The president is not presidential. He does not hold press conferences to push his agenda. He does not preside over town halls. He does not explain policy from the podium. He does not speak to his Attorney General when he is displeased.
Waking up to the president’s Twitter feed brings Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury to mind. Not the book, mind you, but that famous line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth from which the title derives: “a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Because what, if anything, do a president’s tweets signify?
In a 60 Minutes interview on healthcare, the president said, “I am going to take care of everybody … Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”
But there are never details on said care. He mostly delivers his favorite zinger, “the disaster known as Obamacare,” and tweets like he is coaching a baseball game. “Go Republican Senators, Go!”
He screams from the sidelines. I need a win on the board!
Whether you are for or against in the healthcare debate, the fact remains: there are millions who count on Obamacare to keep them, and their children, alive. Americans who lie awake nights with worry. The words “let Obamacare implode” are not presidential, they are the diatribe of a lazy despot who would rather let his people suffer than do the work required of his position.
Six months in, the president is already bored with legislation. Bored with this healthcare nonsense. Bored with the not-so-glamorous parts of the presidency.
So he tweets.
Of course, the president’s supporters argue otherwise. He is an outsider, not politically correct, draining the swamp. He fights for the working man and against the liberal elites, coastal elites, and intellectual elites at Goldman Sachs who paid Hillary Clinton big bucks for a speech.
Yet most of Trump’s White House staff—Mnuchin, Cohn, Ross, Powell, Bannon, Donovan, Scaramucci—reads like a Real Housewives of Wall Street cast, a swanky, black-tie invitation list of Harvard-educated bankers. So goes the biggest joke on Wall Street, “Is there even anyone left at Goldman Sachs?”
One morning last week, at 5:55 am, the president issued a string of tweets on military policy that began with, “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow……”
In the long nine minutes between this first tweet and the next—his intent to bar transgender Americans from service — Pentagon staffers held their collective breath. Was their Commander in Chief about to tweet us into a war?
And imagine you are one of those 15,000 transgender service members, many of whom are on the front lines risking their lives, hearing from your president in a tweet: you are not good enough to take a bullet for your country.
In her July 27 Wall Street Journal column, former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan wrote, “Half the president’s tweets show utter weakness. They are plaintive, shrill little cries, usually just after dawn.” The mad king wakes up in a mood, lashing out, and “meanwhile, the whole world is watching, a world that contains predators. How could they not be seeing this weakness, confusion and chaos and thinking it’s a good time to cause some trouble?”
The president is not draining the swamp. He is simply the most dangerous alligator in the swamp.
Safe behind the screen of his Twitter handle, the president ridicules his staff, dares Congress, berates the press, and dresses down everyone from the leader of China to cable TV hosts.
He flies around the country on Air Force One, refueling his ego with campaign-style rallies, delivering his most-reliable applause lines. Hillary lost! Lock her up! Fake news! Look at this record crowd! We are going to start staying Merry Christmas again! (Note: we never stopped saying Merry Christmas.)
What he does not do is govern.
Out on the road, free from the prison walls of the White House, the president opines on the glory days of his big election win—Michigan! Wisconsin! Ohio!—and soaks up the adoration of his doe-eyed believers in their red, team-Trump hats.
Only to wake in the morning, empty again, reaching for his phone. His tweets full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Maybe someone could tell Mr. Trump he is the real president, not just playing one on Twitter.