During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump alluded to a more presidential temperament once elected. He “can act as presidential as anybody that's ever been president,” he said in February.
Now he has been elected. And he is still tweeting angrily at his critics.
The president-elect took to Twitter Wednesday morning to set the record straight that the New York Times is a no-good, lying, dying newspaper, censuring the paper for its critical coverage of the Trump transition team’s progress. The Times reported disarray in the Trump camp earlier this week, detailing the firing of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was heading the transition team, as well as a “purge” of national security advisers. Trump said the depiction was “totally wrong”:
The failing @nytimes story is so totally wrong on transition. It is going so smoothly. Also, I have spoken to many foreign leaders.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2016
Just a few minutes later, he tweeted about the Times again for publishing what he understood as a report that he was not speaking to foreign leaders. (“The Times never said Mr. Trump hadn’t spoken to foreign leaders. On the contrary, the report said that he had, but that some allies were having to reach him by calling the switchboard at Trump Tower,” The Times wrote in response to the tweets referencing its original story.)
I have recieved and taken calls from many foreign leaders despite what the failing @nytimes said. Russia, U.K., China, Saudi Arabia, Japan,— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2016
Australia, New Zealand, and more. I am always available to them. @nytimes is just upset that they looked like fools in their coverage of me.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2016
That Trump still obsesses over his representation in the media shouldn’t be surprising given his behavior in the primary and general elections. He once paused an interview with the Washington Post five times to watch TV news. He has brought newspaper reporters onto the campaign stage to ridicule them. He has called journalists “lightweights” and “liars,” and prophesied the near demise of the Washington Post and the Times. The New York Times isn’t just the New York Times; it’s the “failing New York Times.”
His latest series of tweets proves that his media bashing wasn’t just a function of his campaigning. Rather, since claiming his newest title as president-elect, Trump is still on Twitter whining about the media’s representation of him. He is still on Twitter, period.
And his temperament — though perhaps slightly more leashed — has not changed.
Trump has always had a strained relationship with the press
During the election, Trump claimed the press was swinging the race to Hillary Clinton. Now that he has won, he is claiming the press is misleading the public to his detriment.
Trump used the media to his advantage for much of the election — getting free airtime and dominating the news cycle with bombastic claims and extreme campaign rhetoric. He held press conferences often, at times even tricking the media into indirectly advertising his personal business ventures.
And when in disagreement with his portrayal in the mainstream media, he turns to his Twitter account.
“Mr. Trump has mastered Twitter in a way no candidate for president ever has, unleashing and redefining its power as a tool of political promotion, distraction, score-settling and attack — and turning a 140-character task that other candidates farm out to young staff members into a centerpiece of his campaign,” Michael Barbaro writes for the New York Times.
Trump has been more reserved since mid-summer — since bringing on what proved to be his final campaign team in Breitbart CEO and campaign chair Stephen Bannon and campaign manager Kellyanne Conway. He has not held a press conference for weeks, and has on several occasions ditched his press corps (twice in the past week).
But even so, Twitter has been Trump’s megaphone. Throughout the campaign he has cut off access to journalists too critical of the Trump campaign, vowing to never speak to them again (although his desire to be in headlines usually Trump’s these feuds). He revoked the press credentials of the Washington Post for being “phony” and “dishonest.” He has suggested he would do the same to the New York Times. He has targeted reporters in 140 characters, over and over again.
It has made journalists wary of how dedicated a Trump administration will be to transparent government. But it also speaks volumes to Trump’s quickness to lash out against any individual or organization that speaks critically of him.
Trump has been warned about his temperament — but there’s no sign he will change
President Barack Obama has given Trump a not-so-subtle warning about his temperament — that it may not suit him well in the White House.
“Whatever you bring to this office, this office has a habit of magnifying and pointing out, and hopefully you correct for it,” Obama said at a press conference Monday. “There are going to be certain elements to his temperament that are not going to serve him well unless he recognizes them and corrects for them.”
But that doesn’t seem to be having much influence on Trump’s Twitter presence. According to Vox’s Ezra Klein, there is a good reason for that: “Trump did win, and he did it against all odds, in spite of all predictions, and by doing things everyone told him not to do. Reality has proven him, and his instincts, right.”
Any prospect of Trump being shaped by an establishment administration, ready to rein him in, is dissolving with his Cabinet picks, all Trump loyalists and yes men.
Trump will continue to tweet.