RedBlueAmer­ica: Time for Trump to give up Twit­ter?

Cecil Whig - - & - Joel Mathis and Ben Boy­chuk

— Don­ald Trump flew to the pres­i­dency, in part, on the strength of his oft- out­ra­geous and provoca­tive Twit­ter feed, which he ef­fec­tively used to pick fights with crit­ics and the me­dia.

The elec­tion ap­pears not to have curbed his pen­chant for so­cial me­dia: He’s still be­ing out­ra­geous and provoca­tive. He’s still pick­ing fights with crit­ics and the me­dia.

And those pro­nounce­ments of­ten make big head­lines, but some ob­servers say the me­dia should stop cov­er­ing Trump’s tweets so ob­ses­sively.

Should the pres­i­dent spend so much time on so­cial­cial me­dia? How much at­ten­tion does it de­serve? Joel Mathis and Ben Boy­chuk, the RedBlueAmer­ica colum­nists, de­bate the is­sue. Joel Mathis This would be a good time to say, “Let Don­ald be Don­ald,” ex­cept Amer­i­cans have no in­di­ca­tion that Don­ald can be any­thing other than Don­ald.

That said, he’s go­ing to tweet, and the pres­i­dency shouldn’t be con­fined to


18th cen­tury modes of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Twit­ter is a part of how we live now.

But Trump should prob­a­bly give more care to craft­ing his tweets. And the me­dia should be more thought­ful in how they cover him.

Why? The pres­i­dent’s words mat­ter. They can shake mar­kets or put coun­tries on a war foot­ing and they can do that even if the pres­i­dent is merely hors­ing around. That’s why a whole in­for­ma­tion in­fra­struc­ture has grown up around the Oval Of­fice — not just to com­mu­ni­cate what the pres­i­dent wants com­mu­ni­cated but also to avoid ac­ci­den­tally com­mu­ni­cat­ing ideas the pres­i­dent doesn’t want com­mu­ni­cated.

So it mat­ters when Trump tweets that flag burn­ing should be pun­ished by a loss of cit­i­zen­ship.

It mat­ters when he bashes jour­nal­ists who don’t fol­low his fa­vored sto­ry­lines.

And it mat­ters when he makes wild, un­sup­ported ac­cu­sa­tions that mil­lions of peo­ple voted il­le­gally — against him.

Those tweets hint at an au­thor­i­tar­ian per­son­al­ity and warn the Amer­i­can peo­ple they should be on guard for their lib­erty un­der the new pres­i­dent. To pur­pose­fully ig­nore these com­ments is to let our vig­i­lance ebb.

Trump’s fiercest crit­ics say his tweets are a dis­trac­tion, that the news me­dia should ig­nore the pres­i­dent- elect’s pro­nounce­ments and fo­cus in­stead on ar­eas of sub­stance — the con­flicts of in­ter­est be­tween his busi­ness hold­ings and his pres­i­den­tial du­ties, for ex­am­ple.

The un­der­ly­ing pre­sump­tion, though, is that the news me­dia can’t walk and chew gum. In this age of di­min­ished jour­nal­is­tic re­sources, in which ev­ery news­pa­per seems to go through a round of buy­outs and lay­offs ev­ery year, that pre­sump­tion is un­der­stand­able.

But one area of Amer­i­can life that’s not go­ing un­der-cov­ered? The White House.

So it’s pos­si­ble — nec­es­sary, ac­tu­ally — to pay at­ten­tion both to what Pres­i­dent-elect Trump says and what he does. There’s no need to choose be­tween the two. Ben Boy­chuk If the me­dia is go­ing to flip out over ev­ery pres­i­den­tial tweet, the next four years are go­ing to be hi­lar­i­ously te­dious. Or te­diously hi­lar­i­ous. Prob­a­bly a bit of both, with plenty of hor­ror and em­bar­rass­ment added to the mix.

Hor­ror and em­bar­rass­ment for the press, that is.

How long can the press main­tain these dan­ger­ously high lev­els of dud­geon be­fore the en­tire ed­i­fice col­lapses?

Se­lena Zito was one of the few jour­nal­ists in the United States who un­der­stood Trump early on. As it turns out, Zito re­mains one of the few jour­nal­ists who un­der­stand the pres­i­dent- elect.

“The press takes him lit­er­ally, but not se­ri­ously; his sup­port­ers take him se­ri­ously, but not lit­er­ally,” she wrote in the lib­er­al­lean­ing At­lantic in Septem­ber.

Should we take se­ri­ously and lit­er­ally a pres­i­den­t­elect who thinks voter fraud is wide­spread? At the risk of laps­ing into log­i­cal fal­lacy, it’s hardly clear that the ab­sence of ev­i­dence is ev­i­dence of ab­sence — es­pe­cially when states like Cal­i­for­nia, where Trump’s op­po­nent dom­i­nated the pop­u­lar vote, re­cently be­gan is­su­ing driv­ers li­censes to il­le­gal im­mi­grants and reg­is­ter­ing to vote is as easy as vis­it­ing the sec­re­tary of state’s web­site.

Should we take se­ri­ously and lit­er­ally a pres­i­den­t­elect who thinks burn­ing the Amer­i­can flag ought to be pe­nal­ized by jail and per­haps even “loss of cit­i­zen­ship”? True, the U.S. Supreme Court twice ruled that flag- burn­ing laws are un­con­sti­tu­tional. Yet not so long ago, a flag­burn­ing amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion was broadly pop­u­lar. Trump’s op­po­nent even co- spon­sored a bill in the U.S. Se­nate to make burn­ing the flag pun­ish­able by a year in jail and up to $ 100,000 in fines.

Maybe the bet­ter question is whether we should take se­ri­ously a press corps that re­fuses to look closely at voter regis­tra­tion shenani­gans and seems to be­lieve that the U.S. Supreme Court has the last word on po­lit­i­cal ques­tions — or, at least the ones that are most con­ge­nial to a lib­eral out­look.

Trump’s tweets are out­ra­geous by de­sign. But they also help clar­ify our po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences — and make the me­dia out to be fools in the bar­gain. Why mess with suc­cess?

Joel Mathis is an award­win­ning writer in Kansas. Ben Boy­chuk is man­ag­ing edi­tor of Amer­i­can Great­ness. Reach them at joelm­, bboy­chuk3@ att. net, or www. face­book. com/ be­nand­joel.

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