Magazine article Newsweek

America's Grand Experiment in Government by Twitter Begins January 20; We Sorted All of Trump's Tweets since the Election into 16 Categories, from Domestic Policy to Self-Congratulations

Magazine article Newsweek

America's Grand Experiment in Government by Twitter Begins January 20; We Sorted All of Trump's Tweets since the Election into 16 Categories, from Domestic Policy to Self-Congratulations

Article excerpt

Byline: Kurt Eichenwald

They come without warning, and spread wreckage and confusion around the globe.

At American intelligence agencies, they have decimated morale, according to a government official with ties to that community. Key officers who made personal sacrifices because of their love of country are sprucing up their resumes in preparation of jumping to the more lucrative private sector. In the field, agents are finding a growing reticence among overseas sources to continue taking personal risks to provide information to the United States about activities by foreign governments.

In South Korea, they have boosted feelings of security, officials there have confided to contacts in the United States. The American government, they believe, will soon take much stronger action in response to North Korea's repeated flouting of United Nations resolutions calling for Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear program and halt ballistic missile tests.

For Alec Baldwin, they have increased his fame worldwide. They have informed people who pay no attention to TV that ratings for the Celebrity Apprentice reality show have fallen. For some on Wall Street, one executive told Newsweek, they have created a new strategy betting on "Trump slumps," in which traders watch television news reports for a corporate development that might anger Donald Trump and then, in hopes he will tweet mean things, enter short-term trades where they would profit if the company's stock price falls.

Related: Everything Trump thinks is overrated, according to his tweets

All of these extraordinary events are the result of government by Twitter, a bizarre new world where an internet communications platform combines with an impulsive president-elect to create global chaos in investment markets, overseas halls of power and domestic agencies. In the morning or afternoon or the middle of night, Trump delivers 140-character proclamations on policy and piffle in arbitrary flashes of power and spite that shoot across the virtual firmament without warning. Discussions and debates about their content in the news media and on the internet follow for a few hours--Why can't flag burning be banned? Why is a new Air Force One being built?--before moving on, unresolved, to another Trump topic d'Tweet.

Many presidents have used technology to communicate directly to the citizenry. Franklin D. Roosevelt had what became known as his first "fireside chat" over the radio in March 1933, during a time of great fear about the health of U.S. banks. Dwight Eisenhower conducted the first televised presidential news conferences. Ronald Reagan boasted of going straight to the people in televised speeches when he believed Congress was holding up his agenda. And Barack Obama used social media, including Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. But all of these methods of reaching the public directly were designed to instill confidence or push for particular legislation, not to attack Saturday Night Live for lampooning Trump or actresses like Meryl Streep for criticizing him at the Golden Globes. (Imagine for a moment Reagan proclaiming to the nation that Trump was an "overrated, failing businessman. Sad!" in 1987, when the New York developer criticized the president's foreign policy and questioned his depth of knowledge.)

Trump's seemingly uncontrollable tweeting was a prominent part of his life long before he began his latest bid for the White House. But throughout the campaign, his Twitter obsession struck even his allies as bizarre as he tweeted repeated attacks on the parents of an American soldier killed in combat, the news media and almost anyone who criticized him publicly. The worst came when he relentlessly tweeted insults at a former Miss Universe who had criticized him for degrading her when he ran that beauty contest; the flurry of almost maniacal tweets, tapped out on his mobile phone when most of the rest of America was asleep, once again led to questions about whether Trump had the self-control to be president. …

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