I’m not going to talk about politics here, and if you are a Trump supporter or a Clinton supporter, or a member of the Communist Youth League, or whatever, I hope you read my books and enjoy them and tell your friends.
But presidential language is interesting!
Years ago, when a reporter asked candidate Bill Clinton whether he had ever used marijuana, he replied, “I have never broken the laws of my country,” which seemed to be an ultra-emphatic way of saying no. (Not only have I never used marijuana, he seemed to be saying, I’ve never broken any other laws, just so you know!) When he later admitted that he meant that he had in fact used marijuana in England, he added, “I didn’t inhale.” This gives the impression that he’d tried it, but his heart wasn’t really in it. What it really meant, as his classmate Christopher Hitchens later revealed, was that Clinton preferred his marijuana in brownies, that he was stoned a lot, and really loved it. Clinton’s various answers left a very different impression; they were accurate, but not exactly truthful.
Now that I’ve mused on Clinton’s language, I can muse on Trump’s language, or rather the language his doctor used when describing Trump’s health. (Here is a picture of Trump’s doctor, by the way.)
The doctor said this:
“If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
This is impressive! But how could he ensure that this is accurate, since he has not examined every President going back to George Washington? In a recent interview, he said that in fact that sentence was quite correct because:
“all the rest of them are either sick or dead.”
So what he meant was that Trump, if elected, will be healthier than any other past president is now. So Trump is healthier than Nixon is now, because Nixon is dead. Trump is healthier than the first president Bush is now, because H.W. is 93, frail, broke his neck, and can no longer walk. (Even with this hedge, I still don’t think it’s true – Carter and Bill Clinton both seem frail, but Bush II and Obama remain apparently vigorous.)
I’ve read that sentence over and over again, and I am not sure it means what the doctor is now claiming it means. (He didn’t write, for example, “Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, is healthier than any other past president.”) But the construction of the sentence is confusing enough that I am not really sure what it actually means.
But if his doctor is telling the truth, and he only meant to say that Trump is indeed healthier than a bunch of very sick old men and rotting corpses, it’s not a very impressive diagnosis!
By this calculation, incidentally, I am smarter than Albert Einstein, and so are you. (Because he is dead, and no longer very smart.) I am stronger than Charles Atlas. I am a better tennis player than Arthur Ashe. I am more handsome than Clark Gable. And I am a much much better swimmer than Alfréd Hajós.