Trump unfiltered: Tweets reveal his interests, insecurities

Donald Trump President-elect Donald Trump listens to a reporters question at Trump Tower in New York, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON —

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.”

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Author Infomation

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  • 3

    PTownsend

    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.

    Personally I'd rather see him provide information - unfiltered and plain spoken - about his business holdings and investments to disclose any current or potential conflicts of interest he and his family (plus members of his cabinet, judges he appoints, etc.) might have.

    This is especially important with regard to international relations. Trump's a global elite, a limousine riding, jet set billionaire (or so he says) with businesses in dozens of countries worldwide. Americans, not just the minority who voted for him, need to know whether his business dealings will affect foreign policy.

  • 2

    inkochi

    Trump's behaviour as a tweeting twot resembles addiction, like he privately goes out for a smoke, or some other kind of fix. If Obama was like that with his personal smoking habit, at least he did not make a point of directedly making the world know about it.

    Alternatively it has become a symptom of compulsive behaviour. ANd symptomatic of an adaptation to a short concentration span that is common among so many other people obsessively dependent on short-texting on electronic media.

    It is also a godsend to linguistics researchers and discourse analysts.

  • 3

    Farmboy

    The tweeter in chief will be taking over soon... I hope the world can survive this.

  • 7

    BaltanSeijin84

    He seems most obviously insecure about his receding hairline.

  • 0

    Wakarimasen

    Anyone who runs for POTUS has to be a little bit of an egomaniac - main difference is we are seeing his ego playing out in real time and in public. Must say it does rather detract from the dignity of the office, but that has been an evolving trend over the last few decades.

  • 1

    Strangerland

    Interesting new development: Trump warned Russian hackers claim to have compromising information on him

    Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-cyber-russia-trump-idUSKBN14U2QZ

    Trump's tweeted response: "FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!"

    First, it's not fake news, as the news itself appears to be true. Whether or not the hacker's claims are true is up for question.

    Second, he was ok with hacking his opponents emails, let's see if he's ok with whatever hacks may be perpetuated against him.

    Third, if this is true, it could confirm what many of us have suspected all along - that the Russians have something over his head. It would certainly explain he's bizarre stance on Putin and Russia.

  • 3

    SenseNotSoCommon

    Strangerland,

    Let's see how he tweets about this:

    Senator John McCain passed documents to the FBI director, James Comey, last month alleging secret contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow and that Russian intelligence had personally compromising material on the president-elect himself.

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/10/fbi-chief-given-dossier-by-john-mccain-alleging-secret-trump-russia-contacts?CMP=fb_gu

    PARENTAL ADVISORY: NOT BREITBART

  • 2

    Aly Rustom

    Trump has given little indication that his tweeting ways will change once he takes office.

    maybe he should be referred to as President Tweety..

    He’s going to be a somewhat different type of president,”

    Ya think????

    We’re soon going to learn what the pluses and minuses are of that.”

    For the minuses, I'd say we've already started to get a good taste...

  • 3

    theeastisred

    the Russians have something over his head.

    Use of prostitutes during a visit to Moscow in 2013. Melania will be pleased.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/10/us/politics/donald-trump-russia-intelligence.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

  • 5

    PTownsend

    Melania will be pleased

    Trump's got a team of spin doctors who'll get his son-in-law Kushner and Trump's media czar Bannon to get their lackeys in the media, both corporate and alt right, to start screaming fakes news and witch hunt. Trump's cult followers will soon start screaming fake news and witch hunt in chorus. Wait to see how long it takes those terms to reach these pages.

  • 5

    theeastisred

    He should be quizzed mercilessly about this at his press conference, if it indeed turns out to be a real press conference. And that's before we get into his business conflicts, his family's business conflicts, his cabinet picks' business conflicts, his tax history, the Apprentice tapes, the Trump 'foundation', etc etc. It's going to be a very long uncomfortable time for the man with no patience, no memory, no knowledge and no concept of right vs wrong, or truth vs fiction.

  • 3

    cracaphat

    I can believe that the Russians have enough on Trump to blackmail him with.Putin would demolish him in a tete a tete and for an incoming American president to be so subservient to the Russians is a worrying alarm.

  • 3

    theeastisred

    Yes this explains a lot. So speaking of tweets, every time he praised Putin in one, this was the reason. That actually makes Trump more rational than I gave him credit for. It wasn't his usual all-over-the-place randomness in this case, it was because he had been offered sweetheart deals (of various kinds) and feared exposure. Or re-exposure, one might say.

  • 3

    goldorak

    Would anyone be shocked to learn that: a/DT has previously cheated on Melania b/the Russian regime actively assisted him during his campaign, c/ he has more biz/assets in Russia than he admitted, d/ etc..? I know I wouldn't as I have absolutely no expectations regarding Trump's moral and ethical principles. Only the most naïve of his supporters still think the man is 'clean'.

    Difficult to have 'dirt' on Trump, the man is dirt. The only things that would 'shock' me about Trump would send him straight to jail for a very, very long time so let's for him he isn't that bad.

  • -2

    Jim Poushinsky

    Wow! I'm of an older generation that doesn't use Twitter, but it sounds like Trump's actually telling people what he's thinking, instead of what his aides want us to think! An about to be world leader who actually practices free speech is setting an example of democratic rights that gives a ray of hope for our future.

  • 1

    mukashiyokatta

    FDT does not DARE face reporters' questions, hah!

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