Already the unprecedented has become routine, the unthinkable has a pattern.
It goes something like this: The president-elect of the United States tweets something no president-elect has ever said, and certainly never tweeted, before. There is a flood of response — a mix of support, outrage, disbelief at the very fact of it, and warnings that the tweet is a distraction from something even worse.
Pause a few days. Or hours. Repeat.
All of this raises a number of questions as this president-elect becomes president: Is his unfiltered spew of thought really unprecedented? Is it in fact deliberate, or just instinctive? And does the difference matter?
As Esquire writer Jack Holmes put it: “Can Trump simply not control himself, or is Twitter his weapon of mass distraction to keep us away from the real story?”
Or, as late-night host Seth Myers asked less delicately: Are “these tweets … calculated distractions or just the ramblings of an unhinged narcissist?”
Those who view Trump’s pattern as strategic have a growing list of examples. Just before the controversial nomination of Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., to head the Department of Health and Human Services, for instance, Trump tweeted that flag burning should be illegal. When the intelligence community concluded Russia had been trying to help his campaign by hacking the DNC, Trump unleashed a Twitter tirade against Meryl Streep’s Golden Globe speech. The most iconic of the “tweets as distraction” was when Trump lashed out at the cast of “Hamilton” on the day he agreed to a settlement on fraud lawsuits.