Dangling Modifier Dooms Trump: Accidental Truth, Episode Two

Here we go again. A mentor of mine once said, “Sloppy writing bespeaks a sloppy mind.” And it’s true; clarity requires work, thought, and just enough diffidence to undertake the humbling task of self-editing. It’s the kind of stuff that’s impossible for the malignant narcissist, who already knows everything, is effortlessly possessed of “the best words,” and needn’t edit any of the constructions flowing from his stubby fingertips since they’re all beautiful and flawless at conception.

Speaking of malignant narcissism (a subject I had reason to research long before Donald Trump was anything more than a reality-TV ringmaster on a show featuring the kinds of rubes and misfits who would eventually become his base), malignant narcissists generally come in two varieties: cerebral and chaotic. Cerebral narcissists use their cunning to manipulate those around them in service to their egos. But some malignant narcissists are too feeble-minded to outwit their marks; this doltish, buffoonish species of narcissist keeps himself at the center of attention (where he always longs to be) with tornadic blustering, impulsiveness, and insolence. We have chosen, in our boundless prudence, to make the latter kind of person president of the United States; it wasn’t enough to have a soulless manipulator as our face to the world — we had to pick the dumb kind, to boot.

The chaos in Trump’s mind — or, more precisely, of his personality — is clearly in evidence whenever he tweets. His musings are sloppy, careless, unedited, undisciplined, and rife with typos and mistakes. As I have written before, his writing is so bad that it sometimes obscures his dishonesty and inadvertently reveals truth.

And it’s happened again. Trump’s mind is not sorted out well enough to spot a literary mortal sin so depraved and grotesque as to leave any discerning reader aghast and traumatized: the dangling modifier — that misplaced idea that throws a whole sentence into the syntactical fires of hell.

Here is what Trump tweeted today:


The offending modifier here is failed. It’s dangling off both ObamaCare and replacement. What Trump meant to say was, “Republican Senators are working hard to get the plan to replace failed ObamaCare approved.” (Even that would have been a mess of an alleged thought, as the Senate does not approve legislation; it passes legislation, which, if it gets through both houses and is signed by the president, is thereby enacted.) But Trump was too sloppy to pull it off. So instead of calling the Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”) a failure, he called the proposed Republican replacement a failure.

And that, of course, is what it is — in both the moral sense and, one hopes, the political sense. The Republican lust for sickness, pain, and misery among the poor and helpless and broken-down is inexplicable on grounds other than pure evil — a sort of mass malignant narcissism, incapable of empathy, that afflicts an entire political movement.

Trump tweeted the truth, but only because he was too mindless to articulate his intended nonsense. Maybe this should be our motto for Trump’s tweets: In Chaos Veritas.