A Journey Into The Perilous Wilderness Of Trump’s Post-Hospital Tweeting

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 18: President Donald Trump (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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October 7, 2020 4:06 p.m.
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Since President Donald Trump left Walter Reed Medical Center Monday, cyberspace has run thick with his tweets, many of them indecipherable and contradictory — even by his standards.

As if trying to compensate for his few hours of social media silence Friday after he announced his positive COVID-19 diagnosis, Trump has tweeted or retweeted about 120 times since his return home, by this beleaguered reporter’s count. Twitter removed one of those for violating the site’s rules, and flagged another about voter fraud with a link encouraging readers to learn about mail-in voting.

To track these tweets is to take a journey through Trump’s mind, to ascertain where he is emotionally days after a politically devastating and physically trying diagnosis and treatment, and with just 27 days left in the campaign.

Monday, October 5

When Trump settled back into the White House a bit after 7 p.m. Monday evening (just after timing his departure and bizarre balcony performance to fit into a cable news primetime slot), he apparently got down to some reading. Namely, a very flattering article in the New York Post about the political upside of Trump’s diagnosis based on the enthusiasm of the MAGA fans gathered outside the hospital. He seemed to especially like the prediction that he’ll be an “invincible hero” if he bounces back from his illness.

Riding high, he next sent out a Michael Bay-esque video of Marine One dropping him back at the White House. No words, evidentially, were needed.

Tuesday, October 6

By the next morning, his sense of triumph had given way to a reversion to the President’s default setting: fact-optional belligerence. He tweeted out a lie about former Vice President Joe Biden’s stance on late-term abortion, saying that Biden was more liberal than Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) “at her highest” (?). It was a high-level tactical adjustment from the last debate, during which the President donned his pundit hat to declare that Biden “just lost the left!” whenever he staked out a moderate position.  

Then, his mind clearly on his rival, Trump tweeted letting us know that he’s “FEELING GREAT” and is looking forward to the next presidential debate (which will also be “great”) next week. Hopefully for the Biden campaign, he is planning to bring his own plexiglass. 

He then pivoted to his true nemesis in this election: Mike Bloomberg. Nicknaming him “mini” and Biden “sleepy” in a Snow White turn, he deployed his famous quotation marks that have broken all the bounds of grammatical convention to assert that Bloomberg is going “crazy” (quotation marks his) trying to win back the love of the liberal left.

As a President is wont to do, he then essentially turned his feed over to Fox News, tweeting out a series of clips from the morning programming. Some real news must have accidentally crossed his path though, as he was soon back to bashing the “fake news media” for having the gall to discuss the pandemic that has cost over 200,000 American lives and infected the President. 

“All they want to discuss is COVID 19, where they won’t say it, but we beat the Dems all day long, also!!!” he proclaimed. It’s unclear what metric he was using to assess his purported win as he tweeted from his convalescence. 

He then unveiled a particularly complex 3D chess move, publicly walking away from the lifeless COVID-19 relief negotiations and gift wrapping to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) a way for her to shift the blame solely to the President and leave vulnerable congressional Republicans floundering all in one fell tweet. In case there was any doubt that his motives were completely selfish, he made sure to add that he’ll play ball on a stimulus bill again just as soon as he wins the election. The random caps-lock usage was a clever slight of hand to make sure Americans forget that he is the President currently, and still unable to deliver any stimulus.

“I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” he said, adding that “The Stock Market is at record levels, JOBS and unemployment also coming back at record numbers.”

In perhaps his most baffling retweet of all, he then amplified a CNBC headline about Fed Chair Jerome Powell begging Congress for financial assistance and saying that there is little chance they could greenlight too much money for the limping economy. Four hours after his decision to kill any chance of economic stimulus, Trump was surprisingly receptive to Powell’s argument: “true!” he blithely tweeted.

Completing the head-spinning reversal, he then returned to his natural posture of blaming Pelosi and Democrats for the failure to pass economic stimulus. They, unlike him, were just playing “games,” after all.

As the night got later, Trump gave his fingers a break to retweet a series of BREAKING bulletins from conservative author and conspiracy theorist Paul Sperry that seem to be related to the idea that the Trump-Russia investigation was a politically-driven travesty. Trump retweeted Sperry 22 times, sometimes chiming in with a “hoax!” or a “scam!” of his own. He didn’t always agree with his Twitter buddy though, countering that Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination will be “fast and easy,” not the “bloody” battle Sperry predicted.

Trump, perhaps sick of Sperry, found a new ally in the form of Fox News commentator Gregg Jarrett who has penned a book called “The Russia Hoax,” called by one reviewer a “Trump hagiography.” Trump retweeted a bunch of articles from thegreggjarrett.com about the Russia investigation, Hillary Clinton and claims of voter fraud. He infused his retweets with exclamation marks and a heaping dose of self-pity. 

He then decided he wanted to do economic stimulus after all, promising he would sign standalone bills for airline aid and the Paycheck Protection Program “now” and send out stimulus checks. Perhaps he glimpsed some TV punditry and gleaned that deciding to publicly give up on granting people economic help less than a month before the election was not quite the masterstroke he thought.

“The House & Senate should IMMEDIATELY Approve 25 Billion Dollars for Airline Payroll Support, & 135 Billion Dollars for Paycheck Protection Program for Small Business,” he said. “Both of these will be fully paid for with unused funds from the Cares Act. Have this money. I will sign now!”

Wednesday, October 7

He seemed rejuvenated this morning. Gaining steam from retweeting a bunch of flattering posts, Trump made an audacious prediction: that he can win California! Hey, he’s only down 30 points. 

In a quick pivot, he retweeted his old call to “REPEAL SECTION 230!” Ironically, the repeal of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act would almost certainly cut down on his ability to tweet, since it would make social media companies liable for user-generated content, and force them to moderate posts to remove anything potentially libelous. Maybe it’s a call for help. Maybe he actually enjoyed Twitter taking down his posts and is clamoring for more.

Reminding Pelosi that he is “Waiting To Sign,” he reupped his new call for economic stimulus, before amplifying a bunch of tweets about #Obamagate and claiming vindication for some inscrutable “gotcha” of Hillary Clinton. It was a masterclass in message discipline that is sure to lure Pelosi back to the negotiating table. 

He gave a nice shoutout to one of his most passionate fans, retweeting with a polite “Thank you Heather!” a woman who proclaimed that she would swim through COVID-19-infested waters to vote for him.

He again reminded voters to focus on the true battleground state of the 2020 election: “VOTE TRUMP CALIFORNIA!”

He then churned out a series of retweets of messages from his campaign with suspiciously conventional grammar and capitalization, all which focused on content other than the COVID-19 pandemic.

And finally, he finished much where he began — an all-caps retweet of a video from an account that promises it’s not a bot heralding the “BIGGEST OF ALL POLITICAL SCANDALS (IN HISTORY)!!!” over a picture, confusingly, of former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Biden, Trump exclaimed in his retweet, “SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO RUN.”

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