Poland

Donald Trump was in Poland being lauded by the best crowds money can buy. Now he’s in Germany where freedom permits a more honest critique. So be it. At least he’s away. And there will be fewer tweets – at least fewer of the ad hominem flavor he so enjoys. So let’s enjoy this moment of serenity and have a look at the nature of Trump’s social media beast.

Trump apologists argue that his tweets are ‘just jokes’ – and admonish the media to stop obsessing over them and report ‘real news’. That’s absurd. Donald Trump – despite the vote of the majority and with the approval of only a minority – is President of the United States, the leader of the free world, and the most powerful man on the planet. His tweets are news.

As for the ‘joking’, he’s not a stand-up comedian. His words have consequences. His lack of preparation and inability to do the job are not a license for him to cheapen the position. America is a brand – he understands brands, no? – and he needs to be a steward of the brand. You don’t expect your Rolls Royce’s GPS to steer you wrong and then excuse it with a ‘just kidding’.

Trump’s tweets are the action of a coward. One night of the year the President gets to be as facetious as he wants – during the Annual White House Correspondents Dinner (WHCD). That event, however, our comedian-in-chief elected to blow off.

Why? It would have been enormous publicity – and you know he enjoys that. It’s also an opportunity for the President to rehabilitate or burnish his image. Bush may not have made friends with his WHCD appearances – but his enemies looked on him more favorably. However, beyond the ribbing his thin skin wouldn’t survive, it would reveal a sad truth about Trump.

The fact is, he is not a funny man. He has no sense of humor. He smirks like a champ – but he does not laugh. His self-regard is so fragile he cannot risk it being dented. Worst, he doesn’t have the spine to make fun of himself.

Twitter suits Trump, as it does many bullies. He can lob his mean little brickbats whenever the mood suits – and do so without having to face his targets. And the 140 character limit is perfectly suited to his bumper-sticker thinking. Tweets debar exposition, reasoning, and substance. They discourage nuance. And favor the detail-free.

His tweets are full of promises that won’t be kept. They are no more than the vapid slogans favored by the standard issue autocrat. Think Mao’s Little Red Book – without the poetry. I’m surprised he hasn’t discovered Snapchat. The impermanence of the medium would seem to be ideal for the ephemeral nature of his thoughts.

Trump’s handlers wish we would ignore his tweets. Most people we love to if they could also ignore the man entirely – but he is the President and everything he says – no matter how he says it – is news.

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