All the president’s Tweets

THE president’s dearest supporters and bitterest opponents are united in their wish that less attention be paid to his social-media habit. Stephen Miller, a policy adviser, and Sarah Sanders, the press secretary, have tried valiant defences, but many Republicans prefer to feign ignorance. Some of Mr Trump’s critics detect a more insidious motive, “a weapon to control the news cycle”, as George Lakoff, a professor emeritus at Berkeley, puts it. In this reading, the president is a puppet-master whose tweets distract from scandal and divert attention from substantive issues. These critics have it backwards: Mr Trump is actually taking cues from the media, specifically Fox News, an entertainment channel, rather than attempting to lead them.

Matthew Gertz of Media Matters, a progressive watchdog, has documented nearly 60 cases in the past three months where Mr Trump appears to be tweeting in response to Fox News segments. The alarming North Korea tweet came 12 minutes after a report on the channel about Mr Kim’s “nuclear button”. Michael Wolff’s new book says the president has three television screens installed in his bedroom; the New York Times reports that he has a “Super TiVo” device, allowing him to record cable news and watch it later; private schedules obtained by Axios show the president takes hours of “executive time”—a delightful euphemism for telly, tweeting and telephoning. The bulk of Mr Trump’s tweets as president have come in the early morning when “Fox & Friends”, a fawning programme, airs (see chart).

When John Kelly became chief of staff, aides set out to control the flow of information to the president. But Mr Kelly is powerless to shield the president from his favourite channel, which runs reports on the scheming deep state and the need to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel. The president sometimes seems to take them literally. In October Mike Pompeo, the CIA director, met at Mr Trump’s suggestion a former intelligence officer and frequent Fox News guest who has advanced the theory that sensitive e-mails from the Democratic National Committee were leaked, rather than hacked by Russian operatives.

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