Even aging technophobes know about hair-trigger Twitter messages. They take little reflection, are short enough to be easily repeated, and don’t allow for full explanation or extended argument.
Way more than his opponent Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump has used it to convey candid, real-time responses to events or statements.
The early benefit: It made him sound aggressive, direct and informal. The later downside: A number of messages backfired, making him sound peevish and self-centered.
At 12:26 p.m. on Aug. 27, the real-estate-heir-turned-Repubilcan-nominee tweeted: “Dwyane Wade’s cousin was just shot and killed walking her baby in Chicago. Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!”
Hours later, he sent a more tasteful expression of condolences to the Chicago Bulls guard and his family “on the loss of Nykea Aldridge. They are in my thoughts and prayers.”
But that didn’t erase the earlier message — which some old-fashioned thinkers viewed as something akin to slapping a campaign bumper sticker on a coffin.
So it became a short-term time bomb for some more bad Trump publicity at a time when he clumsily tries to show some connection to African-Americans.
“On one hand, your cousin’s death is used as ploy for political gain. On the other hand, it’s a national story,” Wade said in a traditional-style TV interview that aired Friday on ABC News.
“I was grateful it started a conversation,” he said. “But on the other hand, it was a bad taste in my mouth because of what my family is dealing with and what our city of Chicago is dealing with and it looks like it’s been used as a political gain.”
And ever since Trump met with him last week, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and he have engaged in a near-comical Twitter fight over who said what to whom.
A similar tweet-lash occurred after Trump, at 12:43 p.m. on June 12, stated in the wake of the Orlando massacre: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance . . . ”
Of course, Hillary Clinton’s ups and downs come from email, the earlier form of electronic communication that, as the former secretary of state has learned, can come back to bite you politically.
The latest example: On July 27, 2009, Bill Clinton associate Doug Band wrote to close Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin of a “need” to get Band diplomatic passports. She wrote back: “OK will figure it out.”
Band reportedly didn’t get them, but the emails’ release from Judicial Watch last week became yet another occasion to ask why Clinton’s State Department was so interwoven with his Clinton Foundation.
Given their experiences, both national candidates may wish to consider the benefits of hurling their digital devices in the Potomac River and start communicating by way of cups and string. Or simply accepting that the electronic trail will show the world the details of what they are up to.