Thursday, June 02, 2016


The Trump University story has me more convinced than ever than Newt Gingrich will be Donald Trump's running mate. It's not just the Gingrichesque nature of the Trump U grift; it's the fact that, as Slate's Henry Grabar notes, there was an effort to weaponize language at Trump U that seemed highly Newtonian:
Some of the language in Trump U's sales playbooks seems to presage the tone of Trump’s presidential campaign. Most of it, though, served as a template for Trump University employees looking to get the upper hand in their dealings with prospective customers.

In this illustrative example, the Trump U playbook explains that saying "thank you" is a sign of weakness.

Grabar goes on to note this bit of advice to Trump U sales reps:
“The most persuasive words in the English language ... are: You, New, Money, Easy, Discovery, Free, Results, Health, Save, Proven, Guarantee, and Love. They share three characteristics: they are simple, familiar and dramatic.”
I'm reminded of the mid-1990s Gingrich memo titled "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control."
That missive, a component of the extreme right wing GOPAC’s propaganda machine, offers a litany of words and terms that should be used when describing Republican initiatives — “courage,” “legacy,” “inventive,” and “eliminate good-time in prison” — and contrasting words used when describing Democratic opposition, including “destructive,” “bizarre” and “bureaucracy.” That last word can also be modified as “unionized bureaucracy.”

“The words in that paper are tested language from a recent series of focus groups where we actually tested ideas and language,” Gingrich wrote in a cover letter that came with the memo. “This list is prepared so that you might have a directory of words to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media. The words and phrases are powerful. Read them.”
The full Gingich memo is here.

Trump U's word manipulation was focused on the desperate and the gullible. Gingrich's word manipulation was focused on the same kinds of people -- these phrases were meant to be used in direct mail -- but it was also directed at the political press, which took Gingrich's language very seriously. Gingrich's bamboozlement is still taken seriously in the Beltway.

Political insiders really are as easily fooled as the customers Trump tried to lure to his faux-university. I agree with what Slate's Isaac Chotiner says about another Trump effort to weaponize language, his use of disparaging nicknames: What Trump does is silly and infantile, and the press is crazy to be awestruck by it:
The media has decided Trump is a brilliant nicknamer; thus, his nicknames are brilliant....

The absurd degree to which we’ve bought into the idea that Trump is some kind of nicknaming savant becomes clear when you consider the category of Trump monikers that fail even to live up to the “little Marco” standard. Love her or hate her, is there really anything “goofy” about Elizabeth Warren? “Crazy Bernie Sanders” is neither witty nor apt; surely there is something more biting to be mined from the political life of the self-proclaimed democratic socialist than “crazy.” (“Bolshevik Bernie” might have eluded Trump’s command of world history.)...

It’s the media that has allowed Trump’s nicknames to become a story, rather than the ridiculous gimmick that they are.
And look, here's Michael Barbaro in the Times describing the scrawled letters Trump has written over the years as Trump's "secret weapon." I'll give Barbaro this: He's probably right when he says that flattering fellow egomaniacs is an effective strategy for Trump.
From early on, he seemed to intuitively grasp the potency of his praise when lavished on like-minded men.

In the 1990s, Mr. Trump occasionally fawned over New York’s brash mayor, Rudolph W. Giuliani. In one letter, Mr. Trump tore out a page from a magazine interview in which he had called Mr. Giuliani “the greatest mayor that the city’s ever had.” In case Mr. Giuliani missed the homage, Mr. Trump drew two bold arrows, each pointing at the glowing passage, and reiterated the message in a handwritten note: “Rudy, you are the greatest!” he wrote, adding, “see you soon.”
But sensible people aren't impresed by Trump's attempts to manipulate them emotionally:
After the basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote a critical essay in The Washington Post about Mr. Trump’s candidacy, Mr. Trump sent him a copy of the essay with a biting message sprawled across it. “Now I know why the press always treated you so badly -- they couldn’t stand you,” Mr. Trump wrote. “The fact is that you don’t have a clue about life and what has to be done to make America great again!”

Mr. Abdul-Jabbar said he was flabbergasted. “It was such a petty and childish reaction, like a teenage boy responding to being turned down for a date by whining, ‘Well, nobody likes you!’ ” he said. He likened Mr. Trump’s decision to write his reply on the original article to “a dog urinating on a tree to mark its territory.”

Mr. Abdul-Jabbar had to get rid of the letter. “I crumpled it up real nice and tight and skyhooked it into my wastepaper basket,” he recalled, invoking his trademark shot.
End of story for Kareem. The rest of us, at least for the next five months, have to live in a world where crude emotional manipulation efforts of this kind are considered "presidential."


Grung_e_Gene said...

There is literally nothing that Donald Trump can say or do or any revelation exposed by the press that will dissaude his rabid followers from voting for him. He won them over body, mind, and soul when he called mexicans rapists. They will ignore, forgive, and justify everything else because The Donald has told them what they want to hear; Unabashed Racism and Bigotry.

Unknown said...

As scummy as Trump University was, do we really think that Donald was sitting at a yuge classy desk somewhere handcrafting language examples for the sales playbook - as if he were L. Ron Hubbard with a comb-forward?

You might as well believe that he was personally selecting the cattle to be bred for Trump Steaks.

Victor said...

To someone like tRUMP - a thin-skinned ignorant/stupid jerk - Newt sounds like he knows what the hell he's talking about.
So, yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if tRUMP picked Newt to run with him.

Also too, we just got over the disastrous presidency of a man whom the press loved for his ability with nicknames.

History is not repeating itself, because I actually think W is smarter and wiser than tRUMP. And W lacked virtually any intelligence or wisdom.

tRUMP is a dangerous man, and will be a horrific POTUS.
But, his followers can't see that, because they are 'blinded by the right!'

Steve M. said...

do we really think that Donald was sitting at a yuge classy desk somewhere handcrafting language examples for the sales playbook - as if he were L. Ron Hubbard with a comb-forward?

Well, we know he personally vetted the ads, according to The Washington Post:

Donald Trump was personally involved in devising the marketing strategy for Trump University, even vetting potential ads, according to newly disclosed sworn testimony from the company’s top executive taken as part of an ongoing lawsuit.

In the testimony, part of a trove of records made public as a result of a federal judge’s Friday order, the executive said that the real estate mogul was involved in discussions and signed off “any time we had a new ad.”

“Mr. Trump understandably is protective of his brand and very protective of his image and how he’s portrayed,” Michael Sexton, Trump University’s president, said in the 2012 deposition. “And he wanted to see how his brand and image were portrayed in Trump University marketing materials. And he had very good and substantive input as well.”

Beyond that? I don't know.

Ten Bears said...

L Ron Hubbard with a combover. ROTFLMAO I don't think there's a better analogy.

Unknown said...

In case you are interested here is where Trump U got its Pitchbook from:

Heidi aka Mom said...

"In this illustrative example, the Trump U playbook explains that saying "thank you" is a sign of weakness."
So that explains the hissy fit he had when reporters asked him about where the money he raised for veterans had gone. He kept saying you should be thanking me. I thought that was an odd response but now I see it's part of his way of manipulating people.
Also I thought we had gotten over the nickname fetish for people when Dubya was in office.