In reflecting on America’s politics of the last year, it is impossible not to conclude that the president’s tweeting has been momentous. So far, I am unaware of any organization that has quantified exactly how much damage President Donald Trump has caused by tweeting, but I think some substantial percentage of his problems and negative ratings must be directly attributable to his tweets. Thursday, The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey reported that the White House is considering various changes to compensate for this or that weakness plaguing the White House. Undoubtedly, some of those changes are needed. But regardless of whatever staff shakeup occurs, it must torment West Wing staff who know the president’s inappropriate tweets are still going to send the White House into a tailspin next year.
Once the president tweets, the rules of the Trump White House require everyone to double down, adopt the president’s missive as wisdom and harangue allies into denying the obvious and joining the fight. It is impossible for the White House staff to perform their best when the president is constantly saying the wrong thing on Twitter. Trump would certainly continue to make his share of gaffes if he didn’t tweet, but those routine mistakes can be managed and explained away by traditional partisan political spin and damage control. His tweets, however, are like blood splatter on the wall at a crime scene. They tell a story that can’t be ignored.
With that said, perhaps Trump’s tweets serve a useful purpose. His tweets are unfiltered and reveal the truth. Trump is the first president to allow us access to his real-time stream of consciousness and mental meandering. And even though the tweeting has damaged his presidency, knowing the truth about his thinking is important. After all, if it weren’t for the president’s tweets, we would not have as clear a picture of his underlying thinking and character. And a president’s thought process and true character should not be hidden. In that regard, his tweeting has been useful. Right? Well, I have yet to meet anyone who thinks Trump’s tweeting has been a net plus for him. Over the holidays, I spent a lot of time with family and friends in Alabama and California — many of whom were early Trump supporters and would vote for him again today. Yet none of them think the president has served himself well via his tweeting. So, I get asked all the time: “Why does he do it?” As if I am supposed to know. While we know Trump better because of his tweets, what we know is disturbing.
The Trump administration is accomplishing a lot, but there is a Mr. Hyde character inside the president’s head controlling his thumbs. If something doesn’t change, the fate of the Trump presidency and the Republican Party in the 2018 midterms might look no different than that which met Dr. Jekyll.