Monthly Pundit Project: Calvin Trillin


Post 1: “Chris, the royal fool to King Donald”

Post 2: “Changing fashion of the primaries?”

Post 3: “Bush, as described by Trillin: tennis player in a wrestling match”

Post 4: “Trillin, look for another “white knight,” GOP.”




Trillin: look for another “white knight,” GOP.

“Late White Hope,” by Calvin Trillin of the Nation. Published on March 24, 2016.

Calvin Trillin’s article, “Late White Hope (2016),” explains that Rick Perry, the previous governor of Texas, is a poor choice for an emergency third-party candidate. Though Trillin does not adequately support his argument, he does use figurative language to support his position. Trillin’s purpose is to criticize Rick Perry to show disapproval for the GOP’s current actions. Trillin is speaking to the audience consisting of politically-interested readers as well as average news readers.

Contrary to his other poems, Trillin begins with a mock-headline (the actual events represented by it are true) to provide the reader a hint into the exigency of what is to follow. The mock-headline creates an action and response function, in which the headline purposefully allows for Trillin to respond with his position, which, of course, is negative. Shifting towards the substance of the poem; first, Trillin actively uses “they” to refer to the Republican Party, for which the media has scrutinized their intentions to bring in a third-party candidate into the election. Next, Trillin acknowledges that the GOP believes that Rick Perry has the potential to “burst The Donald’s bubble.” The reader can understand this as a result of Trillin’s exaggeration via syntax (refer to “The Donald”) and the informal phrase, “popping a person’s bubble.” Finally, Trillin crushes the GOP’s hopes of this candidate’s success by stating that Perry is not the “white knight,” a symbol which is commonly thought of a person who “comes to the rescue” in a time of trouble.

Comment to Mr. Trillin:

Mr. Trillin,

I’ve noticed that with your previous and most recent posts, you are focused entirely on the idea of the GOP introducing a “white knight” candidate. How do you think this will influence the minds of the voters?

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Bush, as described by Trillin: tennis player in a wrestling match

“Jeb Bush’s Campaign as Sports Metaphor,” by Calvin Trillin of the Nation. Published on February 25, 2016.

Calvin Trillin’s article, “Jeb Bush’s Campaign as Sports Metaphor (2016),” asserts that Jeb Bush did not hold the rugged strength and mindset to be successful on the campaign trail. Trillin develops this argument by concisely introducing the idea of Jeb Bush as a peaceful tennis player competing against other athletes, who actually happen to be wrestlers. Trillin’s purpose is to use Bush’s recent drop-out as an example of why he wouldn’t have been able to tolerate the presidency. Because of its sharp criticism, Trillin’s audience is assumed to be directly Bush, but also politics-engaged readers.

In one 6-5-6-5 stanza, Trillin is able to invoke a tone of criticism. First, it is important to identify that as a result of the title, in which Bush’s name is stated, that Trillin is talking directly to the presidential candidate. In this first line, Trillin begins his metaphor by describing Bush as a tennis-player, which can carry several connotations. Such descriptors may include an upper-class, country-club tennis player, expecting to win the match. This image will most likely trigger a sense of disgust in the reader. But, as told by the second line, Bush “came up short.” This phrase, which is commonly used in the sports realm, adds to the effect of analogizing the loss of a party nomination as a loss of a sporting event. Trillin uniquely describes the 2016 Presidential Election as a “wrestling match;” if you do not have the proper mental and physical strength to combat the punches and kicks from other candidates (ahem, Donald Trump), you will not come out of the ring without bruises and a loss.

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Changing fashion of the primaries?

“Selecting a Presidential Nominee Through Primaries,” by Calvin Trillin of the Nation. Published on March 10, 2016.

Calvin Trillin’s latest article, “Selecting a Presidential Nominee through Primaries (2016),” implies that people may prefer a shift in the pattern of how the GOP delegates choose a presidential candidate. Trillin develops his argument through his problem-solving tone and ambiguous question at the end of the poem. Trillin’s purpose is to trigger a questioning response in the readers mind ( e.g. *reader thinks* “Could primary voting much more secretive than previous elections?”) for them to remember that “anything could happen,” especially during this particular presidential election. Through four ambiguous lines of poetry, Trillin writes to a politically engaged audience that includes all classes of political ideology (left to moderate to right).

Trillin begins this poem with the 11-syllable line, “Approval of reform was quite emphatic,” in which we can tell from the title of the poem and “reform” that he is talking about primary voting changes. In the next line, “Let’s let… democratic,” Trillin uses assonance (“let’s let the voters vote“) possibly to invoke humor because of the next sentence, in which he states that this type of behavior is “democratic.” Moving to the third line (“But now a question that’s distressing looms:”), Trillin depicts many anxious voters as the tangling strings of “looms,” a machine usually used to connect strands to form cloth. Finally, just like his previous poem, Trillin ends this one with a question, this time inquiring the reader on the possible popularity of secretive, alliance-based voting due to the overflooding competition of this election. “Smoke-filled rooms” is political jargon used to prompt the picture of men smoking cigars in a locked room, debating and deciding on which presidential candidate to root for in the primaries.

Comment to Mr. Trillin:

Mr. Trillin,

Having only followed you for two weeks, I have noticed that you tend to add an ambiguous tone to your poems. Do you believe that through these dark rooms, a party could randomly decide to pick another candidate?

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Chris, the royal fool to King Donald



Does anyone else feel the awkwardness of this photograph? Source: The National


“Christie as Trump’s Veep?,” by Calvin Trillin of the Nation. Published on March 3, 2016.

Calvin Trillin’s article, “Christie as Trump’s Veep? (2016),” concisely questions the probability of a Trump-Christie campaign. Trillin supports his argument through the use of two questions, actively criticizing them in the process. The use of this and other strategies, such as tone, explicitly reveal Trillin’s purpose: to softly rebuke the political figures and anyone who supports the likelihood of a Trump-Christie presidency. Considering that background knowledge of the 2016 presidential race complements the effect of Trillin’s humorous poem, it is assumed that the audience consists of general news readers, especially those with a moderate to high political interest.

Upon reading the title of the poem, the reader, hopefully “in the loop” for politics, should sense that due to Christie’s recent endorsement (after dropping out of the race) of Trump, it is likely that Trump could pick him as his vice president. It is indeed ironic, as their bickering of each other in the debates showed them as adversaries; the picture can show the irony that I feel is present.

The first line of the poem (“If…team”) informally introduces the political figures by their first names as the two members of a team. The second line (“Would…it?”) puts the reader in the metaphorical position of an athlete, or more actually, a voter, asking him or her if she would vote for this disastrous duo. The use of background knowledge is vital in the last two lines, in which Trillin asks a similar but more condescending question, “Could there be folks who might support / A schoolyard-bullies ticket?” Trillin’s use of critical humor in the last line conveniently provides his view on this plausible pair of men: he disapproves.

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Comment on Original Post (I can’t comment because I am not a subscriber):

Mr. Trillin,

It was a delight to read your latest poem regarding the notorious GOP candidate. Personally, I find it ironic that Christie endorsed the notorious candidate because of the scathing comments Trump made about him during the debates. However, at the same time, I am somewhat unsurprised; if endorsing Trump has the possibility of advancing a political career, the offer is hard to turn down. Do you believe that Trump will campaign with Christie as his “vice president” partner in crime?

Team Avery or Team Prosecutor?

“Are we making too much of ‘Making a Murderer’?,” by Meghan Daum of the Los Angeles Times. Published on January 7, 2016.

Meghan Daum’s article, “Are we making too much of ‘Making a Murderer’? (2016),” argues that due to the popularity and stance of the new Netflix series, its viewers only acknowledge one facet of the case, the pro-Avery side. Daum supports her argument by providing direct quotes of the filmmakers and defense lawyers, details of the public response to watching the film on social media, and personal commentary. This evidence fuels Daum’s purpose, which is to give the reader a reality-check about the case if he or she has seen the Netflix series. Keeping the details and the first-person view, we can assume the Daum is directly talking to the viewers of the documentary who has an unchanging opinion of the movie.

During the beginning of the article, Daum provides a slim background of the murder trials and begins her argument by acknowledging that even though the docuseries provides a detailed account of the trial, the viewer does not know every single fact of the case, demonstrating her logos.Daum believes that because of the ”

Daum believes that because of the “rabid public response” to the series, it is evident that people have only thought of one side of the story. To demonstrate this, Daum includes a Yelp review of the lead prosecutor by an Avery-supporter, “I hope that you get an incurable STD and spend the rest of your short life in constant misery, you fat slob.” When I read this, I immediately began to laugh, not only because of the exaggeration of the comment!

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