Within the past week, a raft of conservative heavy-hitters have weighed in on the problems raised by Pres. Trump’s tweets. Karl Rove focused on Trump’s tweets about his executive order temporarily halting travel from six Muslim-majority nations. Charles Krauthammer attacked not only those tweets, but also his tweets mocking the Mayor of London following a terror attack, and exacerbating tensions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia (and other Sunni Muslim nations). Both Stephen Hayes and Matthew Continetti wrote about the tweet that supposedly provoked fmr FBI Director Comey into revealing he had allegedly damaging memos of his conversations with Trump related to the Russia investigation.
The problem of course, is not the tweets; it’s the tweeter.
Indeed, Rove also wrote about Trump’s messaging failure in withdrawing from the Paris accords, which was not expressed in tweets. Trump’s feud with the Mayor of London is a year-old grudge match that did not originate on Twitter.
The reveal of the Comey memos may have fueled the atmosphere for naming a special counsel for the probe into the relationships of various Trump associates and Russia. And it’s a narrative with nifty drama. But the root cause was Trump dismissing Comey and then telling Lester Holt on television that the investigation was on his mind when he did it, not any recommendation from the Justice Dept. (And then he told Russia’s foreign minister…in the Oval Office, not on Twitter.)
Comey was as much or more angry about that seeming pretext for his firing cooked up by Trump’s administration — which relied on his handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation and the supposed failings of the FBI under his command — than Trump’s later tweet. Trump’s interview contradicted the rationale set forth by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who then named the special counsel for reasons that likely had nothing to do with Twitter and everything to do with distancing himself from a heap of hot garbage.
That Rosenstein selected as special counsel an old friend and associate of Comey might be a further reflection of how Rosenstein feels about Trump hanging him out to dry, a sentiment having zero to do with Twitter.
Indeed, Krauthammer observed that the tweeting was just part of Trump governing from his id. And Rove noted that much of the trouble with Trump’s tweets about they executive order were that they revealed how little Trump understood the situation:
“Increasingly it appears Mr. Trump lacks the focus or self-discipline to do the basic work required of a president. His chronic impulsiveness is apparently unstoppable and clearly self-defeating. Mr. Trump may have mastered the modes of communication, but not the substance, thereby sabotaging his own agenda.”
Of course, it’s not “increasingly”; it’s always been fairly obvious, from the moment Trump stepped off his escalator to announce his candidacy. And his lack of mastery of the substance has not been about certain topics, but about almost every topic.
The problem is not Twitter. Consider Hannibal Lecter’s advice from Silence of the Lambs:
“First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?”
In this case, the answer is: “He demands attention.” So much so that he sought the job which demands the world pay attention to everything he says and does, regardless of whether he knows what he’s talking about or doing.
If Trump didn’t have Twitter, it would be more interviews, more press conferences, and so on.
These smart conservative pundits would prefer he say less. I suspect they would prefer he stick to a script he didn’t write, so much so that he was effectively not President. But this would be against Trump’s basic nature.
However, by focusing on tweets, these conservatives publicly point out that Trump is both self-destructive and not up to or interested in the full duties of his job without drawing the sort of partisan fire that would come from observing that the tweets are merely a symptom. That’s why I called them smart.
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