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For Trump, Morning in America never seems to dawn

Dana Milbank on

Trump's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, told Politico this week that he wants Trump's message to be "more proactive" and "less reactive." Said Mulvaney: "We want to talk about the economy ... so if we can try to drive the narrative a little bit more, we think that would be a valuable improvement."

Good luck with that.

A week ago, when the jobs report came out, Trump justifiably crowed. "JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!" he exulted. "We can all agree that AMERICA is now #1."

Within hours, though, he was lost in the usual stew of controversy: Being targeted by the "deep state" and Trump Hating Angry Democrats. Complaining about social media and Hillary Clinton's emails. Sharing an anti-Muslim video. Warning about criminals at the border, and even protesting the Kentucky Derby outcome. He paused mid-tweetstorm to share an observation that he's not getting enough credit for the economy.

Now why would that be?

As Politico's Jake Sherman and colleagues observed Friday: "It's almost -- almost -- like he misses the 'witch hunt' he railed against for 22 months."

Of course he does. Anger powers him.

At times he wrestles aloud with how to balance positive and negative. He has long said he would make his reelection slogan "Keep America Great," reasoning, "as much as I love 'Make America Great Again,' I don't know that we can carry it forward, because people will say, 'Well, what did we do for the last four years?'"

 

Bill Frischling, founder of Factba.se, the indispensable online collection of all Trump's rhetoric, analyzed the president's language for me and found a highly unusual pattern.

Trump's language is, overall, surprisingly positive. On a scale of -1 to +1, he said, the average politician's language is about zero, or neutral. In contrast, Trump is +0.29 in his spoken language (+0.18 on Twitter).

But his language is extraordinarily polarized: Everything is either great or horrible. For most politicians (and people) it's unusual for even a single remark to exceed +0.5 in positivity or -0.5 in negativity. Trump's positive remarks average 0.66 and his negative remarks average 0.61 on Twitter, where he communicates with people most directly. Such extreme language is necessarily unsettling.

Can he tone it down? Does he even want to? They say it's always darkest before dawn, but for Trump, Morning in America never seems to break.

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Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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