But the most memorable formal quality in Trump’s tweets is not his syntax or his punctuation or even his half-conscious manipulation of various rhetorical tropes, but his choice of images. A good recent example was sent to me by a speechwriter for a Republican senator:
“How come every time they count Mail-In ballot dumps they are so devastating in their percentage and power of destruction?”
The genius of this is the bathos of calling a mathematical proportion “devastating,” which is worthy of P.G. Wodehouse. It is almost but not quite an example of what philosophers of language would call a “category mistake” (e.g., “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”). Trump’s language has always relied upon such juxtapositions. September 11 is simply an occasion for him to extend his magnanimity; a terrorist attack at the office of a French magazine is an invitation for him to lecture about basic business principles. The automatically updated vote totals appearing on cable television on the morning after the election are, meanwhile, a series of MOAB-like assaults. We are invited to see the “ballot dumps” themselves, delicately, almost impossibly precise in their order and array, raining down upon a hopelessly embattled Trump in the Oval Office like precision missiles, each more wounding somehow than the one before it. Examples like this could be multiplied infinitely, alongside a list of his nicknames (“Lyin’ Ted,” “Liddle’ Bob Corker,” “Crazy Bernie,” “Shifty Schiff,” “Wacky and Deranged Omarosa,” “Leakin’ James Comey”), many of which have the force of Homeric epithets.