On Saturday, Donald Trump tweeted that he’s redefining the social media behaviour of a “modern-day” president. On Sunday he once again proved it.
Mr Trump’s CNN-wrestling video, apparently cribbed from a user on the internet message board Reddit, may be unfamiliar commentary coming from the chief executive of the US, but it’s classic Trump.
He has shown time and time again that he views politics as performance art; another reality television competition where the more drama and conflict there is, the better.
Candidate Trump belittled his Republican opponents – Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and company – then shrugged it off as part of the game. He turned Hillary Clinton, whom he had once praised and buddied around with at his wedding, into a “crooked” caricature who should be shipped off to prison.
He portrayed the media, and CNN in particular, as cartoon villains that he can rhetorically beat into submission.
Mr Trump’s choice of a professional wrestling clip for his latest tweet was particularly apt, as throughout his campaign he treated the political process like a World Wrestling Entertainment match. The drama is contrived; the action is fake; the outcome predetermined.
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He pulled back the curtain on the show and laughed along with his supporters at the spectacle. He encouraged his crowds to cheer the hero (him) and berate the villains (everyone else).
Journalists – corralled in their pens – were often singled out for derision, and his adoring legions would turn and jeer, shaking their fists, but also, for the most part, enjoying themselves.
On more than one occasion while covering Mr Trump’s campaign, I would have a friendly conversation with someone at his rally – an elderly woman in a homemade Trump t-shirt in Virginia or a leather-jacket-clad rancher in Nevada – then watch as they heartily booed me and my colleagues at Mr Trump’s prompting.
The press, like Mr Trump’s opponents on the debate stage, were all part of his performance; the black-clad villains in his show.
Some in the media have rushed to condemn Mr Trump’s wrestling tweet as a thinly-veiled threat of violence against the media. CNN issued a statement calling it a “sad day” and asserting deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied earlier in the week when she said the president had never “promoted or encouraged violence”.
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Such imagery coming from the president of the US will certainly harshen the level of discourse in the nation, and there is the not insignificant possibility that some may view it as a call for violence.
Most, however, will see it as the president probably intended – the latest episode in the biggest show ever to hit the US political scene; a new plot twist to keep the audience entertained.
As Mr Trump said in a speech lashing out against his media critics on Saturday night: “I’m president, and they’re not.”
Donald Trump played by his rules and won. He’s going to keep reminding us that it’s not the same game anymore.
Welcome to the modern presidency.
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