At the time of writing, President Donald Trump has tweeted 34,894 times. If we say there’s an average of 15 words per tweet, that means that in the last eight years, the president has written around 523,410 words. That makes his Twitter account around five times longer than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but a touch shorter than the more politically aligned Atlas Shrugged.
In recent years, some voices have declared that Trump has done enough to be banned from Twitter for breaking the site’s terms of service. That always seemed outlandish to me: not only did Trump’s campaign team pay Twitter a lot of money during the election campaign for sponsored tweets and so forth, but with 29 million followers, the president is a big draw for a site that’s struggling to attract a buyer.
Well, the good news for Trump is that he can really ramp up the offensiveness of his tweets if he wants. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has pretty much ruled out ever banning the president from the service. In an interview with Today, due to be broadcast on Sunday, Dorsey says: “I believe it’s really important to hear directly from our leadership. And I believe it’s really important to hold them accountable. And I believe it’s really important to have these conversations out in the open, rather than have them behind closed doors. So if we’re all to suddenly take these platforms away, where does it go? What happens? It goes in the dark. And I just don’t think that’s good for anyone.”
Maybe that means Dorsey will get invited, the next time Trump hosts a tech pow-wow.
It’s probably churlish to point out that 43 of the 45 presidents of the United States managed to govern perfectly well without a Twitter account, but he raises an interesting point. We get phenomenal insight into Trump’s state of mind at any given time, and his unfiltered thoughts on any subject. We couldn’t say that about George Bush or Bill Clinton.
What’s more, he never seems to delete his tweets, which is handy because it means you actually have proof when he changes his story.
But as welcome as this might be for private citizens and journalists, there’s another side to this: Trump’s tweets are broadly unhelpful to international diplomacy. I’m not talking about trolling nuclear powers like China and North Korea, horrifying as that is, but the unhelpful openness that gives foreign powers insights into the president’s psyche. This is best outlined in a Twitter thread by author Tom Nichols who writes: “I was a Sovietologist back in the day. I was constantly trying to unpack what I thought was happening behind the Kremlin’s walls. I would have given anything for Andropov or Gorbachev to give me a running narrative of their mood and inner thoughts in real time. As an analyst, including my time years ago as a CIA consultant doing research in the 80s, I’d have considered that a gold mine.”
“This is the kind of instant leadership portrait that I wouldn’t want a foreign nation to have when gaming out a crisis with us. It is, from a foreign intel analyst’s viewpoint, in some ways probably more valuable than classified memos. It’s real and instant. It shows how the President reacts under stress. It’s something you never want the enemy to know. And yet it’s all out there, every day.”
It’s no wonder Trump’s aides tried to get him to tweet less often, really. They ultimately failed. And now Dorsey has confirmed Twitter has no real interest in removing him from the service, we’re left speculating what would happen to Trump if the service closed overnight.