About the Idea that Trump’s Tweets Don’t Matter? Well…

You know that debate in the comment section here at OTB about whether or not Trump’s tweets are important or not because they are just tweets?

Well, note the following via CNN: Tillerson’s staff prints out the President’s tweets for him to read.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s staff prints out President Donald Trump’s tweets for him to read, Tillerson said Wednesday, noting he does not have any social media accounts of his own.

Tillerson praised Trump, saying the President is “world-class at social media,” and added that printing out the tweets makes sense because he doesn’t know what Trump is going to tweet in advance.

“Now on the one hand you can say, well, that’s nuts, why don’t you get an account? But on the other hand I’ve actually concluded that’s not a bad system because it goes out and I don’t know it’s going to go out, so there’s not a whole lot I’m going to do until it’s out there,” Tillerson said at an event at Stanford University, speaking with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

[…]

he said that once he looks at the information it’s “just his way of wanting to communicate on the subject.”

Because, like it or not, Trump’s twitter feed represents official, public statements of the President of the United States.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Quick Takes, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. I also have no doubt that every significant world leader has someone keeping an eye on @RealDonaldTrump 365/24/7.

  2. James Pearce says:

    “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s staff prints out President Donald Trump’s tweets for him to read, Tillerson said Wednesday, noting he does not have any social media accounts of his own.”

    Serious question:

    Does this sound like the behavior of a guy who considers Trump’s tweets to be important, or the behavior of a guy who would like you to believe he considers Trump’s tweets to be important, but kinda…doesn’t?

    A) Who prints out a tweet?
    B) Twitter is now the Official White House Messaging system, but the SOS doesn’t even have an account? He’s going to rely on the staffer, who may be sick one day, and the printer, which may be on the fritz one day?

    Give me a break.

    “Now on the one hand you can say, well, that’s nuts, why don’t you get an account?”

    Yeah, Mr. Tillerson, it is nuts.

  3. Todd says:

    I may have even heard about this here, so I may be sharing back your own story. But a while back I didn’t want to be counted as one of Donald Trump’s followers, so I started watching this twitter account instead: https://twitter.com/RealPressSecBot

  4. James Pearce says:

    @Todd: Has your life improved? Do you feel more informed?

    Or perhaps the most salient question: Are you not entertained?

  5. CSK says:

    @James Pearce:

    It sounds like a guy who wants to keep abreast of whatever diplomatic mess he might have to clean up.

  6. James Pearce says:

    @CSK:

    It sounds like a guy who wants to keep abreast of whatever diplomatic mess he might have to clean up.

    Yeah, okay.

    It sounds like a guy who’s in on the scam.

    I really envy all of you who have never experienced this kind of abuse so you can’t even recognize it for what it is. Consider Trump’s end game here. He wants you to pay attention to his tweets, not because they’re attention-worthy, so that he can hit you later for paying attention to his tweets.

  7. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce:

    Who prints out a tweet?

    Old people who don’t know how to use computers or smart phones. Well, not the old people themselves, but their staff.

    Alternately, he just wants it to be part of his daily packet of news and information that he has compiled for him, as he doesn’t want to have to check 23 places for the relevant information. He has staffers for that. (So, old people who delegate, rather than old people who don’t know how)

    Hmm. When Trump tweets out a video, does the staff make a paper flip book out of it?

  8. @James Pearce: You are certainly entitled to your opinion. Although, at this point your doubling and tripling, etc. on this strikes me as a bit silly.

  9. CSK says:

    Who prints out a tweet?

    Someone who wants to have a printed record in case it gets deleted and denied by the tweeter.

  10. James Pearce says:

    @Gustopher:

    Old people who don’t know how to use computers or smart phones.

    Sure, I guess. To me, that “I have my staff print out the tweets” was the first indication I was traveling on the Bullshit Express. There’s no way that Tillerson looked at that first tweet, an inch of black space on an 8 /12 X 11 piece of paper, saw it for what it was, and asked for more.

    Tillerson is lying.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Although, at this point your doubling and tripling, etc. on this strikes me as a bit silly.

    I’m doubling and tripling? Take one day, Steven, where you treat Trump’s tweets as a distraction and a sideshow. It will be very hard to come back.

    @CSK:

    Someone who wants to have a printed record in case it gets deleted and denied by the tweeter.

    No one’s going to accept a print out of a tweet as proof of the tweet’s one-time existence.

  11. @James Pearce:

    I’m doubling and tripling?

    I almost said quadrupling and quintupling. 😉

    One can treat the entire administration as a sideshow, but that doesn’t make it any less significant.

  12. Matt Bernius says:

    Serious question:

    Does this sound like the behavior of a guy who considers Trump’s tweets to be important, or the behavior of a guy who would like you to believe he considers Trump’s tweets to be important, but kinda…doesn’t?

    Serious answer — I know of a not-insignificant amount of senior executives, federal judges, and even congress people, who only handle email via paper printouts and an admin to draft responses.

    Applying your logic, email is clearly must be an unimportant platform.

    I’m not in the least shocked by Tillerson’s approach to staying abreast of Trump tweets. And given that as SOS his office is fielding the international reaction to them, I suspect he has a far more grounded handle on how seriously they are taken than you.

  13. Matt Bernius says:

    Man, thank god Trumps tweets aren’t confusing things in terms of domestic politics:

    https://www.npr.org/2018/01/18/578838003/trump-tweet-scrambles-efforts-efforts-to-avert-a-government-shutdown?sc=tw

    I mean, who would possibly see these as counterproductive and having the realistic potential to scuttle this process.

    Don’t those sensitive legislators just see this as “trump being trump?

  14. James Pearce says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    I suspect he has a far more grounded handle on how seriously they are taken than you.

    Tillerson, by his own admission, doesn’t even use Twitter and these print-outs are FYIs that he no doubts finds less than useful. (Because Trump’s tweets are utter garbage, contradicted almost immediately by another tweet or an actual event.)

    Tillerson: “it goes out and I don’t know it’s going to go out, so there’s not a whole lot I’m going to do until it’s out there.”

    Translation: “The president tweets stuff. I’m not involved in any of it. There’s not a whole lot I can do until it’s out there, because this dude is so erratic, and there’s not a whole lot I’m going to do after it’s out there, because I don’t even have a Twitter account .”

  15. James Pearce says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Man, thank god Trumps tweets aren’t confusing things in terms of domestic politics

    Anyone paying attention to Trump’s tweets is going to get yanked around by them.

  16. Franklin says:

    We’re not seeing the whole picture of how this Administration works; too much contradictory misinformation.

  17. MarkedMan says:

    Anyone who still thinks Trump is the master genius using his tweets to throw us all off the scent should really be having second thoughts after watching the mess his tweets have made of budget negotiations. That is, anyone who really believes that. For those who are just trying to elevate Trump while pretending not to, well, carry on.

  18. CSK says:

    @James Pearce:

    So, okay…by your reckoning, if Trump says in a press conference, or in an interview, or at a rally that he’s going to nuke North Korea, we should take that seriously.

    BUT…if he Tweets the exact same intent, we should dismiss it because it’s just Twitter, right?

  19. Kathy says:

    @Gustopher: Back in the day of dial-up BBS (Bulletin Board Systems), before there were offline readers for systems like WWIV or Fido, some people used to print sub-boards of interest. Partly it was to read later, partly because many systems limited time online to 20-30 minutes (but then dot-matrix printers were dirt cheap for printing).

    I like to think I’ve kept up, largely, with the online world. For all that, it took me a while to get the hang of Facebook, and I don’t “get” Twitter and frankly am not much interested in it.

  20. Mikey says:

    @CSK: James has never seemed to comprehend that when it comes to official Presidential statements, the medium is utterly irrelevant. POTUS’ statements carry equal weight whether delivered from a podium or via Twitter.

  21. Mikey says:

    @Mikey: Although to be fair I avoid Trump’s speeches like James does his tweets. Trump’s speaking style makes me want to stick icepicks in my ears.

  22. @Mikey: I get wanting to ignore Trump’s various communications, if not the whole administration.

    Alas, that doesn’t make any of it go away.

  23. Mikey says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: You’re right, of course. But I still get where James is coming from, even if I disagree with him in part.