The language the press uses to discuss the Trump presidency is misleading. So says NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen, who argues that when reporters attribute positions to the “White House” in their stories they are not being accurate since there is no unitary White House.
There are just Trump’s spokespeople, who frequently make things up because the president has not told them what he really means when he says something, and there is Trump himself, who occasionally changes his views within the same sentence.
Rosen also claims the phrase “foreign policy” is disingenuous, as that expression connotes a position that reflects strongly held convictions. But Trump is not fan of reflection and his convictions seem to be about whatever benefits himself and his family.
The term “tax plan” with respect to Trump’s one-sheet proposal for the reform of the tax code, is likewise deceitful. Andrew Sorkin described the “plan” as something that could fit on a cocktail napkin and Trump was not in touch with the details or even the outline of his scheme.
Finally, there is the notion of Trump having a “learning curve” when it comes to policy matters that he is not fully acquainted with. The problem with that locution is that learning implies becoming educated and more knowledgeable about the point in question.
However in Trump’s case learning simply means discovery, for example, “I never realized health care was so complicated.”
The old way of talking about politics does more harm than good in speaking about this president, as it normalizes avowals from the POTUS that ought to be seen as duplicitous or crazy. We need new terms to describe the pronouncements coming from the current occupant of the White House.
I don’t know what those terms will be, but they should be formulated to pique public awareness that accuracy and truth are important in both life and the affairs of state.
Martin H. Levinson