What the Media Still Doesn’t Get about Plain-Talking Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s success, as a candidate and now as President, continues to confuse and befuddle the left. He was unfit as a candidate, a knuckle-dragging troglodyte, mentally ill, uncouth, clownish and inarticulate. Such a perception continues to this day, at least according to the media, their Democratic Party compatriots and high-browed #NeverTrump Republicans.

Two notables in the latter category include William Kristol and George Will. Despite their self-described conservative status, they still have no use for Donald Trump. In particular, they object to Trump's methods and styles of communication, whether his Twitter account, press conferences, interviews or speeches.

Bill Kristol, appearing on MSNBC, chastised Trump, “He chooses not to take seriously the fact that he’s now President of the United States.” He went on, “He thinks he can just do what he did as a private citizen, as a guest on talk radio, even as a candidate.” Meaning Trump shouldn’t speak his mind using plain language, rather than the silver-tongued dribble typically served up by politicians.

George Will, now a commentator at MSNBC, the same network Bill Kristol complained to, wrote in the Washington Post about Trump’s communication skills or lack of. “It is urgent for Americans to think and speak clearly about President Trump’s inability to do either,” he cleverly told his readers. He described this as a “disability,” and in scholarly prose went further observing Trump’s uncouthness as, “not merely the result of intellectual sloth but of an untrained mind bereft of information and married to stratospheric self-confidence.”

As a fellow writer, I admire George Will’s golden pen, his command of the language and excellent writing skills. No surprise. His education from Oxford and Princeton taught him well. As did Bill Kristol’s Harvard pedigree. Similarly educated readers will appreciate Will and Kristol’s intellect and colorful prose. Especially around the Beltway and in Manhattan, where the Washington Post and New York Times are local gospel.

What about in flyover country, those counties on the electoral map shining bright red, far from big cities and coastal liberal enclaves? How do George Will’s Ivy League communication skills play at the bowling alley in Michigan, or the public golf course in Mississippi, or the corner bar in Texas? I suppose few in flyover country know or care who George Will and Bill Kristol are, much less read their op-eds in the Washington Post or Weekly Standard.

Instead their preferred method of communication includes short sentences, clear ideas, saying what you mean and meaning what you say. “Build the wall.” “Make America great again.” “Bomb the hell out of ISIS.” Straightforward communication.

Compare and contrast with Trump’s primary candidates such as Jeb Bush who spent a week trying to explain his brother’s invasion of Iraq, each day with a different answer, each more confusing than the last.

Perhaps Bill and George would prefer another Ivy League-educated president such as Barack Obama. Silver-tongued while reading the teleprompter, but a stuttering mess when speaking off the cuff.  So articulate that he pronounced corpsman as corpse-man. Or his campaigning in 57 states.

Obama could sound scholarly when he wanted to, music to the ears of Bill and George. But to many his answers were long-winded and boring. Quickly tuned out by listeners. Is that effective communication? If so, then for whose benefit?

Ted Cruz, Trump’s closest competitor in the primaries, was extremely articulate. A debate champion, he spoke like a pro. How did it serve him? The smart set that despised Trump’s pedestrian talk, didn’t like Cruz’s articulateness either. Fellow #NeverTrump travelers from the National Review criticized Cruz as “a slick lawyer,” parsing his words. Huh? I thought sounding smart was a virtue in a president?

The disconnect between George Will’s world and that of the voters is vast. In his world of fellow journalists and deep thinkers within the Beltway, Trump is a carnival barker, barely able to utter a coherent thought. But not to his 65 million voters who heard him plainly and clearly, understanding exactly what he was saying. No “intellectual sloth” from an “untrained mind” as George Will thought. Instead a bond forged between candidate and voters based on a clearly communicated message. Seems that only the elites, those who only speak Ivy League, had trouble understanding Trump.

Salena Zito said it best. “The press takes him (Trump) literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.”

Trump speaks like the guy next door, or the lady at the diner. Saying what they mean and meaning what they say. Without high-browed rhetoric and verbal flourish, leaving the listener scratching her head, wondering what was actually said. Not the talk of Georgetown dinner parties or Upper West Side cocktail parties, but the talk of real people, living in the real world.

Rather than language, perhaps George Will is more upset over the fact that Donald Trump is a political outsider, not part of the establishment club. Someone not needing the approval or support of the donor class, the establishment types that Bill and George pal around with. Trump is more like the Al Czervik, the nouveau riche Rodney Dangerfield character in Caddy Shack, a plain-spoken outsider far removed from the pomp and circumstance of the pretentious local country club.

George Will and Bill Kristol may not want to listen to Trump. But tens of millions of Americans would much rather listen to Trump rather than those guys pontificating on MSNBC or the Sunday morning gab fests. Understanding that reality may be the first step for the media in understanding Trump’s election and continued popularity. Impugning those who hear President Trump quite clearly further reinforces the irrelevancy of much of what passes for journalism these days.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver-based physician and writer. Follow him on Facebook,  LinkedIn and Twitter.


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