In a 60 Minutes piece that aired the Sunday after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, Lesley Stahl asked Trump if he would continue to use Twitter. He replied, in part:
It’s a great form of communication. Now, do I say I’ll give it up entirely and throw out, that’s a tremendous form — I pick up– I’m picking up now, I think I picked up yesterday 100,000 people. I’m not saying I love it, but it does get the word out. … I’m going to do very restrained, if I use it at all, I’m going to do very restrained. I find it tremendous. It’s a modern form of communication. There should be nothing you should be ashamed of. It’s– it’s where it’s at.
In fact, Trump has continued to tweet to his 16.8 million followers, though not quite as frequently as he did during the campaign. That’s understandable, what with talking to foreign leaders and the demands of the transfer of power and all. Has he managed “to do very restrained”? Let’s take a look at a selection of what has come out of the president-elect’s Android over the the last two weeks.
After visiting the White House two days after Election Day, he was indeed sort of gracious, though his tone and phrasing sounded oddly like a ninth-grader confiding in her diary.
The graciousness lasted precisely nine minutes. At 9:19 p.m., Trump commented on the demonstrations against him in large cities across the country: “Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!”
It was a mind-boggling statement, even leaving aside the fact neither Trump nor anyone else has backed up the claim that the protesters were “professional.” The amazing thing was that Trump had spent many months insisting that the election would be “rigged” and suggesting that if he were to lose, he would not accept the results. Now, all of a sudden, they were “open” and “successful.”
By the way, the reason I didn’t reproduce this tweet is that Trump deleted it. The following day, he took a 180 that seemed just a smidge insincere:
The word “small” was (for him) a rare bit of effective verbal subtlety.
Trump kept up the positive vibe, thanking veterans and expressing vague hopes for his administration’s eventual achievements. That lasted two days. Then:
In addition to confirming that Trump has a skin about as thin as my classes’ attendance on the day before Thanksgiving break (and that he doesn’t know the difference between phenomenon and phenomena), the tweets were completely inaccurate. The Times’s open letter to readers did include this rhetorical question — “Did Donald Trump’s sheer unconventionality lead us and other news outlets to underestimate his support among American voters?” But it didn’t apologize for anything, and it essentially reaffirmed the paper’s commitment to tough-minded and fair reporting. As for losing “thousands of subscribers,” the fact is that the Times added 41,000 new customers in the week after Election Day, its biggest one-week rise since launching the digital-subscription model in 2011.
November 13 turned out to be a busy day for Trump on Twitter. He followed up with a series of tweets, featuring his trademark exclamation points, and bragging that the Republican establishment types who’d spent months slagging him had now come to Jesus.
But then it was back to his personal bete noire.
Oh yes he did. Politifact rated this Trump tweet as “False,” citing, among other evidence, the way he’d answered Anderson Cooper’s question about proliferation in a March interview.
As part of a meandering response, Trump said that he both opposes nuclear proliferation (“No, no, not proliferation. I hate nuclear more than any,” and “I don’t want more nuclear weapons”) and supports some countries obtaining nuclear weapons for the first time.
“Wouldn’t you rather, in a certain sense, have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons?” he asked Cooper.
Cooper also asked Trump: “Saudi Arabia, nuclear weapons?”
Trump: “Saudi Arabia, absolutely.”
At that point, the restraint and graciousness were kaput, as Trump’s tweets continued to display the facets of his character with which we have become familiar.
- Self-aggrandizing defensiveness. (The latest tally shows Hillary Clinton leading Trump in popular votes by more than 1.2 million.)
- Hyper-sensitivity to the reporting of a certain newspaper, and poor spelling.
- Willingness, or maybe eagerness, to sling falsehoods. (Ford never planned to move its Kentucky plant to Mexico.)
- Self-righteous rubbish.
- Scary and weird prickliness about being satirized on a TV comedy show.
Because it’s been so widely covered, I’ll skip over the topic to which the president-elected has devoted the most tweets (three) — his outrage that a member of the cast of Hamilton directed some brief and respectful remarks to Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
At 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, Trump sent out this tweet in reference to Chuck Schumer (the correct spelling) replacing Harry Reid as Senate minority leader:
The use of “cunning” in reference to the Jewish Schumer wasn’t just a dog whistle — it was a come-hither whistle to the anti-Semites who have long expressed their allegiance to Trump. Possibly that was explained to the president-elect by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. In any event, the tweet was deleted in a matter of minutes and replaced by something more anodyne: “I have always had a good relationship with Chuck Schumer. He is far smarter than Harry R and has the ability to get things done. Good news!”
On the subject of anti-Semites, on Saturday, members of the so-called “alt right” — a white supremacist movement energized by Trump’s campaign and victory — held a conference in Washington. The New York Times reported on the remarks of one of its leaders, Richard Spencer:
Mr. Spencer’s after-dinner speech began with a polemic against the “mainstream media,” before he briefly paused. “Perhaps we should refer to them in the original German?” he said.
The audience immediately screamed back, “Lügenpresse,” reviving a Nazi-era word that means “lying press.”
Mr. Spencer suggested that the news media had been critical of Mr. Trump throughout the campaign in order to protect Jewish interests. He mused about the political commentators who gave Mr. Trump little chance of winning.
“One wonders if these people are people at all, or instead soulless golem,” he said, referring to a Jewish fable about the golem, a clay giant that a rabbi brings to life to protect the Jews.
Last week, on the campus where I teach, the University of Delaware, someone tacked this poster to a bulletin board in a high-rise dormitory.
(The message reads, “Trump is going to Deport all of you Bitch ass mexicanos and taliban members from this tower.)
Maybe you were wondering what Trump was inspired to tweet about these developments — or the more than 700 incidents of “hateful harassment” the Southern Poverty Law Conference tracked in the week following the election. Well, he must have been too occupied with boasting and prevarication and complaining about real and perceived slights from protesters, a newspaper, an actor, and a comedy show, because the answer is: nothing.Return to Top