Figuring out what Trump might be trying to say tends to be easier when you watch him. Almost no one speaks in carefully organized paragraphs, but facial expressions, pacing, tone, and gesticulations can help you decode what someone means. Trump is an extreme case: Watch him speak, and you can at least tell roughly what he’s talking about; it’s only when you try to figure out precisely what he means and look at a transcript that you are likely to see how hollow the core is.

There’s one more thing that helps cover up Trump’s incoherence, which is his energetic speaking style. The president is not a good speaker, per se—there’s a reason Stephen Miller drew ridicule when he pronounced Trump the best orator to hold [his] office in generations”—but he is a transfixing one. His low energy” insult stuck to Jeb Bush in the 2016 GOP primary not only because of Bush’s laid-back demeanor but because of Trump’s own animation. The most accurate way to predict reaction to a debate is to watch it with the sound turned off,” my colleague James Fallows wrote in 2016. Trump not only grasps that truth, but he probably does better if voters aren’t listening too closely—or at all. Because he looks and sounds vigorous, his meandering sentences recede from focus.

David Graham, How Trump Masks His Incoherence

June 21, 2024

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