Take your pick: Trump’s ‘truthful hyperbole’ or Duterte’s ‘in-your-face expletives’



First read

I was about to write down as my title: “Pick your poison: Trump’s ‘truthful hyperbole’ or Duterte’s ‘in-your face expletives’ ” but at the last minute I drew back. It sounds like a hyperbole and an expletive itself.

My point is this. The key to understanding Donald Trump’s mind and style is his concept of “the truthful hyperbole,” which has become his signature idea for his business and his politics.

The window to Digong Duterte’s soul is his fondness for expletives, which he issues to anyone and at any time, in disregard of all civility and the status of people.

Their foul mouths were an essential part of their campaign arsenals. Without the vitriol, the masses of the electorate and the media in America and the Philippines would have turned them into serious contenders for the presidency.

It would be extravagant to say that hyperbole or expletive brought Trump and Duterte to the presidency. But the point deserves examination, because Trump without hyperbole and Duterte shed of expletives would become like emperor with no clothes in the Hans Christian Anderson tale.

Trump and the art of hyperbole

In his book the Art of the Deal, trump discusses at some length the essence of his message and style, when he first elucidated the concept of “truthful hyperbole.”

The concept, wrote Sir Roland Sanders last July, is essentially a lie, being a contradiction in terms.

The hyperbole starts with Trump declaring himself “the greatest”; claiming that he knows just about everything better than everyone else; and that he will fix everything that he alleges is wrong with America. He would build a wall to serve as a border between the US and Mxico.

As he bragged about what he will do, he attached demeaning terms to his political opponents, such as “little Marco” (to Senator Marco Rubio), “lying Ted” (to Senator Cruz), “low-energy Jeb” (to Gov. Jeb Bush) and finally “corrupt Hillary” (to Hillary Clinton).

Some of course have replied in kind and called him hateful names.

But here, I will focus on the crux of Trump’s philosophy, campaign message and approach to self-promotion and publicity.

In his book The Art of the Deal, Trump explains it all as follows on page 58, introducing his concept of the truthful hyperbole: “I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and it’s a very effective form of promotion.”

This line has earned for him many Pinocchios and Pants on Fire citations from media fact-checkers, but he can make the case that he’s basically telling the truth. He’s just playing to people’s fantasies and aspirations. Voters can live and affect change vicariously through him.

This is what most politicians aim to convey. When Barack Obama talked about hope and change in his historic run for the US presidency, he used the same method.

Trump knows well also the adage that “Perception is reality.” On one of his famous hotel projects, he related:
“I…told him [the architect]to make it appear that we’d spent a huge sum of money on the drawings. A good-looking presentation goes a long way.”

One analyst has commented: “You could say this sentiment is the crux of a successful politician — the wrapping is even more important than the present, the packaging more important than the product.” With Trump, his packaging is that of an anti-politician and outsider.

What matters, of course, is that he closed the deal. He has won the US presidency.

Ghost writer tells all

The fly in the ointment is that the writer who wrote the Art of the Deal for Trump, decided to come out of the closet and reveal his handiwork.

The writer, Tony Schwartz, told all in an interview in The New Yorker, and what he said was totally uncomplimentary to Trump. Schwartz said: “I put lipstick on a pig. I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is. I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.” He added that if he were writing the book today it would be called, “The Sociopath.”

The dictionary definition of “sociopath” is – “a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is anti social, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.”

Schwartz now regrets inventing the term, “truthful hyperbole,” which, he says, is a contradiction in terms. He admitted that it’s a way of saying: “It’s a lie, but who cares?” But, according to him, Trump, loved the phrase. And, so it is.

A ghostwriter betraying his trust and kissing and telling, is shameful and dishonorable.

Duterte’s ‘in your face’ expletives

President Duterte will not have a problem of ghost authorship with the many expletives and curses that he has issued against many personages of high rank, ever since he acceded to office.



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  1. do you practice censorship?? i posted many comments on your column but were not published. i wonder why?? i did not curse or malign you or anybody. am just wondering why my comments do not get published. BAKA NAMAN ITO AY MA DELETE MO PA RIN.

  2. Comparison between the two have an enormous similarity and differences. Details can be explained clearly when you follow the election candidacy of these two personalities from the beginning up to the present situation. In the Philippines as they say we are not matured enough for our electoral rights and the undisciplined mentality concerning the results of the last elections that had happened. In the Filipinos way of thinking, the result of the last election is not a surprised outcome since all the pollsters predict who is who will reign victorious after these, while in the USA all the conditions are met with a predictable and only a formality which Clinton will win handily but was quash in the election. Now these so called people who TRUMPETED the meaning of democracy to other nations are the one’s singing the opposite of what these ideals that use to be. In comparison, Filipinos are far more matured than these Americans when it comes to election outcome. We follow the rule of Law if you feel you are the rightful winner of the election you seek the courts intervention but in the case of the Americans even the winner of such election if the minority electorate doesn’t like him went wild with rallies and vandalism in their aspiration not to make him seat as their leader. They don’t accept defeat honorably. That is happening NOW. I pity them because i use to know they are the good model of DEMOCRATIC ideals before and now no more. Now i know that i am proud to be a Filipino because we are more matured than them.

  3. The biggest objective is to let the voters believe even if it is an exageration. I still remember this colonel that promised a married lady that he will give her a condominium unit if she will have sex with him. She believe him but when she was requesting to get the unit’ the colonel refused. Same with Duterte, he said he will protect the police in EJK, police killed Espinosa expecting that Duterte will protect them. I am sure these police will go to jail. The colonel and Duterte used truthful hyperbole in both incident. In Tagalog , we call it ” Kung sasakay ka sa Bola e, tanga ka “.

    • Truthful hyperbole!
      Before a company of soldiers in a camp: I will double your salaries. Sa next pay day, tingnan nyo, pasok na yan.


      Now, the sundalong-kanin remains the future sundalong-French Fries of our generation.