The Tweeting of a Crackpot

The Tweeting of a Crackpot
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
The Tweeting of a Crackpot
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
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WASHINGTON -- Of all the crackpots on social media, is any more untethered to reality than the president of the United States?

Seriously, there are tinfoil-hatted lunatics yelling on street corners who make more sense than President Trump's increasingly loopy Twitter feed. Think about it: Most mornings, and some evenings as well, the most powerful man in the world rants and raves like someone you'd urgently tell the gate agent about if you were waiting to board the same airplane. This is not normal. This is alarming.

I know, there's a school of thought that says Trump's tweets are nothing but weapons of mass distraction and should be ignored. But if you want to know the administration's policy on just about anything, what other reliable source is there? Surely not press secretary Sarah Sanders and the other White House mouthpieces, whose main job is to invent "evidence" to back up Trump's misstatements, distortions and pants-on-fire lies.

And surely not Trump's own high-level appointees. After Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told Congress this week that North Korea is unlikely ever to give up its nuclear weapons, Trump tweeted that there is a "decent chance of Denuclearization ... Progress being made -- big difference." After CIA chief Gina Haspel said that Iran is abiding by the terms of the nuclear deal that Trump renounced, the president used a tweet to slap her down: "The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong! ... Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!"

Take a moment to absorb how crazy this is. The informed assessments of Trump's intelligence chiefs disagree with Trump's uninformed or misinformed prejudgments -- so he attacks and belittles his own handpicked team.

What are Coats, Haspel and all the others who work for Trump supposed to do? Grin and bear it? Shrug and carry on? Quit and write books telling how the chaos and dysfunction inside Trumpworld are worse than we could possibly imagine?

The president also uses Twitter -- where he has nearly 60 million followers -- to cut the legs from under members of Congress who are gamely trying to carry his water. This week's victims are the GOP members of the bipartisan committee that is supposed to be negotiating a spending package for border security. Those Republicans "are wasting their time," Trump tweeted, because Democrats do not want to approve money to build the imaginary border wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for.

One way to end this farce would be for the committee to come up with funds to replace or upgrade existing border fences and barriers. Trump could say this was money for the wall, Democrats could say it wasn't, and there would be no threat of another government shutdown or an unconstitutional declaration of national emergency. But another Trump tweet seemed to rule that solution out: "Lets [sic] just call them WALLS from now on and stop playing political games! A WALL is a WALL."

I guess Shakespeare was wrong; a rose by any other name would not, in fact, smell as sweet. But I digress.

One of the scariest things about Trump's tweets is that you can read them and immediately know what he's been watching on television. He often repeats what he has just heard on Fox News -- to the point that the hosts of his favorite show, "Fox & Friends," often appear to be setting the administration's agenda. If I worked for Trump, I'd watch the show to get my marching orders for the day.

To review: The president won't accept the conclusions of the intelligence community, which are synthesized by thousands of public servants with great expertise in their subject areas. But he treats three blow-dried talking heads sitting on a couch in Manhattan as Delphic oracles.

Perhaps above all, Trump uses his Twitter feed to lie and mislead. On Thursday morning alone, he claimed in four separate tweets that his promised border wall is already "being built." That's an utter, shameless lie. Some existing fencing has been replaced, but not a single mile of new wall has been constructed. Not one.

Rare is the Trump tweet that does not include at least one lie, exaggeration or distortion. I'll leave it to my Fact Checker colleagues at The Washington Post to keep track of them all. But think about it: We have a chief executive who gushes toxic falsehood like Drunk Uncle at closing time.

How can the nation respect the presidency when it can't believe a word the president says?

I don't know, either.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group



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