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

Trump used to live-tweet the Oscars; guess how much he liked them
Trump used to live-tweet the Oscars; guess how much he liked them

In February 2015, Donald Trump had an idea. "The Academy Awards last night were absolutely terrible," he said in an Instagram video. "Terrible, boring, ugly sets, everything. I have the perfect host for next year: me." Trump announced his candidacy for president just four months later, and by the time the 2016 Oscars rolled around...
Immigrants hide, fearing capture on ‘any corner’
Immigrants hide, fearing capture on ‘any corner’

No going to church, no going to the store. No doctor’s appointments for some, no school for others. No driving, period — not when a broken taillight could deliver the driver to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It is happening in the Central Valley of California, where unauthorized immigrants pick the fields for survival wages but are...
PolitiFact: Travis County not alone in refusing ICE detainers
PolitiFact: Travis County not alone in refusing ICE detainers

Austin Mayor Steve Adler says Travis County’s sheriff isn’t out of line by not automatically honoring federal requests that specific suspects be held 48 hours so immigration authorities can step in. Adler’s open letter to residents objects to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arresting Austin-area residents suspected...
From Trump, the nationalist, a trail of global trademarks
From Trump, the nationalist, a trail of global trademarks

Donald Trump has cast himself as the antiglobalist president. But Donald Trump, the businessman, is a different story. During the campaign, Trump’s organization continued to file dozens of new trademarks, in China, Canada, Mexico, the European Union and Indonesia, and one of his companies applied for trademark protection in the Philippines more...
Police fear Trump immigration plan may hinder effort to fight gangs
Police fear Trump immigration plan may hinder effort to fight gangs

After five teenagers were found dead in this town last year, murdered by the members of a transnational gang with ties to El Salvador, a local problem turned into a national flashpoint, a referendum on illegal immigration. Now, in the wake of President Donald Trump’s broad executive orders on deporting immigrants in the U.S. illegally, Suffolk...
More Stories