Monday, December 26, 2016

Trump The Tweeting Twit Gets His Comeuppance

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Let us admit as a rational proposition, that no leader - or leader -elect- ought to be propounding nuclear policy via a cartoon language medium. I refer to Trump's nuclear policy tweet last week:

"We need to strengthen and expand nuclear capacity until the world comes to its sense regarding nukes."

What the hell is he yapping about? Expand nuclear capacity? Is he nuts, ignorant or just stupid? As a number of strategic analysts have pointed out, including staff from The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the U.S. already has just under 5,000 nuclear warheads in its active arsenal and more than 1,550 deployed strategic warheads. This is more than enough to turn the world to ash about six times over.

Meanwhile the clueless media, especially on TV, kept showing the tweet on large HD screens in bold relief, as they scratched their heads, openly wondering what the hell he meant. No surprise here. As I pointed out earlier (Nov. 23rd  post) Twitter is essentially a cartoon language medium by which I mean its 140 character limit basically excludes any complex thought.  Or, I might add, any basis for explication or interpretation of what one is communicating.  One is basically reduced to the equivalent of a series of language cartoons.  This also harkens back to the medium used  constituting the basis of the message, as Marshall McLuhan first pointed out in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

Thus, no surprise as the Trump tweet left its point of origin, the Trump team itself was scurrying to impose some semblance of meaning on the word jumble expelled.  In fact, as a Denver Post release noted, the "Trump team offered only slightly more explanation of the comment later in the day when communications director Jason Miller said Trump was 'referring to the threat of nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it'"

Well, if that is what he meant, why didn't he say it, errr.....tweet it? Well, because the medium is so truncated and terse it doesn't allow for such expansion. Ok, let me take that back. One can, of course, do multiple tweets. But given each such blurtation is really a cartoon mini-medium itself  (complete with Trump's cartoon visage attached) there is still the danger the entire message can be misconstrued because it is not given as a coherent whole. That is, as a complete formal statement from what we expect to be grown ups wearing big boy pants, not Pampers.

And given that Russia, according to the same strategic sources, "has 400 more nuclear warheads than the U.S. does", one might assume that Trump - via his tweet - really meant overtaking the Russians.  Or, it could have meant  tearing up the new START Treaty which limits strategic weapons to 1,550 each by February, 2018. At least these would be the possible interpretations IF one could also assume Trump knew that the Russkies had a 400 nuke advantage and also knew what the START Treaty is. But since he doesn't even read his daily briefs, that's unlikely.

Trump's lack of impulse control over his Twitter account also showed itself in other manifestations over the past few days.  The latest incident occurred on Friday when the Obama administration abstained from a United Nations Security Council vote that condemned Israel for Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and allowed the resolution to pass. The alternative would have been to issue a veto to kill it right there.

Now the interesting part: a day earlier, Trump via Twitter had publicly demanded that Obama veto the measure, even intervening with Egypt at the request of Israel to pressure the administration to shelve the effort. Understand here above all else, this is a guy who has absolutely no real power or leverage as yet. He hasn't been sworn in, and as numerous rational observers have pointed out, there can be only one President at a time. It is also somewhat hilarious to witness a character with the temperament of a colicky three year old sending tweets ordering a sitting President to obey him. I mean, are you shitting me?

Trump wrote on Twitter after the vote: "As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20.” 

Maybe, Maybe not. But until that date (and actually beyond it) Trump needs to seal away and dispose of his Twitter account. The reason is very simple and ought to require little explanation: Presidents (as well as President -elects) - if one is going to insist on ""respect" - mandate via optics a certain level of decorum. This simply can't be achieved by tweets, unless one is willing to be viewed as an unreconstructed adolescent. So, like it or not, Trump- if he wishes to be taken seriously by those beyond his cartoon tweet and re-tweet community - will have to put on his big boy pants and put the Twitter away. Better yet, give his phone to Melania for safe keeping.

What has been immensely gratifying  was to finally see the Obama White House basically deliver a nice middle finger salute following Trump's original demand for UN veto tweet. Even if the WH and Trump camp haven't yet broken into open warfare, it was a gesture that warmed the cockles of every true liberal's heart.. Much of the blame of course must be on the twittering twit himself  who continues to demonstrate zero control of his impulses - a worrisome sign for a guy who will soon control the nuclear codes.

Of course, some academic dingbats - like Douglas G. Brinkley, a professor of history and a presidential historian at Rice University in Houston, have totally misinterpreted what's going on. Brinkley has insisted "Trump is neutering the Obama administration". But seriously, you can't "neuter" a sitting President using a device more apropos of horny adolescents eager to meet up with hot chicks. It just doesn't compute or work, unless these electronic burps are taken seriously, which no one in his right mind should - including Brinkley. The only one Trump is really neutering is himself, intellectually and by way of perception, because a serious "neuterer" would use the vehicle of a press conference, not a Twitter account.

Brinkley also hit the wrong note when he was quoted (by the NY Times) as saying:

"They’ve avoided personally attacking each other, but behind the scenes, they’re working to undermine each other, and I don’t know how the American people benefit from that.”

Uh, no, they can't, Brinkley. But for God's sakes put the situation in the proper framework as opposed to a "tail wags the dog" context.   It reminds me of another pretend historian - Robert Dallek - who once blurted about JFK (at least a tweet might be understandable): 'Why do we admire a president who did so little?'   Basically forgetting how Kennedy, by standing up to the Joint Chiefs during the peak of the October, 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis - prevented a nuclear exchange that would have left most of the world in ashes.

In this case of Brinkley's misfire, it is Trump working to undermine Obama, by interjecting himself into serious policy issues and matters when he has no standing to do so, none. Being "President -Elect" doesn't count.  So the true matter is that the American people are definitely not benefiting from Trump/s constant impulsive expulsions- especially on nuclear matters. Why this should be so difficult for a historian to grasp is beyond me, but hey- maybe they're no longer required to take logic courses en route to their advanced degrees.

If one isn't distracted by Trump's tweets, as no rational person (especially a historian) should be, then it makes eminent sense for Obama to conduct policy as he sees fit - without having to explain himself to a smarmy ass "backseat driver" with the impulses of a 3-year old. Thus,  on Tuesday Obama's administration  announced a permanent ban on offshore oil and gas drilling along wide areas of the Arctic and the Eastern Seaboard, invoking an obscure provision of a 1953 law, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. The administration  was also correct to claim that Trump had no power to reverse it. Technically he doesn't, but don't be surprised if the Trump Brigade and GOP accomplices find a whole raft of ways to overturn existing laws and precedents.

It is sad that a presidential transition has come to this: A petty, infantile narcissist with the emotional IQ of a sullen three year old, dispatching random tweets on a current administration's policy - each one  taken as holy writ by the media and even historians. If this is to be the template for the next four years, we are all in a deep sack of shit and probably can't rely on any public institutions to retain sanity. But never mind, I will expose nonsense, hijinks and inimical agendas, plans whenever I see them.
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