We should not dismiss Trump and his Twitter habit as just being goofy and clueless. I heard Trump characterized as “ruthless and dangerous” by someone in a position to know. True to that characterization, he clearly uses his Twitter account strategically — to divert attention from news stories that he wants us to ignore — and as a weapon, to exact punishment against those who cross him.
In the recent Fresh Air interview with Megyn Kelly about her new memoir, Kelly discussed the 9 month period during which Trump made her enemy #1, tweeting often against her. Those tweets resulted in her being not just harassed, but credibly threatened by Trump’s brown shirts, the deplorables and fanatics for whom he can do no wrong. This included death threats against Kelly and her family, for months. Senior people at Fox, and even Trump’s buddy Hannity, asked him to call off the dogs, to no avail. Clearly he was intentionally riling up his followers against Kelly in a purposeful way. She even recounted a telling comment he made before all of this got started, saying to her, “If you’re not careful, I will unleash my brilliant Twitter account against you.”
Consider now another possible example of this type of retaliation. The Chicago Tribune published a story this week quoting Boeing’s CEO as making statements that could be interpreted as being critical of Trump’s trade policies. Within a matter of hours, Trump unleashed his now well-known tweet about canceling a contract with Boeing due to, in his view, the overly high cost of new Air Force One jets from Boeing. Boeing’s stock price dropped sharply after his tweet, though the stock recovered later in the day.
Shall we just consider that a warning shot across the bow? Trump has made it clear that he can and will use his tweets to exact revenge against those who displease him, and apparently that even includes corporate giants like Boeing. Surely CEOs all over America, if not the world, have taken note and will be more likely to silence their criticisms of Trump’s policies in the future. That cannot be a good outcome.
Whether he unleashes his hordes of fanatics against a journalist or causes a company’s stock price to tumble with inflammatory accusations, it seems that the “ruthless and dangerous” characterization is an apt one.