‘'Why I believe Trump is right to tweet'’
One of the UK’s most respected commentators on Russia, the EU and the US, Mary Dejevsky has worked as a foreign correspondent across the world, including Washington, Paris and Moscow.
Could Trump's tweeting addiction be useful? The president has been criticised for his "Twitter diplomacy", but this author thinks political discourse is improved by his direct approach.
There was a widespread belief that once Donald Trump was president, his mode of communication would change. He would think first, speak later. And if he could not bring himself to do that, his wiser aides (or his son-in-law) would ensure that whatever device he used for his quickfire utterances was safely locked up.
Like most forecasts about Trump, this was wrong. Whereas George W. Bush – probably the first US politician to reach the presidency in the mobile phone age – was told in no uncertain terms to give it up, and his email habit, too, Trump has either not been so advised, or has treated the warnings with the same disdain he treats so much else.
He has carried on with his tweets and gaffes, and in doing so he has earned almost universal disapproval from the political and especially the diplomatic establishments, which regard such heedless commentary as, first, ill-advised in the extreme and, second, plain crass.
But is saying what you mean really such a bad thing? Diplomacy might benefit from more straight talking.
It is certainly risky. Trump is not a private individual now, if he ever was, and the words of a president have in the past been assumed to carry weight, even if they sometimes used language only the cognoscenti would understand. But is saying what you mean and meaning what you say really such a bad thing? Might there be merit to communicating unmediated, not just with your domestic public but with the world?
Diplomacy might benefit from more straight talking. The harsh words Trump and the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, exchanged during their first, curtailed, phonecall, could well have pre-empted misunderstanding further down the line. Time, if not temper, was saved.
The UK sometimes takes a perverse pride in being known as “perfidious Albion”, while Sir Henry Wotton’s famed quip about an ambassador being “an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country” only reinforces the notion of diplomacy as a dark art. But what has this image achieved, other than to foster suspicion?
Even today the British are renowned for their “drafting” skills. But this can come back to bite you. The UN Security Council resolution 1441 on Iraq may or may not have given the green light for war; its deliberate ambiguity is how it avoided a veto. But it precipitated a whole new dispute about the need for a “second resolution”. Why not have the disagreement first time around?
Some of the EU discussion about Brexit has also been what would once have been termed only “free and frank”. The bill authorising the UK government to invoke article 50 is just 137 words long. But why waste words, on legislation or anything else?
Already, despite all the criticism, it is possible to observe a Trump effect rubbing off on international discourse. We are hearing a new immediacy and outspokenness that used to be exclusive to the likes of Nigel Farage.
We may be witnessing the end of spin. If so, I will cheerfully deploy the new directness to say good riddance. Spin, and the degradation of language it entailed, is a large part of the reason people distrust politicians. They do not like politicians using words in ways ordinary people would not use them.
Perhaps it takes the recklessness of Trump to yank language, politics and people back on to the same page, opening the way for a plain-speaking in public life that is less risky and rude than his is, but equally direct.
This is an extract of a longer piece, reprinted with kind permission. For the full essay please see the link in Become An Expert.
- Should Trump be banned from tweeting?
- Write a 200 word letter to Trump, telling him your thoughts on his Twitter use. Now condense it to 100 words. Finally, try and cut it down to 50 words. Keep it clear and polite.
- People who are very knowledgeable about a particular subject.
- Reduced or cut off. Trump and Turnbull had a very frank phone conversation about a US-Australia refugee resettlement deal.
- Perfidious Albion
- A phrase used to describe Britain as a country which is willing to break promises to other countries, in pursuit of its own interests.
- Resolution 1441
- Resolution 1441 in 2002 offered Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, a final chance to comply with the UN's requests for disarmament.
- Political spin is way of describing events or individuals which shows them in the most favourable light possible, or in a more favourable light than is actually the case.