The Corner

A Suggestion for Reading Trump’s Tweets

In response to Was Abe Fortas Filibustered?

I’d like to wholeheartedly endorse Jim Geraghty’s post. He’s right — “not every Trump tweet needs to dominate the news cycle for a day.” Indeed, I think there’s a framework for understanding and evaluating which tweets to take seriously and which to note and discard. By this point it’s pretty darn clear that not every tweet signifies a new action or policy.

For example, people got very upset over Trump tweeting, “The United States must greatly expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” but expanding nuclear capacity requires an immense financial and technical investment. It requires strategic reviews, plans, designs, and appropriations. Let’s wait and debate Trump’s new nuclear policy until, well, a new policy emerges.

Similarly, there was much hand-wringing over his tweet about flag-burning. News flash: POTUS can’t ban flag-burning. You can’t strip citizenship with a tweet. That takes legislation. That takes reversing Supreme Court precedent. So far, in the real world, his tweet has been little more than a flag-burning stimulus act, with left-wing protesters more than happy to torch Old Glory just to show they’re not afraid. 

There are times when the tweet is the action or reflects the action. If Trump attacks someone on Twitter, that’s a meaningful action because of the immediate real-world effect. If he announces a policy change that’s within his power to make, that reflects an action. So does announcing presidential appointments. As for everything else, I’d suggest a healthy dose of skepticism and perhaps a side portion of indifference.

Moreover, skepticism and indifference send a signal to allies and adversaries that they should also wait and see what Trump does before they react too much to what Trump says. Imagine if the next provocative tweet is greeted less with headlines and more with shrugs.

I’m not endorsing the way Trump tweets, and he doesn’t care if anyone does. By now, we know he’s going to do what he wants. But we can certainly decide how we react. He’ll be president in less than two weeks, and presidents have to take actions. Let those actions speak louder than his tweeted words.  


David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More