SOUTH BEND – President Trump’s speeches are fascinating. I watched all of his speech at that Tulsa rally, all one hour and 40 minutes of it. Fascinating speech.

On the July 4th weekend, I watched all of the president’s Mount Rushmore speech, this one short by his standards, only 40 minutes, but long on his declaration of a cultural war against teachers, journalists and corporate executives promoting “a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance.” Fascinating speech.

Some family members and friends to whom I send text messages to alert them of a Trump oration in progress say they can’t stand to listen to him. I can. It’s fascinating. You don’t have to agree with all, many or any of the things said in order to be intensely interested in hearing and analyzing the content and likely reaction of the nation to pronouncements by the president of the United States.

I recall hearing from people who said they couldn’t stand to listen to another president, Barack Obama. That made no sense. Neither does refusing to listen to the current president.

In listening to President Trump, it’s fascinating to figure out which remarks were written by speechwriters and read from a teleprompter and which are spur-of-the moment thoughts that arise as he rallies a crowd with his unique style of speaking. It’s clear that Trump wasn’t reading from a script when he said in Tulsa that all that coronavirus testing leads to troubling statistics about so many infections.

“When you do testing to that extent you are going to find more people, you are going to find more cases,” Trump said. “So, I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down please.’”

Members of his administration, aghast, rushed to say he was just joking, just kidding. Then Trump undercut them, saying he wasn’t kidding, even if he didn’t formally order a cut in testing.

Also, it’s clear that Trump was sticking to words of the speechwriters at Mount Rushmore. Proof was in the way Trump mispronounced some of the words written for him. “Totalitarianism” became something like “totallie-tario-tism.” They shouldn’t put in big words. In reciting a line about the Nobel Peace Prize, he called it “Noble” instead of “Nobel.” Hard to figure that one out. But fascinating.

Twice he mispronounced the first name of Ulysses Grant and mumbled and bumbled elsewhere, undercutting his campaign attacks on Joe Biden as the one who stumbles with words. Will voters care about a stumbles issue? Trump apparently feared that they might, dedicating such a long segment of his Tulsa speech to explaining why he walked unsteadily down a ramp after his graduation speech at West Point. He wasn’t slipping. It was slippery shoes.

It’s fascinating to analyze where Trump is directing his remarks, his appeal. No doubt about it. He’s appealing to his base, trying to get those folks angry and motivated to fight “a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children.”

He tells of children “taught in school to hate their own country.” Wow! The teachers do that?

While he railed against taking down monuments, his speechwriters were careful not to mention specifically Confederate monuments. In a tweet, however, the president made clear his view on Confederate symbols, calling it a blunder for NASCAR to ban Confederate flags at events.

Strange that he chose to spend a news cycle going after driver Bubba Wallace rather than Joe Biden? Very strange. But reading words in a tweet isn’t the same as watching the president speak strange words live before a responding crowd. It’s fascinating to see his expressions, hear his tone of voice and figure out what comes from speechwriters and what comes from the heart. And whether he is motivating or turning off more voters. That’s fascinating. 

Colwell has covered Indiana politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.