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 7-13, 2018



rhetorical claim: infrastructure and military spending are being squeezed by runaway discretionary spending.

rhetorical effect: these closely-related terms load the deck in favor of more miitary spending and blame the poor for the declining US infrastructure. Trump never says that military spending is “squeezing” health care provision, nursing home and nutritional subsidies, Medicare and Medicaid and all social safety net programs. Even though the US military is by far the most expensive in the world, it will never be accused of “runaway” spending.


the dossier saga

rhetorical claim: the whole Steele dossier saga shows that Justice Dept. and FBI to be on rgue missions to undermoine Donald Trump. This ongoing saga is the lowest point in government integrity since Watergate.

rhetorical effect: makes the GOP’s unsubstantiated claims a fait accomplie; calling it a saga gives it the appearance of being a “deep state” conspiracy of epic proportions.


restoring the credibility of the FBI

rhetorical claim: we need either an independent investigation into the FBI’s and Justice Department’s hijacking of the 2016 Presidential election in order to restore their credibility.

rhetorical effect: Assumes the very thing it wishes to prove and accepts as a given the the Justice Dept. and FBI need to have their credibility “restored.” What most needs restoring is the reputation and integrity of the GOP.



un- American

rhetorical claim: Dems who failed to applaud the President at the State of the Union address were treasonous and un-American.

rhetorical effect: let’s get this straight: refusing to applaud the Trumpster is treasonous, but meeting with Russians to get campaign dirt on Hillary is “just politics.” Trump obviously doesn’t know what constitutes treason, but neither do his core supporters, all of whom would like to “lock her up” or just plain execute her. Also, is it even possible to be un-American if you are an American citizen? Technically, in that case, whatever you do is American. Also, who gets to decide the definition of being an American? As explained by Frank Bruni:

That meandering air masks a considered ploy: As a distraction and deflection, he routinely accuses his adversaries of the very wrongdoing that can more credibly be attributed to him. “Treason” is a word too grand to be thrown around casually, but it applies better to a president who minimizes and denigrates clear evidence that a foreign power meddled in an American election — and makes no real effort to prevent that from happening again — than it does to a bunch of lawmakers who decline to salute him. Their actions are largely theatrical. His are substantively dangerous.

Never has a president been so gifted at projection, the psychological tic by which a person divines in others what’s so deeply embedded in himself. Democrats, he said, were “selfish,” putting their own feelings above the country’s welfare. The man who signed tax legislation that benefits his business empire and spends roughly one of every three days at a Trump-branded property wouldn’t know anything about that.

He doesn’t engage the substance of any opposition to him or investigation of him. He just invalidates the agents of it. That diverts the discussion from facts to name-calling, which is a game that nobody ever wins.

If journalists are documenting his falsehoods, they themselves must be fabulists. If judges rule against him, they must be biased. If federal law enforcement officials have suspicions about him or people who worked for him, they must be corrupt hacks. If Democrats don’t congratulate him for making America great again, they must be traitors.

Soon there is no one to trust but Trump, or no one to trust at all. That’s the point. He’s inoculating himself, and no price — not the reputations of individuals who have behaved honorably, not the viability of institutions that are crucial to the health of our democracy — is too steep to pay.


a government of laws

rhetorical claim: Robbie Mueller is not following the rule of law because his investigation is based on false pretenses, deception of the FISA court, and the illegal pursuit of a criminal case instead of a national security case, which is the only kind of case he is authorized to pursue.

rhetorical effect: the only “government of laws” that the GOP believes in are the laws that are interpreted the way they like them to be–more broadly than warranted in Hillary’s case, more narrowly than warranted in Trump’s case.


using our troops as hostages

rhetorical claim: Defense hawks have pushed to bust the military spending caps put in place by sequestration, but more dovish Democrats say they will only go along if there is a corresponding increase in domestic spending. In other words, they want more butter in exchange for more guns. Many tea partiers in the House have been adamant that they won’t accept significant growth in discretionary spending to strengthen the safety net at home, even in exchange for more military money.

“I will remind you that the only reason we do not have a full budget agreement is because Democrats continue to hold funding for our government hostage on an unrelated issue,” Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters at a news conference yesterday. “They must stop using our troops as pawns in a game of politics!”

rhetorical effect: Hiding behind the troops, or calling them “hostages”  are not only outright lies, but appropriate the military as a GOP political prop. Makes any increases in domestic spending contingent on parallel increases in military spending, even though the two don’t necessarily have anything to with one another. As explained by Chuck Schumer: “Democrats have made our position in these negotiations very clear,” “We support an increase in funding for our military and our middle class. The two are not mutually exclusive. We don’t want to do just one and leave the other behind.” Ryan also makes it sound as if only the Dems engage in a “game of politics.”


inclusionary zoning

rhetorical claim: mandates for low-cost housing, often called inlcusionary zoning, actually make housing less afforable for everyone else.

rhetorical effect: another rhetorical inversion, call it reverse axiomatics: social safety net spending hurts the poor; less government regulation leads to more transparency  because the market clears itself and values information; tax cuts for the rich are good for the poor, gun control laws will only lead to more gun violence, etc.



rhetorical claim: the Steele dossier was compiled under the watchful eyes of Christopher Steele’s paymasters–the Clinton mafia. No Clintonistas, no dossier. No dossier, no FISA warrant. Clinton should be the one investigated for collusion with the Russians and for using the criminal justice for a political smear campaign.

rhetorical effect: “Paymasters” haven’t surfaced since the McCarthy era, when all Russian contacts were so identified. Paymasters are illicit and conspiratorial, as opposed to being just plain clients paying for opposition research. Making every piece of Dem opposition research nefarious castes their entire campaign as fraudulent at best, and a criminal conspiracy to tamper with elections at worst.



rhetorical claim: progressive ideologues hae hijacked the Democratic party in he name of moral purity, identity politics, hatred of all TRump voters, and a constant alarmism about Trump as dictator, or something.

rhetorical effect: calling them “ideologuesmakes Dems sound inflexible and  narrow-minded.  The only Republicans called “ideologues” are those who oppose any of Trump’s policies. Standing on principle is now seen as merely being “ideiological”–as if principles are just a form of political expediency.


Anglo-American heritage of the law

rhetorical claim: Jeff Sessions: “I want to thank every sheriff in America. Since our founding, the independently elected sheriff has been the people’s protector, who keeps law enforcement close to and accountable to people through the elected process,” Sessions told members of the National Sheriffs’ Association during their winter conference in Washington.

He added: “The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement.”

rhetorical effect:  more dog-whistle racist politics, conflating common law with white supremacy. Especially pertinent to the Trump administration’s obsession with deporting and limiting immigrants.


the Man of the People

rhetorical claim: as promised, Donald Trump has delivered foe the working American: lower taxes, an economic boom, low unemployment, cheaper and better health care, increased Medicare and Medicaid,and the end of crony capitalism favoring the wealthy.

rhetorical effect: covers over some inconvenient facts: record deficits, huge cuts to all social safety net programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, huge, permanent  tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations, and cosmetic, temporary ones for middle and lower class taxpayers, etc. As best expressed by Eugene Robinson:

The idea of Donald Trump as some sort of Man of the People was laughable from the start — a boastful plutocrat who lives in a gold-plated aerie above Fifth Avenue, claiming lunch-bucket solidarity with factory workers and coal miners. He sold it, though, largely by cementing a racial and cultural kinship and shamelessly misrepresenting his intentions.

Trump tells little lies all the time. But this is the Big Lie that must be constantly exposed between now and the November election: Trump is worsening society’s bias in favor of the wealthy — and laughing at the chumps who put him in office.