Set­ting Twit­ter bird free ruf­fles feathers beyond White House

Trump lets mes­sages fly di­rect to the peo­ple

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY S.A. MILLER

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s per­sis­tent use of Twit­ter to feud with crit­ics, rail against big-ticket Pen­tagon pro­grams or just spout off is widely ridiculed as un­pres­i­den­tial and dan­ger­ous, but it re­mains to be seen whether his tweets will be a boon or bust when he takes of­fice.

Mr. Trump on Mon­day took aim at Lock­heed Martin’s F-35 pro­gram with a tweet declar­ing that the “cost is out of con­trol” and vow­ing to strike bet­ter deals on the fighter jet and other gov­ern­ment con­tracts when he gets into the White House.

“The F-35 pro­gram and cost is out of con­trol. Bil­lions of dol­lars can and will be saved on mil­i­tary (and other) pur­chases af­ter Jan­uary 20th,” Mr. Trump tweeted.

It was the sec­ond time in as many weeks that Mr. Trump took to Twit­ter to blast Pen­tagon spend­ing.

Last week, he urged the can­cel­la­tions of Boe­ing’s $4 bil­lion con­tract to build a new Air Force One fleet, which was fol­lowed by an abrupt but tem­po­rary drop in the com­pany’s stock price.

“Boe­ing is build­ing a brand new 747 Air Force One for fu­ture pres­i­dents, but costs are out of con­trol, more than $4 bil­lion. Can­cel or­der!” tweeted the pres­i­dent-elect.

Lock­heed Martin’s stock price took a hit af­ter the tweet Mon­day. Shares dropped more than 5 per­cent but climbed back. The stock closed at a per-share price of $253.11, down more than 2 per­cent.

Mr. Trump took to Twit­ter later on Mon­day to gloat on his ex­panded vic­tory mar­gin in the Wis­con­sin re­count for which lib­er­als pushed and to an­nounce that he would make pub­lic Tues­day morn­ing his choice for sec­re­tary of state.

Mr. Trump also has hurled in­sults at a lo­cal union leader in In­di­ana who crit­i­cized him and at ac­tor Alec Bald­win for an un­flat­ter­ing por­trayal of the pres­i­dent-elect on NBC’s “Satur­day Night Live.”

Robert Re­ich, who served as la­bor sec­re­tary dur­ing the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion, said he has a mes­sage for Mr. Trump: Cut it out.

“Let me just say, with all due re­spect, Mr. Trump, you are pres­i­dent-elect of the United States. You are look­ing and act­ing as if you are mean and petty, thin­skinned and vin­dic­tive,” Mr. Re­ich said re­cently on CNN.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts, how­ever, split over whether Mr. Trump’s tweets would harm his im­age as pres­i­dent or rein­vent and re­vi­tal­ize the pres­i­dent’s bully pul­pit.

“I would hope that he’d con­tinue to use Twit­ter even as pres­i­dent, as it is a nat­u­ral medium of com­mu­ni­ca­tion for him,” said John P. Wi­h­bey, a jour­nal­ism pro­fes­sor at North­east­ern Univer­sity who stud­ies pres­i­den­tial com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

“It is use­ful for cit­i­zens to know what he’s think­ing about and his ideas on pol­icy is­sues. I’m all for a pol­i­tics, and a po­lit­i­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions strat­egy, that en­gages more with cit­i­zens in a straight­for­ward and truth­ful way,” he said.

Mr. Wi­h­bey also sug­gested that Mr. Trump tone down his rhetoric and re­frain from name-call­ing.

“He needs to em­brace his role as an ex­am­ple for young peo­ple, in par­tic­u­lar,” he said.

Tow­son Univer­sity com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sor Richard Vatz, who spe­cial­izes in po­lit­i­cal rhetoric, said con­tin­u­ing to tweet as pres­i­dent is a bad idea.

“It di­min­ishes the stature of the pres­i­dency to use a com­mu­ni­ca­tion ve­hi­cle that lim­its re­flec­tion and the amount he can say. More­over, to take on mi­nor op­po­si­tion raises them and low­ers the pres­i­dent,” he said.

Com­mu­ni­cat­ing though Twit­ter also max­i­mizes the chance for mis­cal­cu­la­tion in craft­ing mes­sages, which can have pro­found global im­pli­ca­tions, Mr. Vatz said.

“For pres­i­dents his­tor­i­cally, there is a buf­fer, wherein Cabi­net mem­bers state po­si­tions some­times as trial bal­loons. If it’s the pres­i­dent, there is no buf­fer,” he said. “In plainer English, for those of us who an­tic­i­pate that he may be prone to act with­out think­ing, tweet­ing max­i­mizes said pos­si­bil­ity.”

For­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich agreed, although he doesn’t think Mr. Trump has to give up Twit­ter.

“I think it is very good for him to tweet. I think the coun­try gets into it. I think it has been ef­fec­tive for him, but he’s got to have an ed­i­tor,” Mr. Gin­grich said on Fox News’ “Your World.”

“He can’t just sit there — and I say this as a guy who’s done the same thing — can’t sit there and at 11:15 at night have some whack ideas and then send it out to the en­tire planet,” Mr. Gin­grich said. “He’s go­ing to be pres­i­dent of the United States. He’s no longer a rich busi­ness­man. He is now in the most im­por­tant, the most pow­er­ful sec­u­lar job in his­tory. And he’s got to grow into that.”

Trump tran­si­tion team spokesman Ja­son Miller said the pres­i­dent-elect sent the cor­rect mes­sage in the tweet about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter pro­gram.

“The clear mes­sage that is be­ing sent is that the pres­i­dent-elect is go­ing to fight to save tax­pay­ers money at ev­ery turn,” Mr. Miller told re­porters in a con­fer­ence call. “That we are fight­ing for tax­pay­ers was one of the key cam­paign prom­ises for the pres­i­den­tial trail, and it’s good that the pres­i­dent-elect is hold­ing folks’ feet to the fire on this.”

A week be­fore Mr. Trump won the Nov. 8 elec­tion, the Pen­tagon and Lock­heed Martin agreed to their ninth con­tract for 90 F-35 fighter jets af­ter more than a year of ne­go­ti­a­tions, of­fi­cials said.

The con­tract was val­ued at up to $7.18 bil­lion, and the com­pany re­ceived an in­terim pay­ment in Novem­ber.

Mr. Trump pledged dur­ing the cam­paign to make bet­ter deals and save tax­pay­ers money.

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