The president can communicate via a statement printed on White House letterhead, a gathering of his supporters, a televised speech, a recorded interview, a spokesman’s announcement, a call to talk radio, an email to whomever, an airplane banner. Or Twitter.
The medium matters, but not as much as the fact that it’s the president speaking. Every pronouncement by the president must be treated as such – no matter the medium.
White House aide Kellyanne Conway wants the world to dismiss Trump’s tweets. Of course she does. She derided the press for its “obsession with covering everything he says on Twitter and very little of what of he does as president.”
Talking to the world via tweets is what Trump does as president. How he communicates and what he says both speak volumes about how his mind works and what he believes – and it’s the role of the press to report presidential pronouncements and hold him accountable for them.
The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman hit the nail on the head (via Twitter): “Calling them ‘tweets’ minimizes them. They’re statements from the president made on Twitter.”
I didn’t recognize this at first. All traditional press releases are not equally newsworthy. At the very start of Trump’s presidency, I thought the all-day news channels were obsessed with every tweet, endlessly and fruitlessly speculating on what he meant by the ridiculous statement of the moment.
But it took less than a month for Trump to declare via Twitter that the media is the enemy of the American people. That was nothing less than an official declaration, a directive of sorts, from the president of the United States. It scared the heck out of me. I woke up.
“Trump’s tweets are no less authoritative than Trump’s comments in a press availability or a speech,” Ed Kilgore wrote in a “New York” magazine article aptly titled, “Donald Trump’s Tweets Are Providing the Real Story of His Presidency.” He’s right. The tweets should be taken as seriously as presidential comments made through more traditional mediums — more so, in fact.
Don’t dismiss Trump tweets as crazy, casual rants. They are nothing less than official statements to the world from the president of the United States. Even when they are crazy. Especially when they are.
These 140-character outbursts reflect Trump’s unfiltered self. They reveal more than staff-written teleprompts and carry the weight of the president’s word, because that’s what they are.