Cracking Trump’s Code

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S1: The show may contain my tips for making money on Bitcoin. It won’t.

S2: It also may contain explicit language and it really might be It’s Monday October 21st 2019 from Slate.

S3: It’s the gist I’m Mike Pesca. Donald Trump President Donald J. Trump today had a point that he wanted to make. Facing criticism that he shouldn’t have announced his intention to host the G7 summit at his Florida golf course. President Trump wanted us to know that he doesn’t even take a salary like perhaps some say George Washington.

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S4: Listen to how long he takes to make this point.

S5: When I give away my presidential salary. They say that no other president has done it. I’m surprised to be honest with you. They actually say that George Washington may may have been the only other president. Let’s see whether or not Obama gave up his salary see whether or not all of the other of your favorites gave up their salary. The answer is No.

S4: All right let’s figure out what he was saying here. George Washington it turns out was paid twenty five thousand dollars. He took the twenty five thousand dollars almost seven hundred thousand in today’s dollars. Washington did try to turn down the twenty five thousand dollars but the writers of the Constitution calculated that it was better to have a president who could focus on being the president than worrying about his outside business interests. Now Trump’s meandering repetitive defensive claim which by the way preceded a charge that Barack Obama negotiated his Netflix deal while President Obama made that claim also highlighted other historical facts like President Hoover and President Kennedy did give away their salary. So to recap the president that Trump said gave away his salary did not. Two presidents that did give away their salaries. He did not mention which takes us to this next claim about George Washington but I was willing to do this for free and they would. It would have been the greatest G7 ever. And I would have.

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S5: Said to my family because they run my business now I don’t run my business. They actually put all this stuff in trusts. They run and I didn’t have to do it under no obligation. You know I don’t know if you know George Washington. He ran his business simultaneously while he was president. Many other presidents there weren’t too many really rich presidents but there were a few.

S6: They ran their business. Hey.

S5: Obama managed for a book. Is that running a business. I’m sure he didn’t even discuss it while he was president.

S1: All right. That was a really bad George Washington. That was about Trump saying he puts his money in a trust. Yes the investment vehicle that his money is in is called a trust but he’s not a trust like we think of trust. It is not a blind trust. It is a trust controlled by Trump executive. ALAN Weisberg and Donald Trump junior past presidents have used a blind trust controlled by an outside party a third party and they are not told how their trust is performing. Now it is true. From what I understand that Donald Junior actually can’t let his father know how his trust is doing. But the chairman of Trump’s advisory board can make those disclosures to the president and the Chairman’s name is Eric Trump who told Forbes that each quarter he would give his father financial briefings so the kids are telling the dad is what I’m saying. And when I’m further saying is that the word trust and the Trumps are somewhat at odds.

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S7: Who knew. On the show today the Trump administration’s great and lasting contribution to society. It will be in the realm of the linguistic. But first know all that stuff. Trump was saying what if it were said by a sage and resonant voice. What if Morgan Freeman were saying it. What if I don’t know. Jeremy Irons at his poshest were saying it would asked that myself there is still be terrible but it is true that the messenger does affect the message that is the theme of the new book by Stephen Martin and Joseph marks messengers who we listen to who we don’t and why I trust these guys. They have good accents.

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S8: Well don’t kill the messenger is more than an idiom. It’s the exact theme of this new book both stated and unstated because academics and writers Stephen Martin and Joseph Marx have put together a new study of all the studies of why we listen to people and who are the people we listen to. It is called messengers who we listen to who we don’t and why and when I say don’t kill the messenger is the subtext. They want to get out of this interview alive and I don’t know if I could guarantee that but we hope to make it possible. STEPHEN JOSEPH Thank you for joining me. Good to see you. Thank you for having us. OK so you separate these things into hard domains and soft domains and the hard domains are socio economic competence dominance and attractiveness meaning the perception of those things on behalf of the person receiving the message. Okay. Let’s just talk about them. So it seems to me that attractiveness the perceiver will always be right about that like they know if the person is attractive and I guess norms of attractiveness in society do perhaps change over time but that seems like an entirely different category than competence.

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S9: Because how could you know how could you ever really know at a glance if the person is competent you know competent faces tend to be a little bit square and then we we wear clothes that signal all comprise you know you know we know that for example people are much much more likely to remember a message their physician has given them if that physician has a stethoscope around their neck. I mean the fact that they’re on the commercial. Yeah. The fact that they don’t use the stethoscope it’s almost like the patient is using the doctor stethoscope to make a judgment about how good a doctor they are. So there are other cues that we’re using to determine competence attractiveness someone’s socioeconomic position you know even that dominance. Yes.

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S8: So what with dominance be that what are the cues I understand. What would connote socio economic position. An accent the words you used the way you dress your haircut I’m going to sing this song you know the way you wear your hat but what would be the cues that would dictate dominance.

S10: Yeah. Deep voice height is another one and then kind of posture so big open displays just a more aggressive sort of demeanor more brash and competitive.

S9: You know those people that come into the room and they stick their feet on the tape. They they literally consume the space right.

S8: They’re essentially signaling that predisposition will dominance that they have that characteristic other than attractiveness though are some of these hard domains mostly male or mostly what we consider male.

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S9: Everything you said about dominance says male male male to me well they’re all female examples in fact you know with two British guys and we have two past female prime ministers right both of whom took training to lower the tone of their voice so that they could essentially emulate that signal of dominance you know lots of research that shows that that voice tonality of a politician correlates pretty strongly with people’s perception of their competence and whether or not they’re likely to be voted in. So no surprise the both Theresa May and Margaret Thatcher before her both took voice coaching training to lower their voice get rid of that kind of heightened shrillness and as a result are elected into office.

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S8: Well I think maybe Margaret Thatcher as a result I mean the circumstances with Theresa May gaining office were much different but it doesn’t mean it didn’t it. It didn’t hurt her that she had that deeper lower slower voice. Right. Well but it doesn’t either rebut my point that these things that we think are dominant are male.

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S10: Absolutely I think the that males have been stereotypes as the hard messengers and we as soft messengers men is more kind of authoritative leadership focused powerful and women is more socially harmonious and emotionally sensitive. And these have been entrenched for a long time these stereotypes. You know both biological reasons and cultural reasons why they’ve come about. But I think it’s moving actually and especially with competence. So a recent large metro analysis of studies from 1946 till now showed that actually competence has changed and women used to be viewed as less competent the men now they’re viewed as equally if not more competent than men. And this is the perceived competence of men coming down or women going oh no it’s women going up actually and you know what’s interesting about this is it also shows that in other places there has been no change. And so the dominance associated with men remains.

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S8: But do we still prize the dominance as a way to decide who’s a good messenger.

S9: Well it depends on the context. I mean if we are kind of anxious if we’re uncertain if there’s ambiguity. Those are the kind of context and situations where we’re more inclined to look to a harder more dominant character right. So so absolutely no surprise that those that are predisposed to be dominant often create the fear themselves. They’re literally creating the environment where their messenger characteristic will do its most work where it’s going to be most attractive.

S8: There is to me though another difference competence. There are ways to measure actual competence and there are fairly easy ways to measure socio economic status. You could we could all debate if socioeconomic status is a proper stand in for who makes a good messenger. But competence is if we could accurately decide who was competent. That wouldn’t be the end all be all of who is the right messenger. Very incredibly smart accredited expert can also be wrong. OK but so what I’m saying is there seems to be and so far we’re staying in the domain of the hard domains. There seem to be a lot of differences between these and one of them is that with attractiveness if the listener sees a speaker as attractive they will be with dominance. I don’t even know what that means with competence. The problem seems to be accurately assessing it not whether it itself is accurate way to know who to listen to.

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S9: Well I think that’s fair. And so we use these cues that to that they decide and there’s you know one example in the book which is kind of crazy this idea that there’s an individual in a hospital that is who’s got an ear infection and you know the doctor comes along and because they abbreviate the prescription on the patient’s card instead of saying please these drops in the patient’s right ear they abbreviate the right with the letter. Oh so it now reads rear. And then the nurse says Why. Well clearly that’s what the doctor says so. I mean I see that this covers what was clearly was called the doctor. He’s got his white coat he’s got his little pens in his pocket. And but that’s the really interesting thing is isn’t it is in that context what would otherwise make absolutely no sense at all is now irrelevant. You know I see this feature of competence and expertise perceived competence and expertise and I kind of just like follow it you know and I suddenly do these crazy things that make no sense. I mean treatment of an ear infection via the rectal route. That’s.

S8: Probably not the way to go. Is there a correlation. Is it just not a strong correlation. Is there a negative correlation with the perception of some of these traits. And if the person is a proper messenger.

S10: Well oftentimes like you say competencies who we want to listen to not yet they are not the best messenger. And I think that was a nice case that we talk about in the final chapter of the book where parliamentarians in 1981 were discussing should we be preparing for the potential for a nuclear bomb to be dropped on the UK. And if so who are the right messengers to deliver this crucial information. And you may think that they would come up with nuclear physicists or kind of public health experts or some some kind of public official who would have expertise in this domain. But the names that were put forward were Kevin Keegan who was a captain of the England soccer team. And Ian both them who was a top cricketer again for England and these people knew nothing about the topic. They would have no idea what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. But yet what the parliamentarians recognized was actually people are going to respond to them and in a time of crisis you need somebody who draws attention and who can change behavior.

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S8: So that’s an example of the least competent or the least qualified person being the best messenger. Exactly.

S9: Perhaps it’s that perfect example of being right mattering a hell of a lot less than looking and sounding right.

S8: All right. I want to get to some of the soft domains here. You list warmth vulnerability trustworthiness and charisma. When I ask about vulnerability this I don’t know I don’t know 12 years ago that that would be up there as a soft domain. It seems to have we’ve rallied around the idea of vulnerability perhaps as a corrective to the idea of dominance. Do you think.

S10: Yeah. No they are in stark opposition on that kind of signal a need for help to show force is is often exactly opposed. But yes it has a powerful effect. And specifically in times of need humans are prone to hearing requests for help in and responding with sympathy. We have this kind of emotional capacity to respond to another’s needs and therefore we do so in that context.

S9: I think one of my favorite examples of that is you know those studies where you know you go to an airport you go to a train station and there’s there’s a long line and you know you need to meet that train needs to make that flight. And so you offer money to the people in front and say you know can I break in the line please and no surprise. Well I know people don’t like to do that but no surprise in the studies when they run these. Was that the more money you offer someone the more likely you are to be able to cut in front of them in the line of cars. Absolutely no surprise at all any economist in the world will tell you that’s probably what’s going to happen. What was really interesting though was that no one ever took money it’s almost like you know that signal of hey if you’re willing to give me like 100 bucks to cut in line you really must be in a vulnerable situation. So my humanity kicks in and I’m going to let you cut in front of the line so you can make your flight make your trip. So all it is is a proxy for expressing how vulnerable you are. In that instance in that instance it was a signal. Another one of these traits of I’m in need and I’m reaching out to other humans and that connectedness between humans is causing something magical to happen and you know I’m going to open my ears to your request. I’m going to open myself up to your message and potentially respond to it favorably.

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S8: Now it turned to warmth when we say warmth. What do we mean.

S10: The warmth is ability to express kind of benevolent some positive regard for other people. So you know we’re not trying to show that we’re better than them like we are but the state the streets but rather actually endow respect to them and show them out. We really admire you. I want to be your friend. And that has a powerful effect. You know you see the people doing it every day in language you don’t say take care now to Syria or Alexa but you say that to people because we need to show this warmth to cooperate and get along with them to show them that we respect their autonomy respect their welfare and you see you know in studies where they’ve measured doctors tone of voice they see that those who are rated as warmer tend to actually be sued less for malpractice than those who take a more dominant approach even though they’re equally competent but their patients are equally incompetent maybe. Yeah.

S8: So in your in your business Steven has influence at work. Do you do any consulting which might recommend a good spokesperson for a product.

S9: Yes we do. Yeah we do do some of that work. You know and often though the question is what do we say to people. But increasingly you know we’re turning our attention to who is saying what is actually being said you know. So for example you know on the London Tube you know all of your subway system here in New York we have messages that talk about the importance of holding the handrail and you know being safe and taking the elevator with your suitcases and things like that if you change the messenger you can have a dramatic influence over whether people pay attention to those messages and it turns out with safety related messages you know five six year old schoolchildren giving those messages over the P.A. far far more effective than the standard you know I’m the safety officer. Please hold the handrail. These kind of things so that’s an example of how what’s being said doesn’t change at all which is change who’s saying it. And you can measure these you know remarkable uplifts in effect.

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S8: OK. One of the most important distinctions is you talk about trustworthiness but that’s different from truth. I see this all the time in American politics. But what do you mean when you say that.

S10: Yes. So they are different things actually. And truthfulness relies on us kind of weighing evidence and creating you know doing computations in our heads. Whereas trustworthiness truthfulness is an objective standard. Exactly yes. And well given the evidence that is available to us and that might be uncertain but trustworthiness relies on these kind of vague broader assessments of the person and their underlying latent motivations and goals and values. And so we can trust somebody even when we think that they’re lying directly to their audience and sometimes because they’re lying.

S8: And this was I think Donald Trump does this a lot in that the more he in certain situations the more he lies and prevaricate and spreads falsehoods the more that his people who love him find him trustworthy for doing that because you’re telling our truths by not adhering to the facts or what some people say is a fact. You’re speaking the broader more important truth and there are others who are afraid to say that truth. I think that goes on very much.

S9: Yeah there’s almost like a questionable genius to that because it doesn’t just appeal to his supporters. You know the fact that the underlying value of what he’s actually saying is what they’ve signed up to boosts his credibility so he can lie and his trustworthiness goes up in that group. But he confirms another advantage as well which is all the people that disagree with him stop talking about him. You know he becomes focal and we do in society have this need these days because there’s crazy information overloaded world that we live in. Often we assign a importance to what we’re just paying attention to. And so if that attention orientated quality of his you know misinformation is miscommunications is is actually causing the people that don’t support him to pay more attention to them and as a result he becomes even more important.

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S11: Right. Messenger is who we listen to who we don’t and why by Stephen Martin and Joseph marks Thank you gentlemen. Thank you very much Keith.

S7: And now the spiel Fox News hosted acting white house chief of staff Mick Mulvaney who is confronted with his own words. They were played back to him and what Mulvaney embarked upon well. But there was something to behold. First Fox Sunday host Chris Wallace played a tape from that infamous news conference where as you’ll hear ABC as Jonathan Karl put to Mulvaney Hey you just admitted to a quid pro quo and Mulvaney right there from the podium says it was a quid pro quo. Here’s the take the quid pro quo it is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the. Server.

S12: Happened as well. We do we do that all the time with foreign policy.

S7: OK so when confronted with that moment Mulvaney sitting across from Chris Wallace could not admit to what you and I just heard his admission to the quid pro quo.

S12: Well a couple of other things you again said and just a few seconds ago that I said there was a quid pro quo. Never use that language because there there is not a quid pro quo.

S13: You were asked by Jonathan Karl is you’ve described a quid pro quo and you said that happens all the time.

S7: And again reporters will use their language all the time so OK OK let’s consider what Mulvaney is argument is here. Someone else said the actual words quid pro quo. All I did was agree that it was a quid pro quo. I didn’t literally mouthed the words quid pro quo. Therefore you cannot surmise that I adhere to the premise you know just given the fact that I agreed with the premise. So when Mick Mulvaney is asked a yes or no question and answer is yes you cannot take that as an affirmative unless he also restates the exact words in the question. Now we all thought this was the worst way to begin your eighth grade essay. What I did on my summer vacation on my summer vacation I and your teach voice at Kenya start a little better. No if you’re Mick Mulvaney the answer is no. I did it a better way. I was wrong. Stupid me also let’s say when asked Do you take this man to be your lawful wedded husband. And you said I do. That doesn’t count. You need to say I do take this man to be my lawful wedded husband. Good follow up question to acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney might have been. Are you sure you’re married sir. By the way at this point he’s been acting longer than Angela Lansbury but later in this episode of Bullshit he wrote Mulvaney made an assertion about the president’s directness. You’ve heard this line before.

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S12: The president never mentions the aide at all in the phone call doesn’t say Oh by the way I need to do this this this and this or else the money won’t flow. We all know enough about this president that if he feels very strongly about something he’s going to put that out there directly and that didn’t happen.

S7: In fact Trump’s people know that he constantly speaks and threatens obliquely indirectly. It is as much the Trump brand as gilded facades and Eastern European wives. This is why the Trump people are constantly going on the air to make the eminently falsifiable claim that Trump doesn’t do it. Although two years ago. Here is Don junior trying to argue the same exact point on Fox after former FBI director Jim Comey said Trump pressured him.

S14: You and I both know my father a longtime. When he tells you to do something. Yes. Guess what. There is no ambiguity in it. There is no hey I’m hoping you and I are friends. Hey I hope this happens but you’ve got to do your job. That’s what he told call me again.

S1: This has been contradicted by the facts hundreds of times. Trump engages in evasive and misdirected language all the time. There is parrot leases the oh I’m not saying I’m just saying there is the mafia like implied threat as described by Michael Cohen. Here is former Republican now independent congressman. At a congressional hearing.

S15: Quoting Michael Cohen you suggested that the president sometimes communicates his wishes indirectly for example you said quote Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he operates. End quote.

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S1: Implication strong suggestion or the word that Cohen himself used. He doesn’t give you questions. He doesn’t give you orders. He speaks in a code. He speaks in code another variation of this is Trump saying I’m not going to say it or I’ll get in trouble. And then he says it which gives him some I’d call it implausible deniability here. Remember this during the campaign he called Ted Cruz a pussy by talking about how terrible it was to call Ted Cruz a pussy.

S16: You heard the other night at the bait. They asked Ted Cruz serious question. Well what do you think of waterboarding. Is it OK. And honestly I thought he’d say absolutely and he did. And he said well it’s you know he’s concerned about the answer because some people she just said a terrible thing. You know she said shout it out because I don’t want to. OK. You’re not allowed to say and I never expect to hear that from you again. She said I never expect to hear that from you again. She said he’s a pussy. That’s her.

S1: And of course all the times he indirectly and passively aggressively abuse Jeff Sessions in public instead of directly firing him.

S17: I told you before I’m very disappointed with the attorney general but we will see what happens. Time will tell. Time will tell.

S1: Sessions took 16 more months of sideways barbs from the time those words were spoken. So there’s your direct blunt to the point President November on this week this week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was questioned by George Stephanopoulos about the administration’s policy of withholding weapons in exchange quid for investigating political rivals pro quo.

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S18: George Stephanopoulos asked him this so do you agree then with Senator Murkowski that would have been inappropriate to withhold the military aid unless this political investigation was pursued.

S13: George it I’m telling you what I was involved with. I’ll tell you what I saw transpiring and how President Trump was working to make the evaluation about whether was appropriate to provide this assistance.

S18: But that’s what I’m what I’m asking is would it be appropriate to condition that George.

S13: And I’m not going to get into hypotheticals and secondary things based on someone what someone else has said George you would’ve never done it when you were the spokesman. I’m not going to go against it.

S1: So at this point. STEPHANOPOULOS Is antenna twitches. Wait we all heard the Mick Mulvaney admission of quid pro quo.

S13: He said it happened again except it’s not hypothetical we saw the chief of staff it is George you just said if you’re George you just said if this happened.

S19: That is by definition but the chief of staff said it did torture.

S13: You asked me if this happened it’s a hypothetical.

S1: If the question did start with an F.. Questions that start with an F. are hypothetical. Even if the F isn’t really an F but also it did because that did happen. I guess maybe I could construct a sentence that starts with an F.. That’s not technically a hypothetical. How about something like this. If you hadn’t put out the partial transcript of the Ukrainian conversation wouldn’t your administration officials sweat and stammer a lot less on the Sunday shows. Now maybe that technically is a hypothetical but I gotta hand it to these Trump administration officials. They are so precise about language they are so desirous of all the right words and all the right questions. Well here is a word to describe their words and the words they deploy in the service of their arguments. It is a word that is sure to get a working over in the near term and that word is unimpeachable.

S20: And that’s it for today’s show that just was produced by Daniel Schrader his secret Twitter name is Charlemagne perfecto. Here’s another just producer for you Christina de Jose you may know her. Here’s another just producer for you Christina. To Jose you may know her by her Twitter lurker account name Antoinette aromatic. The gist follow us on secret Twitter at gas sparred gas hard. And Fredette Perugia Peru. And thanks for listening.