The #President: The consequences of Trump's tweets
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EUGENE, Ore. - Throughout the history of the United States, Presidents have found different ways to connect with the American people.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the first to reach a mass audience with his weekly, "Fireside" radio chats. Decades later, John F. Kennedy became the first Commander in Chief to hold press conferences. Now in the digital age, the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump is using social media - specifically Twitter - to reach millions of Americans and people around the world.
"It’s a different era now," said Joseph Lowndes, a political science professor at the University of Oregon. "Obama was the first president to use Twitter. Trump takes it to a whole new level."
Even before he hit the campaign trail in the summer of 2015, President Trump was behind one of Twitter's most outspoken and controversial accounts.
The tweets continued and escalated as President Trump paved his path to the White House. Many times his tweets needed less than the 140 characters allowed by Twitter to attack his political opponents or fight back against his critics. They often seemed more like punches rather than policy.
"When Trump says he is speaking to the American people - again, he is speaking to his partisan supporters hoping to rally them against other forces in society," Lowndes said. "It’s not a uniting gesture; it’s actually quite a divisive gesture."
A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 69 percent of those polled believe Trump's use of Twitter is bad. 26 percent said it’s good. But the President is not showing any signs he plans to ditch the tool that may have helped him win the presidency.
"As he becomes more vulnerable in office, he will depend on these tweets more and more to get people to rally for him," Lowndes said.
Often Trump looks to rally his supporters against members of the established American media.
A recent example is one tweet in which he blasts NBC news.
Before that, a vicious attack against CNN.
A president with a fractured relationship with the media is not unprecedented in American politics. Professor Lowndes said Richard Nixon often gave speeches attacking journalists.
"What Nixon said is, 'There are all these other people out there who are really on my side and I can't reach them because I have a critical press, a bunch of egghead intellectuals and liberals who are out to get me.' He has Pat Buchanan at the time write these speeches which blast away at the legitimacy of the press and the idea of the press. In doing that he begins to break down the legitimacy of these institutions as critical venues for Americans to hold public officials accountable."
As Trump's relationship with the media becomes more contentious, journalists face new challenges. Kelli Matthews is a professor at the University of Oregon's School of Journalism. She is an expert in social media who believes the media has to stick to the facts in the face of this mudslinging.
"I've heard this more and more in the last few weeks particularly from the media is, 'Donald Trump said this, but it’s not true,' or 'Donald Trump said this, but there hasn't been any evidence,'" Matthews said. "That's been heartening because during the campaign there wasn't much of that, there was just reporting on what he said."
The words of businessman Trump and candidate Trump didn't have the impact or consequences the tweets of President Trump will have, which is why President Trump's use of Twitter will be scrutinized under a microscope throughout his entire term in office.
"Presidents often get into trouble in ways in which they indulge their most impulsive natures," Lowndes said. "Unlike other institutions of government, it’s anchored in one individual and that one individual has the extraordinary power to either help or hang himself."