If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: If you are at all unsure about whether it’s a good idea to use Twitter, never tweet and delete your account. This is good advice, insofar as “advice on how to use Twitter” is even necessary. Concerned about Twitter, on any level? Good news: No one in the world ever needs to use it, so don’t. Enjoy your life, now.
Ah, but you can’t, can you, because now we have a president with a belly full of insecurities and deeply held grievances who uses his Twitter account to unleash whatever emotions are currently roiling his rickety psyche. And because he is, you know, the president, this could create any number of negative externalities. Stock prices could waver, diplomatic missions could be undermined, the entire population of Sweden could be left wondering if they’ve been attacked by terrorists and if their loved ones are safe ― those are the sorts of things we’re dealing with now.
So what to do about it? Well, I say that President Donald Trump should never tweet and delete his account, because this is the advice I have always given to presidents with Twitter accounts. But Trump’s campaign minders ― who share all the same concerns as everyone else, apparently ― had a different approach to handling Trump’s tendency to lash out randomly on social media, which they’ve shared with Politico’s Tara Palmieri:
President Donald Trump’s former campaign staffers claim they cracked the code for tamping down his most inflammatory tweets, and they say the current West Wing staff would do well to take note.
The key to keeping Trump’s Twitter habit under control, according to six former campaign officials, is to ensure that his personal media consumption includes a steady stream of praise. And when no such praise was to be found, staff would turn to friendly outlets to drum some up — and make sure it made its way to Trump’s desk.
According to Palmieri, various staffers ― led by former communications directors Sam Nunberg and Jason Miller ― were tasked with seeing to it that Trump did not constantly jump on Twitter to “escalate his personal or political conflicts.” Here’s how they did it. Aided immeasurably by the fact that Trump never reads anything online and literally only consumes media that is printed and put in front of him, staffers would engineer “good news” stories with a universe of friendly media outlets.
So, for instance: When Trump was regularly fighting with Khizr Khan, the father of a slain Iraq War soldier who made a huge splash at the Democratic National Convention, his staff would set up a meeting with other Gold Star families, get friendly media outlets to run the stories, and then show Trump those stories so that he didn’t feel so sad and angry. They’d also get “media amplifiers” to tweet about these stories so the staffers could print out tweets to show Trump, to calm him down.
This was apparently a constant undertaking. Per Palmieri:
During another damage-control mission, when former Miss Universe Alicia Machado took to the airwaves to call out Trump for calling her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping,” the communications team scrambled to place a story in conservative friendly outlets like Fox News, the Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller and Breitbart.
While Trump still couldn’t contain his Twitter-rage with Machado, and ended up tweeting about a mystery sex-tape of the Hillary Clinton surrogate, aides say they dialed back even more posts.
So this was a really crack operation that managed to prevent Trump from sending out tweet after tweet about Alicia Machado, save for that one tweet where he encouraged everyone to “check out” a “sex tape.” (One can only imagine the tweets that were deemed irredeemable.)
Like I said, the best thing these staffers could have done is just delete Trump’s account, instead of deploying a cadre of message force multipliers to carry out this convoluted mission to plant stories and then plant retweets of those stories. (Hopefully, everyone who served as Trump’s ersatz super-ego was well paid for this caper, which clearly involved “Oceans 11”-level commitment.)
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Trump aides going to ridiculous extremes to mitigate his Twitter outbursts. In October, Gabriel Sherman reported that Trump’s then-campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, was approaching the problem as if she was managing an unruly 8-year-old:
To hear Kellyanne Conway talk about managing her boss is to listen to a mother of four who has had ample experience with unruly toddlers. Instead of criticizing Trump’s angry tweets, for instance, she suggested that he also include a few positive ones. “You had these people saying, ‘Delete the app! Stop tweeting!’ ” she recalled. “I would say, ‘Here are a couple of cool things we should tweet today.’ It’s like saying to someone, ‘How about having two brownies and not six?’”
Most humans come to grasp the concept of natural consequences before the age of 70, which typically makes having a team of people on hand to keep you from blowing up the world with Twitter unnecessary. But we are apparently in a unique world in which the most powerful person on earth requires a steady stream of credit and praise to tamp down his impulsive emotional outbursts.
But hey, maybe everyone in politics needs constant, public validation in order to function. Take these former campaign aides, for example. They could have simply contacted their White House counterparts and quietly imparted this advice. But no, they apparently needed to get a story in Politico about how they managed to plant articles in all these other media outlets so everyone could hear about how they had “cracked the code for tamping down his most inflammatory tweets.”
So, yeah, as long as Trump never finds out about it, everything will be fine. If he does find out though, some new method of calming him down will have to be invented.
Has anyone considered just spraying Trump in the face with a water mister whenever he starts misbehaving? It usually works on my cat. Sometimes I just jingle my keys.
Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.