Sunday Political Brunch: To Tweet or Not to Tweet?—July 9, 2017

Sunday, July 09, 2017


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Mark Curtis

The hue and cry over President Trump’s latest tweets grabbed my attention this week, and just about everyone else’s, too. But I wonder whether the public and the press are spending way too much time focused on this, at the peril of things far more important. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Stop Tweeting” – I am not a Twitter fan; but, alas, I use it, too. It’s the modern-day equivalent of the town square, or the proverbial water cooler, and we need to be engaged where the conversation is happening. As much as I wish President Trump would knock off the nonsensical tweets, it’s not going to happen. Quite honestly, I wish he’d tweet more about Kim Jong Un and North Korea’s nuclear threats than about a talk show host’s facelift. Any President has the power to heavily influence the national and international agendas, and I wish that Trump would use that power in a more productive manner.

“Having a Right Doesn’t Mean It's Right” – I am the most ardent defender of the First Amendment you’ll ever find. That’s because I believe democracy is fortified by a free marketplace of ideas. I don’t like the President’s excessive, provocative tweets; I don’t like Kathy Griffin holding the beheaded skull of a Trump look-alike; and, I don’t like Robert Mapplethorpe putting a crucifix of Jesus Christ in a jar of urine and calling it art. But I will defend all three under the right of free speech. It’s worth remembering the old saying, though: “Just because you have the right to do something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.”

“Personal Stories” – As a reporter, I don’t feel threatened by the parody “CNN beat down” delivered in the Trump video. I don’t think it will lead to any violence against the press. Having said that, I’ll be candid in saying that what I do for a living is not without risk. Over the decades of doing this, I’ve been spit upon, physically and verbally assaulted, threatened with arrest, and - on several occasions - had my life threatened. But those are the exceptions, not the rule. I swear that ninety-five percent of the time people are decent, friendly, respectful, and kind to me – and I cover politics for a living! I hardly think my profession is under siege, as some would claim.

“The Politics of Distraction” – There was a two-track story going on in Washington, D.C., last week. The Obamacare repeal and replacement was going down in flames in the Senate at the same time the Trump vs. Morning Joe tweet battle was playing out. Guess which got more attention in the press and elsewhere? And guess which issue got little work done to try to save it? As I always say, scandal and controversy suck the oxygen out of the room in Washington, D.C., and it’s easy for serious business to come to a grinding halt.

“Trump Tweets Response” – President Trump has a new title: Provocateur-in-Chief! He loves to stir the pot, and to poke at the media with this stuff. He did it with name calling the other candidates during the primary, and then during the fall campaign. Like many, I think this behavior is beneath the dignity of the office, but firmly believe it’s the new normal. After the firestorm of the past ten days, Trump tweeted: “My use of social media is not Presidential – IT’S MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!” Every politician worth his or her salt has a Twitter account these days, but you operate it at your own peril.

“What’s Getting Done?” – I asked Representative Evan Jenkins (R-WV) if anything of substance was getting done in Washington, D.C., considering the latest firestorms about Trump tweets over Mika Brzezinski and the CNN body-slam video. To my surprise, Congressman Jenkins – who is now running for U.S. Senate – rattled off a long list of legislation Congress passed recently regarding immigration, opioid addiction, and veterans’ benefits. He said the press obsession with Trump tweets was not interfering with work getting done in Congress. Touché, but I wonder how many of those bills are the President’s versus the ones that are solely from Congressional initiative.

“The Politics of ‘Finite’” – I had the good fortune to cover the late Governor Bruce Sundlun (D-RI), who had been a successful multimillionaire businessman in many ventures before getting into politics. He used to say, “If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.” His point was to focus on a few of the most important, critical issues, and not try to be everything to everyone. The President, Congress, and the press should heed that advice. We have a limited amount of time to get the work of government done. Carnival sideshows caused by ill-advised tweets are a distraction and a waste of time.

“Why All of This Matters” – Politics change, and communication technologies change, too. While people talk sentimentally about FDR’s radio fireside chats, some critics at the time thought he was grandstanding on this relatively new medium called radio. Many people (including some politicians) were mortified about the concept of C-SPAN and TV cameras showing Congress live, in action. They felt it would lead to grandstanding, too. But I weigh in on the side of transparency and sunlight. I want to be able to watch politicians unfiltered (even if they are scripted). Whether they are grandstanding or not - in a free society - let me make my own judgements about that. Tweet away!

What are your thoughts on the Trump tweets? Just click the comment button at


Related Slideshow: RI Democrats React to Trump Withdrawing from Paris Climate Agreement

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Gina Raimondo

RI Governor

I am deeply disappointed that the President has decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize that the Paris Agreement is about so much more than climate change. It’s about opportunity, stewardship and America’s standing as a global leader. 

President Trump’s action will not deter Rhode Island from taking necessary steps to address climate change. Our action at the state level will create new jobs and attract new investment in the green economy. 

We’ve set a goal to secure 1,000 MW of clean energy resources and double the number of clean energy jobs by 2020. Ocean State families and businesses are on the front lines fighting climate change. I will continue toward with the General Assembly and partners in other states to protect our environment and advance clean energy alternatives, while creating new opportunities for our workforce in the process. 

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Jim Langevin 

U.S. Congressman

President Trump’s ill-considered decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement puts the future of our entire planet at risk. The withdrawal represents an abandonment of pledges to protect our environment and risks undermining the entire accord, which includes nearly every country on earth. In addition, the President’s action cedes Unites States leadership and means losing a seat at the table to negotiate global agreements in our country's best interest.

The Obama Administration made significant progress toward slowing the rapidly warming climate by negotiating the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions on a global scale. Unwinding these commitments represents another assault by President Trump on the health of the public and the planet. His Administration continues to deny climate change despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that shows this is an ongoing human-caused crisis.

Rhode Island is on the front lines of sea level rise, and our citizens will ultimately pay the price for inaction today. Communities like my hometown of Warwick are particularly vulnerable to the storms and floods that come with climate change. Warming seas have chased our traditional catch out of our fisheries and threaten to decimate our beloved Ocean State coastline. Abandoning the Paris deal, the culmination of a multi-year effort by world leaders, is an abdication of our responsibility to leave the world a better place for our children.”

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Sheldon Whitehouse

U.S. Senator

“Donald Trump and his children said just a few years ago that climate change was ‘irrefutable’ and its consequences ‘catastrophic and irreversible.’ They were right. There is no denying the growing threat of rising seas, warming global temperatures, and melting glaciers and ice sheets. 

But we can still avoid the worst if we quickly reduce carbon emissions. That is why ignoring reality and leaving the Paris Agreement could do down as one of the worst foreign policy blunders in our nation’s history, isolating the U.S. further after Trump’s shockingly bad European trip. 

Trump is betraying the country, in the service of Breitbart fake news, the shameless fossil fuel industry, and the Koch brothers’ climate denial operation. It’s Sad. 

America’s biggest corporations and investors urged the President to stick with international efforts to address the climate threat. They and all of us will now have to proceed with a seriousness of purpose commensurate with the threat, knowing of this President’s grave defects. 

If you haven’t joined an environmental group, join one. If your voice needs to be heard, get active. If you are a big corporation with good climate policies that has shied away from engaging politically, it’s time to engage. And if you’re a university that teaches climate science, it’s time to stand up for your scientists. Whoever you are, help end climate denial and take action.”

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Jack Reed

U.S. Senator

“President Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris climate agreement is a blow to the environment that makes us a less secure nation. Our military, which spends every hour of every day thinking about how to protect Americans says climate change is a problem and a real threat multiplier. Indeed, climate change is an established part of the military’s threat and risk assessments.

The United States should continue to be a leader when it comes to protecting the planet; instead, the President is abdicating this responsibility. President Trump is unwisely putting the United States alongside Syria and Nicaragua in declining to be part of the Paris agreement. 

The American people deserve better.” 

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David Cicilline

U.S. Congressman

The President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement is a terrible mistake. It will diminish American leadership in the world, undermine our ability to create good-paying jobs, and contribute to the further degradation of our environment. 

It is very disappointing that we now know, without question, that the President of the United Sates is a climate change denier. His decision today ignores the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding the serious consequences failing to address climate change. 

The only thing President Trump will accomplish by this decision is to set the United States and world back decades in this fight. I have no doubt that future generations are going to wonder what the hell we were thinking today”


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