Over the past few weeks, as the Donald Trump transition team has vetted candidates for Cabinet-level positions and geared up for the new administration that will take office next year, we’ve started to get a sense of what the next four years will be like. With important decisions being made and critical planning underway, the post-election process is slowly revealing what kind of President Donald Trump might be.
If I could get one wish, it would be that Mr. Trump decide to stop using Twitter.
I recognize this probably is a forlorn hope. In many ways, Trump’s candidacy was driven by social media, and his tweets were a big part of the strategy. Through his Twitter account, Trump had a forum for outlandish comments and was able to keep his name in the news. His tweets provided him with lots of free air time, and his inclination, as President, likely will be to keep doing what worked well during the campaign.
And yet, the qualities we are looking for in a President are different from those that can drive a presidential campaign. Dashing off a tweet seems fundamentally inconsistent with the considered judgment that we hope the occupants of the Oval Office will bring to the position. (I recognize that President Obama has and uses a Twitter account, which I think is unfortunate, too, but without doing an exhaustive analysis I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that his tweets haven’t been quite as controversial as Trump’s.)
Consider one of the President-elects most recent tweets, which asserts that he won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Of course, no evidence is cited (Twitter isn’t exactly known for that) but the claim that there were millions of illegal votes seems incredibly reckless — as well as bizarre, since Trump won the election and you would think the prevailing candidate wouldn’t want to cast any doubt on the results in any event. It’s the kind of charge that might work for a candidate looking for some free media coverage, but it just isn’t suited to the President-elect. Presidents don’t need to gin up controversy to get their names in the news.
Many Americans are fair and open-minded people; even if they didn’t vote for Trump, they will be willing to give him a chance to show how he will perform as President. I think they are looking to see whether Mr. Trump shows the reflection and thoughtfulness that are a key part of what we think of as “acting presidential.” Tweets just don’t fit into the presidential job description.