Donald Trump’s tweets have been in the news since long before he ran for the presidency, and they have been a continuing focus of commentary since he was elected. Some of his supporters see them as harmless and amusing—just “Donald being Donald,” as they say. Other supporters believe the tweets are at best a distraction and at worst an obstacle to his agenda. His opponents see them as so outrageous that they constitute evidence of his unfitness for office.
I believe people’s viewpoint depends largely on which category of tweets they are focusing on. I have detected four categories—the juvenile, the overly ambitious, the counterproductive, and the insightful. Some tweets are a mixture of two or more categories.
These tweets recall the insulting behavior associated with junior high school. They call people names, denigrate their looks, or otherwise mock them. The most common of these in Trump’s repertoire are the nicknames he began giving his Republican primary opponents and has continued giving ever since. The list includes Little Marco Rubio. Low energy Jeb Bush. Lyin’ Ted Cruse. Crazy Megyn Kelly. Pocahontas Elizabeth Warren. Rocket Man Kim Jong-un. Sloppy Michael Moore (and Steve Bannon). Wacky Glenn Beck. Psycho Joe Scarborough. Cryin’ Chuck Schumer. Lyin’ Hillary Clinton. Al Frankenstein. Leakin’ James Comey. Sneaky Dianne Feinstein. The Clinton News Network (CNN).
Although some of these names have a humorous quality (albeit of a low kind), all are hurtful to the people named and should therefore never have been expressed. (I suspect that because this name-calling gave many Americans their first impression of Donald Trump in a political venue, it has been difficult to change.)
Overly Ambitious Tweets
Brevity being the “soul of wit,” it is possible to say something meaningful in 140 or 280 characters, but doing so is extremely difficult when the subject is complex. An overly ambitious tweet is one that addresses too large a topic for the available space or attempts two or more topics in a space appropriate for one. Here are some examples of Trump’s overly ambitious tweets:
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive. 11/6/2012 The larger the assertion, the greater the requirement of evidentiary support. And this assertion is very large and controversial and is unsupported.
If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag and Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend! … [said later] Great solidarity for our National Anthem and for our Country. Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings! 9/24/2017 This is three or four assertions combined, each of which could use further explaining.
Crooked Hillary Clinton’s top aid, Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents. Remember sailors pictures on submarine? Jail! Deep State Justice Dept must finally act? Also on Comey & others. 1/2/2018 Here, as well, too many points are crammed together. There is nothing wrong with this stream of consciousness—the points are logically related—but communication, to be effective, must do more than record the stream. It must clarify it.
How can FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge, along with leakin’ James Comey, of the Phony Hillary Clinton investigation (including her 33,000 illegally deleted emails) be given $700,000 for wife’s campaign by Clinton Puppets during investigation? 12/23/2017 This tweet also tries to accomplish too much, including several examples of denigration. Here is a less ambitious rendering of the thought: “There is something wrong when the wife of the FBI Deputy Director investigating Hillary Clinton is given $700,000 by Hillary’s supporters.”
The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their “pockets.” The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching! 1/2/2018 The connection of the Obama sentence to the rest of the tweet is not specified but instead left for the reader to figure out. Few readers will accept that task but will instead dismiss the tweet as incoherent, the author as muddle-headed, or both.
A counterproductive tweet is one intended to achieve a positive effect, but then prevents that effect from occurring. Here are some examples:
North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my Button works! 1/2/2018 This was obviously intended to show America’s strength and the President’s firmness of purpose, but the second sentence descends to Kim’s level of self-congratulatory bullying. This would have been a better choice: “How much wiser would it be if instead of focusing on his Nuclear Button, Kim Jong-un focused on meeting the needs of his poor, starving people.”
My twitter has become so powerful that I can actually make my enemies tell the truth. 10/17/2012 This tweet may have been written tongue-in-cheek, but that is not clear, so it is easily interpreted as arrogant self-congratulation, something that many people in both political parties find offensive.
I don’t believe the Democrats really want to see a deal on DACA. They are all talk and no action. This is the time but, day-by-day, they are blowing the one great opportunity they have. Too bad! 1/13/2018 It may be true that Democrats are being purposely obstructive, but he should have avoided playing mind reader and saying so. Better to have crafted a tweet that would be more appealing to readers, such as this: “We now have an opportunity to solve the DACA problem. I urge my Democratic colleagues to join me in making the most of this opportunity.”
Let’s take a closer look at that birth certificate. @BarackObama was described in 2003 as being “born in Kenya.” 5/18/2012 [Note: The president added a link here to an article that included photos of pages from various sources claiming in Obama’s own publicity that he was born in Kenya.]Trump’s critics found the tweet outrageous, even delusional and they still, these many years later, fault him for posting it. But the photos of Obama’s own biographical data justify what Trump says in this tweet. There may be an easy explanation, but to my knowledge it has never been offered. I therefore believe Trump’s calling attention to it was insightful.
The media is spending more time doing a forensic analysis of Melania’s speech than the FBI spent on Hillary’s emails. 7/20/2016 This tweet uses hyperbole, a perfectly legitimate rhetorical device. And given the facts about the speech and the emails, the point is fairly taken.
For those few people knocking me for tweeting at three o’clock in the morning, at least you know I will be there, awake, to answer the call! 9/30/2016 This tweet recalls, for those who have paid attention to the news, both President Obama’s and Secretary of State Clinton’s slowness in responding to some emergencies. It has as much “bite” as any of his tweets, but unlike many of them, it has the virtue of subtlety.
Not one American flag on the massive stage at the Democratic National Convention until people started complaining—then a small one. Pathetic. 7/27/2016 Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted and should be in jail. Instead she is running for president in what looks like a rigged election. 10/15/2016 If Obama worked as hard on straightening out our country as he has trying to protect and elect Hillary, we would all be much better off! 11/4/2016 All three of these tweets, like the one above them, make legitimate and noteworthy points. They are also forceful without being offensive.
[The] reason I canceled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for “peanuts,” only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars. Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO! 1/11/2018 This could be classified as “counterproductive” because of the reference to Obama. I classify it more positively because that reference is necessary for the reader to understand why Trump said “no.”
It’s not only Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars to for nothing, but also many other countries, and others. As an example, we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue…peace treaty with Israel. We [could] have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more. But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them? 1/2/2018 A fair question, and asking it displayed a level of insight into the issue that three, perhaps four, of his predecessors lacked.
I, as President, want people coming into our Country who are going to help us become strong and great again, people coming in through a system based on MERIT. No more Lotteries! #AMERICA FIRST 1/14/2018 This tweet and others like it have been seized upon as proof of lack of compassion, even racism, but that is neither logical nor fair. A strong argument can be made for the actions he specifies here.
My analysis leads me to this conclusion, expressed in baseball terminology: Considering his “at bats” (number of times he posts tweets), he has a very respectable batting average. He sometimes strikes out, to be sure, and at other times barely eeks out a single. But he hits for extra bases fairly often and not infrequently hits a home run—that is, an insightful post without notable flaws. All in all a very worthy performance.
Some would advise the President to give up tweeting altogether. I believe that would be a mistake. As I have detailed recently, no president in recent memory, perhaps none in history, has had to deal with greater unfairness and dishonesty from the media. And his tweets have provided a way to reach the American people directly.
Nevertheless, I’m sure he would like to improve his batting average. So here is my advice on how he can do so:
- Think long and hard before you post a tweet. Ask yourself these questions: “Is my message confusing, open to misinterpretation, or outright offensive? Have I oversimplified or overgeneralized? Have I omitted any background information that readers will need to understand and appreciate my point? Do my words suggest arrogance or disrespect toward others? Could any of these flaws create an obstacle to gaining congressional support and achieving my goals as President? How can I overcome such flaws without changing my message?”
- Be as quick to discard a bad tweet as you are to post a good one. There will surely be times when the flaws in a proposed tweet are so grave that they cannot be overcome. In that case, prudence suggests you discard it. At those times you would do well to remember the approach reportedly taken by Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, and Winston Churchill, who would vent their angry emotions on paper . . . and then tear the paper up. That way you can experience the pleasure of emotional release while avoiding the unfortunate consequences that posting it would bring about.
Developing the habit of thinking critically about tweets before posting them would not only dramatically improve the effectiveness of the President’s messages; it would also give the mainstream media fewer opportunities to ignore his continuing record of accomplishment.
Copyright © 2018 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved