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FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, JAN. 10, 2017
BY BOB FRANKEN
TWITTER OF THE UNIVERSE
Let’s call him President-elect Tweety Bird. Donald Trump clearly has decided that he will continue to utilize his stream-of-consciousness Twitter messages to intimidate others -- whether it is an individual whose actions or comments have bruised his fragile ego; or a corporation that faces his threats because he believes (correctly or not) that it is shutting down American facilities for the promise of cheap labor across the border; or the “liars” in the “dishonest media” who dare to report on you-name-it unfavorably. He has commented on issues, often complex, with simple-minded, usually nasty, superficiality.
Although he issued a scathing tweet in response to Meryl Streep’s attack at the Golden Globes award show, calling her not just “overrated” but (gasp) “a Hillary flunky,” for him it’s not just “I tawt I taw a Democrat.” He’s a bipartisan Tweety Bird, just as quick to turn on his own. House Republicans painfully discovered this in their brand-new session, when their first order of business was their sneaky attempt to gut an ethics enforcement mechanism that had often complicated their lives when they’ve wanted to pull a fast one. President-elect Tweety Bird swooped down on that one, questioning on Twitter why they had made it “their No. 1 act and priority.” Presto change-o, the action was reversed.
That was one of his more subtle communications. He’s continuously shared his obvious anger at those who even suggest that Vladimir Putin ordered his hackers to throw the U.S. election Trump’s way. He has repeatedly and heatedly complained that the mere suggestion is just a “sore loser” attempt to discredit his presidency. He’s pretty much ignored the intelligence communities’ highly documented case that Putin did his best to engineer Trump’s victory. In the process, he has treated our various spy agencies with open contempt.
Some of his adversaries even suggest that he and Putin are in cahoots, or the friendly gestures they’ve made to one another are phony because Putin is a deadly thug whose ambitions are a danger to the United States and our allies. President-elect Tweety Bird is now reacting in his typical subtle way, tapping out that those who would oppose better relations with Russia are “only stupid people or fools.”
It’s a great public-relations blunt instrument. While there certainly are a lot of honorable people in PR (well, maybe a few, anyway), even the sleaziest hack (not to be confused with the Russian cyberhack) will tell you that the first thing the image maker must do is control the narrative. Donald Trump is a master at that. When there is something out there that might splatter on his message of Supreme Donald, aka Tweety Bird, he fires off a provocative Twitter barrage, and our infinitesimal attention span is directed toward whatever latest silliness he has launched. Distraction is a great tool. He’s not the only one who thwarts bad publicity this way. His partisans certainly are adept at it. Look to Wednesday, when his most controversial Cabinet appointments all get their confirmation hearings in the harsh glare of the Senate with Democrats itching to pounce. But a bunch of them will get their hearings in the same day. What a dilemma for the cable news networks who normally would carry these hearings live, wall to wall. But which hearing? I like to quote a former colleague during my CNN days who would say: “We can only cover one story at a time.” This will be a huge overload.
Did I mention that also on the same day, Trump will hold his first full-scale news conference? One can only assume that he’ll be the lead story that night. But if it doesn’t go well, if the headlines aren’t favorable when the dust settles, we can count on some overnight tweets about the “dishonest media” or whatever outrageous thought he decides to inflict on all of us.
Get used to it. As president, Donald Trump inherits what is called a “bully pulpit” to occasionally amplify and cajole. President-elect Tweety Bird is turning Twitter into his constant bully pulpit.
© 2017 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.