Photo by Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Did you hear Donald Trump repeatedly sniffling his nose during the last Presidential debate? If I were a lesser man, I would say dude was pretty coked up.

Of course, it would be wrong to make such a comment without proof, which is why I would never say that Donald J. Trump—the Republican candidate for President of the United States—was high as a helicopter during the debates and has possibly been an uncontrollable tweaker throughout most of his adult life and, that, my friends, is a rhetorical device known as an apophasis.

An apophasis is when a person states or reveals something by saying that he or she will not state or reveal it. Next to flinging his own feces against a wall and insisting its art, the apophasis is one of Trump's favorite tactics. Such as immediately after the debate when he told CNN, "I'm very happy that I was able to hold back on the indiscretions with respect to Bill Clinton because I have a lot of respect for Chelsea Clinton and I just didn't want to say what I was going to say."

But you just said it ya twerp! Right there, just now—you said it!

You see a lot of examples of the apophasis in politics, when one party seeks to damage the other person's reputation with tawdry gossip while at the same time appearing to be above tawdry gossip. Such as during the 1988 race for the presidency, after it was leaked that Michael Dukakis had received psychiatric treatment, Reagan told reporters, "Look, I'm not going to pick on an invalid."

And who can forget when Cranky McAngryson, the incumbent city clerk of Weeki Wachi, Florida famously declared, "I refuse to go negative against my opponent, Juan Liddle Dingus, who we all know has a wiener the size of his grandmotherís tea-pinky."

The evil genius behind Trump's unmentionable mention of Bill Clinton's adultery is that Hillary Clinton didn't get to respond. Because you know she was prepared to respond. Hillary was nothing if not prepared for whatever "art" Trump was going to fling during that debate. She would have eaten him alive with regard to his record on monogamy. Or possibly just responded, "You know what fuckweasel? My husband's marital indiscretions have as much to do with my ability to govern as your father's Nazi indiscretions have to do with yours—but we won't go there."

However, with an after-the-fact apophasis, he has people associating her with her husband's dirty deeds, while at the same time disavowing himself from the appearance of mudslinging then wrapping it all up with a pretty, little bow called, "Respect for Chelsea"—because, you know, he's always so considerate about women's feelings.

Not that this is anything new. Politicians have been using the apophasis since Pontius Pilate told a jury of Christ's peers, "I'm not even going to mention this water-to-wine lunacy." But Trump uses it ad nauseam. During his 2015 primary run, Trump said, "I promised I would not say that [Carly Fiorina] ran Hewlett-Packard into the ground...I said I will not say it, so I will not say it."

He apophasized Jeb Bush in January when he said, "I was going to say 'dummy' Bush; I won't say it. I won't say it."

About Jon Stewart, Trump tweeted, "...I never attacked dopey Jon Stewart for his phony last name. Would never do that!"

Earlier this year he tweeted, "I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct."

Trump also likes to employ a relative of the apophasis known as phony reluctance, which is how he was able to call Ted Cruz a pussy without actually calling him a pussy. It was at a rally in New Hampshire, while riffing on Cruz's reluctance to come out in favor of waterboarding. A woman in the audience blurted, "Pussy!" which was inaudible to most of the crowd so Trump called attention to it.

"She just said a terrible thing," he announced, pointing to the woman. Then he told her to, "Shout it out, because I don't want to say it."

The woman blurted it again and he told her, "Okay, you're not allowed to say that, and I never expect to hear that from you again," (there's your phony reluctance) then addressing the crowd he said, "She called [Cruz] a pussy."

Look, the way you don't mention something that you don't want to mention is by not mentioning it. I know it's hard sometimes, I mean even as I write this conclusion I struggle with a desire to say that Donald Trump is a compulsive liar (I'm so proud that I haven't). It is taking every bit of emotional strength to keep from calling him a sexist, racist, racketeering con man, who may have committed child rape (so far, that's just an accusation so I'm biting my tongue). I don't want to call him vapid (which he clearly is), nor insidious (word on the street says "yes"). I certainly will not say that he has predilection toward incest (the things he has said about his daughter are too creepy to repeat here like, "If Ivanka weren't my daughter, perhaps I'd be dating her"), and I will never make reference to the cage fights he hosts between undocumented Mexicans and Syrian refugees in the dungeons of Trump Tower. Nope, not me. I'm just too professional and dignified to stoop to such depths. But that's just me. I'm awesome. All hail me. I rule.

Write to and Edwin Decker blogs at Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.


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