Sunday Political Brunch: To Tweet or Not to Tweet?—July 9, 2017
Sunday, July 09, 2017
Mark Curtis, GoLocalPDX Contributor
The hue and cry over President Trump’s latest tweets grabbed my attention this week, and just about everyone else’s, too. But I wonder whether the public and the press are spending way too much time focused on this, at the peril of things far more important. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.
“Stop Tweeting” – I am not a Twitter fan; but, alas, I use it, too. It’s the modern-day equivalent of the town square, or the proverbial water cooler, and we need to be engaged where the conversation is happening. As much as I wish President Trump would knock off the nonsensical tweets, it’s not going to happen. Quite honestly, I wish he’d tweet more about Kim Jong Un and North Korea’s nuclear threats than about a talk show host’s facelift. Any President has the power to heavily influence the national and international agendas, and I wish that Trump would use that power in a more productive manner.
“Having a Right Doesn’t Mean It's Right” – I am the most ardent defender of the First Amendment you’ll ever find. That’s because I believe democracy is fortified by a free marketplace of ideas. I don’t like the President’s excessive, provocative tweets; I don’t like Kathy Griffin holding the beheaded skull of a Trump look-alike; and, I don’t like Robert Mapplethorpe putting a crucifix of Jesus Christ in a jar of urine and calling it art. But I will defend all three under the right of free speech. It’s worth remembering the old saying, though: “Just because you have the right to do something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.”
“Personal Stories” – As a reporter, I don’t feel threatened by the parody “CNN beat down” delivered in the Trump video. I don’t think it will lead to any violence against the press. Having said that, I’ll be candid in saying that what I do for a living is not without risk. Over the decades of doing this, I’ve been spit upon, physically and verbally assaulted, threatened with arrest, and - on several occasions - had my life threatened. But those are the exceptions, not the rule. I swear that ninety-five percent of the time people are decent, friendly, respectful, and kind to me – and I cover politics for a living! I hardly think my profession is under siege, as some would claim.
“The Politics of Distraction” – There was a two-track story going on in Washington, D.C., last week. The Obamacare repeal and replacement was going down in flames in the Senate at the same time the Trump vs. Morning Joe tweet battle was playing out. Guess which got more attention in the press and elsewhere? And guess which issue got little work done to try to save it? As I always say, scandal and controversy suck the oxygen out of the room in Washington, D.C., and it’s easy for serious business to come to a grinding halt.
“Trump Tweets Response” – President Trump has a new title: Provocateur-in-Chief! He loves to stir the pot, and to poke at the media with this stuff. He did it with name calling the other candidates during the primary, and then during the fall campaign. Like many, I think this behavior is beneath the dignity of the office, but firmly believe it’s the new normal. After the firestorm of the past ten days, Trump tweeted: “My use of social media is not Presidential – IT’S MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!” Every politician worth his or her salt has a Twitter account these days, but you operate it at your own peril.
“What’s Getting Done?” – I asked Representative Evan Jenkins (R-WV) if anything of substance was getting done in Washington, D.C., considering the latest firestorms about Trump tweets over Mika Brzezinski and the CNN body-slam video. To my surprise, Congressman Jenkins – who is now running for U.S. Senate – rattled off a long list of legislation Congress passed recently regarding immigration, opioid addiction, and veterans’ benefits. He said the press obsession with Trump tweets was not interfering with work getting done in Congress. Touché, but I wonder how many of those bills are the President’s versus the ones that are solely from Congressional initiative.
“The Politics of ‘Finite’” – I had the good fortune to cover the late Governor Bruce Sundlun (D-RI), who had been a successful multimillionaire businessman in many ventures before getting into politics. He used to say, “If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.” His point was to focus on a few of the most important, critical issues, and not try to be everything to everyone. The President, Congress, and the press should heed that advice. We have a limited amount of time to get the work of government done. Carnival sideshows caused by ill-advised tweets are a distraction and a waste of time.
“Why All of This Matters” – Politics change, and communication technologies change, too. While people talk sentimentally about FDR’s radio fireside chats, some critics at the time thought he was grandstanding on this relatively new medium called radio. Many people (including some politicians) were mortified about the concept of C-SPAN and TV cameras showing Congress live, in action. They felt it would lead to grandstanding, too. But I weigh in on the side of transparency and sunlight. I want to be able to watch politicians unfiltered (even if they are scripted). Whether they are grandstanding or not - in a free society - let me make my own judgements about that. Tweet away!
What are your thoughts on the Trump tweets? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.