And Just What's Wrong with a Twitterer-in-Chief?

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Donald Trump has made it clear during his days as President-elect that Twitter is his medium of choice when it comes to  158810_Capture.JPGexpressing his opinions. We will see if that changes once he is inaugurated. Apparently, when he uses the official Presidential Twitter account, his messages will have to be approved before they can be transmitted, which could dampen the spontaneity of his late-night proclamations. The problem is that they are just that—proclamations. They are essentially claims, but the very medium, with its 140-character limit, does not allow room for support. The more controversial the claim, the more need for support. A press conference would allow members of the media to push for support for his claims, but Trump has delayed for weeks meeting with the press, a delay unprecedented in recent history. He based his campaign on distrust of the media so that his supporters would believe what he said, instead of what they could read online or hear on the news or read in print. Americans now know that they were right not to trust everything they read and heard because some of it was being fed to them by the Russians. Perhaps Trump should have told Americans to believe the media, since some sources were being hacked by a foreign power that wanted him to win.

What to believe...Trump has proven himself a sophist; time will tell if in his presidency he can grow into an orator, to use two very ancient terms. In ancient Greece, sophists were teachers. Today, they are those who reason by means of fallacious arguments. A sophist will tell an audience what it wants to hear, when it wants to hear it. On his recent Thank You Tour, Trump recently admitted that he didn’t mean what he said during the campaign: “That was the campaign; this is now.” He is no longer interested, for example, in sending Hillary Clinton to jail, in spite of the many times he led audiences into a frenzy of cries to lock her up. She is no longer a “nasty” woman, but rather a good person whom he doesn’t want to hurt. The Wall Street Journal has had to come up with a policy for how to deal with the new President’s untruths: “The Wall Street Journal does not refer to President-elect Donald Trump’s ‘challengeable’ and ‘questionable’ statements as ‘lies,’ no matter how false, because doing so would imply ‘moral intent’ and runs the risk of looking biased, the paper’s Editor-in-Chief Gerard Baker said Sunday.” A rather unusual view of the role that definition plays in argumentation. Certainly a lie implies moral intent, no matter what it is called.

The classical definition of an orator was a good man skilled in speaking. Our hope should be that our new President will grow into an orator, in the classical sense, as he grows into his office. His goal in speaking to the nation and the world should be that perfect blend of logos, ethos, and pathos that characterizes the orator. He’s center stage, and the world is listening.


 Credit: Donald J. Trump screenshot from Republican Debate on January 14, 2016 by Bill B on Flickr 

About the Author
Donna Haisty Winchell directed the first-year writing program and codirected Digital Portfolio Institutes at Clemson University before her retirement in 2008. She edited several freshman writing anthologies and continues to write about argumentative writing and about fiction by African-American women. She is the author of The Elements of Argument and The Structure of Argument with Annette T. Rottenberg.