I finally got around to creating a Twitter account in November (@RAHarrington) and then finally got around to using it in April. Had I known the insights to be enjoyed as an adherent of the Bird I would have been twittering from the very beginning. Twitter is like an infinite zoetrope from the old days where each tweet is a snapshot and the rolling effect over time is a flickering movie.
The best place to watch the movie known as Donald Trump is in the theatre of the tweet. Reading him out of order in the disjointed, syncopated reportage of the daily news doesn’t deliver the same effect. Trump’s tweets in sequence betray a man who’s on the decline. His tweets are increasingly desperate, transactional and immature.
There is also an immediacy about them, a kind of cloying need to fix things right away. One gets the sense sometimes that he knows he has a problem and if only he could come up with the perfect tweet he’d be able to solve it on the spot. Trump tweets sudden non sequiturs like “LAW & ORDER” or “TRANSITION TO GREATNESS,” without context or explanation, as if they’re supposed to mean something useful to a nation that’s mourning more than 120,000 deaths from coronavirus.
Other times he just vents, and his inability to control himself is betrayed by a need to lash out at others and blame them for his problems. Other times still he will write something almost (but not quite) conciliatory, like a psychotic trying to convince us “I’m all better now, really I am.” In a way those are the creepiest tweets of all.
Above all there is no organizing principle behind Trump’s tweets and retweets. Their very randomness betrays his lack of mental discipline and an inability to do what the country needs him to do just now: to lead. The volume of his tweets reveals a man who does little else but tweet. When he’s not tweeting he’s either asleep, giving a speech or an interview or on the golf course. The time he spends actually working, that is, reading, meeting with experts and world leaders or brainstorming with advisors must be pathetically small. It’s possible, even probable, that he doesn’t do any of the minimum stuff required to be President of the United States— ever.
Before Twitter I knew Trump was evil, a child rapist, a thief, a murderer and a lazy fool. What Twitter has taught me is that, above all else, he’s a loser. Instead of thinking he reacts, instead of pondering he lashes out, instead of leading he blames. These are no calculated responses, they’re knee jerk, impulsive, undisciplined. He’s like a dirty boxer who only knows how to punch downwards, below the belt. There is never a “come, let us reason together” moment in Donald Trump’s universe. For Trump there is only “I win and you lose,” even when it’s clear that the only loser in evidence is Trump himself. Trump is a day trader who has no plan or program beyond the immediate. If a problem can’t be solved between breakfast and bedtime then he will start all over from scratch the following morning.
Trump has no plan, no overarching set of goals, no day to day working program. In short, he doesn’t want to do the work of the presidency, nor do any honour to the office. His only interest in the presidency is what it can do for him and his ratings. That is why the most prevalent topic by far in his tweets are himself and how great he is, or others and how horrible they are by contrast. I have never once seen him tweet a single thing to suggest he has a long term strategy for bringing America out of the coronavirus pandemic. His recurring boast is about a single travel ban he ordered in January. That’s it. If Americans are dying from COVID-19, as far as Trump is concerned, then they’d better go ahead and do it and decrease the surplus population.
Joe Biden, by contrast, has a plan. He knows and he has said many times that coronavirus is going to be part of the American landscape for a long time, and that it will be solved only by realistic measures applied with discipline over time. There are no shortcuts nor quick fixes, and to tell us otherwise would be both a disservice and an insult to the American people. I also follow Joe Biden on Twitter. His tweets are sparing because he has other things to do. But when he makes them, his tweets are full of compassion, wisdom and messages of unity. Joe Biden will truly be a President of the United States of America. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.