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Shaking up presidential communication

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How Trump’s tweets have changed the status quo for presidents

In early January 2018, national and global news headlines erupted with concern surrounding the growing conflict between President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un. This concern, though, wasn’t elevated by a press conference or a missile test or an American congressional testimony — it was elevated by a tweet.

“Will someone from [Kim’s] depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” President Trump tweeted from his personal account @realDonaldTrump on January 2, 2018 (notably, Trump tweets from his personal account, not the official @POTUS account that was used by President Obama). The tweet was in response to a North Korean government statement in which the country claimed that their latest missile could reach the United States mainland.

Following this, numerous political figures worldwide criticized Trump for the tweet. Detractors included Eliot Cohen, a high-ranking White House official in the George W. Bush administration. The remark was “spoken like a petulant ten year old,” Cohen said on Twitter. “But one with nuclear weapons — for real — at his disposal. How responsible people around him, or supporting him, can dismiss this or laugh it off is beyond me.”

Trump’s conduct on Twitter has involved more than just disputes with foreign communist leaders. Consistently, Trump has made jabs at American media members, celebrities, and even news organizations. These disses are usually directed at his critics — including CNN journalist Jim Acosta, the New York Times (the whole organization), and SNL cast member Alec Baldwin. In January 2018, Trump referred to Acosta as “Crazy Jim Acosta;” in June 2017, he claimed that “the failing @nytimes writes false story after false story” about him; and in March 2018, he stated that Baldwin’s “dying mediocre career was saved by his terrible impersonation of [the president].”

Trump has averaged a staggering 8.1 tweets per day since his election on November 8, 2016. On August 29, 2018, Trump posted an incredible 22 tweets in less than 23 hours — many of which focused on “Fake CNN” and his disdain for their use of anonymous reporting. By contrast, President Obama averaged less than one tweet every two days from @POTUS over the last six months of his presidency.

Overall, Trump’s Twitter presence has been unlike that of any president before him. Only the future will tell if other leaders adopt his high-energy style or return to a more traditional, diplomatic status quo.

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