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, Feb 13-19, 2017

back to basics

rhetorical claim: when it comes to climate change, getting away from so-called “climate change” science to simply reducing pollution, on a voluntary basis.

rhetorical effect: removes objective data from the “discussion” about environmental regulation–in other words, turns evidence-based policy debates into matters of opinion. In such a case, the “basics” are always subordinated to economic growth


cooperative federal-state relationships

rhetorical claim: turning environmental regulation, education, labor laws, Medicare and other programs over to the states will put the states and federal government into an equal partnership, rather than the feds’ command and control stranglehold.

rhetorical effect: removes federal oversight, allowing states to starve programs and policies they don’t like. At best, this will constitute  benign neglect of the letter and spirit of federal laws.


racial civil rights

rhetorical claim:  pc identity politics that turns race into divisiveness and hatred.

rhetorical effect: by characterizing any civil rights argument as prejudiced, stigmatizes the very act of making racial distinctions.



rhetorical claim: a hypothesis to be explored, not a fact beyond dispute.

rhetorical effect: see “racial civil rights”, above


predictable insurance markets

rhetorical claim: health insurance will be unaffordable until the market is deregulated so insurers can operate it in stable, predictable markets and not be subject to the whims of federal bureaucrats.

rhetorical effect: the only things predictable in this scenario are ever-higher higher rates for ever-skimpier and restrictive coverage.


Alinski tactics

rhetorical claim: the media’s barrage of fake news and anti-Trump hysteria is wearing out its welcome with the American people. The media is turning into a 24/7 pile up accident.This technique of personalizing, polarizing and vilifying your opponent into submission is borrowed directly from socialist “community organizer” Saul Alinski.

rhetorical effect: turns dissent and political activism into smears, which by definition are dishonest and calculating. Part of Trump’s strategy is to turn everything into a zero-sum game, with winners and losers. Thus there is no problem with breaking every norm and tradition and govern by any means necessary. Turns lying into a rhetorical strategy, as explained by John Podesta:

We now see a toxic overlap between sensationalist politics and media manipulation. Each presidential stroke of bombast plunges the media, the administration and the public into a frenzied scramble for the truth, with the phrase “fake news” nonchalantly thrown around, adding a heaping spoonful of cynicism to the whole mess. These episodes distort our understanding of reality and put us in danger of experiencing an information void like Russia.

If Trump succeeds, something fundamental will be lost. Russians hear something on TV and assume it’s a lie. That attitude of reflexive cynicism makes it impossible to know the death toll from an industrial accident or a terrorist incident, or the risk to their kids of drinking the water, or even the results of the last election. It ruins everything.


sleeper cells

rhetorical claim: according to Breitbart,

Many other potential Yateses—holdovers from the Obama administration who have found their way into spots throughout the Trump administration—await throughout government.

“They’re hiding like sleeper cells everywhere,” one source said.

White House and other government sources say there are as many as 50 of them throughout government, and Priebus has full knowledge of their whereabouts, who they are, and what potential for damage they may cause. He is not doing anything about it, these sources add.

rhetorical effect: career federal workers’ civil service protection could be endangered if they are likened to terrorists.


restoring science to its rightful place

rhetorical claim: EPA diktats are based on junk science that cherry-picks the “facts”, relies on biased, subjective “modeling,” and has many detractors.  The EPA is less a government bureau than a secular church enforcing the dogmas of climate change. Science’s rightful place  is not to politicize and distort the facts, but just  to report them objectively.

rhetorical effect: makes all scientific research seem arbitrary and relative; creates cynicism toward all refereed publications; makes the “facts” opinion-based rather than evidence, in which case the only opinion that matters is that of the energy industry.


street-based progressives

rhetorical claim: hysterical demonstrators, calling themselves the resistance, react to any Trump initiative as fascist or racist.

rhetorical effect: equates progressivism with violence and reaction, and makes anti-Trump demonstrators sound like hooligan armies of anarchy let loose in the streets.


the dignity of the Office of President

rhetorical claim: according to Kellyanne Conway, media coverage of Trump lacks “respect for and recognition of the dignity for the Office of the President.”

rhetorical effect:  likens any dissent to a personal attack on Trump’s character. “Respect” and “dignity” are master rhetorical tropes encompassing society’s deepest values, so any attack on Trump is framed as an attempt to undermine the country. It’s hard to equate master-tweeter Trump with any notion of dignity as he disgraces the Presidency daily.


financial independence

rhetorical claim: in June, the House Financial Services Committee released a proposed bill to dismantle the DFA and reform the CFPB. Titled the Financial CHOICE Act and introduced by Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling, the bill aims to replace the DFA and restructure the CFPB. In his statement at the release of the Bill, Hensarling asserted his opinion that the DFA was “a grave mistake” that “has failed.” The proposed Financial “Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs” (CHOICE) Act is intended to empower Americans to achieve greater financial growth “with real reforms that work.” Most significantly, the Bill changes many of the provisions that now enable the CFPB:

  • The new organization would get a new name, the Consumer Financial Opportunity Commission, or the CFOC.
  • The fundamental mission of the Bureau would change, with the addition of facilitating competitive markets along with assuring consumer protections.
  • The Office of Economic Analysis would perform a cost-benefit analysis of proposed agency rules before their adoption and implementation.

rhetorical effect: by substituting “opportunity” for “protection,” this becomes a right-to-be-fleeced agency, and would make it impossible to even gather consumer fraud information, according to The Washington Post.


moving on

rhetorical claim: now that General Flynn has resigned, the nation needs to “move on” to more pressing matters.

rhetorical effect: exactly what didn’t happen in Watergate, despite Nixon’s best efforts to demote it to a “two-bit break-in.” Not denying the facts, but twisting and trivializing them has the effect of confusing the public, changing the subject, and making critics sound hectoring and vindictive.

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, Feb. 7-12, 2017.

Islamic reform

rhetorical claim: We imperil America so long as we blithely ignore the fact that a significant minority–perhaps even a majority–of Muslims worldwide support sharia law. As Andrew McCarthy puts it in the National Review,

We are talking about a framework for the political organization of the state, and about the implementation of a legal corpus that is blatantly discriminatory, hostile to liberty, and — in its prescriptions of crime and punishment — cruel. Islam must reform so that this totalitarian political ideology, sharia supremacism (or, if you prefer, “radical Islam”), is expressly severable from Islam’s truly religious tenets. To fashion an immigration policy that serves our vital national-security interests without violating our commitment to religious liberty, we must be able to exclude sharia supremacists while admitting Muslims who reject sharia supremacism and would be loyal to the Constitution.

rhetorical effect: builds in a way to discriminate against Muslims while all the while sounding like a common-sense ban of just terrorists. How sharia radicals would be identified, or how this term could help but be applied to any Muslim, is unclear. How this doesn’t constitute a religious test is also unclear. But this lack of clarity won’t matter because the public will be be skeptical of any Muslim accused of being a Shariaist. Should ICE be deciding what is “truly religious”?


individual health empowerment

rhetorical claim: Obamacare repeal will lead to greater consumer choice (see below), cost savings, greater access to health care, health savings accounts, and greater consumer responsibility for their own health care.

rhetorical effect: the only things empowered will be the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. The will be more choice, but the choice will be between shoddy, junk policies with high deductibles and lots of restrictions. These policies might cost less, but in the long run will cost much more because they won’t begin to cover even such things as a broken leg or kidney stone. The health savings accounts are a chimera–like the junk policies, they won’t begin to cover any even semi-expensive medical condition. Worst of all, shifting responsibility to the patient is just con-artist talk for blaming the victim.


scare campaign

rhetorical claim: Opposition to the repeal of Obamacare is just hyper-hysterical posturizing, aimed at needlessly scaring the voters.

rhetorical effect: opposition to any Trump policies or executive orders will soon be characterized this way. All dissent is thus framed as being in bad faith, and cynically aimed at recapturing power.


college speech codes

rhetorical claim: free speech has become so suppressed on college campuses that their lecture halls and classrooms have turned into re-education camps. Students are being brainwashed, infantalized, and turned into prudish censors by over-protective college administrators.

rhetorical effect: creates a hostile atmosphere condoning the expression of ideas of racial hatred, bullying, discrimination, homophobia, misogyny and American imperialism. By not considering both the causes and effects of speech, manages to de-contextualize hate speech and make it seem morally equivalent to tolerant and inclusive–while still critical and probing–discourse. By confusing “free” speech with “hate” speech, this position incites violence and prejudice.


politically-connected special interests

rhetorical claim: the corrupt Obama administration doled out political favors to politically-connected special interests, including teachers’ unions, Solyndra and other “green” companies, minority and LGBT groups, etc.

rhetorical effect: leads to the ridiculous claim that Trump is ‘cleaning the swamp,” despite his billionaire cabinet, Goldman Sachs alumni club, and flood of tax and regulatory and breaks that have happened the the first three weeks, including green-lighting the Keystone Pipeline, calls to eliminate class action suits; calls to eliminate essential benefits or price controls in the ACA; doing away with with fiduciary requirements for investment advisers working with retirees, ending limits on the dumping of mining waste in local waterways, eliminating the Dodd-Frank transparency rules for corporate executive compensation, etc.



rhetorical claim: sanctuary cities are akin to secessionist South Carolina in 1832 insofar as they unconstitutionally deny federal power in their borders. By nullifying the constitution,  they make immigration reform that much harder.

rhetorical effect: falsely equates community safety with a crackdown on immigrants; inhibits undocumented immigrants from co-operating with law enforcement; spreads fear throughout the immigrant community; equates the protection of immigranr rights with subversion of the US Constitution.


vouchers and charters

rhetorical claim: Betsy DeVos scares liberals because she cares more about the education of black children than she does about teachers’ unions. Anyone opposing her is a racist (because they in essence support failing inner city schools) and a bigot (because they support vouchers for religious schools.) All her opponents care about is keeping the paychecks flowing to the teachers’ unions.

rhetorical effect: further erosion of under-funded public schools; emergence of a two-tiered education system, one public, one private; the privatization of thought in American education; the destruction of teachers’ unions.


consumer protection

rhetorical claim:  consumers want less “protection” and more choice (competition); in terms of the ACA, consumers want fewer mandated essential benefits and more price competition.  Especially courtesy of the Consumer Financial Protection Board, consumer “protection” is a government shakedown of businesses and a threat to consumers caused by less competition. Policies that would actually benefit consumers would include limits on class action suits, relaxed laws on consumer credit and fraud, and less regulation of payday lenders, etc. The best consumer protection is to let the free market work its magic.

rhetorical effect: the end of class action suits; increased consumer fraud; misleading advertising, and fraudulent and exorbitant loan practices. What consumers are said to “really want”–lower prices, more choice–runs counter to what they “need”–transparent business practices, fraud protection, essential benefits, price controls to stop monopoly pricing, etc. To the GOP, consumer protection actually means business protection.


what people actually want

rhetorical claim: whether referring to health care options, school choice,  financial planners, or consumer protection, consumers want less regulation, lower costs, and  and more options. Only the free, competitive market can provide this trifecta. Aka, putting students, patients, retirees, and businesses first.

 rhetorical effect: do people actually want the right to be bilked? Beware of any populist voice supporting positions that cater to the elite and further inequality.


rhetorical claim: winner-take-all politics; no more multilateral trade deals; America First; the relaxation of moral norms when fighting terrorism; justification of torture, invasion of other countries, plunder of other countries’ resources, etc.

rhetorical effect: perhaps best expressed by the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens:

Mr. Trump’s purpose… isn’t to prevent a recurrence of bad behavior. It’s to permit it. In this reading, Mr. Putin’s behavior isn’t so different from ours. It’s largely the same, except more honest and effective. The U.S. could surely defeat ISIS—if only it weren’t hampered by the kind of scruples that keep us from carpet bombing Mosul in the way the Russians obliterated Aleppo. The U.S. could have come out ahead in Iraq—if only we’d behaved like unapologetic conquerors, not do-gooder liberators, and taken their oil.

This also explains why Mr. Trump doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism, calling the idea “insulting [to] the world” and seeing it as an undue burden on our rights and opportunities as a nation. Magnanimity, fair dealing, example setting, win-win solutions, a city set upon a hill: All this, in the president’s mind, is a sucker’s game, obscuring the dog-eat-dog realities of life. Among other distinctions, Mr. Trump may be our first Hobbesian president.



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, Jan. 31-Feb. 6, 2017

enlightened nationalism

rhetorical claim: According to the National Review,

Domestically, since the 1960s and 1970s, what the late social scientist Samuel Huntington called a “denationalized” elite in this country has waged war on the nation and its common culture. Conservatives have fought back on issues such as bilingual education, the downgrading of traditional U.S. history in curricula, racial preferences, the elevation of subnational groups, and mass immigration — anything that has been part of the multiculturalist onslaught on national solidarity.

Instead of this denationalization:

Nationalism should be tempered by a modesty about the power of government, lest an aggrandizing state wedded to a swollen nationalism run out of control; by religion, which keeps the nation from becoming the first allegiance; and by a respect for other nations that undergirds a cooperative international order. Nationalism is a lot like self-interest. A political philosophy that denies its claims is utopian at best and tyrannical at worst, but it has to be enlightened. The first step to conservatives’ advancing such an enlightened nationalism is to acknowledge how important it is to our worldview to begin with.

rhetorical effect: conflates patriotism with nationalism; leads to “America First” rhetoric, but frames jingoism as high-minded idealism, as “enlightened.”


limiting choices

rhetorical claim: the rollback of the fiduciary rule for retirement investors will open up more investment choices for retirees. This is one way to expand the economy.

rhetorical effect: reinforces many lies and mendacities: the market is always right in the long run and should not be limited;  regulation always hurts the economy; retirement advisors’ vested interests in commission-making never get in the way of sound financial advice, etc. It’s like a doctor who orders losts of unnecessary tests because he has a financial interest in the lab. As explained by New York Magazine‘s Jonathan Chait,

“Americans are going to have better choices and Americans are going to have better products because we’re not going to burden the banks with literally hundreds of billions of dollars of regulatory costs every year,” National Economic Council Director and Goldman Sachs veteran Gary Cohn tells The Wall Street Journal.

Cohn is planning to weaken the fiduciary rule, which he believes robs Americans of their freedom to hire financial advisers who might want to rip them off. “This is like putting only healthy food on the menu,” he tells the Journal, “because unhealthy food tastes good but you still shouldn’t eat it because you might die younger.”

Cohn’s metaphor is worth exploring. Healthy food, in Cohn’s example, is equivalent of investment advice that’s good for the client. Unhealthy food is like investment advice that’s bad for the client (but good for the adviser he has hired). Why shouldn’t people choose how much healthy versus unhealthy financial advice to hire? Well, the reason financial advisers are required to follow their clients’ fiduciary interests, rather than assuming that the logic of the free market will naturally produce optimal scrupulousness, is that investing is extremely complex. There is a huge asymmetry of information between professionals who work at investment firms and their customers. A customer at a restaurant might be able to eyeball the menu and guess that the spinach salad is healthier than the pizza, but a customer shopping for financial advisers is not going to know which ones will give them the best financial advice versus the ones who might might be trying to enrich themselves at the customer’s expense.



rhetorical claim: the mainstream media outlets, as represented by the NY Times,  are failing financially so they should be discounted as legitimate news sources. The public has rejected them.

rhetorical effect: Everyone opposed to Trump is a failure, a loser or, as in the case of the Seattle federal judge, a fake. as Frank Bruni explains in the NY Times:

Trump’s analysis of people and situations hinges on whether they exalt him. A news organization that challenges him is inevitably “failing.” A politician who pushes back at him is invariably a loser. Middle-school cliques have more moral discernment.

He railed against executive orders until they were his. He denounced the coziness between politicians and Wall Street until he was doing the snuggling. He cried foul at presidential getaways that cost the taxpayers millions until Mar-a-Lago beckoned.

During the campaign he demonstrated no special concern for free speech, advocating looser libel laws and barring certain news organizations from events. But he took to Twitter on Thursday to register fury over the University of California at Berkeley’s cancellation of an appearance by the far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.


that’s not who we are

rhetorical claim: in defending multiculturalism and globalism, liberals consider themselves to be the moral arbiters of what constitutes the “real” America and the “real” American historical narrative.

rhetorical effect: Islamophobia, chauvinism,  and white resentment become the norm. Manifest Destiny, American exceptionalism, and America First become ubiquitous and unchallenged. The “we” in “who we are” is identified as white, European/Anglo-Saxon, and Judeo-Christian.


fake news

rhetorical claim: the NY Times and other “failing” mainstream media are the main opposition party to Trump, and every story they run about Trump is biased, distorted, annoying and negative. This “fake news” is nothing but a propaganda machine.

rhetorical effect: renders the term “fake news” meaningless because it has been totally politicized and made it impossible to even agree on facts. Trump is free to concoct his own narrative, metrics, and “alternative facts.” To Trump supporters, lying becomes impossible for Trump, just as the truth becomes impossible for the press to represent.  When the truth can no longer be agreed upon or is subject to change, “lies disappear into the past,” as Orwell explained.



rhetorical claim: Trumpism is a return to identity politics for white people. America has always been a homeland for white Europeans, and Trump is merely restoring that heritage to its rightful place as the lodestone of Americanism.

rhetorical effect: For the first time in a long time, people feel they can express themselves openly on questions of race, nationality, ethnicity and patriotism. This is not necessarily a good thing. Even as the so-called “dominant European culture” of America is being eclipsed by immigration and racial blending, Trump and Bannon are doubling down on white ethnoracialism. This destabilized language of citizenship is much more exclusive than inclusive, and uses national pride as a euphemism for the whitewashing, or obliteration, of racial and ethnic identity. It’s like a nightmare of a melting pot where what really melts down is America’s brain.


postmaterialist values

rhetorical claim: the liberals’ mantra of personal fulfillment, openness to new ideas, and support for previously marginalized populations has lead to their crushing defeat and marginalization. Their key concepts of globalization, internationalism, multiculturalism, self-expression,affirmative action and redistribution have been repudiated by history.

rhetorical effect: marginalization of the so-called “self expression” values has made it nearly impossible to define national success as anything other than  the predominance of white culture, nationalism, and material well-being. Success is now defined as a zero-sum Darwinian struggle with clear winners and losers, and patriotism defined as adherence to white supremacist, divisive, exclusionary, and populism.


non-stop hyperpanic

rhetorical claim: Dems’ hyperventilating over every Trump policy initiative and executive order will shortly lead to resistance fatigue. Dem tantrums only help Trump because they either lack common sense or run counter to what Trump’s supporters want–stopping terrorists from entering the country, for example.

rhetorical effect: makes dissent always seem extreme and hysterical. Favorite verbs and nouns used to describe any opposition to Trump include: hysterical, barrage, hyperventilating, hysterical, unhinged, doom-mongerers,  rancor, dopey, reflexive,  snarling, undifferentiated. Downplays the cumulative effect of Trump’s executive orders by isolating them and belittling any opposition to them. By claiming opposition to each particular Trump policy is foolish and self-defeating, the overall effect is to render any opposition fatuous and juvenile.


essential benefits

rhetorical claim: the fastest way to ACA reform is through eliminating mandated “essential benefits” so insurers can design economic policies that the public would actually find worth buying.

rhetorical effect: you have to wonder what will be left to cover if the  ACA’S 10 “essential benefits” (see below) are made optional. Let the race to the bottom in terms of reliable coverage begin:

    1. Ambulatory patient services (Outpatient care). Care you receive without being admitted to a hospital, such as at a doctor’s office, clinic or same-day (“outpatient”) surgery center. Also included in this category are home health services and hospice care (note: some plans may limit coverage to no more than 45 days).
    2. Emergency Services (Trips to the emergency room). Care you receive for conditions that could lead to serious disability or death if not immediately treated, such as accidents or sudden illness. Typically, this is a trip to the emergency room, and includes transport by ambulance. You cannot be penalized for going out-of-network or for not having prior authorization.
    3. Hospitalization (Treatment in the hospital for inpatient care). Care you receive as a hospital patient, including care from doctors, nurses and other hospital staff, laboratory and other tests, medications you receive during your hospital stay, and room and board. Hospitalization coverage also includes surgeries, transplants and care received in a skilled nursing facility, such as a nursing home that specializes in the care of the elderly (note: some plans may limit skilled nursing facility coverage to no more than 45 days).
    4. Maternity and newborn care. Care that women receive during pregnancy (prenatal care), throughout labor, delivery and post-delivery, and care for newborn babies.
    5. Mental health services and addiction treatment. Inpatient and outpatient care provided to evaluate, diagnose and treat a mental health condition or substance abuse disorder . This includes behavioral health treatment, counseling, and psychotherapy. (note: some plans may limit coverage to 20 days each year. Limits must comply with state or federal parity laws. Read this document for more information on mental health benefits and the Affordable Care Act).
    6. Prescription drugs. Medications that are prescribed by a doctor to treat an illness or condition. Examples include prescription antibiotics to treat an infection or medication used to treat an ongoing condition, such as high cholesterol. At least one prescription drug must be covered for each category and classification of federally approved drugs, however limitations do apply. Some prescription drugs can be excluded. “Over the counter” drugs are usually not covered even if a doctor writes you a prescription for them. Insurers may limit drugs they will cover, covering only generic versions of drugs where generics are available. Some medicines are excluded where a cheaper equally effective medicine is available, or the insurer may impose “Step” requirements (expensive drugs can only be prescribed if doctor has tried a cheaper alternative and found that it was not effective). Some expensive drugs will need special approval.
    7. Rehabilitative services and devices – Rehabilitative services (help recovering skills, like speech therapy after a stroke) and habilitative services (help developing skills, like speech therapy for children) and devices to help you gain or recover mental and physical skills lost to injury, disability or a chronic condition (this also includes devices needed for “habilitative reasons”). Plans have to provide 30 visits each year for either physical or occupational therapy, or visits to the chiropractor. Plans must also cover 30 visits for speech therapy as well as 30 visits for cardiac or pulmonary rehab.
    8. Laboratory services. Testing provided to help a doctor diagnose an injury, illness or condition, or to monitor the effectiveness of a particular treatment. Some preventive screenings, such as breast cancer screenings and prostrate exams, are provided free of charge.
    9. Preventive services, wellness services, and chronic disease treatment. This includes counseling, preventive care, such as physicals, immunizations and screenings, like cancer screenings, designed to prevent or detect certain medical conditions. Also, care for chronic conditions, such as asthma and diabetes. (note: please see our full list of Preventive services for details on which services are covered.)
    10. Pediatric services. Care provided to infants and children, including well-child visits and recommended vaccines and immunizations. Dental and vision care must be offered to children younger than 19. This includes two routine dental exams, an eye exam and corrective lenses each year.

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, Jan. 24-30, 2017

therapeutic foreign policy

rhetorical claim: Obama’s feel-good, apologetic, fuzzy-headed foreign policy assuaged liberal neuroses about asserting American power, but amounted to a “speak softly and carry a small stick” policy. Those near-treasonous, cosmopolitan, globalist days are over because Trump is not reflective or apologetic about putting “America first” in foreign policy.

rhetorical effect: such swaggering belligerence condones, even demands, bullying, jingoism, military adventurism, foreign entanglements, encouragement of militant Islamic jihadists, and knee-jerk, hair-trigger aggression. The opposite of therapeutic isn’t unreflective, but, instead, untreated; raw id  should not be driving foreign policy because recklessness exacts a heavy psychological price later on.



rhetorical claim: dissent has meant many things to liberals over the years: the highest form of patriotism during the Bush era , obstructionism during the Obama years, and now resistance in the Trump era.

rhetorical effect: dissent becomes potentially criminalized during the Trump era.


traditional partnership with the states

rhetorical claim: the Obama EPA set itself up as the sole regulator of every waterway in America, but the Trump EPA  will defer to the states, which should reassure developers that jobs and profits are just around the corner.

rhetorical effect: as with health care, the Trump administration will destroy unwanted programs and policies using the smokescreen of turning them over to the states. Thus underfunded programs or policies will just turn people away or disappear, and federal environmental regulations will go unenforced.


America First

rhetorical claim: American unilateralism incarnate: any foreign policy decisions or actions will be based solely on American interests, American gain. Foreign Policy is a zero-sum game of only winners and losers.

rhetorical effect: the end of the post-1945 era of American enlightened, liberal self-interest. In Trump’s instrumentalized vision, it’s the US vs. the world, with no thought to helping allies prosper. As best argued by Charles Krauthammer,:

Some claim that putting America first is a reassertion of American exceptionalism. On the contrary, it is the antithesis. It makes America no different from all the other countries that define themselves by a particularist blood-and-soil nationalism. What made America exceptional, unique in the world, was defining its own national interest beyond its narrow economic and security needs to encompass the safety and prosperity of a vast array of allies. A free world marked by open trade and mutual defense was President Truman’s vision, shared by every president since.

Until now…..

We are embarking upon insularity and smallness. Nor is this just theory. Trump’s long-promised but nonetheless abrupt withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the momentous first fruit of his foreign policy doctrine. Last year the prime minister of Singapore told John McCain that if we pulled out of the TPP “you’ll be finished in Asia.” He knows the region.

For 70 years, we sustained an international system of open commerce and democratic alliances that has enabled America and the West to grow and thrive. Global leadership is what made America great. We abandon it at our peril.


sympathy fatigue

rhetorical claim: minorities and immigrants have unfairly taken advantage of America to get unwarranted advantages over white Americans, especially older white men. They sneer at American norms and values, and consider themselves better than everyone else. Their greed and laziness has worn out any natural sympathy white Americans once had for them

rhetorical effect: life becomes a Darwinian, zeo-sum, tribal struggle. The social safety net gets destroyed, racism , misogyny, and homophobia become normalized, and bitter national divisions widen.


pro-active policing

rhetorical claim: “stop-and frisk” and “broken windows” policing tactics are the best defense against crime, but Black Lives Matter activists and the Obama Justice Department have made the police unwilling to do their jobs in controlling crime. Pro-active policing is what the citizens of the poorest, most crime-ridden neighborhoods want. The federal government will no longer punish police for stopping people who are acting suspiciously.

rhetorical effect: the end to all Justice Dept. police conduct consent decrees, and thus the effective end of any external monitoring of police conduct. The racist practices of pro-active policing will thus go on unchecked, creating more racial animus.


union giveaways (aka, carveouts)

rhetorical claim: the Obama National Labor Relations Board wnt beyond the law to strengthen unions–especially public sector unions. Their weapons of choice were illegal administrative orders, many of which were overturned in the courts. The days of catering to labor unions are gone forever.

rhetorical effect: any concession to a labor union is now considered nothing but an illegal usurpation of power or an unwarranted handout. Worker rights and workplace safety will no longer be protected in an environment where the prevailing ideology is “you’re lucky to have a job.”


in dispute

rhetorical claim: “alternative facts” are necessary because the media always lies and distorts. As the opposition party, the media has declared war on Trump and truth. Everything they say can and should be disputed.

rhetorical effect: Truth is the first casualty of war.  Facts become lies from the “dishonest media” and lies become facts. E.J. Dionne, in the Washington Post puts it this way:

When confronted with untruths, all journalists have one and only one choice: to call them what they are. They cannot, without misleading the public, pretend that there are two sides to a purely factual question. Further, they need to avoid vague language about facts being “in dispute” when there is absolutely no question about what the facts are. Partisans might well emphasize some facts over others. But facts themselves aren’t partisan.

This, in turn, means that reporters may indeed seem “oppositional” when they confront an administration that, day after day, shows so little regard for fact or truth. But this is not the media’s problem. It’s Trump’s.

After a while, no one can differentiate facts from lies, and we enter a form of collective mental illness, as explained by Chris Hedges:

Reality is under assault. Verbal confusion reigns. Truth and illusion have merged. Mental chaos makes it hard to fathom what is happening. We feel trapped in a hall of mirrors. Exposed lies are answered with other lies. The rational is countered with the irrational. Cognitive dissonance prevails. We endure a disquieting shame and even guilt. Tens of millions of Americans, especially women, undocumented workers, Muslims and African-Americans, suffer the acute anxiety of being pursued by a predator. All this is by design. Demagogues always infect the governed with their own psychosis.

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, Jan. 18-23, 2017

everybody will have insurance

rhetorical claim: everyone will have healthier insurance that is better and cheaper than anything offered in Obamacare. When insurance can be sold avross state borders and deregulated, consumers will have more choice.

rhetorical effect: it all depends on what you mean by “everybody”, “have,” “choice” and “insurance.” The GOP seems to mean “the opportunity to have access” to coverage  rather than a guarantee of coverage; available rather than affordable coverage, and greatly restricted Medicaid coverage with ultra-high deductibles. These hedges and obfuscations only insure that most Americans now covered under the ACA will be pole-axed  by medical bills because their cut-rate “choice”  won’t cover any major medical bills. As a NY Times editorial puts it:

It is hard to argue against choice. But in the ideological world inhabited by Mr. Price, House Speaker Paul Ryan and many other Republicans, choice is often a euphemism for scrapping sensible regulations that protect people.

Some Americans might well be tempted by this far-right approach. They would have to pay less up front for these skeletal policies than they do now for comprehensive coverage. But over time, when people need health care to recover from accidents, treat diabetes, have a baby or battle addiction, they will be hit by overwhelming bills. The Trump administration seems perfectly willing to sell those people down the river with false promises.


free trade

rhetorical claim: trade is a zero-sum game, not an exchange of mutual benefit, and running a trade deficit is a sign of economic failure.

rhetorical effect: tariffs and other trade barriers and protectionist measures; inflation; mercantilism; trade wars with China, Mexico, Japan and others.



rhetorical claim: Republicans offer the facts but not enough examples, whereas the Dems only offer anecdotes because the facts are against them on every single issue. For example, when it comes to the ACA, the Dems are only going to offer anecdotes about people dying if they lose their coverage, whereas the fact is that Obamacare is woefully undersubscribed because it’s a bad deal for young, healthy people. We have to get away from the ttranny of the anecdote.

rhetorical effect: makes all accounts of the effects of Trump-era cutbacks sound disingenuous and misleading. Assumes the GOP has cornered the market on facts, the Dems on colorful, woe-is-me fictions. Turns Trump critics into “outrage mongers.”


high corporate taxes

rhetorical claim: America has the highest corporate tax rate  (39%) in the world, making  it impossible for US businesses to compete globally.

rhetorical effect: obscures that fact that the effective US corporate tax rate–what US businesses actually pay after deductions and amortizing–is only 14%.


conflicts of interest

rhetorical claim: the media’s hysteria over so-called conflicts of interest among Trump and his appointees has reached a fever pitch, mistaking the appearance of an ethical lapse with an actual ethical lapse. It’s all based on sanctimony, jealousy and resentment. The reign of the aphid-like Beltway liberals, lawyers, lobbyists and journalists who make a living telling others how to live their lives is now over.

rhetorical effect: makes it impossible to criticize any Trump policies or people for ethical lapses without appearing to be a jealous scold or hypocrite, Erases the notion of conflict of interest because economic prosperity is now America’s  primary interest, so anyone prospering by definition has no conflict of interest. Ethics are merely an interpretive “gotcha” parlor game.



rhetorical claim: Economic patriotism and ethnonationalism, personified by Trump, seem everywhere ascendant. Transnationalism is yielding to tribalism.

rhetorical effect: privileges “America first” sentiments and white supremacy; tariffs and trade wars; militarism; racial hatred and intolerance; protectionism and isolationism.


social and political preoccupations

rhetorical claim: Obama and the Dems always put social and political preoccupations ahead of economic growth. Trump will restore growth as the lodestone of national progress. Business investment will be unleashed from the dead hand of over-regulation.

rhetorical effect: Economic might makes right, and crowds out or nullifies consideration of most rights. As long as GDP grows at least 3%, no one will care much about civil rights, voting rights, gay rights, immigrant rights, womens’ reproductive health, equal pay for equal work, workplace safety, environmental regulation, minimum wage, police violence, mass incarceration of African-Americans, etc.


up-from-poverty agenda

rhetorical claim: Trump can control the narrative and upend enemy rhetoric by bringing African-Americans up from poverty through economic prosperity, a tough new doctrine of individual responsibility, and the elimination of the social safety net. Responsibility will come to be seen as the most important component of equality.

rhetorical effect: if there is still poverty at the end of Trump’s first term, it will be due to  minority laziness, self-pity, and drug use. Assumes the economic playing field is level, that everyone is getting the same head start, and that inequality is inevitable and shouldn’t be a part of the political-economic discourse, which will no longer even mention dead ideas such as The War on Poverty, the Great Society, affirmative action, or political correctness.


static idealism

rhetorical claim: liberals’ intransigent belief in principles and ideals –“equality” in which injustice is anything less than perfect parity between all people; “diversity” that is color-coded and optically correct; stressless “spaces” of social and moral perfection, etc–that crowd out contingency,  choice, opportunity, innovation, and free markets.

rhetorical effect: masks the unyielding ideology of the right in the name of freedom, choice, and opportunity, and makes idealism seem naive, rigid, and stultifying.


stopgap liberalism

rhetorical claim: The War on Poverty, the Great Society, affirmative action, political correctness—all this failure reveals a stopgap liberalism of expedience that sought only the fastest route back to moral authority and thus to power. Beyond this it was all dreams and self-congratulation.

rhetorical effect: liberalism is equated with expediency, the will to power and self-congratulation. Stripped of its idealism and moral compass, it becomes mere cynicism and opportunism, worthy of contempt. Conservatism thus becomes the only principled approach to public life.


the rule of law

rhetorical claim: Obama’s big government, redistributionist policies favored environmentalist causes over economic growth. He disregarded the rule of law, distrusted markets, disregarded property rights, and was obsessed with economic equality over liberty.

rhetorical effect: opens up the carbon, extraction economy for unfettered development, all in the name of growth. Environmental degradation becomes synonymous with liberty, property rights, the rule of law and free markets



Lies, Distortions and Doublethink in the Wall Street Journal, Jan 17, 2017

doublethink: the ability to hold two contradictory opinions at the same time about the same question, remaining untroubled by the contradiction and expressing one opinion or the other as the convenience of the Party requires it. It is defined in Part II, Chapter IX of 1984, in the extract from “the Book” written supposedly by the Party heretic Goldstein. It enables Party members to constantly deceive themselves and others while at the same time remaining convinced that everything they say — even when it is contradictory — is the exact truth. For instance, the Party defies every principle that originally defined socialism, but still maintains that it upholds the only true socialism. Doublethink allows Party members to be fighting one enemy on Monday and another on Tuesday, but to believe and proclaim that their enemy of Tuesday has been their enemy not only on Monday but for all time — and to switch back again on Wednesday without any qualms. It is an enormously flexible system of rearranging reality to avoid contradictions, its main weakness being the tendency it has to detach its practitioners from concrete reality. “The greater the understanding, the greater the delusion.”


Roe v. Wade has corrupted American politics because it enshrined the personal preferences of unelected justices into law, by-passing the will of the people and the democratic process. Those who do not believe in the sanctity of life are the real extremists. Human rights are best preserved by taking away women’s reproductive rights?

Payday lenders wouldn’t make risky loans if it didn’t make good business sense–there is no need for government regulation of that industry. Should we just leave to to the Darwinism of the free market to pick winners and losers?

Liberal animal rights groups destroyed the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey circus with frivolous lawsuits.

The Obama administration was the most scandalous in US history. Just think: Hillary’s e-mails, Benghazi, the IRS, Operation Fast and Furious,  hacking and data breaches, the continued deterioration of the VA, Solyndra, Bowe Bergdahl, executive orders, etc. Even though no one has even been charged with any crimes in these cases, they still are called scandalous?

The best way to reign in the Chinese is to challenge the “one China” policy. Antagonizing China is the best path to containment?

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, Jan. 11-17, 2017


rhetorical claim: According to Trump, Buzzfeed will “suffer the consequences” of publishing the Russian dossier allegedly showing Trump to be “compromised” by Russian intelligence.  CNN, the other major media outlet to release the story, was equally accused of being only about “fake news.”

rhetorical effect: “fake news” and “consequences” are  both forms of media intimidation. This is true innuendo territory: consequences could simply be public opprobrium or real legal or economic repercussions. (CNN has already suffered some “consequences” : Trump refused to let them ask a question at his news conference). When negative news stories are axiomatically regarded as either “fake” or consequential for the publisher, there is a chilling effect on a free press. This is true innuendo territory: consequences could simply be public opprobrium or real legal or economic repercussions. (CNN has already suffered some “consequences” : Trump refused to let them ask a question at his news conference). To anticipate a bullying response to any negative story will certainly make the media think twice before going with that story.


conflict of interest

rhetorical claim: in Trump’s case, a perception only, since by definition the President cannot have a conflict of interest. But, by setting up a trust, he is going beyond what is required in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. He himself says he “doesn’t like the look” of him directing his company while President, even though he could easily and ethically do both.

rhetorical effect: Uses the perception of a solution to stand in for an actual solution. Appears to solve the ethical issue but only papers it over, since Trump did not divest himself or set up a blind trust. Substitutes the look of a solution with a real solution. By not divesting his businesses, Trump invites corruption by signaling that corporations and foreign actors have many ways to curry favor with him and his administration through his family. Ethics is always a technicality to Trump, not a principle or norm.



rhetorical claim: “if Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks? That’s called an asset, not a liability.”

rhetorical effect: as Charles Lane argues in the Washington Post:

close partnership with Putin would legitimize his brand of illiberal rule by making it seem effective against a greater evil, terrorism; conversely, it would delegitimize liberal-democratic politics.

This is precisely the sort of devil’s bargain people have in mind when they warn against “letting the terrorists win.”



rhetorical claim: anyone person or agency critical of President Trump is automatically part of the “Democratic obstructionist campaign” against Trump, including the head of the US Government Ethics Office. This kneejerk opposition is part of post-election bile and bombast.

rhetorical effect: Could the intelligence community and press be next? It’s a long and slippery slope from responding to criticism to suppressing it to demonizing or even criminalizing it, but those first steps ate being taken.


hyphenated Americans

rhetorical claim: identity politics are now a relic of the past since Trump’s election–we’re all just Americans now. The only question the government should ask you is if you are a citizen.  So why not do away with hyphenated designations all together. This would help put an end to the left’s false narrative of victim versus oppressor, white male versus everyone else, white privilege versus black “empowerment,” capitalist versus worker, and now enlightened sexual liberators versus the bigoted, hateful traditional Americans.

It is an effective strategy for obtaining and holding power, but the whole country suffers for it.  President Obama and his fellow liberals have unleashed racial hell on our country, moving us away from our vision of “one nation under God with liberty and justice for all.”

rhetorical effect: enshrines white male supremacy as the new normal–part of the return to the 1950s. There will be no more questions about race on any government forms, so all it will be impossible to prove inequality or racial disparity. This would also cripple the social sciences, demographers, and epidemiologists.


progressive carbon panic

rhetorical claim: Democratic CO2 obsessions have reached new heights as they panic about the looming major change in US environmental policies.

rhetorical effect: renders any  concerns about environmental degradation or poluution sound hysterical, overblown, uninformed, and frivolous.



rhetorical claim: Trump has at times lead an indecorous life, but his indiscretions don’t matter so long as he delivers economic growth and defeats  ISIS.

rhetorical effect: euphemism like “indecorous” and “indiscreet” work to normalize Trump’s moral, ethical, and political repugnancy. They absolve him of any responsibility for the consequences of his words or actions, and lead inevitably to “ends justify the means” arguments.



rhetorical claim: John Lewis is a man of all talk and no action, who, like all liberals and black leaders, has completely turned his back on the “burning”, “crime-infested” and “completely falling part” US inner cities.

rhetorical effect: characterizing black culture as a dystopian hellhole and blacks themselves as too stupid to realize they are wallowing in their own filth lays the groundwork for the elimination of all social safety net programs, the crushing criminalization of political dissent in the inner city, and the continued incarceration of most young black men. Equates blacks with insects, in much the same way the Nazi’s called Jews “vermin.”



rhetorical claim: Not only was the Obama administration marked by scandal of the most serious sort — perverting the machinery of the state for political ends — it was on that front, which is the most important one, the most scandal-scarred administration in modern presidential history. Using the machinery of the state to seek political power and to aggrandize the political power one holds is the most destructive form of political corruption there is. A sane society would prosecute it the way we prosecute murder or armed robbery. It is a scandal and more than that: It is an assault on the foundations of a free society.

rhetorical effect: demonizes and delegitimizes the entire Obama administration, making it impossible to defend any of its policies or actions. Equating all political strategies and initiatives with the word “scandal” implies the entire administration was a criminal enterprise.