Trump’s latest Twitter meltdown features QAnon, accidental self-owns, and a lot of “OBAMAGATE”
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Trump’s latest Twitter meltdown features QAnon, accidental self-owns, and a lot of “OBAMAGATE”

President Donald Trump in the White House on May 9. | Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

In any previous era, the tweets would be a major national scandal. In Trump’s America, it was Sunday.

With the coronavirus continuing to ravage the country both in human and economic terms and his poll numbers sagging, President Donald Trump spent his event-free Mother’s Day posting up a storm — sending the sort of public statements that would have been cause for national concern in any previous era.

When the smoked cleared, the 126 tweets or retweets Trump posted ending up being one of his most prolific posting days in history, falling just 16 short of the single-day posting record he set during his impeachment trial in January. Although the American public has become somewhat numb to Trump’s Twitter diatribes, the quantity was notable — and so was the lack of quality.

The president amplified a number of accounts that have promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory about Democrats being involved in a pedophilia cult, retweeted accounts without avatars and with few followers that he somehow found on the fringes of the internet, and desperately tried to change the topic from the coronavirus by working to settle old scores with his perceived foes in politics and the media.

The meltdown continued into Monday morning:

In an episode encapsulating his Twitter recklessness, Trump at one point on Sunday obliviously retweeted a post he may have misread that criticizes Attorney General Bill Barr’s Department of Justice as “corrupt.” The account that posted that tweet described the situation as “perplexing” and joked, “My notifications are filled with flying monkeys and a bunch of Qanons welcoming me to the Twilight Zone.”

Trump has a history of unhinged social media behavior during times of crisis, and the current coronavirus situation is no exception. More than three years into his presidency, it’s not exactly news that he’s posting bad tweets. But there are a number of notable themes deserving of attention that have emerged from Trump’s latest Twitter binge.

Trump tries to make “OBAMAGATE” a thing

With the positive economic message he planned to make a centerpiece of his reelection campaign in ruins because of the coronavirus, Trump has spent the last week trying to change the topic by working to demonize former President Obama, claiming his predecessor is the mastermind behind the Russia investigation that nearly ended his presidency. (Fox News has helped with this effort.)

As I’ve explained elsewhere, Trump actually has nobody to blame but himself for the Russia investigation, and the notion that the FBI tried to throw the 2016 election to Hillary Clinton by publicizing her emails in the closing weeks of the campaign is absurd on its face.

Trump, however, isn’t about to let the facts get in the way of his narrative. He appeared to suggest on Sunday that investigations of the Obama administration could be coming.

From Sunday through late Monday morning, Trump posted seven tweets or retweets about “OBAMAGATE,” which he proclaimed “makes Watergate look small time!”

All of this comes on the heels of the Yahoo News publication of leaked audio from a call last Friday in which Obama can be heard criticizing Trump’s handling of the coronavirus as “an absolute chaotic disaster,” while warning that Attorney General Barr’s unusual move to drop the case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn reflects how “our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk.”

Inadvertently or not, Trump’s tweets on Sunday and Monday proved Obama’s point.

Hey, look over there!

As the US coronavirus death toll surged past 80,000, with new cases not yet showing a discernible downward trajectory, Trump tried to defend his handling of the crisis with a mix of whataboutism and trying to pin blame elsewhere.

On Sunday, Trump compared his administration’s handling of the coronavirus favorably with Obama’s handling of the 2009-10 H1N1 flu outbreak — ignoring that the coronavirus has already resulted in more than 65,000 more deaths than H1N1 in a much shorter period of time.

Trump insisted, without citing evidence, that he’s getting “great marks” and “great credit” for his handling of the coronavirus. In reality, whatever bump Trump got from a “rally around the flag” effect in the early days of the crisis has come and gone, and recent polls (including ones conducted by his own campaign) have shown him trailing Joe Biden.

The president also lashed out at the media. He responded to a 60 Minutes segment critical of his administration’s move to cut funding for a coronavirus researcher who has been working with Chinese researchers on possible Covid-19 treatments and vaccines by accusing CBS of “doing everything within their power … to defend China and the horrible Virus pandemic that was inflicted on the USA and the rest of the World” — ignoring that he too defended China’s handling of the coronavirus right up until the point when finding a scapegoat became important to him.

But Trump’s most vitriolic attack on the news media was saved for NBC.

On Sunday, Meet the Press apologized for airing an out-of-context clip of Barr defending his move to drop the case against Flynn. It really wasn’t that big of a deal, but because host Chuck Todd offered commentary that was critical of Barr’s move to drop the case, Trump used it as an opportunity to post a string of tweets demanding he be fired.

Notably, in an affront to the ideals of small government conservatism and free speech, Trump tagged FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in one of his tweets demanding Todd’s firing, suggesting he thinks the government might take some sort of action against NBC if it doesn’t do his bidding.

In any previous era, the president using his platform to call for a private company to fire employees he doesn’t like would be a major scandal. So would the president promoting a business he still owns and profits from, as Trump did on Sunday morning.

In the Trump era, however, these are just a few of the dozens of ill-conceived public statements the president made on a given morning.


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