Trump’s buddy Sean Hannity tossed him the softest of softball questions on June 25th, and Trump fumbled. When asked what his goals are for a possible second term, Trump appeared to immediately forget the question and sputtered more of his typical nonsensical garbage. Read it yourself:
Like Mr. Hannity, I am also a reporter. (Part-time, volunteer reporter for the teeny-tiny local paper.) I know that some people open their mouths and everything just rolls right out, practically in paragraph form: Here’s a main idea, here’s a few details about that. Here’s another main idea, here’s a few details about that. After the interview my page looks like the Cornell notes of the school valedictorian.
I’ve also interviewed folks whose thoughts come out disorganized and disconnected. The verbal equivalent of modern jazz. My notes page has arrows attaching one idea to another, a bevy of interesting details squeezing in around what I had thought was a minor point, false starts, stars surrounding an idea deemed very important, a couple of question marks reminding me to research something mentioned briefly.
In the end, it doesn’t matter what the speaking style of the interviewee is. I can select articulate quotes, paraphrase the less articulate bits, and format the whole thing into a digestible 650-word article. That’s the job of the journalist. But what would I have done with Trump’s response? I can imagine the garbled mess my notes page would be. How anxious would I feel after that interview, staring at the blank page and that blinking cursor? How in the world would I pick out a single thing to quote?
I don’t think I need to explain the importance of America being led by a president who can articulate his ideas.
Trump’s response to Hannity was labeled a “word salad” by the media. I feel like I’m setting up the punchline to an old joke right now, but it’s true: Words and salads are two of my favorite things. And I don’t think what Trump said can rightfully be called a word salad.
We all know what a word is, but what even is a salad? Here’s my definition: A mix of yummy foodstuffs, selected and combined so as to form a whole greater than the sum of its parts. (A handful of finely-shredded purple cabbage will taste great with a variety of greens. A whole dinner of purple cabbage will not.)
Salad comes in lots of forms: Green, chopped, tossed, Caprese, Caesar, Cobb, fruit, potato, macaroni, chicken, tuna, and so on. There were those weird Jello salads in the fifties. Three decades ago, a half-dozen Kinerk children attending the Kinerk family reunion procured a mixing bowl, pooled our dollars, walked to the corner store, and purchased some of every kind of candy available. Back in my cousin’s room, we unwrapped everything and dumped it all into the bowl, creating an enormous candy salad, which we then gorged on all week, not one of us upset by the growth of a moist, sticky fuzz. Good times.
Trump’s words can’t be called a salad because they don’t rise above the sum of their parts. Trump’s words are not a salad because you can’t sit down at the table and enjoy consuming them.
So, not a word salad. A better metaphor for Trump’s response would be the bits of debris scraped out of the bottom of the fridge on fridge cleanout day. A single dried-up bean in a scab of barbecue sauce. A crisp curl of week-old spaghetti. Something moldy which can no longer be identified. All of it bound for the bin.
A real word salad would take individual words, maybe a short phrase here and there, and stick them all together, elevating them above the sum of their parts. I don’t know that “Word Salad” is an actual genre, but maybe I’ll invent it. I like the idea of using words to create a mood in something less anxiety-provoking than poetry. (I like poetry. But I’ve been teaching elementary school for years, and I don’t like announcing “We’re going to be writing poems!” and getting groans.)
So I did it. I wrote my own Word Salad. It was fun! I took words (and a couple phrases) about how I have been feeling during these first four months of quarantine, and mixed them all together, (with a little help from WordArt.com.) No poetic flow, no getting stuck on rhyme, no thought to meter or cadence. I just threw my words in the bowl and tossed:
Now if I could only eat my word salad and make quarantine go away.