Trump's Gettysburg Address

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Powerpointsapper, "The Gettysburg Address – the Donald Trump Version", Angry Staff Officer 3/8/2016:

It was a long time ago – I don’t think anyone can even remember, but I can remember, I have a great memory, I’ve got the best memory ever. These guys, they made the most special thing, really, really special. Where everyone was free and everything was great, just the way I’ve made America, I really, really mean that.  

This, of course, translates the first sentence of the original:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

[Updated –] In the comments, Thylophract links to another version by Alexandra Petri in today's Washington Post ("Donald Trump’s Gettysburg Infomercial"), which starts like this:

Hello America. Hello, Gettysburg!

I love Pennsylvania. I love it here! Look at this place. How can you not?

Forty, 50, maybe 60 years ago, some really brilliant, remarkable guys, they got together and said, hey, let’s build something. Something great, where people can be equal. And now look. Look what we have. It’s wonderful, isn’t it?

You should both versions in full — the authors do an excellent job of capturing Trump's  tapestry of interwoven digressive word-string repetition.

For some earlier discussion and examples, see "Donald Trump's repetitive rhetoric", 12/5/2015, and "Trump's rhetorical style", 12/26/2015. And for another example, here's Trump's answer from the 3/10/2016 debate to a question about Social Security:

Well, first of all, I want you to understand that the Democrats, and I've watched them very intensely, even though it's a very, very boring thing to watch, that the Democrats are doing nothing with Social Security. They're leaving it the way it is. In fact, they want to increase it. They want to actually give more. And that's what we're up against. And whether we like it or not, that is what we're up against. I will do everything within my power not to touch Social Security, to leave it the way it is; to make this country rich again; to bring back our jobs; to get rid of deficits; to get rid of waste, fraud and abuse, which is rampant in this country, rampant, totally rampant.

And it's my absolute intention to leave Social Security the way it is. Not increase the age and to leave it as is. You have 22 years, you have a long time to go. It's not long in terms of what we're talking about, but it's still a long time to go, and I want to leave Social Security as is, I want to make our country rich again so we can afford it. I want to bring back our jobs, I want to do things that will make us, that will bring back GDP… I mean, as an example, GDP was zero essentially for the last two quarters. If that ever happened in China. you would have had a depression like nobody's ever seen before. They go down to 7 percent, 8 percent, and it's a — it's a national tragedy. We're at zero, we're not doing anything. We've lost our jobs. We've lost everything. We're losing everything. Our jobs are gone, our businesses are being taken out of the country. I want to make America great again and I want to leave Social Security as is. We're going to get rid of waste, fraud, abuse and bring back business.

I don't think that this rhetorical pattern has a Greek name, but it's undeniably effective.



  1. Theophylact said,

    March 12, 2016 @ 1:01 pm

    Alexandra Petri, inspired by Trump's comment that he was “more presidential than anybody ever except the great Abe Lincoln”, did a "Gettysburg infomercial" that appeared in today's Washington Post. It begins,

    Hello America. Hello, Gettysburg!

    I love Pennsylvania. I love it here! Look at this place. How can you not?

    Forty, 50, maybe 60 years ago, some really brilliant, remarkable guys, they got together and said, hey, let’s build something. Something great, where people can be equal. And now look. Look what we have. It’s wonderful, isn’t it?

    We’re in the middle of —

    (spattering of applause)

    Now we are engaged in a huge civil war. I mean huge. So big. They said we never would get here. All those guys, all the media —

    (crowd boos the one photographer slowly setting up a wet plate for daguerreotypes in his covered wagon)

    They said: It’ll never work. Won’t get off the ground. They said, this war will put an end to all of this. Well. I’ll tell you what. We’re going to dedicate some of this field, right now. I’m signing autographs, and they came to me, millions of people, they said, “Donald, are you sure?” They said, “Donald, don’t do it.” I said — you know me. I said, “Listen, I have to do it. I think it’s important.”

    (Daguerrotypes were obsolete by 1860 and didn't use a wet process anyway, but I'm just a born pedant.)

  2. TR said,

    March 12, 2016 @ 2:15 pm

    Trump's "tapestry of interwoven digressive word-string repetition" is, of all things, reminiscent of James Joyce's descriptive prose in some passages of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I can't color text in comments, but imagine different colors in the following passage for "creatures were (moving) in the field", "hither and thither", "soft languages issued from their lips", "their long (swishing) tails", etc.:

    Creatures were in the field: one, three, six: creatures were moving in the field, hither and thither. Goatish creatures with human faces, hornybrowed, lightly bearded and grey as india-rubber. The malice of evil glittered in their hard eyes, as they moved hither and thither, trailing their long tails behind them. A rictus of cruel malignity lit up greyly their old bony faces. One was clasping about his ribs a torn flannel waistcoat, another complained monotonously as his beard stuck in the tufted weeds. Soft language issued from their spittleless lips as they swished in slow circles round and round the field, winding hither and thither through the weeds, dragging their long tails amid the rattling canisters. They moved in slow circles, circling closer and closer to enclose, to enclose, soft language issuing from their lips, their long swishing tails besmeared with stale shite, thrusting upwards their terrific faces.

  3. Q. Pheevr said,

    March 12, 2016 @ 3:11 pm

    I don't think that this rhetorical pattern has a Greek name…


  4. Viseguy said,

    March 12, 2016 @ 5:11 pm

    @"Q. Pheevr": Palilalia is descriptive in many respects, as is logorrhea, but these are involuntary disorders, not rhetorical devices. Many of the Greek-named rhetorical devices rely on repetition, of course, but maybe the most apt in this case is ploce, which the Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines as "the repetition of a word or phrase to gain special emphasis". It has its origins (according to RHUD) in the Greek ploke, or plaiting, and thus dovetails with Prof. Liberman's "tapestry of interwoven digressive word-string repetition". Maybe the candidate's expansive use of this technique should be dubbed Trumploce.

    But, in a larger sense, Trump achieves a lot more than special emphasis with this tactic. Clearly he's buying time to think of what to say next. He also multiplies the number of words used to say whatever it is he's saying, which increases his media-exposure time but also camouflages the lack of substance. Perhaps most important, the widely-spaced, rhythmic repetitions of words and phrases serve to lull his listeners into an agreeable stupor, giving the candidate easier access to their base instincts and raw emotions — the level on which he operates to his own greatest advantage.

  5. Karl Weber said,

    March 12, 2016 @ 9:22 pm

    For those who don't remember or never knew, this is a descendent of Oliver Jensen's famous 1957 version of the Gettysburg Address as Eisenhower would have delivered it:

  6. TjG said,

    March 14, 2016 @ 2:01 am

    A suggestion : Thomas Bernhard's Gathering Evidence
    I refer to his style, of course, not his ideas.
    T.Bernhard was also called – unfairly – a Nestbeschmutzer (one who dirties his own nest), nickname which could fit Trump, the nest being of course the United States

  7. TR said,

    March 14, 2016 @ 12:49 pm

    Wouldn't palilalia mean "talking like Sarah Palin"?

  8. Kaleberg said,

    March 19, 2016 @ 10:35 pm

    There's a bit of this in Mark Antony's oration which repeats a couplet three times:

    Yet/But Brutus says he was ambitious;
    Yet/And Brutus is an honourable man.

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