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Communication in the Age of Trump

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Edited By Arthur S. Hayes

Franklin Delano Roosevelt used radio fireside chats to connect with millions of ordinary Americans. The highly articulate and telegenic John F. Kennedy was dubbed the first TV president. Ronald Reagan, the so-called Great Communicator, had a conversational way of speaking to the common man. Bill Clinton left his mark on media industries by championing and signing the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996 into law. Barack Obama was the first social media presidential campaigner and president. And now there is President Donald J. Trump.

Because so much of what has made Donald Trump’s candidacy and presidency unconventional has been about communication—how he has used Twitter to convey his political messages and how the news media and voters have interpreted and responded to his public words and persona—21 communication and media scholars examine the Trump phenomenon in Communication in the Age of Trump. This collection of essays and studies, suitable for communication and political science students and scholars, covers the 2016 presidential campaign and the first year of the Trump presidency.

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14. The Commander in Tweets: President Trump’s Use of Twitter to Defend (Jeffrey Delbert)

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14. The Commander in Tweets: President Trump’s Use of Twitter to Defend

JEFFREY DELBERT

Lenoir-Rhyne University

The notion of political rhetoric and democratic dialogue may be impossible without a coherent community in which individuals can interact. Tulis (1987) claimed the President of the United States acts as our rhetor-in-chief, exercising the “office through the medium of language” (p. 3). As the rhetorical leader of our country, the president can make appeals to the entire union, which can alter citizens’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors in ways that particular individuals cannot accomplish alone. Moreover, the president encourages deliberation not only within government, but also within the citizenry. As such, the executive branch has the power and platform to teach a polity how to “talk politics,” providing direction in the public dialogue.

Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States (POTUS), has been criticized for his public discourse, especially his use of Twitter. After assuming the presidency, Trump tweeted using the official @POTUS Twitter account, as well as his pre-presidential and personal handle @realDonaldTrump. This is a direct departure from both Presidents Bush and Obama and has allowed President Trump to maintain two personas.

Moreover, the president frequently tweeted early in the morning with seemingly off-the-cuff, erratic discourse that conflicted with previous messages or positions espoused by his cabinet members. For instance, @realDonaldTrump wrote in a June 16, 2017 tweet, “I am being investigated for...

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