A rich, complex vocabulary properly deployed is one evidence of a strong mind endowed with a wealth of knowledge. As I was watching portions of Trump’s press conference yesterday, despite being made physically ill by the man, I somewhat reflexively noticed the extraordinary paucity of his linguistic resources. Even when he is talking about something he has prepared himself on, he seems utterly unable to use more than the most primitive vocabulary, inaccurately and banally.
Professor Wolff is down with a bad case of TDS if he is made physically ill by Trump's speech. And yes, the paucity of the Orange Man's linguistic resources cannot be gainsaid. But might it be that we intellectuals have an inordinate respect for verbal intelligence? And an unjustified contempt for those who don't read books?
Among many, myself included, verbal facility is a touchstone of intelligence, or rather of one sort of intelligence, verbal intelligence. Barack Obama has it. He is a master of soaring rhetoric and empty phraseology. By way of exaggerated contrast, George W. Bush couldn't rub a subject and a verb together and come up with a clean sentence in his mother tongue. But there is more to intelligence than the ability to sling words while avoiding syntactic howlers. And when it comes to this 'more,' Obama has proven to be sadly lacking. Obama is an uncommonly good bullshitter and blather-mouth, but the net effect of his presidency has been negative. He lost the Middle East. And to mention only one domestic disaster, his policies, appointments and interventions into local affairs have set back race relations and have led to a terrible spike in inner city violence. The rule of law has been weakened under his administration.