Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
January 14, 2018
Trump's Ambiguity Assault
Category: Current Events … Serious

So I admit that I've probably been less horrified by Trump's antics than most of the folks in my orbit. I mean, yeah, he consistently shows himself to be a ridiculous buffoon who's in no way up to the task of running the country -- but he's also often hilarious. I often talk about how I read Trump's Twitter feed because I want to see his comments unfiltered, from the source; I also read it because it frequently sends me into peals of laughter. Not a lot of things have that effect on me.

But his current freakout about whether he said "I" or "I'd" isn't even funny -- it's just sad and stupid, and I can't even bring myself to giggle about it.

For those of you who missed it, Trump tweeted an accusation that the Wall Street Journal deliberately misquoted him, writing that he said "I probably have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un" instead of that same statement with "I'd" instead of "I". The extra consonant sound does indeed change the meaning of the statement -- arguably significantly -- but this really shouldn't be a big deal. It's an easy thing to mishear and an easy thing to misspeak -- especially since, quite naturally, we often drop trailing consonant sounds. (It's also worth noting that this president isn't the most careful when it comes to enunciation; remember the confusion over whether he was saying "bigly" versus "big league"? Not that that's necessarily a criticism; in America we don't require every citizen to sound like a British royal.) All Trump had to do was clarify what he meant, without assigning blame to anyone, and that would have been that.

Instead, Trump asserted that the WSJ intentionally misquoted him in the hopes of getting a bigger story, finishing his tweet with "FAKE NEWS!" in all caps. Then Sarah Huckabee Sanders gets into the game, writing, "President Trump said, I'D probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea. I'D -- I'D -- I'D -- NOT I!" -- as if there's some huge difference when it comes to hearing it. The WSJ and the White House have both released dueling audio recordings of the comment as if they clearly resolve the issue, and they... don't. I've listened to it multiple times, and while I hear "I" as opposed to "I'd," it's understandable that there might be confusion.

There is a case to be made for Trump's "I'd" interpretation. He does follow the word with "probably" -- and, one might argue, if someone who has a good relationship with another person one would sound surer when making that point. "Probably" suggests uncertainty, and the future often involves uncertainty, so the word "probably" makes more sense in the statement if Trump is talking about a relationship that hasn't yet materialized. This is probably why the recording provided by the White House ends the clip after that statement.

The WSJ audio clip goes farther, though -- it includes the sentence that directly follows Trump's remark about his relationship with Kim. He says, "I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised." And the word "have" is definitely present tense, which suggests that he's talking about a relationship that currently exists. Moreover, in the full transcript, the WSJ responds to that comment by asking if Trump has talked to Kim -- essentially seeking to confirm whether he really was saying that he has a great relationship with the North Korean dictator. Trump's response: "I don't want to comment on it--I don't want to comment, I'm not saying I have or I haven't." Simply confirming that he hasn't, or that he presently has no relationship with Kim, would have sufficiently clarified the point. But we have President Drama-Queen Don't-Touch-That-Dial, so maintaining suspense is more important than offering straight answers. And admittedly this whole ambiguity affair frustrates and annoys me probably more than it should (and definitely more than other obviously more damning things have) because it could so easily have been resolved at multiple points -- during the interview, on Trump's Twitter feed, on Sanders's Twitter feed -- with a simple clarification. No accusations necessary.

Also? Unless those ties result in strengthened alliances that mutually benefit the American people and the people of those other nations, I really don't give a shit that Trump has good relationships with foreign leaders. Absent concrete advantages that result from those relationships (getting shoplifting basketball players off the hook doesn't count), that shit is irrelevant.

-posted by Wes | 8:06 pm | Comments (0)
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