Donald Trump’s first week of the new year was spent antagonizing friend and foe alike on Twitter. No matter how dignified and “Presidential” president Trump’s speeches may become, his tweets continue unabated. He conducts foreign policy 280 characters at a time. (I think twitter changed their character limit to 280 so Trump can engage in more sophisticated foreign policy debates.) His tweets seem to come out of nowhere as if he is watching TV at 3 in the morning and decides to tweet something. Instead, Trump is purposeful in his tweeting. George Lakoff, a neurolinguistic professor at UC Berkley and best-selling author, tells us that Trump demonstrates four purposes in his tweeting: pre-emptive framing, deflection, diversion, and trial balloon. Let’s look at these tweet goals and where the tweet war with Ms. Yulin Cruz fits into those goals. His twitter war with the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Carman Yulin Cruz over the Summer perfectly demonstrates these four goals.
Pre-emptive Framing: He frames first. If the President can define the problem for us, he gets to decide how much aid to Puerto Rico is too much. If Houston loses power, residents can just drive to Austin, or some other cities and they are good. They still have their lives to rebuild, but they have access to food, clean water, shelter, and healthcare. Texas and Florida are also not facing bankruptcy because of inconsistent US economic policy in those states. Particular economic policies had been created for Puerto Rico to encourage investment and job creation on the island. Those plans changed. They were then made subject to bankruptcy laws that prevented them from resolving the debt they incurred providing infrastructure for the businesses that came to Puerto Rico and have since left. Those companies include a Trump golf club that filed for bankruptcy. So, you take a situation that is an act of God and dump it on a people with few options since they live on an island. Finally, they are in an economic condition that the President assisted to create. The people need a lot of help and will need help for many years to come to recover from this disaster. Trump conveniently frames the whole situation 280 characters at a time. Puerto Ricans need to take more responsibility for themselves. He has done so much for Puerto Rico; he just has not gotten proper credit. Puerto Rico has poor leadership.
Deflection: Here Trump is deflecting blame for the problems in Puerto Rico to Puerto Rican leadership. Trump likes to blame previous Presidents, especially Barack Obama. In discussing issues related to Puerto Rico, blaming Puerto Rico leadership is secure. He does not have to worry about them as voters. Puerto Rico has no vote in the general election for President. When Trump is blaming Carman Yulin Cruz and other leaders, he takes no responsibility himself. He can praise his response. He can talk about what a great job he is doing, even while at this late date, 50% of Puerto Rico is without electricity. Blaming other leaders allows Trump to take credit for doing an excellent job, even as Puerto Rico prepares for a humanitarian crisis because they lack access to clean water.
Diversion: The third thing Trump tried to accomplish with his tweet storm on Puerto Rico was to divert people from thinking about the Russian scandal. His latest tweet storm has been timed and designed to divert people from thinking about Fire and Fury, the Trump expose written by Micheal Wolff released this week. It is scary that this man will risk thermonuclear war to keep us from thinking about what his staff is saying about him. His tweet war with Ms. Yulan Cruz seems more timed to distract from the Russian investigation, the failure of the Senate to pass Trump-no-care, and the discussion of the “we don’t care what the American people want, our big donors need a break” tax reform. And, ultimately, the fact that while millions of tax dollars may have been spent, Puerto Rico remains in desperation.
Trial Balloon: Trump’s tweets give him a sense of how the public might respond to any public announcement or policy direction. He does not care much for polls if they are not favorable to him. He tends to play them down. He does care about how his base is going to react to his message and how he needs to craft his message to reach them. His language is not sophisticated. Others do not see him as smart or intellectual. DO NOT BE FOOLED. He has some skills he brings to the table, or he would not be president. He is a conman who can read a room. He knows how to craft a message for a crowd. The problem with the election was not that Trump had the support of the majority of Americans. The problem was that his supporters went to the polls. Election is not about how many people like or dislike a candidate, they are about who goes to the polls. Trump’s voters went to the polls. He may only have the approval of 35 percent of Americans, but if they are the only ones going to the polls, he will win another term. He tweets. He sees what happens. He does not much care how most people respond. He cares about his base. If he can continue to convince them that he did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico, the rest does not matter. If telling Kim Jung Il that he has a bigger button makes him sound like a strong leader to his base, it doesn’t matter if it scares the rest of us.
We have a tough road ahead of us in 2018. Understanding Trump and his tweets will help us have the conversations we need to have to get through the family parties. It will also help us to get through the next election.
I am delighted to be back with you. I am working on NOT apologizing for so many things that do not require an apology. Women do that far too often. I am just going to say that I have been away from writing as I have been busy with family. I have been sick and busy with the holidays. I am delighted to be back. I hope you are delighted as well.
Happy new year.
1 "Trump’s Twitter Distraction « George Lakoff." N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2017 <https://georgelakoff.com/2017/03/07/trumps-twitter-distraction/>.
We will look more closely at Trump’s Twitter war with San Juan’s mayor next time.
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