Social Advocacy and Politics: Twitter and the Temperament of Donald Trump

Donald Trump is unique among presidential candidates, past and present, because he composes his tweets himself (dictating tweets during the day and typing himself in the evenings). As a result, tweets from @realDonaldTrump are windows into Trump’s mind that can be used to assess his temperament in ways that can't be done through @HillaryClinton or the Twitter feed of any other presidential candidate, ever. This gives voters the unprecedented opportunity to get to know candidate Trump in a very personal way.


When assessing Trump’s temperament by reading his tweets, it's important to remember what the President’s job entails. The President of the United States (POTUS) occupies three distinct roles in our government: Chief Executive Officer, Commander in Chief and Head of State. All three reflect on his ability to uphold the US Constitution. Make no mistake; these roles are indeed distinct, as the goals and requirements of each differ substantially. And as such, any assessment of Trump’s temperament for the office of President must take into account all three to be meaningful.

As Chief Executive Officer, POTUS is responsible for running the civilian operations of the US government. This includes developing and submitting a detailed national budget, working with Congress to get that budget introduced as a bill and subsequently passed into law, and ensuring that the Executive Branch of our government faithfully executes the laws passed by Congress.

As Chief Executive, POTUS is not only responsible for enforcing laws, but also responsible for developing the rules and regulations to implement those laws, and ensuring that the Executive Branch is effective and efficient implementing the rules laid out to meet the laws’ intent.

When looking at Trump’s tweets to assess his temperament for being the CEO of our nation, we should be looking for his ability to present an understanding of how our government works and how he plans to run it. If we find that he is espousing policy plans that are contrary to the laws governing how our government works, that's a problem that likely reflects on his temperament to be CEO. If he tweets that he plans to conduct a purge of all civil servants hired by President Obama, we have to ask how that will affect the ability of the government to function.

But being President is much more than being the CEO. The President is also Commander in Chief of the Armed Services. As Commander in Chief, the President must command the respect and obedience of the armed forces, both its leadership and its rank and file personnel. POTUS must make the hard decisions to pull the trigger on operations and troop deployment, and ensure that the morale of our forces is strong enough to ensure unit cohesion, steady recruitment and sustainable retention of personnel. As part of this, he must show respect for Americans in uniform and respect for their families, who stay at home and watch their sons and daughters go off to war.

And when one of those sons or daughters doesn't make it home alive, it's the President who is responsible for ensuring their families feel the gratitude and sorrow of our nation. When those sons and daughters die heroically, it's the President who honors them and their families for that heroism. So, if Donald Trump tweets about our soldiers, veterans or their families in a way that disrespects their commitment and their loss, that reflects directly on his temperament to be the Commander in Chief and the President of the United States.

The President is also the Head of State. In this role, POTUS is the embodiment of our nation in all interactions with other countries. Ambassadors speak on behalf of the President. The President, and his designated representatives, negotiates treaties with other nations and enforces those treaties when they are ratified by Congress. According to the US Constitution, ratified treaties are the law of the land. As laws of the land, it is POTUS’s duty to implement and enforce them; to ensure that the United States meets its treaty obligations.

So when we look at Donald Trump’s tweets about our treaties - which are the law of the land under our Constitution - we can assess the man’s temperament to be the Head of State. We can also look at how Trump talks about other nations to get a measure of how he represents the US to the world and how he embraces, or does not embrace, international law and the rights of sovereign nations. For how he acts as the US Head of State towards other nations affects how other nations deal with the US.

I have my own assessments of Donald Trump’s temperament, but I'll save those for another day. The most important point being made here is to lay out the scope of the President’s role so that each of us can read what Donald Trump tweets (and what both candidates say themselves in speeches, interviews, meetings with voters and debates) in order to fully assess their respective temperaments to be the President of the United States.

To cast an informed vote, we must each consider all three roles of the President - CEO, Commander in Chief and Head of State - in making our choice.

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