When the phone buzzes at odd hours, you know it’s Trump

On the tweeting President who makes the very existence of journalists irrelevant

I don’t tweet much. And not using Twitter today is probably equivalent to a reporter not learning shorthand a few decades ago. You can get by, but only barely. If smart mining of the platform can yield useful inputs for your reporting in general, reporting on U.S. President Donald Trump is impossible without tracking his Twitter handle continuously. I learnt this as this newspaper’s former U.S. correspondent. That I was an early riser helped in this case, as Mr. Trump’s Twitter life starts pretty early in the day. I noticed that on most days his first post was some time between 6.30 and 7.00 a.m. in the initial days of his presidency. Soon I realised that he could tweet any time, and to deal with this, set up an instant alert on any posts from @realDonaldTrump. From the sacking of his Secretary of State to what he thinks of transgender soldiers, the world — and reporters — get to know the U.S President’s thoughts through Twitter regularly. Every time my phone buzzed, I knew that the President had something to say. But all this is not to make the life of journalists easy, but their very existence irrelevant. “I’m proud to announce to the media, to the American people and to the Indian people that Prime Minister Modi and I are world leaders in social media,” Mr. Trump said in his remarks in June 2017, at the White House, after his first bilateral meeting with Mr. Modi. “Giving the citizens of our countries the opportunity to hear directly from their elected officials and for us to hear directly from them. I guess it’s worked very well in both cases,” he said. Among things that we heard this week was his commentary on his former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson: “He was dumb as a rock… He was lazy as hell.” His take on the protests in Paris? “Protests and riots all over France…Chanting ‘We Want Trump!’ Love France.” American elites wake up to read such presidential transgressions everyday, and Mr. Trump gets his dose of pleasure. The policy implications of Mr. Trump’s Twitter posts are a mixed bag. Quite confident on January 1 morning this year that the U.S capital would be sleeping, I had not bothered about @realDonaldTrump. But if you can trust the President with one thing, it is to be unconventional. That early morning post was a rant against Pakistan. And when he tweets nothings, those become bigger stories. Remember “covfefe”? That word came in a tweet after midnight in May 2017. “Who can figure out the true meaning of ‘covfefe’??? Enjoy!” he said six hours later. While Twitter has remained his principle tool of communication, a few times in the last 23 months Mr. Trump has also surprised scribes in the White House briefing room by suddenly appearing through the blue door behind the spokesperson’s podium, mostly to give some teasers on something that would happen later. Mr. Trump never runs away from the media. He is always willing to take an extra question, not necessarily to respond, but for a combative take down. But he wants Twitter to be a one-way street. Early this year, seven Twitter users blocked by him challenged him in court. The judge decided that the handle is a space operated by the government and ordered the President to unblock those handles. As for White House reporters, if you hear the buzz of your phone in the morning, you know who it is.

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/when-the-phone-buzzes-at-odd-hours-you-know-its-trump/article25714139.ece

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