Trump Tweets, Crisis Caused

We are taught as kids that 'sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you'. It may be sound advice to give a 6 year-old, but should not be the guiding principle of a Presidency.

Donald Trump's total inability to understand the true power and gravity of the US President's public statements is causing ever-more serious harm.

The Don's 'Presidency By Tweet' would be problematic enough if Trump was careful and measured in his social media pronouncements.  But the crass, knee-jerk nature of his tweets and verbal rants has created no less that three political crises in as many months.

First, it was North Korea - a long-standing situation has dramatically escalated into a crisis in the past few months, an escalation repeatedly driven by Trump's need to tweet insult and demand.

Not only has Trump chosen through his tweets to override existing political and diplomatic channels, not least his own State Department, but his tweets frequently bear no resemblance to US diplomacy or even his own Administration's policies. And his choice of language rapidly turned a 'situation' into a crisis.

North Korea has of course done much to prompt a response from the US President and other world leaders, escalating its firing of a variety of missiles and weapon systems and threatening to target US interests and allies in Asia.

There is though nothing new in North Korean missile tests - numerous occurred in 2015 and 2016 resulting in multiple UN sanctions that even North Korea's ally China has actively supported and implemented. The situation was fluid and tense, but it was also being managed and contained through the cooperation of global powers including the Chinese and the US - until Trump's personal public commentary began.

The crisis escalated in direct parallel to Trump's tweets and throw-away statements  - every public dressing-down of North Korea brought a new missile launch, as did Trump's crude resort to cowboy colloquialisms like 'locked and loaded'.

So I'll-judged and inflammatory was Trump's rhetoric that his own Secretary of State felt the need to publicly assert that the US is not seeking regime change in Pyongyang, and South Korea publicly pleaded for an end to the 'talk of war'.

Just a few weeks later Trump responds to Nazis and white supremacists terrorising Charlottesville - including one extremists killing an anti-Nazi demonstrator when he drove his car into a crowd - with words making moral equivalent between the extremists and those demonstrating against them.

'Both sides', Trump told us, had good and bad people in their ranks, and both therefore had some responsibility for the violence. Never mind the reports and images being broadcast across the globe of the violence and open displays of racism, antisemitism and hate from the Nazis and white supremacists in attendance.

Three days later Trump was still pushing the 'both sides at fault' line. When a condemnation of the racists was eventually put out in the President's name it was far too little, far too late.

And Tuesday night, during an address on his proposed wall on the Mexican border, Trump presented - no doubt boosted by a room full of his supporters - a highly selective rewrite of his original statements on Charlottesville. In his inimitable style he even claimed, without a hint of irony, that his comments on Charlottesville had been 'perfect'.

The third case came last week when Trump chose to respond to the terrorist attack in Barcelona in equally appalling fashion. 

"Study what General Pershing did to terrorists when caught", tweeted Mr Trump, lazily referencing an internet-spread myth long-ago debunked by historians and experts.

The myth claims that US General John Pershing - during the war in the Philippines at the start of the 20th century - rounded up 50 Muslim terrorists and ordered that 49 of them be executed using bullets dipped in pig's blood - presumably to insult their Islamic faith in addition to killing them. The surviving one, terrorist number 50, was kept alive to be sent back and tell his people what had occurred.

And yet while it never happened, this didn't stop Trump ending the tweet by claiming this incident was the reason why "There was no Radical Islamic Terror for (the next) 35 years!".

It would have been bad enough that the President of the United States publicly declared that an appropriate response to the attack would be to kill and religiously humiliate anyone associated with it. Or indeed that he would publicly suggest that such an approach would actually have any positive impacts on the fight against Islamist extremism.

But to do so by spreading a complete fallacy - something that simply never happened - as an example of historical US best practice, made it all the worse.

Such Bull in a China Shop behaviour is a gift to all manner of extremists, and expect to see the Trump tweet being used time and again in coming months in IS/ISIS/Daesh propaganda and recruitment.

Rather than acting as the voice of reason, the voice of the President is driving and inflaming political crises at home and abroad. The worse the atrocity, the more crass and incendiary the President's public response.

And the image and reputation of the United States - and the institution that is the US Presidency - is further tarnished with each crisis.

We are living in volatile times, when sound and wise political leadership is more vital than ever. Trump instead seems hellbent on doing the exact opposite, and the consequences are being felt across the globe.

Trump proved again on Tuesday that he believes he can do no wrong, and seemingly remains oblivious to the damage his ill-considered tweets and verbal outburst repeatedly cause. Expect more verbal blunders from Mr Trump and the inevitable negative consequences that will follow.