Opinion | Analyze This: Donald Trump’s Thoughts and Speech

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To the Editor:

Re “Donald Trump’s Way of Speaking Defies All Logic,” by Michael Wolff (Opinion guest essay, Aug. 6):

Mr. Wolff argues persuasively that much of what Donald Trump says can be chalked up to illogical and thus legally inconsequential blather and bluster. Except that is true only when one evaluates the former president’s pronouncements individually. Taken in their totality, they reveal themselves as the opposite of random scattershot.

Virtually everything Mr. Trump has said in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election pushes in the same direction: to try to reverse the election by every legal and — failing that — illegal means conceivable. Thus, the route to defeating Mr. Trump’s “my words are meaningless” defense is to assemble them into their coherent and sinisterly subversive whole meaning.

Richard Sclove
Amherst, Mass.

To the Editor:

Michael Wolff’s depiction of Donald Trump’s language and thinking as disordered rings true after years of hearing and reading the former president’s communications. However, Mr. Wolff’s argument that Mr. Trump’s actions regarding the 2020 election were likely unwitting and that this may mitigate his guilt in a trial brings to mind the old punchline, “I may be crazy but I’m not stupid.” That is, chaotic thinking does not preclude intention.

Reports of the former president’s caution and calculation abound. He famously doesn’t use email, typically issued questionable orders to subordinates using oblique language, and tore up, even flushed, papers in a White House toilet. His speech on the Ellipse on Jan. 6 contains a number of examples of indirect language.

Even if Mr. Trump’s actions in the Jan. 6 case were based on an irrational belief, is that a viable defense? If it were, it might apply to many convicted criminals who truly believed they could commit a crime and get away with it.

Madeleine Crummer
Santa Fe, N.M.

To the Editor:

Wait a minute now. Since when does a liar’s sincere belief in his own lies excuse him from committing a crime?

There are legal and illegal ways to pursue a grievance. The question is not whether the accused sincerely believes he was wronged but whether he was able to distinguish right actions from wrong ones.

Donald Trump chose legitimate challenges to the outcome of the 2020 election through ballot challenges and recounts. But at every turn, despite the expert opinion of many of his own advisers and loss after loss in the courts, Mr. Trump went further and pursued illegal means of reversing the vote.

If after November 2020 he was not a reasonable person and unable to tell right from wrong, he should try his luck with an insanity defense.

John Mark Hansen
The writer is a political science professor at the University of Chicago.

Illegal, Nah. Let’s Call It ‘Aspirational.’

To the Editor:

Re “Trump Lawyer Describes the Effort to Overturn the 2020 Election as ‘Aspirational’” (news article, Aug. 7):

Donald Trump’s attorney John F. Lauro has claimed that Mr. Trump’s requests to Vice President Mike Pence and Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, were not illegal because they were “aspirational,” which is to say they spoke to a hope rather than a plan.

In an interview on CNN he stated: “What President Trump didn’t do is direct Vice President Pence to do anything. He asked him in an aspirational way.”

By the same token, I presume that if I asked someone to cooperate with me in robbing a bank, that too wouldn’t be part of a criminal conspiracy, because my request was merely “aspirational.”

David P. Barash
Goleta, Calif.

Biden’s Ratings

To the Editor:

Re “Rising Tide Lifts All Boats, but So Far Not Biden’s” (news analysis, Aug. 5):

President Biden’s weak approval ratings despite his administration’s accomplishments result from a combination of his age, his inability to forcefully tout his achievements, the generalized contempt for politicians of all stripes and the successful orchestrated campaign by his opponents to paint him as weak and ineffectual.

Should Donald Trump win the White House next year, the country will have given credence to the adage that people get the governments they deserve. We will have brought upon ourselves whatever calamities a second Trump administration would deliver.

Daniel R. Martin
Hartsdale, N.Y.

Dog Parks: Fun or Harmful?

To the Editor:

Re “Dog Parks Are Great for People. Too Bad They’re Terrible for Dogs,” by Julie V. Iovine (Opinion guest essay, nytimes.com, Aug. 6):

Ms. Iovine makes the unfortunate logical leap that because dog parks may be inappropriate environments for some dogs, all owners should “forgo the dog park.”

For breeds like labradors (a breed that Ms. Iovine and I share affection for), dog parks can be the only place to safely or legally engage in instinctive pursuit and fetching behavior in an urban environment.

We should no more prescribe an end to dog parks because some dogs do not enjoy them than we should eliminate the symphony because some people do not enjoy Mahler.

Brian Erly

To the Editor:

People should know about the risks related to dog parks and then decide accordingly if they feel comfortable about them. Just as with most things, from riding in airplanes to eating street food, some of us are more risk averse than others.

Consider a few things: Do you have pet insurance? (Often, the other person cannot or will not pay for any vet bills if their dog injures yours.) Are your dogs more confident or nervous? Do you know the signs of anxiety and aggression in dogs? Are you willing to watch your dogs and stay with them to make sure they are safe? Is your dog a bully (a hard one to admit)?

One of our dogs was attacked this year at a park, and the other dog’s guardian didn’t pay the vet bills for the stitches and follow-up visits. We still go back, but now with an air horn and an extra sense of vigilance.

Katie Arth
Ventura, Calif.

Together, With Music

To the Editor:

Re “This Is the Music America Needs,” by Farah Stockman (Opinion, Aug. 9):

Ms. Stockman’s wonderful article reminded me of my childhood, when we came to these shores in 1938 as refugees from Nazi Germany. My father, a fine amateur violinist and an avid chamber music player, discovered a small publication that listed amateur musicians and their self-grades as to ability.

This brought a diverse assortment of talented musicians, violin and cello cases in tow, to our apartment. They were young and elderly, newly arrived as well as true Yankees, Black and white, with diverse backgrounds and beliefs, all connected by the joy of making music together, playing Mozart and Haydn quartets.

The after-music “Kaffee und Kuchen” (“coffee and cake”) provided by my mother encouraged conversation and discovery about each other’s lives, and a good deal of laughter and fellowship. Although small in number, these groups echoed the headline, “This (Too) Is the Music America Needs.”

Rudi Wolff
New York

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