It's one thing to criticize President Trump for conducting foreign policy via impulsive, half-cocked tweeting, often while watching cable news. Scrambling the official US posture toward nuclear-armed Pakistan may be defensible on the merits, for instance, but only if it's properly thought-out and implemented strategically. Tauntingly tweeting at a rogue dictator about whose nuclear "button" is bigger may also be defensible on the merits -- but, uh, probably not. In any case, the president's social media habits are among his most self-destructive vices and contribute significantly to the widely-held view that he lacks the temperament for the job. This is an entirely legitimate vein of presidential criticism; one that I've engaged in myself. But then there's absurdity in response to absurdity. Over to you, Brian:
After a round of speculation about Trump's mental health, we're informed that Twitter management had not yet replied to inquiries about whether tweets like this are ban-worthy under the platform's rules because they 'threaten violence,' or something:
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
Ill-advised? Yes. Worrisome? To many, sure. A breach of Twitter's policy against violent threats? C'mon. It's a duly-elected president saber-rattling in response to an evil regime's threats and illicit acts; in other words, it's Trump engaging in his own special brand of foreign relations. Hand-wringing about whether such messages might justify some form of suspension or sanction is looks silly and feels petty. It immediately reminded me of this tweet from a New York Times reporter, who ridiculously likened the oppressive, authoritarian Iranian government shutting down social media platforms in an effort to squelch a popular uprising to...Donald Trump blocking individual people on Twitter:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Trump administration calls on #Iran to unblock Instagram, other social media amid protests— Josh Lederman (@joshledermanAP) January 2, 2018
The president blocking specific users he determines to be trolls -- which does not boot those users off of the medium, nor does it actually prevent them from viewing his tweets though other means -- may be thin-skinned and juvenile. It is also not remotely comparable to a brutal theocratic regime censoring the internet in order to protect its illegitimate grasp on power. The media does itself a disservice with this sort of hyperventilation and false equivalency. By the way, some Twitter users have sued Trump over Twitter blocking, on First Amendment grounds. It doesn't seem like their case is especially strong, from my layperson's perspective.