Trevor Noah and his colleagues at Comedy Central’s nightly program, “The Daily Show,” have compiled a lasting tribute to the 45th president of the United States. This collection and analysis of Donald J. Trump’s tweets over the past decade recognizes the important role played by social media, especially Twitter, in mobilizing and energizing Trump’s followers and explores some of the deeper meaning of many of his tweets.
In his brief introduction. Trevor Noah describes the book as “a curated collection of Trump’s most profound and revealing tweets that allowed everyday Americans to literally walk through the President’s mind.” Pulitzer Prize winning author Jon Meacham provides a foreword that places the book in historical context. Since Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the first presidential library at Hyde Park, New York, in 1941, the tradition has been followed by succeeding presidents and in honor of many earlier ones. The Eisenhower Library in Abilene, the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, and the Hoover Library in West Branch, Iowa, are valuable tourist destinations in our part of the country. Some readers may think that halfway through Trump’s first term may be a little early for a presidential twitter library, but for a president who started campaigning for reelection on the day of his inauguration, there is no time like the present. Those skeptics who may object to a library that highlights social media posts rather than official documents should understand that tweets are this president’s most frequent and most insightful literary output. Besides, unlike Trump’s “The Art of the Deal,” we can be fairly confident that he is the author of the tweets that appear in his name.
This is not to say that some of these tweets have not been inspired by others. In a section entitled “The Special Relationship,” the book compares screen shots from “Fox & Friends,” Trump’s favorite news source, and the content of his tweets issued minutes later. As the editors explain, “Perhaps Fox & Friend’s (sic) most potent tool was its lower-screen headline banner. These simple, concise phrases helped the world’s most powerful man form his thoughts, often by presenting those thoughts already fully-cooked and ready-to-tweet.” Only eight examples are given, with the dates and times of the corresponding screen shots and tweets, but anyone interested in doing their own empirical media research could probably check out the relationship themselves.
Other parts of the book document Trump’s effective use of his tweets to demean and undermine his political opponents as well as to propagate the “birther” hoax against President Barack Obama. His ability to create insulting nicknames for his seemingly vast array of enemies has become so well recognized that one of the people he attacked, Kathy Griffin, expressed regret that she was not accorded such a special adjective (p. 110).
The book’s cover is illustrated with a painting that some will recognize as “Trump Crossing the Delaware.” As the book explains (p. 127): “This iconic American masterpiece, painted in oil by Donald Trump himself, depicts his most loyal advisors following his detailed orders as they row across a river of liberal tears. As in life, Trump has surrounded himself with a diverse staff of loyal white people, each believing that he or she is the grownup keeping the boat from sinking.” One can even identify fairly closely when the painting was made — it includes the faces of John Kelly, Jeff Sessions, James Mattis, and John Bolton. In other words, it has to have been created during that brief period after Bolton joined the Trump administration and the other three either jumped ship or were thrown overboard.
This is a book that might be appreciated by people on both sides of our country’s political divide. Trump supporters might treasure this collection of presidential electronic utterances. Critics might find humor and insight in the analysis.
The book is available at Manhattan Public Library.
William L. Richter is Professor Emeritus and former Associate Provost for International Programs at Kansas State University.