Tuesday Reads: Old Man Trump’s Crazy Axios InterviewPosted: August 4, 2020
This morning I forced myself to watch and listen to Trump’s full interview with Jonathan Swan of Axios. It wasn’t easy. Of course it was characterized by Trump’s lying, obfuscating, and excuse-making, but oddly my biggest takeaway was that Trump truly sounds like a feeble old man now. His voice seems very different from the way he sounded during the 2016 campaign–it sounds weak and reedy. I think the difference after four years is really striking. Here’s the interview:
I found this 2013 article at NBC News about what happens to our voices as we age: The wavery, shaky ‘old person’s voice,’ explained.
“Voice can depend on general health. In general, we start seeing aging problems at age 65,” says Claudio Milstein, associate professor of surgery at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine. “The typical change as we get older, is that we get thin, breathy voices … [and] those are the characteristics that make it sound like a person has an old voice.”
Evidence confirms that voices do change with age. The vocal chords should vibrate between 90 and 230 times per minute, with young people experiencing the most movement and older people experiencing the least, explains Amee Shah, associate professor and director of the Research Laboratory in Speech Acoustics and Perception at Cleveland State University.
When we age our vocal chords weaken and become drier. Our respiratory systems and torsos change, too, with our lungs and chest cavities becoming more rigid, while our spines curve, causing us to stoop over (for some a little, others a lot). Weakened and dry vocal chords become stringy, which prevent normal vibration, causing higher pitched voices that sound thin. And the transformations in the respiratory system and chest mean we have less power behind our voices. Even the joints in our vocal chords can become arthritic, contributing to problems.
“The vocal folds are made up of muscle and collagen among other things. Just like other muscles thin out or atrophy, the vocal folds do as well,” says Gina Vess, a speech pathologist and director of the Clinical Voice Programs at Duke University Medical Center.
As for the content of the interview, I thought it was interesting that Swan began with a question about Trump’s commitment to Norman Vincent Peale’s positive thinking. Like his wealth, this was something that Trump got from his father, according to his niece Mary Trump.
From NPR on July 25: 2020 Crises Confront Trump With An Outage In The Power Of Positive Thinking.
“Affirm it, believe it, visualize it, and it will actualize itself.” Such mantras have characterized much of the Trump story from his childhood when he first absorbed it from the man who first spoke it, Norman Vincent Peale.
Peale was a minister and author much admired by Trump’s father. His most famous book, The Power of Positive Thinking, sold millions of copies in multiple languages and helped spawn a self-help movement and industry that has flourished ever since.
The Trumps attended Peale’s Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, and Peale officiated at the first of Donald Trump’s three marriage ceremonies.
Emulating Peale’s ferocious focus on attitude probably helped Trump plow ahead when his presidential prospects seemed hopeless just weeks before Election Day in 2016. The candidate appeared behind in polls and a now-infamous audio recording revealed his toxic comments about women.
But “there are no hopeless situations,” Peale had counseled, “only people who take hopeless attitudes.”
Obstacles, Peale taught, should never be a deterrent: “You will find they haven’t half the strength you think they have.”
Until this year, it is possible Trump took this literally. Arguably, he was getting away with it far more often than not.
He seemed to have been experimenting with this parallel universe approach all his life.
Trump is trying to apply the “power of positive thinking to the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s obviously not working for him, because a virus can’t be hoodwinked like people can.
So what happens when positive thinking fails? What happens when the power goes out? In common experience, when the power goes out, it gets darker.
Trump’s critics and opponents say that is exactly what we are seeing in America today.
Unable to conquer the combination of pandemic effects and civil unrest by the force of his will and a Twitter blizzard of “alternative facts,” Trump is now turning to a set of alternative powers.
Now Trump has turned to outright fascist tactics–sending federal agents into U.S. cities to put down protests against police brutality, trying to delegitimize the upcoming presidential election, working to suppress votes by destroying the Post Office and sabotaging the U.S. Census.
Axios National Political Correspondent Jonathan Swan began the interview by asking Trump if his sometimes “wishful thinking” and “salesmanship” was suitable in a crisis that has killed more than 155,000 people in the U.S.
“I think you have to have a positive outlook, otherwise you would have nothing,” Trump said. As he frequently has done in defending his record on the pandemic, the president pointed to the travel restrictions he imposed on China and Europe, arguing hundreds of thousands – a number he later put in the “millions” – more would have died without those actions. He added that even one death was too many.
“Those people that really understand it, that really understand it, they said it’s incredible the job that we’ve done,” Trump said.
“Who says that?” Swan asked, but Trump continued to talk about the China travel ban. Swan pointed out that the virus was already in the U.S. by the time Trump issued the ban.
Swan pressed Trump on whether his positive spin on outbreak – telling people the outbreak is under control and not to worry about wearing masks – could be putting people in danger by “giving them a false sense of security.” [….]
Trump responded to that criticism by saying he thinks the outbreak is “under control.” Swan asked how he could say that as the average number of daily deaths had climbed back up to over 1,000.
“They are dying, that’s true. And it is what it is,” Trump said. “But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can. It’s under control, as much as you can control it.”
More Takeaways from the Axios interview:
Jonathan Ross at The Daily Beast: Trump Reveals Self-Delusion Over COVID Statistics in Mind-Blowing Argument With Reporter.
It’s sometimes hard to determine whether President Trump is being willfully misleading or if he truly believes what he’s saying. But an astonishing interview clip from Axios appears to show that Trump has genuinely managed to convince himself that his response to the coronavirus pandemic has been effective—because he only considers partial and deceptively flattering statistics to be true. Brandishing childishly simplistic, brightly colored COVID-19 graphs presumably provided to him by aides trying to keep him happy, Trump proudly tells Axios’ Jonathan Swan that the U.S. is “lower than the world,” without elaborating. When Swan looks at the chart, it becomes clear Trump is only considering death as a proportion of coronavirus cases—not as a proportion of population, which shows the U.S. is faring very badly. Trump snaps back: “You can’t do that.” Holding out his charts, he goes on: “You have to go by where… look, here is the United States… You have to go by the cases.” Asked why South Korea has lower deaths by population, Trump hints that he believes the country is faking its stats, without providing any evidence to support himself.
President Trump raised new alarms about the alleged danger of election fraud in an interview with “Axios on HBO,” warning that “lots of things can happen” with voting by mail if the presidential race isn’t decided on election night.
Why it matters: Trump’s comments — which contradict the lengthy history and widespread use of mail-in voting — could be a preview of the claims he’ll make on election night to undermine trust in the results if he appears to be losing.
- Election experts say there’s a good chance that the presidential race won’t be decided on election night, and could drag on for days, because so many people will vote by mail to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
- One expert’s scenario suggests that the early returns could favor Trump because most Republicans will vote in person, but that the later returns will swing toward Joe Biden because many Democrats will vote by mail.
Axios: Trump declines to praise John Lewis, citing inauguration snub.
President Trump dismissed the legacy of the late Rep. John Lewis in an interview with “Axios on HBO,” saying only that Lewis made a “big mistake” by not coming to his inauguration.
The big picture: Trump’s comments were a glaring contrast with the praise Republicans and Democrats showered upon Lewis this week, and a default to personal grudges during a week of mourning for a civil rights hero….
When asked if he found Lewis’ life impressive, Trump responded, “He didn’t come to my inauguration. He didn’t come to my State of the Union speeches. And that’s OK. That’s his right. And, again, nobody has done more for Black Americans than I have.” [….]
Trump also declined to say whether he found Lewis personally impressive: “I can’t say one way or the other. I find a lot of people impressive. I find many people not impressive.”
There’s much more to the interview, which was a disaster for Trump. I have to say that Swan did an excellent job. If you can stand to, I hope you’ll watch the whole thing. It’s around 30 minutes long. I’d really like to know what you think about Trump’s old-man voice too.
Have a great day everyone! I’ll post some news links in the comment thread below.