We Can Pay Attention to Trump's Tweets and His Actions at the Same Time

Image via AP
Image via AP

It’s another surprisingly chilly day here in hell, and Donald Trump was once again awake before the rest of us, feverishly tweeting inflammatory garbage. It’s no longer news that the President-elect spends his predawn hours in some kind of rage fugue, his delicate hands mashing a touch-screen. Now it’s gotten so old-hat that we have time do to things like ask what it means.


Let’s get this out of the way. Here’s the tweet:

Flag-burning is constitutionally protected speech. It has been for a really long time, and in Texas v. Johnson (1989) the Supreme Court reinforced that protection under the First Amendment. You can’t strip someone of their citizenship for that, and presidents can’t just strip people of their citizenship unilaterally. We’re not going to make flag-burning illegal. I can’t believe I have to type any of this. I’m looking at my hands in wonderment and a sort of dazed shock, unable to believe I have to send them out to type this.

Jason Miller, a spokesperson for the Trump regime, went on TV and agreed that yeah, totally, flag-burning is bad:

Miller: Chris, flag burning is completely ridiculous and I think you know that and that the vast majority of Americans would agree.

Chris Cuomo: But it is constitutional. You do know that. … More importantly, the president-elect knows that, right?

Miller: It should be illegal, Chris.”

But that’s not what we’re talking about, Jason, is it? We’re talking about your boss’s seeming conviction that he’s been elected as dictator for life, aren’t we?

The latest theory here is that when Trump tweets something batshit, he is in fact trying to distract us from something else. For example, when Trump fraudulently claimed the other day that he would’ve won the popular vote if “millions of people” hadn’t voted illegally: 


The other version of this theory holds that the media is distracting ourselves, because it’s easier to cover Trump’s tweets and not his terrifying political appointments:


It’s also entirely possible that Trump’s tweets are a distraction for the media from dealing with harder stories. And certainly we should all pay attention to his choice of Tom Price for the director of Health and Human Services, given that Price hates Obamacare more than anything and will work to dismantle it right away, even if the Republicans (still) have no suggestions for how to replace the law and cover the millions of people for whom it provides care.

But it’s also eminently newsworthy when the President-elect wildly suggests breaking the law. It’s newsworthy when he tweet-thunders about jailing his enemies, jailing people who do things he disapproves of, jailing a banana because it wouldn’t ripen fast enough, whatever. This is unprecedented. It’s approaching a nationwide crisis. Because of Twitter. Who could’ve ever predicted that one?


Finally, suggesting that Trump meticulously plans his every tweet to guide our eyes away from the Real Story is frankly absurd, and gives him much more credit than he deserves. He tweets that way because he’s unhinged, overwhelmed, and elected to a position he can’t possibly handle. He tweets like that because he’s the same tangerine crank he’s always been, given the keys to an impossibly fast car that he’ll careen into a gorge with all of us screaming in the back. Let’s not, as Slate correctly put it recently, look upon Trump’s tweets as “brilliant ploy.”  

Finally, just while we’re here, let’s note that Trump also angrily re-tweeted a 16-year-old, but added stuff to make the tweet more insulting:


Let’s all sit tight and reconvene to have this discussion in an hour or two, when Trump tweets something else equally unforgivable.

Anna Merlan was a Senior Reporter at G/O Media until September 2019. She's the author of Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power.


You should also probably mention that besides the 1st Amendment issue regarding the flag, Title 4 of the USC Code, Chapter 1, Paragraph 8, section k states: “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

If he’s going to frame shit as a “respect issue” there’s always things like section d stating the flag should never be used for clothing, drapery or bedding. Or look at paragraph 6 that states the flags should be taken down at night unless illuminated (hi all you people that stick a flag off your front patio to “prove” your patriotism).