Donald Trump’s speech patterns have many remarkable qualities, and at this point, sadly, we all know them well.
He only knows a few adjectives and deploys them liberally (tremendous, huge, terrific, amazing, classy, great, not great, strong, not strong, overrated); he likes to ominously cite “somebody” or “something” when referring to particularly imaginative scenarios, such as Mexicans being rapists or the President of the United States colluding with terrorists. During pauses, his mouth retreats into a pursed white blister, which occasionally then reconfigures itself into a sort of clenched obtuse triangle, tongue roving decisively across the exposed lower teeth.
Perhaps most interestingly, though, is his reliance on the phrase “we have no choice,” a refrain that Amy Davidson unpacked in the June 27 issue of the New Yorker as “a dismissal of rational discussion and an intimation of the doom that awaits if Trump is not heeded.”
The idea that there is no choice has always been an alibi for those who in some sense have given up on democracy—whether to justify a decision to declare a state of emergency or to just stay home from the polls—or on the rule of law. Perhaps not incidentally, Trump, despite his narrow view of this nation’s prospects, seems to imagine his own potential scope of action as almost limitless.
Like a preschool teacher stressing the imperative of bathroom attendance to a 5-year-old who just took a dump on the class beanbag chair, Trump takes a tone of resigned, almost parental authority to talk Americans into believing that his terrible, half-baked ideas are the only way forward. Sitting on the toilet is a bummer, Trump’s manner implies—but if you don’t want to walk around with shit in your pants, you’re going to have to get in that stall.
In case anyone needs a reminder, here are some things that we really don’t have to do.
1. Torture people
In a speech given last month, Trump explained, as he has previously, that he thinks torture is fine, and that in fact waterboarding is “peanuts” and not “tough enough.” From NBC News:
“You have to fight fire with fire,” Trump decided. “We have to be so strong. We have to fight so viciously. And violently because we’re dealing with violent people viciously.”
2. Kill the family members of terrorists
Look, another war crime that we should definitely never commit under any circumstances!
“You have to take out their families,” Trump said in December on Fox & Friends, because something-something “civilian shields,” something-something “they say they don’t care about their own lives.” In other words: in order to defeat the Islamic State, we should turn the U.S. into the Islamic State. What terrific symmetry.
In March, Trump decided that he didn’t mean kill the families, just “go after them.”
3. Close mosques
From Politico, following the November 2015 Paris attacks:
The United States will have “absolutely no choice” but to close down some mosques where “some bad things are happening,” Donald Trump said in a recent interview, explaining his rationale for doing so.
“Nobody wants to say this and nobody wants to shut down religious institutions or anything, but you know, you understand it. A lot of people understand it. We’re going to have no choice,” the Republican presidential said in an interview from Trump Tower on Fox News’ “Hannity” on Tuesday night.
Again—and this is just me and also the First Amendment speaking—it seems like we do have a choice here?
4. Religious/racial profiling
On CBS’s Face the Nation last month following the Pulse shooting, Donald professed to “hate the concept of profiling” before insisting that we must do it. This is incorrect.
Via The Hill:
“Other countries do it. You look at Israel and you look at others, and they do it and they do it successfully,” he said.
“I hate the concept of profiling, but we have to start using common sense and we have to use, you know, we have to use our heads. ... We really have to look at profiling. We have to look at it seriously.”
“Israel and others are good at profiling so we should do it too” is a convincing argument in the vein of “Stacy keeps getting tattoos from that sketchy place down the corner and her skin has taken on a yellowish tinge and her hair is falling out a little bit, but I want a tattoo so let’s go.”
5. Punish women seeking abortions
“There has to be some form of punishment” for women seeking abortions, Trump told Chris Matthews in March, taking the anti-choice rhetoric of his supporters to its logical conclusion—failing to remember that the anti-choice movement does not trade in logic. After a wave of bipartisan criticism, he recanted this position a few hours later.
6. Kill Harambe
Trump said the Cincinnati Zoo “probably had no choice” in the killing of a gorilla in May. The jury is actually out on this one.
7. Ban Muslims
You’ve definitely heard this one, along with citizens of every other country in the world who are quickly re-learning that they hate America.
Trump first said that we “have no choice” but to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. back in December, just “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” whatever that means; it’s now a centerpiece of his campaign. Anyway, we don’t have to ban individuals from entering the country based on their religious beliefs, and also, we can’t, because it violates international law (that old thing again!) and would, like many of Trump’s policy ideas, be logistically impossible.
8. Make America great again
Image via Getty.