Did Trump study Cicero’s
secrets of oratory?

Former President likes to use emotions over facts

By Byron Toben

Until recently, although I had vaguely heard of the Roman politician/philosopher Cicero, the name usually conjured up the western suburb of Chicago from which hailed “Big Jule from Cicero, Illinois,” featured in Damon Runyon’s short stories incorporated into the classic musical and film, Guys and Dolls.

I relished the scene where Big Jule (B.S. Pully), losing in Nathan Detroit’s (Frank Sinatra) floating crap game, declared, “I do not like these dice. We will now use my dice,” to which Nathan exclaimed, ”But these dice do not have any dots.” Replied Big Julie, “That is not a problem as I remember where they formerly were,” and patting his holstered Betsy (revolver), “Do you object?” then proceeded to recoup his losses and win much more.

Guys and Dolls Frank Sinatra

B.S. Pully (Big Jule) and Frank Sinatra (Nathan Detroit) in Guys and Dolls – Image: Warner Archive

However, the historical Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BCE), who rose to become a consul in the Roman senate despite not having a rich family nor being a good general, did so on the strength of his oratory, for which he was compared to the great Athenian orator Demosthenes (384-322 BCE).

Cicero’s secrets of oratory are discussed at length by Dr. Gregory Aldrete of the University of Wisconsin, as cited by occasional contributor Irwin Rapoport. Below are the 18 bullet points there listed.

In a famous Vanity Fair interview, Ivana Trump stated that Donald kept a gift book of Hitler’s speeches in a locked bedside drawer. Did he also study Cicero’s secrets? Judge for yourselves. The overriding theme is to use emotions over facts.

  1. Use of props and visual aids.
  2. Use rhymes – “If the glove don’t fit, you got to acquit” (OJ Simpson) “Stop the Steal” (Trump)
  3. Repetition
  4. Guilt by association
  5. Exaggeration – “I alone can fix it.”
  6. Mudslinging
  7. Labelling Social Democrats as Communists
  8. Fear mongering
  9. Us vs. Them
  10. Appeal to God(s) and Country
  11. Simplification
  12. Transferral – Attributing to others what you would or have done ex. rigging elections
  13. Testimony – “Everyone knows that…”
  14. Divert and distract
  15. Humour – laugh at opponents as sleepy, crooked, nasty, etc.
  16. Delivery
  17. Gestures
  18. Music
Vengeance of Fulvia beheading of Cicero

Vengeance of Fulvia – Image: Francisco Maura y Montaner, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Despite his insights, Cicero was beheaded on the order of Mark Antony (yes, that Mark Antony whose speech at Caesar’s funeral urged, “the stones of Rome to rise and mutiny,” according to Shakespeare’s play.)

Readers are encouraged to add other examples of Trump’s behaviour to any of Cicero’s 18 points.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its publishers.

Feature image: Trump supporter at rally in St-Paul, MN, Nov. 2020, Chad Davis, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia CommonsBouton S'inscrire à l'infolettre –

More articles from Byron Toben

Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.

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  1. Marie Gravelle

    Byron Toben’s articles are always spot-on; it’s always a delight to read his very articulate musings! Thank you, Byron!

  2. Richard Orlando

    I think that works best for a phony like Trump is number 14: “Divert and distract.” Anyone who’s seen the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz” remembers how the Wizard is discovered to be, with the help of spunky Dorothy, the fraud that he really is. Trump, a bankrupt casino owner who dodged not only the draft and Internal Revenue while boasting about his successes and his love of country, was and still is the quintessential diverter and distractor.

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