In a scathing six-page letter sent to Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi earlier this week, President Donald Trump decried the Democratic Party’s “impeachment fantasy,” fiercely expressing his disdain for the entire process. Pelosi responded by calling the letter “really sick,” noting that she did not even bother to read the document in its entirety.
Experts are now weighing in on Trump’s letter. In a column penned for The Hill and published on Saturday, former Vice President Al Gore’s chief speechwriter and professor of speech writing at the American University in Washington, Bob Lehrman, dissected the document, concluding that it is worse than “unhinged.”
Noting that many have already dismissed Trump’s letter as an “unhinged rant,” Lehrman said that he will assign it “to my speech writing students at American University because I want them to see this rich compendium of the fallacies so traditional in political rhetoric, in order to avoid repeating them.”
Apart from obvious ethical issues such as “lies, personal insults, bigotry,” according to Lehrman, Trump’s letter contains an enormous number of fallacies which the president appears to be using to “deceive” readers, perhaps even without realizing he is doing so.
The expert listed six key fallacies that are evident in Trump’s letter: straw man, ad hominem, tu quoque, unsupported assertion, ad populum, and hyperbole.
According to Lehrman, Trump made a straw man argument when he attacked Pelosi and other Democrats for pushing “extreme policies” such as open borders. No Democrat is for open borders, however, so the president was arguing against an argument no one made in the first place.
In the letter, the president launched ad hominem — personal — attacks at Democratic politicians, instead of criticizing their ideas and policy proposals.
The tu quoque (“you too”) fallacy also features prominently in Trump’s letter, according to Lehrman, since the president kept accusing Democrats of committing the crimes he is being accused of committing.
Trump made a number of unsupported assertions in his letter to Pelosi, according to the expert, refusing to provide any evidence for his accusations against the Democratic Party.
In his letter, the president wrote that “the voters are wise and they are seeing straight through this empty, hollow, and dangerous game,” thus using the fallacious ad populum argument, according to Lehrman — the commander-in-chief implied that his proposition is true claiming that most Americans believe it.
Throughout his letter, according to Lehrman, Trump used hyperbole, exaggerating many of his claims. For instance, the president wrote that “more due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trial.”