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, Dec. 7-10, 2017

Jacksonian foreign policy

rhetorical claim: Trump’s voters take a very Jacksonian approach to foreign policy: military might without the humanitarian interventions and foreign entanglements of the Bush-Obama years. This hawkish realism has America defending forward, not leading from behind.

rhetorical effect: justifies the use of overwhelming military force and the end of nuance, alliances, and nation-building. Ends any ambitious moral attempts to spread democracy, free speech, and equality. Reduces foreign policy to a Darwinian zero-sum power struggle.

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the war on Trump

rhetorical claim: the liberal media and deep state are waging a war on the Trump presidency, trying to undermine its legitimacy. The Mueller probe is the spearhead of these attempts to eventually impeach the President. The biggest scandal in the long run will not be Russian meddling with our democracy but, rather the FBI’S.

rhetorical effect: a distraction because it shifts the focus away from Trump and the Russians, and undermines any Mueller indictments. inoculates Trump from any legal or political jeopardy.

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taking sides

rhetorical claim: anyone attacking Roy Moore is taking sides and using fact news.

rhetorical effect: “taking sides” used to be called being objective and making an argument using evidence and persuasion. But now truth has become a mere “side”–a version, a self-serving, inherently flawed narrative. There’s no middle when you’re on one side or the other.

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humiliating Israel

rhetorical claim: It is humiliating to deny Israel the right to having Jerusalem as its capital–the only capital Jews have ever known.

rhetorical effect: Israel thus becomes the victim even though they are insisting on forcing the Palestinians to capitulate on questions of Jerusalem. Inflaming the entire Arab world in the name of so-called Israeli “humiliation” is itself an act of humiliation of the Arab world.

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obstruction of Congress

rhetorical claim: Robbie Mueller’s entire investigation is a partisan witch hunt, staffed by virulent anti-Trump prosecutors and investigators–what Sean Hannity calls “Mueller’s stooges who are trying to remove Trump from office.” A Fox anchor rails that The probe is illegitimate and corrupt and the FBI has become, according to Fox,  like “the old KGB, that comes for you in the dark of the night.” They have repeatedly demonstrated utter contempt of Congress by withholding documents, and should themselves be investigated. No Democrats are capable of conducting an impartial investigation of Donald Trump.

rhetorical effect: another brick in the stone wall that the GOP is building to shield Trump from any consequences of the Mueller probe. Firts they said there were no Russian contacts at all with any members of Trump’s campaign team. Then they said they may have forgotten some such contacts, but that was an innocent oversight. Then they conceded that such contacts took place, but nothing consequential was discussed. Then they argued that even if such contacts took place and campaign strategy was discussed, that that’s no proof of collusion or obstruction. Then they claimed that, in any event, Presidents are immune from collusion or obstruction charges. Now they are claiming that Mueller is the real criminal here, and is obstructing Congress. Soon we’ll be hearing “lock him up.” If he is fired or investigated, it will mean the end of the rule of law in Trump’s America.

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tackling the debt

rhetorical claim: “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said during an appearance on Ross Kaminsky’s talk radio show. “… Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements — because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”

rhetorical effect: poses as a solution to the deficit problem the tax bill caused in the first place; completely violates Trump’s campaign pledge to never cut entitlements; justifies the huge GOP tax cut for the wealthy, which apparently is also considered some form of “tackling the debt”; further polarizes the country, cruelly punishes the sick, poor, and elderly.

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concealed carry

rhetorical claim: Liz Cheney says that the right to carry a concealed weapon is “god-given.” It is simply a common-sense measure to protect our constitutional rights.

rhetorical effect: as Gail Collins puts it, makes you wonder “What Would Jesus Pack?”

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let the people of Alabama decide

rhetorical claim:  it’s up to the people of Alabama decide Roy Moore’s fate. Beltway pundits and hypocritical liberals shouldn’t impose their values on Alabamans.

rhetorical effect: relatives morality to the point where there is no coherent moral consensus; plays the states’ rights card when it suits, but takes it away on such measures as universal carry/conceal, sanctuary cities, and environmental regulation

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cultural protectionism

rhetorical claim: Trump supporters aren’t racist or anti-Muslim, they are simply engaging in cultural protectionism. Immigrants exact huge social costs on traditional societies (crime, deteriorating schools, strained social and health services, etc.), and the globalized liberal elites are shielded from these externalities.

rhetorical effect: a new euphemism for bigotry, xenophobia and ethnic cleansing.

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regulatory raj

rhetorical claim: the Obama administration tried to install a permanent regulatory raj, which, like the British in India, intended to control every aspect of national life.

rhetorical effect: likens any government regulation to a foreign dictatorship; turns civil servants into foreign invaders; makes people cynical about any government regulation, which in turns releases corporations and small business from oversight.

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the death of self-restraint

rhetorical claim: As Daniel Henninger argues in the WSJ:


The Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment fire rages on. Incidents of sexual abuse on this scale don’t randomly erupt. They grow from the complex climate of a nation’s culture. These guys aren’t blips or outliers. These men are a product of their times.

Their acts reveal a collapse of self-restraint. That in turn suggests a broader evaporation of conscience, the sense that doing something is wrong. We are seeing now how wrongs can hurt others when conscience is demoted as a civilizing instrument of personal behavior.

Intellectuals have played a big role in shaping arguments for loosening the traditions of self-restraint in the realm, as they would say, of eros. In Oscar Wilde’s quip, “There is no sin except stupidity.”…Our long national freedom from organized conscience formation  simply isn’t working.”

Since liberals have lost all shame and moral bearings, everything is permitted, and the Weinsteins of the world will continue to be exposed.

rhetorical effect: re-opens the 60’s culture wars, trying to return us to the stifling patriarchy of the 1950s.