As we approach the one-and-a-half-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s presidency, undoubtedly commentators will take it upon themselves to assess his performance for the eighteen months ending on July 20th. And, in all likelihood, many of those assessments will not be flattering.
Yet from where I sit, The Donald has not been an unmitigated disaster. Notwithstanding the numerous racist, sexist and puerile tweets from the Tweeter-in-Chief and the countless dysfunctions emanating from the White House, President Trump should be given credit for his accomplishments.
First up is his revolutionary communication strategy. Love it or hate it, Trump’s use of Twitter as a means of announcing his administration’s positions, plans and policies has been a huge success.
Trump has violated just about every traditional political rule of conduct and jettisoned conventional communications strategies. He has fashioned himself into America’s first social media president with an electronic bully pulpit having forty million followers.
Instead of carefully crafted press releases and intricately massaged messages from the White House press secretary, we now have direct, unfiltered, unedited pronouncements from the President himself. No more inoffensive, non-contentious bureaucratese; now it’s Trump’s stream-of-consciousness 24/7.
But governance-by-Twitter is not Trump’s only accomplishment. Believe it or not, the President has broken new literary ground both verbally and in written form.
In this past year alone, the President has expanded the English language beyond even what George W. Bush managed to do in his two terms in office. Thanks to Mr. Trump, we now have such words as “bigly”, “yuge”, “schlonged”, “covfefe” and “euphenism.” Not since Mrs. Malaprop in Richard Sheridan’s play The Rivals has anyone twisted the English language so frequently and delightfully.
My favorite accomplishment in this vein is what Los Angeles Times columnist Virginia Heffernan called Trump’s tweet that Steve Bannon “not only lost his job, he lost his mind.” She labeled it “zeugma” which, it turns out, means a modifier used for two words in a different way.
Who would have thought that Donald Trump would become a presidential linguistic giant? Not only has he “authored” several books, it turns out that he has also broken new presidential ground in the use of literary devices.
Zeugma is only the latest in the President’s forays into the creative use of language. Think “foreshadowing” as evidenced by Mr. Trump’s favorite response to media questions: “We’ll see. We’ll see.”
Or what about his carefully crafted euphemisms such as his “bigger button”, “tiny hands”, “drain the swamp” and “locker room talk”? Or his creative insults like “Sad!”, “Pathetic!”, “the failing New York Times” and “fake news”?
Then there are his endless epithets such as “Little Marco”, “Crooked Hillary”, “Low Energy Jeb”, “Lyin’ Ted”, “Little Rocket Man” and “Sloppy Steve.” And the “millions” of uses of hyperbole like “the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period”, “we’re going to win so much you may even get tired of winning”, “my I. Q. is one of the highest” and “we’re going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it.”
Donald Trump’s final and perhaps greatest accomplishment has been the validation of the American myth of the self-made man. As Adlai Stevenson, Jr. once said: “In America, anybody can become President. That’s one of the risks you take.” For that poor youngster waiting to inherit a million or two from his father or that failing businessman filing for bankruptcy for the third time, thanks to Donald Trump, there is now hope. You may not be able to hang on to your house but not to worry; you’ll still have a shot at the White House.