Tuesday Talk*: Trump and Treason

President Donald J. Trump posed the question while speaking to Ohio factory workers.

President Trump on Monday accused Democrats who did not clap during his State of the Union address of being un-American and even treasonous. His remarks came in a rambling, discursive speech at a factory in Ohio, during which he celebrated his revival of the American economy as the stock market plummeted by more than 1,000 points.

This may not be the most objectively factual description of what was said, as he was referring to the refusal of Democrats to applaud his entry into the congressional chamber rather than clapping “during” his State of the Union speech. No doubt it hurt his feelings to be the only president to have people turn their back on him as he walked down the aisle.

The temporal connection to a huge drop in the stock market is factually correct, though there is a suggestion that the two things are somehow causally related. Whether this was intentional, to undermine any claim that the market’s rise over the past year should inure to Darth Cheeto’s benefit, or merely fortuitous, is unclear. It happened, but correlation doesn’t prove causation. Not even at the New York Times when it really, really wants it to.

Then came the words that made a million talking heads explode:

“Can we call that treason?” Mr. Trump said of the stone-faced reaction of Democrats to his speech. “Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”

Is this an outrage, that the president of the United States suggests that his political adversaries engaged in treason? Treason is a very serious thing, a heinous allegation. But Trump isn’t a serious speaker, unfamiliar as he is with any of those complex legal words. If there’s any doubt, his sentence after his use of the T-word makes it clear: “they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”

First, this isn’t the definition of treason, and the foremost thing established by Trump using the word is that he either doesn’t know what the word means, or (giving him credit he hasn’t quite earned) assumes people who support him don’t know what the word means. It’s like using the word “rape” at a Gender Studies conference.

Then there’s the question of whether the Democrats’ lack of graciousness reflects anything about love of country or love of Trump. There is an argument to be made that the office of president, if not its holder, deserves respect. But then, if Trump’s foremost virtue is shredding norms of behavior, then it’s hypocritical to expect the Dems to adhere to the very norms of propriety and tradition Trump is destroying.

But the argument raised after-the-fact is that the utterance of the word Treason by a president carries serious significance, great gravitas, and is therefore a singular wrong. Is anything that comes out of Trump’s mouth (or his thumbs) to be taken seriously? Even at face value?

Or is the president like the guy whose reputation is so bad that he can’t be defamed? His inability to express an articulate thought, to use a word with a clear appreciation of its meaning, to actually do anything about his random, throw-away utterances, makes this more fodder for the screaming mob but otherwise just another instance of Trump being Trump.

Is there nothing to see here or are we to start taking every misused word by Trump seriously, such that the legal ramifications of his words matters?

*Yes, I know it’s Wednesday, but don’t be a slave to the calendar. Tuesday Talk rules apply.

52 comments on “Tuesday Talk*: Trump and Treason

  1. Skink

    As we have all learnt in this little room called SJ, words have meaning. “Sexual harassment,” “rape” and yes, even “treason” have definite meanings. Nope, he doesn’t get a pass. It’s a stupid thing to say.

    But he is so shitty at words, seemingly as a character trait, that no one but the exploding heads listen. That ain’t so true of those flipping around the other words.

    1. SHG Post author

      I appreciate that the 24 hour news cycle demands they make a huge stink over every bit of idiocy, but why anybody else gives a damn is beyond me. Trump said something stupid? Oh my.

      1. Ken Mackenzie

        It’s fear – the fear he has totalitarian instincts. The fawning cabinet, the talk of military parades, anything that can be is heralded as the first glimmers of the fascist dawn.

        1. SHG Post author

          To what end? Screaming constantly about everything doesn’t make it more effective, just more noise. People grow inured to the constant craziness. Remember, one death is a tragedy. One million is a statistic.

  2. REvers

    Art. 3, Sec. 3:

    Treason against the United States, shall consist only in having a really, really, awesomely bad comb over, or in having an orange face and white eye sockets.

  3. Hastur

    Having finally heard it in context a few days ago, it seems like he was trying to make a joke. An ill conceived joke that would have been better left unsaid, but Trump has never been a man to leave things unsaid.

    1. SHG Post author

      A joke or a low-rent attempt at snarky sarcasm? Regardless, is anything he says to be taken seriously by serious people?

      1. Hunting Guy

        They better take him seriously. Like it or not, the American voters gave him the nuclear launch codes.

        1. SHG Post author

          That’s actually a pretty interesting point. The breadth of a president’s authority ranges from the inane to the apocalyptic. So do we elect someone we can trust not to push the button or someone who will unilaterally change the words on restroom doors?

          1. Skink

            There really isn’t much breadth, except in the Constitution. It’s effectively a mostly powerless job. Blame it on Eisenhower.

          2. kushiro

            Whynotboth dot jpg

            I’m pretty sure that on the exact moment the missiles launch, we’ll all be in front of a pair of bathroom doors, doing the pee pee dance while we try to figure out which one we’re supposed to use.

          3. Kathryn Kase

            While we’re on this topic, I’m looking for a bathroom door sign that says “Transpecies” because, after all, the cat drinks out of the toilet.

  4. PseudonymousKid

    Even Trump can step over the line, but he’s a master at carrying the line with him as he goes. So, no there’s nothing to see here. It’d be fun if the journalists could just report it as a one-liner: “Trump doesn’t understand English language, accuses Democrats of treason for not standing and clapping during speech.” There’s nothing more to be said about it at this point. It’s a drop in a large bucket.

    1. SHG Post author

      Consider, PK, that one of the things that Trump brought to the job was his inability to grasp the line, and that some thought the line had produced a dysfunctional government of two parties who differed mostly in personnel and rhetoric, and little in substance. So in came an outsider to break the strangle hold, undermine the norms, destroy the system so that in its wake, a viable system could be born?

      Unfortunately, the outsider was a moron. Who knew?

      1. PseudonymousKid

        What a fantasy that is. That an outsider would ride in like Mad Max and disrupt the current, unhappy order of things. It seems like only yesterday that that was a sincere hope. If Trump broke anything, it’s any hope of a better government even than before.

        1. SHG Post author

          People believe. Simple people believe in simple solutions. I don’t know what Trump will end up bringing, but maybe the best outcome is that it won’t be another Trump. The problem is that the alternative could be just as bad. Different bad, but just as bad in its own way. Que sera, sera.

  5. B. McLeod

    It isn’t that he “shreds norms of behavior,” so much as he’s using rather dated ones. He seems to be using the Henry VIII construct of “treason” (and “marriage”). I doubt history is going to have a chance to catch up before the end of his administration.

  6. Turk

    As oft-noted Trump is a master at projecting his own worst qualities on to others.

    So I’ll go out on a limb here to say that another indictment (or plea) is in the very near future regarding obstruction or collusion in the TrumpRussia scandal.

    1. SHG Post author

      I have nothing against masturbation, physical or otherwise, but would appreciate if you would do it in private. TIA.

  7. Sacho

    Not even law professors seem to care about the legal meaning of the words they use, why would Trump?

    People understand what he meant(or more appropriately said, they filled his rhetoric with their own meaning, which is why he’s such a good speaker), so all the screeching about him using the “wrong words” is just posturing, especially hollow when it comes from “progressives”, who have stretched the meanings of many serious words to absurdity.

    It’s not like saying the right kinds of words stopped the Obama administration from birthing the Title IX abomination. The progressive derangement created Trump, its opposing force. They’ve done fine so far dismantling reasonable opposition by just hurling label after label at them, not constrained by logic, reasoning or definitions. Suddenly when the same tactics are employed against them, it’s an outrage.

    Trump has made plenty of baffling decisions and actions as President. This focus on his words is not only celebrity gossip levels of pointless, it’s also backed up by the hypocritical couch-fainting at having the same tactics levied against you that you are happy to use on your opponents. In the end, the boy that cried “nazi” gets a big resounding meh from the village as he’s eaten by big bad cheeto.

      1. REvers

        You, sir, have obviously never eaten a stale Cheeto. It’s like chewing a piece of cheddar-flavored gum.

    1. Billy Bob

      Yea, but judges and justices care. Sacho, you are baffling.
      Impeach Trump! Impeach Trump! Impeach Trump!
      For butchering the English language, and other misdemeanors.

  8. Anon

    If the Leader says its treason, well then…

    “His inability to express an articulate thought…” I’m glad I didn’t say that about the Leader on the internet. Better you than me.

      1. Patrick Maupin

        Well, yeah, but words like that should at least make you (like Preet and other newly-woke prosecutors you have discussed) the darling of the progressives.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps Trump is confusing treason with lese majestè or just attempting Breitbart style snark and failing. The woke and easily triggered should be happy that Trump provides an endless supply of fuel for the flames of outrage.

  10. Jim Cline

    Maybe I give him too much credit but I always wonder what’s happening with his left hand while he draws our attention with something outrageous like this.

  11. Noxx

    It’s self evident that folks with a handful of brain cells to rub together don’t take the ridiculous shit that Trump says very seriously.

    However, plenty of American voters don’t pass that test. They may not have any brains, but they are the superintendents of schools, the mayors of small towns everywhere, the chiefs of a thousand podunk police forces. They have plenty of hubris, they have Dunning-Kruger, and they have guns. So many guns.

    So while Emperor Babyhands may try to shed accountability by appearing to be “joking” so often, his words go directly to, and are taken seriously by, this vast army of idiots who are more than happy to assault people on the street, to repress dissent, to harass, fire, even imprison and murder their neighbors who don’t salute quickly enough.

    Trumps nonsense is just that, nonsense, but his tacit exhortation to his minions is no joking matter.

    1. PAV

      The news would be wall to wall breathless reporting if Trump idiots were doing anything of the sort. You know they aren’t, so simply say they’d be “more than happy to”. Mind reading is easy!

      Trump does seem to be using “treason” the way all the Twitter idiots do, though. The ones that have been accusing him of treason since the day he entered office. For some people (and apparently Trump is one of them, God help us), words like that are just insults with baggage attached to hang around an enemy’s neck. Much like racist, white supremacist, etc., are used. The DNC hinted on the Twitters that Bernie Sanders was a white supremacist; that’s the moment I stopped taking “white supremacist” seriously. The way Trump used “treason” is the same.

  12. Jay

    “So while Emperor Babyhands may try to shed accountability by appearing to be “joking” so often, his words go directly to, and are taken seriously by, this vast army of idiots who are more than happy to assault people on the street, to repress dissent, to harass, fire, even imprison and murder their neighbors who don’t salute quickly enough.”

    You seem to be referring to trump voters/fans/supporters, but what about the army of idiots led by people like the dauber?

    1. Noxx

      What about them? That’s not the topic, why would I address it?

      You might as well bring up children starving in Africa.

  13. Solaric

    “But the argument raised after-the-fact is that the utterance of the word Treason by a president carries serious significance, great gravitas, and is therefore a singular wrong. Is anything that comes out of Trump’s mouth (or his thumbs) to be taken seriously? Even at face value?”

    Well, yes? I mean, the fact is that he is the actual for real President. His words quite literally do carry serious power. If what comes out of Trump’s mouth is “Execute nuclear strike option ABC” alongside the appropriate confirmation words, authentication code words, and so forth, then yes the military would take that seriously. That’s not a hyperbolic example, the whole point is that is quite literally a real thing that he is empowered to do, alongside of course much more. He’s POTUS, for better or worse he wields not just soft power but lots of genuine he-speaks-people-die hard power too.

    I dunno, I see a lot of “can’t take Trump seriously stuff” but I feel like that should have stopped the day he was elected. It is a serious job, everyone else HAS to take seriously what he says, every single time as long as he’s in office. Each time they can make calculated judgements trying to guess how the various equations of power and his desires and such will play out, and often the result may be “this time it won’t escalate farther.” But it’d be reckless not to make that calculation, every single time. It’s not Trump on reality TV anymore, it’s just plain old reality.

    Like you said: “There is an argument to be made that the office of president, if not its holder, deserves respect.” Exactly. Regardless of the holder, only fools would not respect the power of the office of the President right?

    1. LocoYokel

      “That’s not a hyperbolic example, the whole point is that is quite literally a real thing that he is empowered to do, alongside of course much more. He’s POTUS, for better or worse he wields not just soft power but lots of genuine he-speaks-people-die hard power too.”

      Don’t forget ordering the killing of American citizens via drone strike (and possibly using other means also). That is now an accepted Presidential power thanks to our previous President. Think about how scary that will be if he realizes that the previous administration has regularized the killing of American citizens for not much more than saying things that make him sad.

  14. losingtrader

    Today he blamed the stock market for falling despite good news.

    Which of you is handling the slander suit?

    1. SHG Post author

      If this wasn’t a TT post, I might question why you brought up the stock market. But then, I feel your pain.

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