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Unpresidential Ways of Delivering the Spoken Word

February 10, 2020

Whether Donald J. Trump is re-elected in 2020 or not, he will long be remembered for his "unpresidential" delivery of controversial ideologies. Some linguists have harshly criticized the President's inability to speak intelligibly about issues as well as his impulsive verbal and nonverbal self-commentaries. Moreover, political historians have attacked his speaking style as being filled with non-sequiturs and post hoc fallacies. Nonetheless, the 45th President's ability to infuriate political opponents with his false dichotomies that are often interrupted by his personal musings may not be as unique as some have suggested. In fact, a brief review of his predecessors suggests there have been at least a dozen men who served in the highest office that were known for articulate jabs, razor-sharp put downs as well as other behavioral indiscretions.

Temperaments and Ill Behaviors in the Oval Office*

A quick review of those who served in the Oval Office suggests Trump's rhetoric is nothing new. Quite the contrary, President John Adams quickly developed a reputation as a combative commander-in-chief whose own Cabinet deplored his rudeness and opposed the majority of his policies. Here's a quick look at some of the worst:

  • John Adams - As a Founding Father and the second president of the United States, Adams had a nasty reputation for rudely putting down anyone who opposed his political views including members of his own Cabinet.
  • James Monroe - It is well documented that the 5th president had a fiery temper and chased the Secretary of the Treasury out of his office with hot fireplace tongs as well as challenged his rival Alexander Hamilton to a duel.
  • John Quincy Adams - Having served as Secretary of State, the son of the second president proved he was equally as stubborn and independent minded as his father after he was elected to serve in the Oval Office.
  • Andrew Jackson - As the seventh president, Jackson made the establishment nervous with his intemperate and vulgar promises to change politics. In fact, he was the "jackass poster child" for today's Democratic donkey symbol.
  • John Tyler - Tyler wasn't just the tenth president, his unpresidential approach to condemning his own Cabinet saw numerous resignations after ten presidential vetoes to block his own party's legislation.
  • James Buchanan - Incredibly arrogant and unpresidential, Buchanan was averse to self-restraint and spoke his mind with no regard for competency behavior having called slavery a matter of little practical importance.
  • Andrew Johnson - Although not elected to the office, this VP thought very highly of himself. After Lincoln was assassinated, Johnson promoted himself as a self-made man with qualities similar to Jesus.
  • Teddy Roosevelt - Although beloved by voters, Roosevelt had a reputation for being drunk on his own regard, making snap decisions, adolescent bellicosity and behaving like a bully often confusing bravery with moral courage.
  • Warren Harding - Possibly under-qualified for job, Harding wasn't just a womanizer but fathered an illegitimate child in office. Pale by comparison to his corrupt Cabinet of personal friends, who constantly were plagued by scandals.
  • Lyndon Johnson - LBJ had a reputation for having a rude and overbearing personality. He often conducted business with his staff while seated on the toilet with an open bathroom door.
  • Richard Nixon - Prior to Trump, Richard Nixon was considered to be the most disagreeable president. When the White House tapes surfaced, Nixon swore constantly and spoke critically of Afro Americans, Jews and members of the media.

Political linguists will likely look back on Trump's era of unpresidential behaviors when compiling future lists of less discreet leaders who served in the Oval Office. If he has the political substance to overcome his verbal rudeness, you can expect stubborn independence to become more a part of the "Washington Way".

Linguistic Indiscretions and Factual Correctness

Whether President Trump's unusual methods of verbal and nonverbal communications rank him among the worst to serve or categorize his achievements alongside other successful eccentrics, it is too early to tell. What is almost for certain is the fact that this President will continue to embrace his flamboyant style as Commander in Chief, regardless of linguistic indiscretions or factual correctness. Truth is... the American economy seems to be recovering at a rapid rate and America's position as an elite military power has been boosted worldwide. With rhetoric designed to continually fire up his base of supporters, Trump's un-presidential lingo may be changing the nation's assessment of what is within bounds. As is the case with so many things, only time will tell who was right and who was wrong.

*NOTE: Information was taken from several online sources including published articles in The Cheat Sheet, The New York Times and The Atlantic.


PHOTO CREDIT: Evan El-Amin shutterstock photographer

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