When Trump Becomes POTUS, Take his Twitter Away
Anyone paying even the smallest amount of attention to the 2016 Presidential Election is no doubt familiar with the voracious Twitter appetite that seems to plague our now president-elect. It seems The Donald can’t go very long without vomiting his semi-stream-of-consciousness musings for all the world to read. Trump’s timeline was consistent fodder for the media throughout the campaign and may have contributed, at least in-part, to the crucial underestimation of his capabilities as a political animal. If most of what you see of Trump is what he’s broadcasting to the world in 140 characters or less (with a supplemental peppering of rally clips on The Today Show), you’re probably not getting exposed to the nature of the Trump phenomenon in earnest. I’ll admit I fell into this trap as well. I mean, look at the title of this post.
This writing, of course, is not meant as an ex post facto dissection of the campaign or how everyone got it wrong (including me), nor is it meant to be an exploration of why or why not the impending Trump administration will be a success or a failure. Many others have done a much finer job of this than I could ever hope to produce. What it is, however, is a strong plea to prevent Donald Trump from using Twitter as a private citizen while he is in office.
Since the major news organizations began declaring a Trump victory in the wee hours of 9 November, there has been little talk of what will happen, as a matter of policy, to Trump’s social media accounts after Inauguration Day. We do know that White House staff transitioning in will be given full control in managing and administering official organizational social media profiles such as @POTUS and @WhiteHouse, but as far as I can tell there has been little to no mention of the fate of @realDonaldTrump. (If I’ve missed something and this has all been sorted out and I’m stroking my keys in futility, just let me know.)
From my perspective, there’s really only one option: don’t let The Donald tweet on his personal account while he is in office.
I am not necessarily advocating passing legislation prohibiting the President of The United States from using Twitter, nor am I otherwise recommending any legal processes that would force his abstention from social networking. In general, the President retains his or her individual citizenship while in office, and so retains the rights to free expression and all the rest. Donald J. Trump is well within his rights to keep using Twitter throughout his tenure -- all I’m saying is that someone in his administration should be smart enough to stop it the moment after he has taken the oath.
There are obviously myriad examples at which to point in an effort to illustrate precisely why this should be the policy in the White House, both from the campaign and the last few weeks, but we’ll go with something more recent since...well, since it is especially egregious and inflammatory.
Last week, Trump turned his tweeting attention to flag burning, advocating jail time and perhaps even a revocation of American citizenship were an individual to be found guilty of such a “crime.” (I added the implication of there being some sort of due process in this hypothetical.)
Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016
Firstly, this tweet is the embodiment of the chief complaint launched at Trump during the Republican primary by so many on the Right. It is indicative of the fecklessness of his motivations for becoming president; a reminder that he is a man without a moral compass and whose opinions and beliefs are dictated by what he perceives to be popular throughout his base in the current moment. Here, Trump has touched on an idea -- flag-burning should be an illegal act -- that is incredibly popular with many Americans. But most superfans of The Donald, including the President-Elect himself, are probably unaware that the Supreme Court has found flag burning to be constitutionally protected political speech under the First Amendment.
I wish to be clear: if Donald Trump wants to hold and advocate for this point of view as a private citizen, that’s all well and good. His flag burning tweet is also not necessarily indicative of any substantive policies he intends to enact during the course of his upcoming presidency. But as we see the man broadcasting deeply illiberal (some would say dastardly un-American) ideas, one can’t help but wonder what might occur down the line if he is allowed to continue using social media in this manner. The likelihood of committing offense to foreign dignitaries, undermining his own policies in public proclamation, and other boondoggling increases exponentially when the president has free reign to broadcast any thought at any moment to billions of people.
Not to mention, it’s going to get pretty annoying if daily news briefings include the latest tweets from The Donald for the next four years. Hopefully some cooler heads within the incoming Trump administration (yes, they exist) have already thought of these things, and The Donald will have to check his phone at the door of the White House just like an irresponsible teen checks in his keys with the DD for the evening.