In President Trump's Speeches, Dramatically Different Tones

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With guest host Sacha Pfeiffer.

Donald Trump’s whiplash rhetoric. From somber commander-in-chief to angry campaigner, we dissect the president’s speeches.

President Donald Trump reacts before speaking at a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017. (Alex Brandon/AP)
President Donald Trump reacts before speaking at a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Seven months into his presidency, Donald Trump is already well-known for his unpredictable speeches. Some days they’re angry, combative, and unfocused. The very next day, calm, respectful, and somber. Trump claims that shows his skill at changing tone depending on his audience. His critics have a less charitable view. This hour, On Point: the whiplash of Donald Trump’s speeches and what they tell us about our president. --Sacha Pfeiffer 


David Graham, staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers U.S. politics and global news. (@GrahamDavidA)

Jennifer Rubin, conservative blogger. Writes the “Right Turn” blog for the Washington Post. (@JRubinBlogger)

Roger Cohen, op-ed columnist for the New York Times. (@NYTimesCohen)

From The Reading List

The Atlantic: How to Tell Which Donald Trump Will Deliver A Speech — "The difference between Trump’s behavior on various occasions seems to come down to two major factors: What was his last public appearance like? And does he stick to the teleprompter or not? The president has established a pattern in his recent appearances of bouncing back and forth between sober statements, generally read directly from the page, and wild ones, generally improvised."

The Washington Post: Trump in Arizona Shows Just How Unfit He Is — "Once again, we saw why so many Americans have reason to doubt his judgment on matters of war and peace. If he still cannot tell the truth about his own remarks or the size of a crowd, Americans have every reason to doubt virtually everything that comes out of his mouth. He’s either stubbornly ignorant (as when he claims the Paris agreement is doing great harm to the country) or deliberately misleading. Mostly, however, he is vengeful and irrational, a horrid combination for the commander in chief."

The New York Times: Truth, Lies and Numbness — "There’s the scripted Trump voice, which is fake. There’s the unscripted voice, which is genuine. The two tend to alternate; call this the choreography of disorientation. It’s confusing, like having a president who isn’t really a president but instead acts like the leader of a rabble-rousing movement. The Oval Office is a useful prop, no more than that. He’s held eight rallies since becoming president in January. The latest was in Phoenix, where he called the media “very dishonest people.” He led the crowd in a chant of “CNN sucks.” He attacked the “failing New York Times.” It’s familiar. That familiarity is menacing."

This program aired on August 28, 2017.


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