Saturday, November 24, 2018

Trump guilty of apophasis, maybe paraleipsis, but not perspicacity

This morning I offer three words for the day from the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

paraleipsis noun
para·​leip·​sis | \ˌparəˈlīpsə̇s, -lāp-
Definition of paraleipsis
a passing over with brief mention in order to emphasize rhetorically the suggestiveness of what is omitted (as in “I confine to this page the volume of his treacheries and debaucheries”)

apophasis noun
apoph·​a·​sis | \ə-ˈpä-fə-səs
Definition of apophasis
the raising of an issue by claiming not to mention it (as in “we won’t discuss his past crimes”)

These two figure into how Trump excuses the Saudi’s murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Read on.

Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson explains why he thinks that Trump is not a champion of human rights. He is a clueless clown.

In Riyadh, they must be laughing at President Trump. In Pyongyang, too, and in Tehran. In Beijing and, of course, in Moscow, they must be laughing until it hurts. They look at Washington and they don’t see a champion of freedom and human rights. They see a preening, clueless clown.

Trump’s reaction — or non-reaction — to the Saudi regime’s brutal killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a holiday-season gift to autocrats around the globe. It shows them that if you just shower Trump with over-the-top flattery, feed him some geopolitical mumbo jumbo and make vague promises to perhaps buy some American-made goods in the future, he will literally let you get away with murder.

After weeks of hemming and hawing, the White House put out a statement Tuesday from Trump making clear that for the murder of Khashoggi — who lived in Virginia, was a permanent U.S. resident and had children who are U.S. citizens — the Saudi regime will face no consequences. Zero. Not even a slap on the wrist.

Despite the CIA’s assessment that the crown prince ordered the killing, the White House statement waffles on whether he even knew about it in advance: “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said the same thing later to reporters, adding, “We are with Saudi Arabia. We’re staying with Saudi Arabia.”

Even more appalling, the statement — which is littered with exclamation points, suggesting Trump himself had a hand in writing it — attacks and defames the victim. Khashoggi was a respected journalist who sometimes criticized the Saudi government. The president of the United States suggests he deserved to die.

"Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an ‘enemy of the state’ and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that,” the statement says. That is a rhetorical device known as paraleipsis [Scriber thinks apophasis, really]— saying something by professing not to say it — and its use to suggest the Saudis were somehow justified in killing Khashoggi makes me want to throw up.

In the statement — which is headlined “America First!” — Trump emphasizes what he calls the “record amount of money” that Saudi Arabia is supposedly prepared to spend in the United States. Trump goes on to make a series of false claims. No, there is no agreement for the Saudis to spend $450 billion on U.S. goods, despite Trump’s assertion. No, there is no firm agreement for $110 billion in arms sales; the actual figure is $14.5 billion. No, what Trump reckons as “hundreds of thousands of jobs” are not at stake. And no, the Saudis could not simply decide to buy Chinese or Russian arms, instead.

The truth is that in the U.S.-Saudi relationship, the United States holds all the cards. We don’t need the Saudis’ oil and can easily do without their arms purchases. By contrast, without U.S. military assistance and American-made spare parts, the Saudi armed forces could not function.

So why, then, is Trump once again abasing us - you and me and America - by groveling at the feet of another dictator? This, Robinson concludes, is the formula.

Lavish Trump with praise. Treat him like a king. Wave a fistful of money in front of his face. And if you want to, say, kill an inconvenient journalist, he’ll look the other way.

And here is how the Saudis put it into practice.

The Saudi royals got on Trump’s good side by hosting his first foreign visit and fawning over him as if he, too, were an absolute monarch. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was gracious and deferential to Trump at their summit — and now continues his nuclear and ballistic missile programs unmolested. Russia’s Vladimir Putin complimented Trump’s political skill — and escaped any meaningful punishment for meddling in the 2016 election. There cannot be a strongman ruler in the world who fails to see the pattern — and the opportunity.

Trump may be a confused and confusing clown, but whether he is clueless about his rhetoric, or intentionally malicious, I leave to your perspicacity.

perspicacity \ ˌpər-​spə-​ˈka-​sə-​tē \ noun
perspicacious adjective
per·​spi·​ca·​cious | \ˌpər-spə-ˈkā-shəs
Definition of perspicacious
of acute mental vision or discernment : KEEN
implies unusual power to see through and understand what is puzzling or hidden

UPDATE: Whatever shred of perspicacity you might have attributed to Trump is gone. The LA Times (reprinted in this morning’s Daily Star) reports that Turkey accuses Trump of ‘turning a blind eye’ to Khashoggi’s killing.

For months, Turkish officials have been leaking gruesome details surrounding Jamal Khashoggi’s death as a counter to President Trump’s moves to absolve Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the Trump ally thought to be behind the Saudi journalist’s slaying.

But Ankara took a more direct approach on Friday, with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu slamming Trump for “turning a blind eye” in Khashoggi’s death, and accusing him of putting money above human values.

Cavusoglu’s rebuke echoes those from other Turkish officials, who have described as comical an exclamation-point-filled message from the president concerning reports that the prince ordered Khashoggi’s slaying. .

“Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t,” Trump wrote on Tuesday in a rambling 633-word message, later adding “in any case, our relationship is with Saudi Arabia.” He also thanked the kingdom for its support against Iran and “keeping oil prices at reasonable levels.”

Trump’s statements in support of the prince mean that the president is saying, in essence, “‘Whatever happens, I will turn a blind eye,’” Cavusoglo said in an interview Friday with CNN’s Turkish affiliate, CNN Turk. “This is not the right approach. Money is not everything. … We shouldn’t abandon our humanitarian values.”

Turkey gets it. Trump, a world class chump, does not. He is indeed, as Robinson said, clueless.

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