In Defense Of Trump's Tweets
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Some of President Trump's best supporters, among politicians and pundits, wish he didn't have such an itchy Twitter finger. President says he tweets to reach the American public directly. It's modern-day presidential. But two tweets in which Mr. Trump bashes the media and opponents in personal, often ferocious, terms help or hurt his public appeal or his political agenda.
Nationally, syndicated columnist Victor Davis Hanson has written a defense of the president's tweets for the American Greatness website. He's a professor of classics and military history, currently a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. And he joins us via Skype. Welcome back to our program, professor.
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: Thank you for having me.
SIMON: You say these tweets are, quote, "seemingly counterproductive." What's the seemingly part to you?
HANSON: Well, I mean, he is promoting an agenda on restoring legal immigration only and energy development, tax reform. That seems to poll pretty favorably with the American people. And yet the preponderance of a lot of his tweets are these ad hominem back and forth with individual media figures. And one would think that that would hurt those agendas, especially when there would be no need to get in these cul de sacs because there's public support for the agenda. But I say seemingly because every pundit who in the past has predicted that this was the road to perdition has been proven wrong.
SIMON: But let me ask you this. Whatever political effect - is it destroying civility in American politics?
HANSON: Trump is a catalyst. I think he's a symptom of the times. I mean, we've got to remember that way, way back, Jonathan Chait wrote an article about Bush, said, why I hate George Bush. Or Howard Dean said, I hate all Republicans. So Trump is a fish that swims in an existing lake. He didn't create Steve Colbert. He didn't create Bill Maher. He didn't create Kathy Griffin. He didn't create Madonna. All of that assassination chic was there before we got here.
SIMON: Well - but let me point out, professor Hanson, he's the president. He's not a late-night comedian. Shouldn't we expect more from the president?
HANSON: We should. But I think a lot of it involves nebulous questions of class and culture. And what I mean by that is what David Brooks said of Obama. He said, he talks like us. So if Obama jokes about using drones to kill potential suitors of his daughters, it's done in such a fashion that's not jolting.
But when you have somebody do it with dyed blond hair and orange tan and an outsized tie in a Queens accent and who's never had political and military experience, then we're not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. There were past presidents who had said very divisive things - not maybe with the frequency as Trump. But they did so in such a way that was announced to be decorous and not subversive in the way that we look at Trump.
SIMON: But note that, you know, his overall disapproval ratings are at record highs. Does this threaten to undercut what from your point of view you see as solid achievements?
HANSON: Yeah, I think it does. I live in the Central Valley. And, already, illegal immigration is down. I can tell you that everybody is worried about the debt. They're worried that we haven't had 3 percent economic growth in, I think, 10 years. I think we've lost deterrence abroad. So these are issues that - not only I think he's on the right pathway. But they have majority support.
But that's not reflected in the polls. Part of it is because Trump is a divisive character, and he feels that he's in a culture war. And he's going to fight back in this with the same methodology as those who attack him. And a lot of people, including myself and obviously you, as well, are not used to that because they feel that the president should sort of let water run off your back like a duck and not descend into that morass.
But every time I've written that or said that, I have been challenged by his base. And they've said to me, how well did that work with Mitt Romney? How well did that work with - John McCain was a good, decent man when they got done with him. He was an old fuddy duddy who didn't remember how many houses he was.
There was an anger in the Republican base that says, we played by the Marquess of Queensbury rules, and we got nowhere. And we were demonized as heartless, racist, homophobic, sexist. And look how they took a good man like George Bush and turned him into a monster. And now they consider him sort of a impotent painter that they like again. But they're not going to do that anymore. And I think they're going to play fire with fire. And that's where we are now.
SIMON: Victor Davis Hanson, professor, author and columnist, thanks so much for being with us.
HANSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.