Donald J. Trump: Troller-in-Chief?

It is a mere nine months into the Trump administration, and we already have a multitude of questions.

Among them is whether or not Donald Trump’s juvenile outbursts on social media are pre-planned stunts meant to steer our focus elsewhere, or if they arise out of the moment, a further indication of a sensitive president’s inability to cope with detractors.


One could very well argue the first option. Often, the online antics seem so far-fetched and inappropriate that they must be part of a planned marketing strategy designed to bolster the president’s support. Other times, the very public behavior truly seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to some person or event, fueled by raw emotion.

That online behavior has become a routine aspect of this presidency.

Despite what professional and amateur critics say, the majority of  Trump voters appear to love the antics. After all, they voted for a “fighter” who speaks directly to the American people, right?

The most frustrating and recurring excuses center around defending such online behavior as a sort of “evil genius” persona. Supporters boil it down to “But he’s just trolling everyone! No need to get all worked up.” Such justifications never question Trump’s conduct, but always err on the side of a supposed brilliance. No matter what the president says, it’s all part of some master plan meant to fool his enemies and shame the critics.

These are a few recent examples.

Last week, Trump set off a firestorm with a tweet about censoring the media. Naturally, many were bothered it.

As my colleague Patterico wrote, both sides of the political aisle should switfly condemn such a suggestion that government takes action against speech it dislikes. As expected, a majority of Trump supporters laughed it off as nothing but trolling the media and causing furor. Of course, nothing will actually come of it, but the mere thought is unacceptable. Would those on the Right appreciate the same type of behavior – trolling or not – from a Democratic president? I think not.


Last Sunday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared on Jake Tapper’s show, State of the Union. There Tillerson defended the use of tweets when dealing with a very serious threat; the North Korean regime (emphasis mine).

TAPPER: And we’re back, back with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Secretary Tillerson, you were in China. We were just talking about the North Korean problem. You were in China trying to resolve the dispute with North Korea in a diplomatic way.

President Trump tweeted: “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful secretary of state, that he’s wasting his time trying to negotiate with little Rocket Man.” And then he sent a second tweet saying: “Save your energy, Rex. We will do what has to be done.”

Now, if I were a Chinese official or a North Korean official, seeing these tweets while you were there trying to negotiate and trying to solve this problem, I might think, Secretary Tillerson doesn’t really speak for President Trump.

TILLERSON: Well, Jake, fortunately, President Trump and President Xi have probably one of the closest relationship the president has with a head of state.

As you’re aware, they have had two major face-to-face meetings, the summit in Mar-a-Lago, a very comprehensive bilateral in Hamburg. The president speaks to President Xi on the telephone frequently. I think they have had eight — seven or eight calls. I have a very close relationship with the state councillor of China, who reports directly to President Xi on their foreign policy.

So, rest assured that the Chinese are not confused in any way what the American policy towards North Korea or what our actions in it and efforts are directed at. So…


TAPPER: But don’t tweets like that undermine you?

TILLERSON: Well, I think the president — what the president is doing is, he’s trying to motivate action on a number of people’s part, in particular the regime in North Korea.


How embarrassing it would be to defend your boss’ use of Twitter when discussing serious foreign policy. I would say I almost feel sorry for Secretary Tillerson, but he’s the one who said yes to the job.

And just this week, there have been more examples that showcase Trump’s panicked behavior.

Deflecting from something else, Mr. President? This is not a matter for you to take up.

This politicizing of a soldier’s death has been very sad to see. Instead of quietly moving past accusations and letting someone like Sarah Huckabee Sanders handle it, Trump uses social media as a platform to play he said-she said. Furthermore, he claims that he has proof to support his side, but has yet to present it. As happens often, he ends up looking like a middle schooler having a public feud with a former friend.

More talk of the NFL. To be sure, this fires up his base, but it shows how continually petty he is as he cannot let a matter – that does not even begin to involve him – go.


Another tweet meant to spur on the media vs America narrative. The idea of fostering unity doesn’t occur to him. Also, I’m not sure if he’s aware, but FOX News is incredibly biased as well. They’re just in the pro-Trump camp, so of course, they’re acceptable.

President Trump’s behavior certainly helps to devolve the office to which he has been elected. Unfortunately, his conduct is standard, at least for him. Such behavior rallies his base by energizing those who only voted for him for superficial reasons. Their support is not much different than their counterparts in the Obama fan base who were led by emotion alone. That truth isn’t a good look for the GOP.

At times it is difficult to tell whether the president is merely engaged in trolling his opposition or simply and purely reacting to that which he dislikes. Either way, such behavior is not becoming of a president and directs focus away from the issues, both large and small, that require actual attention.

Perhaps, though, that is the point of the Trump Era theatrics.

For those wanting a show, they leave fulfilled. For others, such as myself, who desire substance and action, we’re left disgusted by the antics. Given his track record thus far, we should get used to the disappointment.



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