WASHINGTON — His message came at the start of one of the busiest weeks of Donald Trump’s transition to the White House. It’s a week when he and his team are preparing eight Cabinet picks for confirmation hearings,
finalizing appointments and gearing up for his first news conference as president-elect.
But at 6:29 a.m. on Monday, Trump was focused on what seemed like a less presidential problem: a five-minute Golden Globes speech in which actress Meryl Streep had suggested he was a “bully.”
“One of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood,” Trump tweeted out to his 19.2 million followers.
For better or worse, the president-elect’s social media feed is offering a daily glimpse into the interests, insecurities and insults that weigh on the next leader of the free world.
Many presidents have privately bristled at the attacks, criticism and mockery the office can bring. They’ve fumed behind the walls of the Oval Office and complained about slights to their aides and wives. But Trump’s use of Twitter is giving Americans and the world something they’ve never seen before.
“This is unprecedented access to the president. The presidency usually has a firewall,” said Timothy Naftali, a professor of history and public service at New York University. “By using Twitter, Mr. Trump has decided to remove the filter that has served so many of his predecessors so well.”
From his gleaming Manhattan skyscraper, Trump fires off messages starting at dawn. In the past week, he’s slammed the “dishonest” media, insulted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer as his party’s “head clown,” praised 16-year-old Inauguration singer Jackie Evancho and ripped Arnold Schwarzenegger for low ratings on “The Celebrity Apprentice.”
The tweets, which frequently feature commentary about specific media reports, give a sense of what Trump is reading and watching.
They ricochet across the globe and news networks. The Streep tweet alone was reposted more than 27 million times, prompting dozens of news reports and hours of television commentary. Even his spelling errors have prompted news coverage: Last month, he was mocked for using the word “unpresidented” instead of “unprecedented.”
Unfettered, stream-of-consciousness commentary is not new for Trump, who began harnessing the social media network to further his brand long before running for president. But, as president, his missives will now carry global ramifications.
Trump is hardly the first president to take umbrage with what he views as unfair attacks. Behind closed doors, Richard Nixon was notoriously vengeful, Lyndon Johnson often thin-skinned and Dwight Eisenhower prone to rage, says Naftali. But past presidents went to great lengths to keep their personal emotions private, carefully channeling communications through staff.
“The White House staff has been designed to soften the hard edges of the boss,” says Naftali. “You’re representing the United States. Do you want the United States to look angry?”