Stripped of Twitter, Trump Faces a New Challenge: How to Command Attention
Over the years of his presidency, as controversy and investigation into his behavior increased, television became a less reliable safe place. Broadcasting networks, under pressure to be more aggressive with him and his aides, asked tougher questions. With the exception of Fox News, cable networks that had put him on the air throughout 2016 and the early stages of his presidency were restricted, particularly restricting the transmission of his live performances.
And his adventures in the White House boardroom generally did not go well, exposing the limits of his understanding of politics or current events. One Trump adviser bluntly said the president disliked most aspects of his job, and that included questions he didn’t know the answers to.
When Mr Trump went to the boardroom for weeks to discuss the coronavirus this spring, the advisors liked the visual aspects of his performance but not the reality of a back and forth that led to him being condemned and ridiculed over his dangerous statements the use of bleach and light to fight the virus and its factual claims that everything will be better.
Twitter became a stage to manage more closely.
It was significant that during his tenure, Mr Trump chose his @realdonaldtrump account as his primary Twitter channel rather than his official @Potus account. He understood the power to build his personal brand and separate it from his official duties as president. Twitter gave him a unique opportunity to express himself for who he is, unfiltered by presidency norms.
He flipped through his own Twitter feed and searched the replies for new topics. He studied the Twitter trend lists as signals of where the discourse was headed.
In a way, television became the medium through which he could observe the effects of his tweets.
The television in his alcove dining room off the Oval Office was usually on in the background, catnip for its brief attention span. He used up much of his information and watched the coverage of his tweets.
Mr. Trump’s White House staff said he loved tweeting and then watching the chyrons change quickly on the cable news channels. For a Septuagenarian whose closest allies and aides say he often displays an adolescent’s emotional development and for whom attention has been a narcotic, the instant gratification of his tweets has been hard to beat.