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

Watch for a fight as Austin reviews who’s paying too much for water
Watch for a fight as Austin reviews who’s paying too much for water

Commercial businesses in Austin are overpaying for their water by nearly $4.4 million this year, while homes and apartments are underpaying to the tune of $2.1 million, according to preliminary numbers in an Austin Water cost of service review. Those customers are paying what they’re being charged. But the rates don’t align with what it...
Austin rally calls for stronger action on climate change
Austin rally calls for stronger action on climate change

As tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in Washington, D.C., Seattle, Boston, San Francisco and other U.S. cities to demand action on climate change, a smaller but just as fervent group of protesters gathered at a sister rally on the steps of the Texas Capitol. Organizers of the Austin event — which drew at least 2,000 people, according...
Taylor council candidates agree city needs to attract businesses. jobs
Taylor council candidates agree city needs to attract businesses. jobs

A real estate company owner and a concrete business’ vice president are running against each other for a place on the Taylor City Council. Gary Gola and Dwayne Ariola are competing for an at-large position left vacant by Taylor Mayor Jesse Ancira Jr., who has decided not to seek re-election. The five council members will choose the next mayor...
Lawmakers wary of Russia's ability to plant dirt, fake evidence on their computers
Lawmakers wary of Russia's ability to plant dirt, fake evidence on their computers

In a brief and largely overlooked exchange between Sen. Marco Rubio and America's top spy during a January hearing about Russia's alleged election meddling, the Florida Republican sketched out what he fears could be the next front in the hidden wars of cyberspace.  Could Russian hackers, Rubio asked then-Director of National Intelligence James...
Can Democrats force Republicans' hands on Trump's tax returns? 
Can Democrats force Republicans' hands on Trump's tax returns? 

House Democrats want to force Republicans' hands on President Donald Trump's tax returns — but it remains to be seen how effective posturing can be for the minority.  House Democrats plan to have Massachusetts Rep. Katherine M. Clark introduce legislation requiring Trump to release his tax returns from 2007 to 2016, according to The Washington...
More Stories