Monday, January 2, 2017

imagining a Twitter presidency

I've been trying to imagine how President Trump will spend his day, and it looks like nothing we have seen before. Typically, presidents start the day with an intelligence briefing and have some interaction with senior national security officials. Typically, the White House press secretary [or whatever they call the most frequent spokesperson] meets the White House press corps at least once, releasing official statements and responding to questions about the day's news. Typically, the president has at least one newsworthy event to highlight the message of the day or to have pictures of a friendly meeting. Typically, the president has numerous meetings where officials suggest things the administration could do, and the president makes choices. Typically, the president holds a formal news conference every few weeks to satisfy the press corps and demonstrate his mastery of policy issues.

In a Trump presidency, however, it looks as if the president will tolerate only occasional intelligence briefings, relying on his staff to tell him of important developments. There is no need for daily press briefings because the president himself will tweet comments on whatever captures his attention from the morning news shows. He may not even have any formal press conferences, compared to all recent presidents, because his tweets will dominate the news and because they allow him to avoid answering complex or embarrassing questions. Nor is he likely to have many formal speeches -- in contrast to stream of consciousness talks at rallies of the faithful -- because they require details and focus and constrain his normal flamboyance.

President Trump will look active and engaged through his tweets and occasional pictures of him signing bills or speaking on the phone to company presidents or foreign leaders. In fact, this would be a reactive presidency rather than a productive one. It would deal with policy issues superficially rather than substantively. No doubt somewhere in the government meetings will be held and choices made, but it looks as if the president will not drive those decisions himself. That's just not his style.

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