I can spot a desperate communicator a mile away. I’m willing to bet you can, too. The signs are obvious — multiple exclamation points or question marks, or repeating the same word or phrase in a contrived manner, and especially when a message is typed in ALL CAPS.
Though I didn’t watch last night’s “prime time address” live (I was busy with a taco salad at the Elks Lodge), I did surf into The White House Briefing Room this morning to read the transcript. I scrolled down ’til I saw “REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BIDEN ON THE CONTINUED BATTLE FOR THE SOUL OF THE NATION.”
That’s exactly the way it was presented, the only item in ALL CAPS, an amateurish attempt to convey self-importance. It didn’t get any better as I waded into the transcript.
The speechwriter had the current occupant of the Oval Office invoking “MAGA” 13 times, nine of those in the form of “MAGA Republicans.” He said “Republicans” 16 times in all, “Trump” thrice, “extreme” (in some form) six times and “threat” nine times.
Drawing on the alleged theme of the address. he said “soul” nine times. The word “democracy” (code for “progressive agenda”) appeared a whopping 32 times.
And just in case anyone thought that Democrats were capable of letting go, he said “insurrection” three times and “January 6th” twice.
Here are a couple of quotes that capture the thrust of the speech:
“Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.”
“There is no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans, and that is a threat to this country.”
As a former speechwriter myself, I can tell you that the address was, as rhetoric goes, positively awful. I’ve come to expect that from this regime, but this set a new low.
What’s more, and as I predicted, it wasn’t a speech worthy of a “president.” It was mean-spirited, disturbingly partisan in tone and exclusively political in its content. He disparaged literally half of Americans — you and me — for having the temerity to disagree with him and oppose schemes that are destroying the country.
And he lied. At every heavily medicated turn-of-phrase, he lied.
In my former life as a communications counselor, I was always conscious of image — that is, a visual presentation that served or complemented the message. Factors like location, setting, surroundings and even wardrobe played into that. And truly, it’s no small thing.
Toward the end of my career, someone invented a different term for the same thing and now everyone calls it “optics.”
I want you to take a look at the optics of last night’s speech (pictured). The podium was set up in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, its historic façade awash in red light. A pair of United States Marines in blue dress uniforms stood behind the speaker.
The sight gave me the creeps. I’m not the only one who had that reaction, either — some observed that it looked like the whole thing had been staged by Leni Riefenstahl, director of Hitler’s infamous propaganda films. The harsh red lighting created an air of foreboding, not inspiration.
And then there was the location, Independence Hall, chosen (presumably) for its cachet. The Liberty Bell once pealed from its tower. The Second Continental Congress met there. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States emerged from within those walls. To me, as a Patriot, Independence Hall is hallowed ground.
Last night, the man inaugurated to this nation’s highest office desecrated the birthplace of Liberty — not by his presence, but with his putrid, anti-American message. He dared to denigrate Patriots, true Americans, lovers of Liberty, proud defenders of “the last, best hope of Earth,” people committed to making this once-great country great again.
And he did it in front of Independence Hall, defaced to resemble a latter-day Sportpalast.
The other day, when I previewed (accurately) last night’s speech, I said that I welcomed it. I stand by that — sinister as it was, it threw bright light on the enemies of Liberty. It traced the line between Americans who love their country and those bent on dismantling it.
It also should be a tipping point. In my opinion, this speech with those optics at this moment was that significant. The current occupant of the Oval Office stood there like some addled führer, waving clenched fists and condemning anyone who opposes him, and that should wake the last of the sleeping.
I don’t know that it’ll have a profound effect right away. But I predict that in the future it’ll be remembered as sparking resistance, perhaps even revolution.
For now, we can agree on one thing — what we witnessed last night in Philadelphia was not America.
One year ago today we drove north out of Missoula and over the Rattlesnake Range. The Mission Mountains to the east kept us company as we rolled through Ninepipes and St. Ignatius up to the foot of Flathead Lake — paradise at last.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.