Should Trump Have His Twitter Account Taken Away?

Donald Trump on the front steps of Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on November 19. Gary Schmitt writes that the fact that the president-elect finds it necessary to respond to every slight is disconcerting. Mike Segar/reuters

This article first appeared on the American Enterprise Institute site.

Yes, it was pompous and sophomoric when the cast of Hamilton decided to lecture Vice President-elect Mike Pence after its performance this past Friday night—as though the former member of Congress and former governor of Indiana needed to be told that it was a duty of his and the incoming administration to protect the "inalienable rights" of the citizens of this country.

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If Pence had a bit more self-presence, he might well have gone back into the theater, walked up to the stage, asked for the mic and given the cast a bit of a history lecture.

Alexander Hamilton, a Caribbean immigrant, saw "greatness" in his adopted nation but also believed one of the most significant dangers facing the young country was its tendency to see itself as a diverse set of states and peoples rather than a united nation.

Protecting diversity per se—the cast's true agenda—was not Hamilton's. But, as a second-best response, Pence's reaction that he wasn't offended and was willing to tell his "kids" that the post-play speech was "what freedom sounds like" was certainly adult-like and a reminder of why Pence was a sensible choice by Donald Trump to be his running mate.

But Trump's own response to the Hamilton cast's bloviating was anything but adult-like. Nor was his response to the Saturday Night Live skit with Alec Baldwin making fun of his transition.

The fact that Trump finds it necessary it seems to respond to every slight is disconcerting, to say the least. Does he really intend, when president, to waste time and energy for the most transitory of matters?

His constitutional duty will be to "faithfully execute the office of the president"—not participate in tweet warfare.

Given the power of the office, it's also completely inappropriate to use the "bully pulpit" as a "bullying pulpit." A president can educate and he can advocate, but he shouldn't use his unique position in the constitutional order to bust publicly anyone's chops he finds disagreeable.

And more to the point, the 140-character limit of a tweet lends itself to expressing one's passions—love or hate—but cannot substitute for reasoned argument.

Trump says he wants to make America great again. But, as Hamilton (the co-author of The Federalist and author of numerous other lengthy and detailed pieces on public affairs) could have told him, this requires a level of public discourse that assumes the public and its representatives are open to argumentation, persuasion and finding an agreed-upon consensus.

Failing that, Trump will find his only alternative is to adopt precisely the kind of unilateral actions that conservatives found so offensive when President Barack Obama employed them.

Gary Schmitt is the co-director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the director of the AEI's Program on American Citizenship. He is a former staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He was executive director of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board during President Ronald Reagan's second term.

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