-asserting itself in the world and assuming its natural role as the most powerful nation on earth.

rhetorical effect:  As Michael Gerson argues, This claim is ironic because America is actually practicing a policy of preemptive concession to Russian claims over Syria, US election tampering, and sanctions. As Michael Gerson argues,

Does this retreat come from Trump’s bad case of authoritarianism envy? A fundamental sympathy with European right-wing, anti-democratic populism? An exposure to pressure from his checkered financial history?

As Roger Cohen writes in The New York Times:

Far from a student of history, Trump is an ahistorical president at a time of historical geostrategic shifts. This is a problem. He cannot gauge our times because his only gauge is his own self-exaltation.

As William Burns, the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former deputy secretary of state, said in a speech in May: “a nasty brew of mercantilism, unilateralism and unreconstructed nationalism” has bubbled to the surface under Trump. “At a moment when international order is under severe strain, power is fragmenting and great-power rivalry has returned, the values and purpose at the core of the American idea matter more than ever.”


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, July 13-18, 2017

pal review

rhetorical claim: progressivism’s junk science rests on fake facts, which are reinforced by the buddy system in which pal review replaces truly objective peer review.

rhetorical effect: delegitimizes the scientific process and scholarly peer review standards, and politicizes all scientific findings as part of a conspiracy. Rendering scientific truths–especially inconvenient ones such as those concerning global warming–relative allows them to present their alt-facts as equally legitimate–a case of false equivalencies.


liberal moralizing

rhetorical claim: liberal moralizing tends to read as college-educated people in cities arguing that everyone should behave more like them. These condescending busybodies are too busy telling everyone else how to live to examine their own arrogance and cultural prejudices. Thus they have created a permanent cultural disconnect between themselves and Trump supporters. The government should let people be free to do what they want in their lives.

rhetorical effect: calling liberals busybodies and scolders has always been a classic ad hominem attack, intended to redirect the focus from the facts themselves (i.e., that eating too much red meat is bad for your health and for the environment) to the messengers of those facts.) In this way, the right wing dissociates itself from any liberals claims of fact, reducing them all to moral superiority. This rhetorical belittling and defusing precludes ever having to take any liberal claims of fact seriously.


the coming period of time

(aka, “we’ll get something done, eventually”)

rhetorical claim: Trump says he will reveal his modified thoughts on the Paris Accord in “the coming period of time.”

rhetorical effect: “The coming period of time” never comes with Trump, so this phrase obfuscates the fact that Trump has no intention of revisiting the US position on climate change, no plan for defeating ISIS, no plan for “getting Mexico to pay for the wall”, no “big, beautiful” health care bill, etc. In fact, whenever Trump uses this phrase, you can assume he is really confessing his unpreparedness and so is lying.



rhetorical claim: the real collusion has been between the Dems and foreign agents, who keep planting fake news stories or entrapping people like Donald Jr.

rhetorical effect: calling the whole thing a witch hunt or giant conspiracy against Trump or Stalinesque show trial  reinforces the paranoid vision of the Dems trying to overturn the election. By turning the tables and accusing the Dems of obstruction and collusion, Trump changes the subject and goes from defense to offense, clouding up what even counts as reality.


high quality person

rhetorical claim: Donald Jr. is totally innocent and transparent.  His meeting with the Russian lawyer was a real nothing burger. Like his father, he is the victim of the greatest witch hunt in history. He is a high-quality person.

rhetorical effect: as Gail Collins puts it, makes it sound as if  ” Junior was a washer-dryer on sale at the mall”. However, isn’t it  a “big deal” when senior representatives of an American presidential campaign meet with a purported representative of a hostile foreign power for the purpose of cooperating in that foreign power’s effort to influence an American presidential campaign? It’s an even bigger deal when news of that meeting emerges after an avalanche of denials and evasions. Desperate attempts to “save the narrative” of the whole Trump-Russia fiasco being nothing more than a fake fact are thus undermined. Since Junior has repeatedly lied about the meeting, his “high quality” doesn’t seem immediately apparent.


not a crime

rhetorical claim: meeting with a Russian is not a crime, and Junior’s initial statement about the meeting was a miscommunication. Trump’s enemies are desperate for something impeachable. But remember, there is no such thing as the crime of collusion. It’s not even a misdemeanor. And unless the Russian lawyer provided an illegal contribution, stolen property, etc., to the Trump campaign, there is no crime that will take this story where the media want it to go. But that doesn’t mean they will quit trying. There has been no crime.

rhetorical effect: This may be true in a narrow legal sense, but doesn’t wash ethically. As David French argues in The National Review,

The standard for impeachment, the commission of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” is not concerned with criminal offenses found in the penal statute books and suitable for courtroom prosecution. It relates instead to the president’s high fiduciary duty to the American people and allegiance to our system of government.

Alexander Hamilton put it best in Federalist No. 65. Impeachable offenses are those Which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or in other words from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself. The bickering over collusion “crimes” misses the point. If an unfit person holds the presidency, the danger to our society is that he will abuse the power that he wields. The imperative is to remove him from office. Whether, in addition to that, his misconduct also happens to violate penal statutes and be ripe for criminal prosecution is a side issue.



rhetorical claim: As OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, explains,

If the Trump administration has one overarching goal, it’s to Make America Great Again. But what does this mean? It means we are promoting MAGAnomics—and that means sustained 3% economic growth….

For merely suggesting that we can get back to that level, the administration has been criticized as unrealistic. That’s fine with us. We heard the same pessimism 40 years ago, when the country was mired in “stagflation” and “malaise.” But Ronald Reagan dared to challenge that thinking and steered us to a boom that many people thought unachievable. In the 7½ years following the end of the recession in 1982, real GDP grew at an annual rate of 4.4%. That is what a recovery looks like, and what the American economy is still capable of achieving.

The focus of MAGAnomics is simple: Grow the economy and with it the wealth of, and opportunity for, all Americans. It does that by focusing on fundamental principles that made the U.S. economy the greatest engine of prosperity in the history of the planet.

rhetorical effect: makes short-term,”economic growth” an excuse for lowering taxes for the wealthy, gutting all federal regulation, decimating the social safety net, and decimating the environment. American Greatness is thus defined down from liberty and justice for all to tax relief–a Darwinian rather than a Jeffersonian vision for America.


the fake news industrial complex

rhetorical claim: the fake Tump-Russia story is undermining democracy and part of the fake news industrial network, a better name than the “mainstream media”.

rhetorical effect: As Frank Bruni explains:

It’s possible that Trump’s fans will never blame him, because of one of his most self-serving and corrosive feats: the stirring of partisanship and distrust of institutions into the conviction that there’s no such thing as objective truth. There are only rival claims. There are always “alternative facts.” Charges of mere bias are the antiquated weapons of yesteryear; “fake news” is the new nullifier, and it’s a phrase so dear to him that his unprincipled acolytes are building on it. Last week a Trump adviser, Sebastian Gorka, lashed out at the “fake news industrial complex.” Trump reportedly swooned.

What happens to a democracy whose citizens not only lose common ground but also take a match to the idea of a common reality? Thanks in part to Trump, we may find out. He doesn’t care about civility or basic decency, and even if he did, he lacks the discipline to yoke his actions to any ideals. The Democratic strategist Doug Sosnik expressed it perfectly, telling me, “His presidency is what happens when you have road rage in the Oval Office.”

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, July 1-10, 2017

political stunt

rhetorical claim: state electoral commissions’ refusal to provide the Election Integrity Commission with publicly available voter data is a political stunt

rhetorical effect: calling it a “stunt” rather than a principled position mocks and degrades it, turning voter information into a political time bomb. Appears to be a perfectly innocent, common sense request, whereas it actually is a wolf in sheep’s cloths, requesting privacy data (such as social security numbers and party affiliation) of all voters.


people will die

rhetorical claim: Dems tell us that Medicare cuts will lead to people dying. Rhetoric suggesting that “elected leaders are murderers if they dare pare back the welfare state” is both hypocritical and dangerous, By the Democrats’ logic, Barack Obama killed people. After all, some people lost health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. Heck, life expectancy went down for the first time in decades after Obamacare went into effect.

Taken literally, such rhetoric means that entitlement reform is impossible, because any attempt to get our fiscal house in order would require some people, somewhere, to lose some benefits.

rhetorical effect: this justificatory GOP irony works hard to delegitimize any claims that Medicaid cuts will harm people-even that they are cuts at all. This dismissal of claims of harm opens the door for their main black-is-white lies: that Medicaid cuts will “stabilize” insurance markets, will also protect the poor better than ever before. This is analogous to the argument that more consumer “choice” of health plans will give Americans better coverage, instead of merely  eliminating any quality minimums.


heath care standardization and quality minimums

rhetorical claim: more consumer “choice” of health plans will give Americans access to better coverage.

rhetorical effect: “min-med” policies that cover virtually nothing will be allowed to proliferate as insurers rush to tweak plans that cater only the young and healthy; people won’t discover that they aren’t covered until it’s too late; eliminates quality minimums and standardization of health plans; increases likelihood of soaring deductibles, hidden exclusions, and skimpy coverage of actual conditions; makes it impossible to comparison shop health plans; greatly increases opportunities for obfuscation of terms and exclusions (i.e., covering one time of medicine for maybe only a month, or excluding some cancers from coverage altogether). The only “freedom to choose” will be either skimpy policies or Obama-care quality policies that will be too expensive and collapse. Freedom to have access does not mean freedom to afford.


he’s a counter-puncher

rhetorical claim: The president’s tweets is  a fighter and a counterpuncher who needs to return fire on the fake media. When they hot him, he hits back twice as hard.

rhetorical effect: “He’s a fighter” and “He’s a counterpuncher” are not serious arguments. They’re simply euphemistic descriptions of his tendency to let his id run free like an escaped monkey from a cocaine study. He intentionally equates “winning” with dominating the narrative, defining success tautologically as succeeding.


Leftist violence

rhetorical claim: the mainstream media play down incidents such as the Steve Scalise shooting when they are carried out by avowed liberals. They also minimize or ignore the anti-Trump hatred generated by Kathy Griffin, Shakespeare in the Park, Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert, etc.

rhetorical effect: this fallacy of false equivalency conflates violence with criticism, and criminalizes free speech. In line with the meme that the press is the enemy of the people, this hyperbolic claim of progressive violence also excuses racist hatred and violence on the right.


tax collectors for the entitlement state

rhetorical claim: big government advocates (aka, the dishonest left and the timid right), who see themselves as tax collectors for the entitlement state, are calling for keeping Obamacare’s surtax on investment income. Economic merits do not seem to count in this political fantasia. The reason to repeal the surtax isn’t to reward the rich, but to increase the stock of capital and improve the incentives for capital formation, which in turns increases labor productivity, wages and job creation.

rhetorical effect: this unified field theory of the great Trickle Down is an attempt to cloak the wolf of enormous tax cuts for the wealthy in the sheep’s clothes of greater prosperity for all. The tax cuts come immediately and irretrievably–the wider prosperity not so quickly, even to the vanishing point. Conservative magical thinking orthodoxy is clearly at work here, a kind of domino theory of inevitable causation: tax cuts beget capital, labor productivity and jobs. Tax cuts are thus presented as the magical elixir, fixing all of our economic inequalities, inadequacies, and sluggishness.


the rent-seeking, parasite economy

rhetorical claim: the Beltway’s deep state is a rent-seeking, parasitic economy based on government bloat, regulatory stranglehold over the rest of America, unbridled greed, cultural and social elitism, and unrivaled hypocrisy.

rhetorical effect: any advocate of regulation, equality, justice, or the social safety net is dismissed as a “parasite,”–a blood-sucking vermin drinking up the blood of the real Americans. This is another rhetorical step toward dehumanizing the left, thus justifying violence and persecution against them.


the bonds of culture, faith and tradition

rhetorical claim: radical Islamic terrorists are trying to undermine the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that unite the US and the West against barbarism. Any defense of justification of them thus erodes civilization itself.

rhetorical effect: revives the “blood, God and country” totalitarian militarism of Nazi Germany. Conflates identity, nationalism and religion in a way that criminalizes any minority religious beliefs and castigates them as uncivilized. Promotes a zero-sum clash of civilizations: whenever one wins, the other loses. Dehumanizes Islam and essentializes white, Eurocentric values. It’s not clear who “our civilization” will “triumph” over, but it is clear that Trump sees a coming cultural Armageddon and wants to be Crusader In Chief.


The modern day  Presidential

rhetorical claim: Trump’s tweets and campaign rallies are the “modern day Presidential,” and thus a departure from boring speeches and policy papers.

rhetorical effect: debases public discourse; gives rise to character assassination of opponents; offer simple solutions to complex problems; allows for contradiction and ambiguity. Leads to a total public breakdown of political communication.


responsibility as accountability

rhetorical claim: individual responsibility means making people accountable for their lives and circumstances.

rhetorical effect: ends the notion of responsibility as a social duty; makes welfare and social safety net programs seem like handouts from the “winners” to the losers,” shifts the focus of government from the collective to the individual.


the question of Russian interference

moving forward

rhetorical claim: the whole issue of Russian interference ion our election cycle, is, according to Rex Tillerson, a “question.” Donald Trump agrees, pointing pout that “we’ll probably never know” the truth and we should move forward in our relations with Russia.

rhetorical effect: confuses absolute certainty with high probability; by calling it a question rather than a fact, casts the entire process as a controversy or even a conspiratorial fantasy; “moving forward” means not looking back–in other words, a cover-up and total exoneration of Putin.



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, June 27-29, 2017


rhetorical claim: Trumpcare will offer consumers more choices than Obamacare, with a wider variety of premium costs and  deductibles, better coverage to the neediest, etc.  This will put heath care in the hands of consumers, not the government

rhetorical effect: makes it sound like even Medicaid is a “choice,” with lots of alternatives–just another marketplace where consumers can make their own choices according to their own tastes and budgets, as they might at Whole Foods or Walmart,Of course, it isn’t—people forced off Medicaid will not have anywhere else to go and thus will be back to emergency room visits to cover all medical issues. ‘Choice” to the GOP always means being at the dictates of the supposedly flawless “free market,” which is ‘”free” only if you believe collusion, price-fixing, and obscene profits don’t exist. What will the concept of a “free market” mean when elderly Medicare recipients are suddenly priced out of their nursing homes? When the GOP says ‘”choice” they actually mean either unaffordability or ultra-skimpy insurance plans. As explained in the Washington Post:

It would make individual market premiums, even after including subsidies, prohibitively expensive, effectively locking millions out of the “choice” of individual insurance, too.

In fact, for some unlucky people, subsidized individual plans would disappear entirely. That’s because the Senate bill says that people offered any employer coverage would become ineligible for subsidized insurance on the exchanges — even if they can’t actually afford the plan their employer offers.

I suppose lots of sick people will newly have the “choice” of buying an expensive plan that covers none of the services they need. So there’s that.

When all’s said and done, there’s just one major Republican health-care principle this bill remains loyal to: tax cuts for the rich.

In the new GOP rhetoric, “choice” now connotes greed without shame, the neediest be damned.



rhetorical claim: Trumpcare will finally give Americans the freedom to only buy the health care they want, and to stop subsidizing the unhealthy lifestyles of others.

rhetorical effect: The only freedom Trumpcare offers is the freedom for rich people to not be taxed. Oh, and poor people would have the freedom to buy insurance with a deductible they cannot afford. In this case, the best slogan  for Trumpcare, comes from Janis Joplin: “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”



rhetorical claim: Trumpcare will eliminate all government mandates and let the people choose their own healthcare.

rhetorical effect: obscures the true reality of Trumpcare, which is itself a gigantic mandate to take an entitlement away from the poor and give a tax cut to the rich. Survival of the richest! Also obscures the latest Trumpcare mandate: the “tweak” that fines those who go without insurance for six months.


upgraded state insurance markets

rhetorical claim: Trumpcare will give states the flexibility to upgrade insurance markets.

rhetorical effect: “upgrades” will entail reduced coverage, higher deductibles, annual and lifetime caps, and restricted access to Medicaid. The only thing upgraded will be insurance company profits. Synonyms for “upgrade” include “choice”, “enhanced”, “efficient”, “unleashed” and “patient-centered.”


enhanced understanding

rhetorical claim: Due to the so-called “enhanced understanding” of liberal federal  judges, progressives smugly think that unelected judges know best when it comes to issues best fitted for federalist (that is, state)  solutions, such as abortion and marriage. More proof that they believe the American public can’t be trusted.

rhetorical effect: pits progressives against “the people,” thus making populists out to be elitists.


job creators

rhetorical claim: eliminate regulations protecting workers, consumers and the environment are job-creation measures. This is just trickle-down economics in another form: Whatever fulfills the desires of the most-privileged sectors in our society is declared to be good for everyone else. But God forbid that government do anything to help the non-rich directly.

rhetorical effect: as A.J. Dionne argues,

This is just trickle-down economics in another form: Whatever fulfills the desires of the most-privileged sectors in our society is declared to be good for everyone else. But God forbid that government do anything to help the non-rich directly.


welfare reform

rhetorical claim: Medicaid is a form of welfare, not social insurance. According to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney,

For years, we’ve focused on how we can help Americans receive taxpayer-funded assistance. Under President Trump’s leadership, we’re now looking at how we can respect both those who require assistance and the taxpayers who fund that support. For the first time in a long time, we’re putting taxpayers first. Taking money from someone without an intention to pay it back is not debt. It is theft.

Mulvaney goes on to reach out to core Trump supporters:

So if you left for work this morning in the dark, if you came home after your kids were asleep, if you feel lucky to get overtime pay to support your aging parents or adult children, if you’re working part-time but praying for a full-time job, if your savings are as exhausted as you are, you have not been forgotten.

rhetorical effect: By calling Medicaid welfare rather than insurance, this argument justifies decimating the social safety net by vilifying all government aid recipients as deadbeats, frauds and even criminals. Divides Americans between the makers and the takers, and justifies social darwinism. The only larceny being committed is the GOP taking away social insurance.


energy dominance

rhetorical claim: America no longer just wants energy independence–we want energy dominance.

rhetorical effect: best explained by Gail Collins:

Remember the good old days when all we wanted was energy independence? It’s a new era and you don’t want to be just skipping along the independence trail when you could be right up there on the mountaintop with your foot on the rest of the world’s throat. Leaders, shmeaders. We’re going to be dominators.


the war on truth

rhetorical claim: the mainstream media produces endless qualities of fake news in an attempt to overturn the 2016 election results. They have started a war on truth.

rhetorical effect: Trump’s notion of truth is whatever he can get away with, at any given moment, for any given purpose. To Trump, truth is a series of wants and wishes, and is totally removed from any facts. This rhetorical strategy was first devised by Richard Nixon, As explained by Jonathan Schell in his 1975 classic, The Time of Illusion:

But whether the Administration was saying one thing in public while doing the opposite in secret or was saying one thing in public while doing the opposite also in public, and whether it was cloaking liberal programs in conservative disguises or cloaking conservative programs in liberal disguises, and whether it was framing policy that was meant to succeed or framing policy that was meant to fail, the one constant was that it had broken the unity of word and deed which makes political action intelligible to the rest of the world.

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, June 20-25, 2017

suicide by diversity

rhetorical claim: Europe is creating cultural suicide with lax immigration policies. Increasing terrorism across Europe is a direct result of these lax immigration policies.

rhetorical effect: demonizes and delegitimizes immigrants; assumes that cultural firewalls are possible and that cultural purity can be maintained in an age of digital technology, globalization, and cultural change and recombination. By demonizing immigrants, limits who counts as “real” people, worthy of citizenship.


bomb the shit out of ’em

rhetorical claim: Trump’s America First militancy doesn’t include any apology tours, “red lines” or “reset buttons.” He means what he says, and his actions back up his words.

rhetorical effect: Ready. Fire. Aim, The hell with international law, diplomacy, the efficacy of NATO, the immorality of torture, or the inadvisability of using the rhetoric of “radical Islamic terrorism.”


judicial pretexts

rhetorical claim: liberal-leaning federal appeals courts have discovered pretexts to strike down the Muslim travel ban. Their ends-justify-the-means ransacking and undermining of the Constitution threatens the balance of power.

rhetorical effect: calling legal opinions mere “pretexts” insures that no opinions Trumpinistas oppose can be taken seriously because they are hypocritical, naked power grabs, not based on constitutional principles. The rhetorical effect is to consider them “so-called judges,” thus completely undermining their authority. Judicial opinions acceptable to the GOP are defended as bring “originalist” and based on sound Constitutional reasoning.


cultural norms

rhetorical claim: the sexual revolution of the 1960s completely undermined long-standing cultural norms, thus excusing and even condoning deviancy. It also made women sexual slaves by reducing sex from its elevated Genesis vision of human dignity to a mere bodily function.

rhetorical effect: leads directly to abortion bans, the banning of contraception, and abstinence-only education. Tries to establish eternal, fixed “cultural norms,” especially those established in the 1950s; paternalisticly undermines any belief in the equality of the sexes by claiming that women need to be protected from their own sexuality.


innocuous, incidental and routine

rhetorical claim: the absurd notion that the President of the United States committed treason with the Russians is a Dem fantasy built entirely on innocuous, incidental and routine contacts between Americans and Russians. It is an attempt to criminalize perfectly innocent human contacts that are natural and grounded in Washington practice.

rhetorical effect: trivializes any charges of collusion with Russians as overblown and baseless by attempting to normalize them as “business as usual.” Makes it impossible to make a case for criminal charges because the threshold for such charges–outright transcripts or recordings of collusion- is set so high and is so literal-minded. Dismisses any attempt to prove a discernible pattern of behavior;”connecting the dots” is impossible if there are no “dots,” only innocent contacts. Truth disregarded becomes truth degraded.


the exterminating Left

rhetorical claim: political correctness and charges of “cultural appropriation” have led the Left to unparalleled intolerance of free speech, and they are quick to exterminate anyone who challenges their Taliban-like control over thought and speech.

rhetorical effect: defames, discredits and delegitimizes all liberal policy positions and language. Treats all ideals about injustice, intolerance and  inequality as intolerant ideology; acts as if the GOP doesn’t also police their own language by using phrases such “the death tax” rather than “the estate tax,” and doesn’t mercilessly cast out any apostates.


more flexibility to the states

rhetorical claim: under Trumpcare, everyone will have access to affordable health care, and will have a choice of doctors and plans. Trumpcare is pAtient-centered, and market-driven.

rhetorical effect: softens the regressive, redistrubutionist effects of the Trumpcare bill, as explained by Greg Sargent in the Washington Post:

All of this suggests that in some key ways, the GOP strategy is working. Republicans have gone to enormous lengths to obscure the plan’s profoundly regressive features. They have endlessly told the lie that no one will be worse off (because everyone will have “access” to affordable coverage), and they’ve developed numerous cleverly designed talking points designed to create the impression that, by slowly phasing in the loss of coverage for millions over time, this will create a painless transition to … well, to a blissful state in which everyone, again, has “access” to affordable coverage. Among these: “Smooth glide path.” “Rescue mission.” “Bridge to better health care.” “Soft landing.”

As Sargent goes on to point out, the irony is that starting in 2021, when federal Medicaid expansion starts to be phased out, states will have no flexibility because they must balance their own budgets and will only be able to do so by reducing health care for the poor.


dodgy dossier

rhetorical claim: Democratic leaders in Congress keep referring to it to cook up more charges against Trump, while liberal media continue to use it as a road map to find “scoops” on Trump in the “Russiagate” conspiracy they’re peddling — still hoping against hope that the central thrust of the report — that Trump entered into an unholy alliance with the Russian government during the election — will one day prove true and bring about the downfall of his presidency.

rhetorical effect: pejoratives such as “cook up,” “scoops”, “peddling,” undermine the efficacy and motivation behind “Russiagate.” itself also in  fright quotes. Reinforces the argument that the entire things is “fake news” and a ‘witch hunt”.


special interests

rhetorical claim: special interests such as seniors, hospitals, doctors and nurses are out to derail the Trumpcare bill.

rhetorical effect: turns the majority into a “special” interest. This seemingly neutral or even approving phrase has long been weaponized in political discourse to mean parochial, selfish interests that should be dismissed. Justifies Trump’s authoritarian pseudopopulism, all done in the name of the people against the “special interests,” “the swamp” or “the Deep State”


place at the table

rhetorical claim: instead of being obstructionist, the Dems should compromise on health care and take their place at the table in negotiating health care reform.

rhetorical effect: makes the Dems seem obstructionist when they have in fact never been invited to the table, and when the price of a seat is to surrender all of their values and policies.

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, June 13-18, 2017


rhetorical claim: progressives have triumphed over faith. Now they’re targeting conscience itself. Their bleak vision of civic life does not allow any religious liberty in the public square.

rhetorical effect: makes progressives out to be godless bigots fighting a tyrannical war against religious freedom. By arguing that progressives lack any respect for conscience, this meme equates liberalism with nihilism.


preposterous Russian fantasies

rhetorical claim: the Dems’ witch hunt is nothing more than a vendetta against Trump for winning the election, and is merely based on innuendo and partisan distaste with Trump. A presidential election is being overturned by an elite consensus across the vast ideological and cultural divide running all the way from the New York Times to the Washington Post. 

rhetorical effect: dusts off the old argument about liberal elites dominating the mainstream media; relegates all adverse Russia-Trump stories to being “fake news” and liberal fantasies. Their logic seems to be that if you say something isn’t there enough times, maybe it will just go away.


informed choice

rhetorical claim: consumer protections should help people make informed choices instead of trying to dictate choices with prohibitive rules.

rhetorical effect: often used in defense of stripping away most Dodd-Frank provisions, this inside-out logic argues that fewer government regulations mean more consumer protection–that people are more informed when the government doesn’t mandate any transparency or information.



rhetorical claim: Speaking of obstruction of justice, what about Loretta Lynch blocking the Clinton e-mail investigation?

rhetorical effect: proves effective at changing the subject or creating false equivalencies. Acts as if any question, inconsistency or factual error invalidates an entire claim.


freedom from

rhetorical claim: The GOP plan to eliminate health coverage for millions of Americans and do away with such essential health benefits as maternity care for millions more is just a matter of good old free-market consumerism. As explained by Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Tea Party Republican, “Americans have choices. And so maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care.” As Paul Ryan put it,  “Freedom is the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need.” Trumpcare, Mike Pence tell us, is all about “bringing freedom and individual responsibility back to American health care.”

rhetorical effect: Trumpcare offers “freedom” from health care. As Jim Hightower puts it,  you are as free as you can afford to be:

right-wing, corporate-funded ideologues have fabricated a new negative notion of “freedoms” derived from individual choice. You’re free to be poor, free to be politically powerless or free to be ill and uncared for; it’s all a matter of decisions you freely make in life, and our larger society has no business interfering with your free will.


sexual risk avoidance

rhetorical claim: marriage is the best context for sexual activity, and we need to normalize sexual delay for teenagers. So a holistic policy of  virginity until marriage is the best solution, and also in line with biblical reaching. Premarital sex makes people dirty and incapable of falling in love.

rhetorical effect: makes it sound as if abstinence-only education is a public health initiative instead of religion-tinged sexual shaming. Demonizes contraception.


multicultural indemnity

rhetorical claim: President Obama was able to do whatever he wanted because , according to Victor David Hanson, he was protected by “the thin exculpatory veneer of Ivy League pretension, multicultural indemnity, and studied smoothness.”

rhetorical effect: implies that any expressed belief in the benefits of multiculturalism amounts to a hypocritical excuse to abuse power. Multiculturalism is thus framed as essentially a con game  based on the quest for power, not on principle.


defending my honor

rhetorical claim: Jeff Sessions defended himself against “false and scurrilous attacks” because his honor was at stake. Despite Dem attempts to defame him as a liar, prevaricator and co-conspirator, Sessions defended his honor.

rhetorical effect: playing the honor card in this case is a threat, designed to make questioners back off in order to avoid a personal confrontation. The honor card allowed him to either lie or refuse to answer key questions. The only thing he seems to have remembered is that he did nothing wrong.

However, Sessions did plenty wrong, especially in refusing, on several occasions, to act, and thus revealing an either gross incompetence or a bewildering lack of curiosity:

  1. Sessions says that he discussed getting rid of Comey after the election but before the inauguration. If Comey was doing such damage to the FBI, why did Sessions wait six months to recommend his removal? Also, in all that time why didn’t he discuss Comey’s job performance with Comey?
  2. Sally Yates warned the new administration about not trusting Michael Flynn because he was under an investigative cloud, but apparently this admonition never spread to the FBI Director or else he was blase about it.
  3. Sessions never discussed Russian hacking with Comey, Trump  or the Russians. How is it possible that he has still not been briefed on it, and only knows about from media reports?
  4. Sessions never asked Comey what Trump said when he cleared the room to be alone with Comey.
  5. Sessions couldn’t cite any law or policy preventing him from reporting conversations with the President. How could he not have been prepped to answer this most fundamental question?
  6. Sessions testified that he “in effect” recused himself his second day in office, but didn’t actually do so for another two or three weeks. Why not?