THE President’s tweet for Iranian dissenters (see Steve, below) has become the most ‘liked’ Persian message in the history of Twitter. That is a remarkable achievement. What Franklin D. Roosevelt did with radio and John F. Kennedy did with television, Donald J. Trump is doing with the internet. Of the three, Trump’s pioneering mastery of a new medium is the most humanly authentic. Roosevelt’s “fire-side chats” allowed a disabled patrician to come across to his listeners as a sympathetic and reassuring steward of America’s fortunes during the Great Depression. Whether or not his administration’s programmatic reaction to the crisis was a good thing – or even worked – is a separate matter.
The televised debate between Kennedy and a badly ‘flu-stricken Richard Nixon in 1960 allowed another severely disabled Democrat to project a confidence and a calmness superior to his opponent’s for a national audience. What physical invisibility did for Roosevelt, cortisone did for the previously rake-thin Massachusetts senator. On Twitter, by contrast, Trump hides no frailty. Not even his haters claim he’s pretending to be something he’s not. Never before in history has a world leader had a real-time instrument of communicative power as he does. At first they laughed. A POTUS on Twitter! Not anymore.