As clickbaiter-in-chief, Trump gets clicks, but loses influence

As clickbaiter-in-chief, Trump gets clicks, but loses influence
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Nearly sixty years ago, Clinton Rossiter published his highly influential book, “The American Presidency.” In it, he proclaims that the presidency is “one of the few truly successful institutions created by men.” He portrays the office as having many powers and great influence upon American politics.

We have Rossiter to thank for the phrase “the president wears many hats.” Unlike Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJulian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy Overnight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Five takeaways from Arizona's audit results MORE’s signature “Make America Great Again” hat, these hats stem from the president’s constitutional roles. They include being the commander-in-chief, the chief executive, the chief legislator, chief diplomat, and the chief of state. Other hats include the chief of party, the manager of prosperity, protector of the peace, and world leader.

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Donald Trump has added a new hat to the presidential hat collection — clickbaiter-in-chief. Like any good click-bait, many can’t help themselves from responding to his tweets — both positively and negatively. Where presidents once carefully crafted strategies to promote news cycles that would last for weeks, Trump has managed to change news cycles with every tweet he posts.  

Some of Trump’s tweets are informational (regarding his prospective policies), some are self-serving (promoting himself), and some are confrontational (attacking stories or people that have negatively portrayed him).  

Examples include a retweet of his body slamming a person with CNN superimposed over the face, a retweet of a gif of him hitting a golf ball that knocks Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats worry negative images are defining White House Heller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll MORE over while boarding an airplane, and numerous barbs aimed at those who have drawn his ire.  

The list is long and includes a surprising number of people within his own party, including Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainWhoopi Goldberg signs four-year deal with ABC to stay on 'The View' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Meghan McCain: Country has not 'healed' from Trump under Biden MORE (R-Ariz.), Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWe don't need platinum to solve the debt ceiling crisis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble House passes standalone bill to provide B for Israel's Iron Dome MORE (R-Ky.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeBiden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots MORE (R-Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump pushes back on book claims, says he spent 'virtually no time' discussing election with Lee, Graham The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden meets with lawmakers amid domestic agenda panic The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - House Democrats plagued by Biden agenda troubles MORE (R-S.C.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff Graham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet Trump, allies launch onslaught as midterms kick into gear MORE (R-Ala.), Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTexas abortion law creates 2022 headache for GOP Heller won't say if Biden won election Ex-Sen. Dean Heller announces run for Nevada governor MORE (R-Nev.), and most recently, Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Tenn.). Many have suggested that the president has used Twitter to distract, deflect, and change news cycles.

Recently, rapper Eminem berated the president’s Twitter usage: “All these horrible tragedies and he's bored and would rather cause a Twitter storm.” Public opinion polls support the rapper’s annoyance with the president’s Twitter habits. Over 70 percent of those surveyed in a Fox News poll believe that his tweets are hurting his presidency. Similarly, 67 percent of those surveyed in an ABC news/Washington Post poll disapproved of the president’s use of Twitter.  

His activity can be dizzying for reporters trying to cover him and the public trying to follow along. In recent days, Trump promoted his interview with Sean Hannity, touted an author who wrote a positive book about the president, castigated NBC news (suggesting its broadcast license could be revoked), condemned members of the NFL who fail to stand for the anthem, and responded to criticisms by Corker by referring to him as “Liddle’ Bob Corker.”  

It is his most recent spat with Corker that deserves special consideration. Corker is a mild-mannered, reliable conservative who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Because has announced he is not seeking another term, it is unlikely that he is trying to score political points. It is far more likely he feels free to express his true thoughts — untethered to concerns over voter reprisal.  

On the record, Corker stated that the White House was like a daycare for Trump, that the president was putting the country on a path to World War III and that Trump should “concern anyone who cares about our nation.” He further suggested that most other Republican senators share his concerns and it is worth noting that few have since come out to dispute his claims.

His criticism of the president is explosive in isolation and especially so coming from a member of the president’s own party. Given Corker’s position as the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his concerns over Trump’s foreign policy should give pause to all citizens to consider his warnings. Since Corker’s criticisms, several other Republican senators have echoed his concerns.  

Sen. Ben SasseBen SassePresident of newly recognized union for adult performers boosts membership Romney blasts Biden over those left in Afghanistan: 'Bring them home' Progressives breathe sigh of relief after Afghan withdrawal MORE (R-Neb.) took to Twitter to question whether Trump had abandoned his oath of office to protect the First Amendment because of his threats to revoke broadcast licenses. Likewise, Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble Liberal group launches campaign urging Republicans to support Biden's agenda Domestic extremists return to the Capitol MORE (R-Wis.) bucked Trump’s bombastic rhetoric regarding North Korea contending that political, rather than military solutions were the primary means to abate the tension between the two countries.   

Recently, a South Korean lawmaker stated that North Korea had hacked joint South Korean-U.S. military strategies. Given Trump’s rhetoric of “fire and fury” regarding North Korea, Corker’s warnings regarding the president should be taken very seriously. Rather than focusing on clickbait tweets meant to draw attention to the NFL or petty name calling, the world must recognize that Corker has pulled a fire alarm of sorts on the president.  

Around the same time Rossiter wrote his book on the presidency, another political scientist, Richard Neustadt, published his book, “Presidential Power.” Unlike Rossiter, he claimed that a president’s only real power is the power to persuade. He notes that while a president does have some constitutional powers, ultimately, it is a president’s ability to influence others that becomes their mark of leadership.  

Having virtually no legislative victories in his first nine months in office, it would seem that alienating members of his own party would be an unlikely means to influence those he needs for support — even if it does make for good clickbait.

Robert Alexander is professor of Political Science at Ohio Northern University and author of “Presidential Electors and the Electoral College: An Examination of Lobbying, Wavering Electors, and Campaigns for Faithless Votes.”