Is President Trump’s use of Twitter to announce significant policy changes a move towards transparency or a distraction from the what’s really happening in Washington?
Recently, the president has been criticized for his decision to announce the upcoming military transgender ban via Twitter.
The tweet came as no surprise considering Trump’s history of trigger fingers with social media. Some have claimed that the policy’s announcement on Twitter adds insult to injury by minimizing the magnitude of the news. But does the way in which bad news is delivered really change anything?
Trump’s use of his personal Twitter to post about his presidency is unprecedented because of course the majority of his predecessors did not have the option to do so, given Twitter’s relative novelty. Notwithstanding, Obama had both a POTUS and personal Twitter account. However, unlike Trump, when Obama made the announcement last year that all transgender persons serving in the military may do so openly, he used a more official means of communication through the former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey defended Trump’s use of the social media back in May, claiming, “it’s really important to hear directly from our leadership … and I think it’s really important to have these conversations out in the open, rather than behind closed doors.”
Dorsey’s statement seems to imply that without Trump’s incessant tweeting, the American people would have less insight into the workings of the White House. But in fact, the opposite is true.
Trump’s tweets alone offer no specifics about policy implementation. The media coverage following his tweets spends more time analyzing the tweets themselves than tracking any course of action made to follow through on his words.
This issue is not unique to the transgender ban. When it comes to immigration, health care or any other major issue, the media berates us with information about Trump’s latest tweets, analyzing everything from diction to tone, mentioning the facts as just an afterthought.
Despite the fact that Trump’s language implies that the ban is official: “the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US Military … ”, even Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has not received “directives on implementation,” and he himself first heard of the ban via social media.
Indeed, Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ delay to review the U.S. military’s policy on transgender service members is only a month into the 6 month process, meaning nothing is set in stone. Aside from the disrespect to the transgender men and women that serve our nation’s military, Trump’s decision to announce the ban was both premature and distracting.
Kelly Conway, counselor to the President, said in early June that the media has an “obsession with everything he says on Twitter and very little of what he does as president.” Conway said this in an attempt to defend the president after, surprise, surprise, he made a misleading comment about the Mayor of London’s reaction to the terror attack at the London Bridge. Despite this, I agree with Kelly, though I am miles away from defending Trump.
The brilliance and unwitting luck of Trump’s tweets is that the more time the media spends talking about his outrageous tweets, the less time they are talking about what is happening “behind closed doors,” in the Twitter’s CEO’s words.
Beating out the 24-hour news cycle and replacing it with journalism that pays no attention to click-baits or views is a lofty, long-term goal. But I challenge readers to look beyond the red herring bigotry and insensitive comments, and focus instead the true, actionable policies being implemented — because that is where the true damage to our nation is hiding.