Holmes and the puzzling case of Trump’s misplaced modifiers

Sherlock Holmes and Watson attempt to crack the case of Donald Trump's tendency to make confusing and illogical speeches

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Michael Taube“I say, Holmes. It’s been less than a minute, and I already miss the comforts of our humble abode on Baker Street.”

The great detective faintly smiled at his faithful companion, Dr. Watson. He also sensed it was a future that seemed unclear, uncertain and rather unstable.

“Well, Watson,” said Sherlock Holmes, “I think we have to view this adventure as a means of bridging the past, present and future for different generations.”

“I would be pleased to follow your lead,” said Watson, “if you could explain how on Earth we arrived here in the first place!”

“My dear friend,” said Holmes, “the essence of Professor Moriarty’s formula for time travel is, like many things in life, a mystery. We should keep to the task at hand.”

“Yes, I suppose. Do you mind if we go over this case one more time?”

“Not at all. Our client has asked us to investigate the Republican presidential candidate, a somewhat tempestuous character named Donald Trump, who has an unusual tendency of misplacing his modifiers in speeches.”

Watson shuffled through his papers. He read about Trump’s controversial comments pertaining to his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” he said to a North Carolina audience, but added, “Although the Second Amendment people – maybe there is, I don’t know.”

“Very odd, Holmes. It could be interpreted as a rallying call for people to vote against his opponent. Or a terribly thought-out joke, which he often seems to do. Or … well … I certainly hope it’s not that, anyway.”

“Exactly. Trump claims he was being sarcastic, and was clearly misinterpreted. This could be true. Yet, he also claims to have been misinterpreted on other occasions. This includes his depiction of President Barack Obama as ‘the founder of ISIS,’ assessment that Fox News host Megyn Kelly had ‘blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,’ and Russian computer hackers would be ‘rewarded mightily by our press’ if they found Clinton’s missing e-mails.”

“All right. Could it simply be that his grasp of the English language is less than adequate? He’s not the second coming of Winston Churchill or William Gladstone, after all.”

“Quite true, Watson. Then again, are any of us?”

“I suppose. Well, is he just being honest about what he thinks?”

“Perhaps,” said Holmes. He took a short pause, and said, “Then again, we mustn’t ignore Trump’s ability to create a successful narrative and work an audience. He also seems to understand how to channel the anger, frustration and general discontentment of some supporters. Hence, he may be telling the truth as he sees it – or as others want to see it.”

“My word, this is perplexing. Is it possible, then, that this is all part of an elaborate game? Could the missing modifier be a strategic decision on Trump’s part, aimed at increasing his media profile and ensuring the public is mesmerized by his every word, action and thought?”

“I’ve considered this possibility. Indeed, the greatest of minds, and even the weakest of minds, have the innate ability to conjure up a successful plan. But a game needs an outline and rules, and Trump doesn’t follow a political playbook. Moreover, the strategy of removing the modifier seems to have backfired: He’s badly losing in most polls, and preliminary electoral college tallies, to Clinton. There’s really no point in having a strategy that has no long-term strategic value.”

Watson slapped his hand on his forehead. “This is getting us nowhere! Should we speak to his supporters, Holmes? Could they give us some insight?”

“They’re as much of a mystery as the man himself. Trump supporters seem pleased with his less-than-conservative politics, offensive behaviour and irresponsible positions about Latinos, Muslims and women. They firmly believe Mexico will pay for that wall, too. The wilder his ideas, the more enamoured they become. I doubt most of them are bothered by a missing modifier – if they even know what it is, to be perfectly honest.”

“This is more difficult than our murder investigations, or even the blasted Hounds of the Baskervilles! Should we have a drink, and start again in the morning?”

“That would be delightful, my dear Watson.”

“Wonderful! Maybe you can then explain to me why Trump keeps claiming he will make America great again. I thought it already was.”

“To us, greatness is obvious. To Trump, the need to find a mythical road that already exists is, as you probably surmised, elementary.”

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.

© Troy Media


holmes trump misplaced modifiers

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