You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Trump unfiltered: Tweets reveal his interests, insecurities


His message came at the start of one of the busiest weeks of Donald Trump's transition to the White House. It's a week when he and his team are preparing eight Cabinet picks for confirmation hearings, finalizing appointments and gearing up for his first news conference as president-elect.

But at 6:29 a.m. on Monday, Trump was focused on what seemed like a less presidential problem: a five-minute Golden Globes speech in which actress Meryl Streep had suggested he was a "bully."

"One of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood," Trump tweeted out to his 19.2 million followers.

For better or worse, the president-elect's social media feed is offering a daily glimpse into the interests, insecurities and insults that weigh on the next leader of the free world.

Many presidents have privately bristled at the attacks, criticism and mockery the office can bring. They've fumed behind the walls of the Oval Office and complained about slights to their aides and wives. But Trump's use of Twitter is giving Americans and the world something they've never seen before.

"This is unprecedented access to the president. The presidency usually has a firewall," said Timothy Naftali, a professor of history and public service at New York University. "By using Twitter, Mr. Trump has decided to remove the filter that has served so many of his predecessors so well."

From his gleaming Manhattan skyscraper, Trump fires off messages starting at dawn. In the past week, he's slammed the "dishonest" media, insulted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer as his party's "head clown," praised 16-year-old Inauguration singer Jackie Evancho and ripped Arnold Schwarzenegger for low ratings on "The Celebrity Apprentice."

The tweets, which frequently feature commentary about specific media reports, give a sense of what Trump is reading and watching.

They ricochet across the globe and news networks. The Streep tweet alone was reposted more than 27 million times, prompting dozens of news reports and hours of television commentary. Even his spelling errors have prompted news coverage: Last month, he was mocked for using the word "unpresidented" instead of "unprecedented."

Unfettered, stream-of-consciousness commentary is not new for Trump, who began harnessing the social media network to further his brand long before running for president. But, as president, his missives will now carry global ramifications.

Last week, Xinhua, the Chinese state run news agency, published a commentary begging Trump to stop commenting online, saying that foreign policy "isn't child's play." The piece came after Trump repeatedly jabbed Beijing on Twitter.

"Indulging in 'Twitter diplomacy' is undesirable," said the headline.

Trump is hardly the first president to take umbrage with what he views as unfair attacks. Behind closed doors, Richard Nixon was notoriously vengeful, Lyndon Johnson often thin-skinned and Dwight Eisenhower prone to rage, says Naftali. But past presidents went to great lengths to keep their personal emotions private, carefully channeling communications through staff.

"The White House staff has been designed to soften the hard edges of the boss," says Naftali. "You're representing the United States. Do you want the United States to look angry?"

President Barack Obama's presidential Twitter account was carefully launched in May 2015, with a press release, official photo and benign online jokes with former President Bill Clinton. Messages are edited by aides and strategically timed.

Trump has taken the opposite approach. His messages blindside his staff, who admit they wake up and check Twitter to see what's been occupying their boss overnight.

"I do look there first, because that's what's going to drive the news," incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said last week at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics.

Critics say he often uses the messages to distract attention from more damaging stories about his business interests, ethical questions trailing his incoming administration and his factual inaccuracies. Others argue that they're evidence of "Donald being Donald" — a reflection of the New York real estate mogul's long-running interest in celebrity culture and his own social stature.

In any case, his midnight missives regularly send aides scrambling to defend their boss. On Monday morning, incoming senior adviser Kellyanne Conway was on TV accusing Streep of "inciting people's worst instincts" and wallowing in "self-pity."

Trump has given little indication that his tweeting ways will change once he takes office.

Time to brace for a reality-television presidency?

"He's going to be a somewhat different type of president," said Stephen Hess, a policy analyst at Brookings who has advised presidents from both parties. "We're soon going to learn what the pluses and minuses are of that."


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett joins Democratic boycott of Trump inauguration
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett joins Democratic boycott of Trump inauguration

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, has joined some 50 House Democrats — including two others from Texas — who will not be attending President-elect Trump’s inauguration as the 45th president of the United States Friday. “We are sending a message to Mr. Trump. Respect, like Pennsylvania Avenue, is a two-way street,” Doggett...
Audit: Ex-Austin Water spokesman took favor after a pricey contract
Audit: Ex-Austin Water spokesman took favor after a pricey contract

An Austin Water spokesman accepted a favor from a website creator whose work he approved for the city at a wildly inflated cost, a city audit found this month. The city auditor’s office received a tip last March that Jason Hill, then a program manager for Austin Water’s public information office, “steers advertising dollars to his...
Bill Maher isn't high on Trump
Bill Maher isn't high on Trump

It was Nov. 12, and Bill Maher was about to begin his comedy act at the City National Civic in San Jose when he did something he hadn’t done in many years. He brought a drink with him to the stage; a standup roadie (tequila). “And boy did I miss it,” he joked with me last week. “What an idiot all those years — drinking&rsquo...
Corporations open spigot to bankroll inauguration
Corporations open spigot to bankroll inauguration

When Donald Trump strides onto the inaugural ballroom floor this week amid the sprawling celebration of his swearing-in, he will have corporate America and many of its titans to thank for the rapturous greeting. Chevron, the oil giant, has given $500,000 for the dayslong festivities. Boeing, which has been a target of Trump, pledged $1 million. And...
There goes the neighborhood: Obamas, Ivanka Trump, Jeff Bezos are moving in
There goes the neighborhood: Obamas, Ivanka Trump, Jeff Bezos are moving in

In the coming days, Sally Berk will be able to say that she lives in the same Northwest Washington neighborhood as Barack and Michelle, Jared and Ivanka, and a billionaire named Jeff. Ho-hum.  What's another president in the 'hood when five others have already resided in Kalorama, Washington's very own version of Beverly Hills?  Can you blame...
More Stories