Donald Trump isn’t the carrier of the disease that threatens the language, but he suffers with enthusiasm. His abuse of the adjective might eventually threaten his foreign policy.
Nothing is ever merely “good,” or “fortunate.” No appointment is merely “outstanding.” Everything is “fantastic,” or “terrific,” and every man or woman he appoints to a government position, even if just two shades above mediocre, is “tremendous.” The Donald never met a superlative he didn’t like, himself as the ultimate superlative most of all.
Hyperbole is the affliction of our age, where life is lived on the surface, entertainment is all and synthetic excitement is as good as the real thing. Why end a sentence with a period, when you can use an exclamation point, or even two? Or three. Few exclamation points come into the lives of most of us, and even though being the president is naturally semi-exciting, life even for him is rarely “tremendously exciting.” A visit from the prime minister of Japan or Canada, or the third visit of the day from Steve Bannon, doesn’t quite qualify.
George Condon of the National Journal went through the transcripts of several of the president’s meetings with world leaders, and masochist that he is, counted 78 adjectives the president used in his descriptions — words like great, tremendous, fantastic, incredible, special, wonderful, terrific and big. Nothing wrong with any of them, used with care, precision and infrequency.
But even a president — indeed, even President Donald J. Trump — does not live in a world where everything is wonderful, tremendous, fantastic and incredible. He could mislead or confuse a prime minister, as when he said he was working on a peace deal for the Middle East that would be the best in the history of that godforsaken place.
“There are certain things you don’t do as a world leader,” a certain world leader told Mr. Condon. “One of them is that you don’t raise expectations because then you are going to be held accountable to those. He set a very high bar, saying this is going to be the best peace deal ever. He’s raised expectations that will be very tough to meet.”