We’ve Seen This Trump Before. It’s Never Lasted Long.
Published in The Washington Post
on February 5, 2020
President Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night was a masterful blend of base-exciting boasts and moderate-friendly proposals. But before Republicans get too excited or Democrats too worried, let’s remember one thing: We’ve seen this tack before, and it has never lasted long.
Trump’s presidency is, in one sense, a battle between Teleprompter Trump and Twitter Trump. Teleprompter Trump reads words others have written for him. Whether in formal speeches to foreign dignitaries or in domestic settings such as the State of the Union address, speeches Trump reads off a teleprompter are invariably positive and uplifting. They tend to laud freedom and democracy, like his 2017 speech in Warsaw. They are not Reaganesque in their rhetoric or grandeur, but they often try to strike some of the same themes. Teleprompter Trump’s speeches usually get good reviews from the press.
Twitter Trump is a different beast. His frequent forays on his favorite communications platform are usually rude and negative. He belittles his adversaries with childish nicknames like “Lyin’ Ted” or “Shifty Schiff.” His tweets preen with self-righteousness and drip with bitter scorn. Many Republicans preface their support for him by saying “I wish he’d tweet less.” There’s a reason for that: Twitter Trump is not someone you can feel proud of.
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Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.