A 140-character flaw

The fallout has proved that there is no such a thing as “just a tweet” from the most powerful man on the planet. Trump’s aides have scrambled to find some justification for the statements after-the-fact and offended an age-old foreign ally in the process (White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested it was British intelligence that might have been monitoring Trump); congressional leaders have become consumed with the matter; and it has dominated news coverage for weeks. Such is the power of a couple of blasts of 140 characters or less from the president of the United States.

The flap has probably undermined Trump’s political standing, and at the very least has diverted him and his team from much more important work on Capitol Hill, where his agenda will rise or fall. In an alternative and more conventional universe, the White House would be crowing over Judge Gorsuch’s testimony before Congress. Instead it is jousting with the FBI director over wayward tweets.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer was reduced to arguing that Comey’s categorical rejection of the wiretapping claim was only provisional. Let’s not jump to conclusions, etc., etc. Such is the life of a press secretary when his boss has the power to make him defend the indefensible during a few thoughtless moments alone with his phone. Since the wiretapping allegations, Spicer’s days have been spent in the semantics, air quotes, and epistemological gymnastics necessary to support Trump’s claims.

Only President Trump can make it stop. He has shown, despite his unwillingness ever to admit error, an ability over the last year to simply drop and move on from counterproductive controversies. He should do the same with his wiretapping tweets. All he has to say is that he accepts his FBI director’s statement and that he doesn’t want to talk about it any more. That would immediately drain some of the headline-grabbing drama from it, and relieve his underlings from their current exertions.