Let’s talk about Trump’s rhetoric. No, we’re not going to talk about how he called Mexican immigrants “rapists and criminals,” or prisoners of war “losers.” And we’re definitely not going to remind you how he imitated a disabled reporter. No, we’re not going to mention those moments, because we wouldn’t do that. We are, however, going to talk about Trump’s favorite rhetorical tactic.
Praeteritio is the act of saying something by saying that you’re not going to say it. Like, for instance, when Trump calls Rubio a lightweight by saying “I’m not going to call him a lightweight, because I think that’s a derogatory term.” It’s a rhetorical device as old as political rhetoric itself, once proudly wielded by Cicero, who often “refused to mention” the various crimes committed by Catiline and his supporters.
As with Cicero, Trump uses praeteritio to insult his opponents while also suggesting he’s the kind of guy who’s above insulting his opponents. It’s a neat trick. Watch the video above to see Trump’s preferred rhetorical flourish in all its petty, childish glory.