There was a time when many considered President Trump's Twitter feed part of his secret political genius. It was how he communicated directly to his supporters with no media filter! It was how he dominated the conversation almost every single day! It was how he distracted us all from the stories he didn't like!
It's now the epitome of what is wrong with his presidency.
Trump took to Twitter on Thursday morning to launch an attack with clearly sexist overtones against MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski, suggesting that he had seen her “bleeding badly from a facelift” at his Mar-a-Lago estate several months back.
It's difficult to overstate how counterproductive and poorly conceived this was. The GOP health-care effort is hanging by a thread, and it just so happens that three of the five female Republican senators — Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, Maine's Susan Collins and West Virginia's Shelley Moore Capito — are considered crucial swing votes. At least one Republican congresswoman, Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), effectively called Trump out for sexism.
And Collins clearly took exception.
This has to stop – we all have a job – 3 branches of gov’t and media. We don’t have to get along, but we must show respect and civility.— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) June 29, 2017
In addition, just a couple weeks back, Trump's daughter and White House adviser Ivanka Trump complained about the “viciousness” of D.C. politics — comments that were pretty laughable at the time and now seem even more so — and his wife, Melania Trump, is supposed to be running a campaign against cyberbullying. And, as Philip Bump notes, Trump's itchy Twitter finger has become basically the one thing that Americans of all political stripes agree on; a poll this week showed that about 7 in 10 American adults think it is “reckless and distracting.”
So the tweets in and of themselves are bad for all of these reasons. But they are also symptomatic of why Trump's presidency is struggling so much — why his approval rating is under 40 percent in most polls and why he can't finagle Republican senators to vote for a badly desired piece of signature legislation.
Whatever you think of a president or his policies, the fact is that all presidents need help. They need to rely on people who know better about given subjects to offer them advice. They might not always take it, but smart executives are those who are good at delegating and assembling the best groups of advisers to help them with their blind spots and compensate for their flaws. That nobody in the White House has prevailed upon Trump to cut this out pretty much says it all when it comes to whether he's both getting and accepting good advice.
Twitter is also a regular reminder of what has long been Americans' least-favorite quality in Trump: his temperament. A Quinnipiac University poll this month found that just 29 percent of Americans describe Trump as “levelheaded.” Even one-third of Republicans said the president is not a prudent man.
This trait is also hugely important when it comes to legislating. Trump this month labeled the House GOP health-care bill “mean,” despite having celebrated its passage in a Rose Garden speech. Left twisting in the wind were all those House Republicans who took a very difficult vote to pass it. And you have to believe that GOP senators considering their own very tough votes on the Senate's version are concerned that Trump will fly off the handle one day and toss them under the bus. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said it well this week of senators considering supporting the health-care bill: “Here's what I would tell any senator: If you're counting on the president to have your back, you need to watch it.”
Tweets like those about Brzezinski are a near-perfect encapsulation of how Trump doesn't listen to anybody, how he is a victim of his own often-very-unhelpful whims, and how he's prone to alienating even those who are tempted to work with him and defend him.
Sometimes, a tweet is much more than a tweet.