The letter from Donald Trump to President Erdogan of Turkey that emerged on Twitter last night is so bafflingly childish that even his most ardent supporters are stuck for words. The White House had to confirm its authenticity as so many people presumed it was a fake:
White House confirms authenticity of Trump letter to Erdogan, dated 10/9: “History… will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen. Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I will call you later.”
First reported by Fox Business. pic.twitter.com/lImxfhb2j1
— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) October 16, 2019
“Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I will call you later”. It sounds like a WhatsApp message between sixteen-year-olds. Political Twitter was beside itself.
But when everyone is laughing at The Donald it’s usually worth pausing for thought.
In a piece published in the Washington Post yesterday, just before the letter emerged, Allison Jane Smith points out that using childish language seems to have served Mr Trump quite well:
A presidential candidate wants to be understood by all voters, from immigrants whose first language isn’t English to those with advanced degrees in linguistics. Trump rarely uses speechwriters, yet he’s grasped one of their principles: It is more important to be understood than to use $10 words. The simple way Trump speaks does not make his supporters think he is speaking down to them. The opposite, in fact, appears to be true. “He’s . . . talking to us not like we’re stupid,” one supporter said in a focus group conducted in December.
Obviously Donald Trump is not deploying an elaborate ruse and dumbing down his otherwise highfalutin patter: this is how he thinks, and how he speaks. But that letter didn’t have to be released – the White House must calculate that fancy Democrats laughing at Donald’s stoopid language is a net political positive.