The Corner


The Upside of Trump’s Twitter Obsession

Axios is releasing its interview with Donald Trump piecemeal in drips and drabs. In the latest installment, the president says that attacking the press on Twitter and at rallies is his “only form of fighting back.”

At least that’s what I think Trump is saying. The president seems to miss some of Jim VandeHei’s point, so it’s a little hard to tell for sure whether or not they’re talking past each other. VandeHei is not objecting to “fighting back” per se but to how Trump fights back, namely calling the press the “enemy of the people.” Obviously that isn’t the only form media criticism can take. Other presidents have complained about the press without calling journalists the enemies of the people.

From context, I think Trump mostly means his Twitter account and, to a lesser extent, his rallies. And if that’s what he actually believes, that’s a good thing. Because it’s not true. It’s not true on a bunch of levels — presidents have had the bully pulpit from the beginning. It’s not like presidents were powerless before Twitter to get their message out. The president always has the biggest megaphone.

But that’s not my point. What Trump said is also not true in far more serious ways. The president is the most powerful person in America. And the presidency has far more legal power than it has had in the past (I tend to think the presidency often had more informal power in the past that the legal system simply turned a blind eye to). The president is also the head of his party, which confers huge extra-legal power.

So if Donald Trump actually believes the only means he has at his disposal to punish his critics and political foes is Twitter and some schtick at rallies, that’s really good news. Woodrow Wilson, FDR, LBJ, and, of course, Richard Nixon looked at the powers of the presidency and saw a whole arsenal of weapons to use against their enemies (and, many would argue, so did Barack Obama). Now I don’t like much of Trump’s rhetoric, and I think it’s making a lot of things worse. But I’d much rather a president stick to just words than the full menu of options for fighting back.

Most Popular


‘Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself’

It was just one more segment to fill out the hour, and thereby fill the long 24 hours of Saturday’s cable news on November 2. Or so it seemed. Navy SEAL Mike Ritland was on the Fox News program Watters World to talk to Jesse Watters about trained German shepherds like the one used in the raid that found ... Read More

A Defining Statement of Modern Conservatism

The greatest documents in American history never lose their ability to astonish. They deserve, and repay, careful study, and inevitably have contemporary resonances no matter how long ago they were written or uttered. There’s no doubt that Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” belongs in the top ranks ... Read More
White House

The Russian Conspiracy That Won’t Die

The Mueller report accomplished nothing. Whether you thought that the two-year, $32 million investigation was warranted or not, the report promised to establish a factual record that both sides could accept, especially on the explosive charge that Donald Trump had conspired with the Russians to win the ... Read More
White House

Impeachment Theater of Trolls

As a boy, I used to watch a television show with a weekly gag titled “MasterJoke Theatre.” A pompous egghead smoked a pipe in a leather-bound chair in a richly appointed library, told a joke, and got a pie in the face for his trouble. What the Democrats launched on the Hill this week is their own variant, ... Read More