WASHINGTON – Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich defended President Trump’s use of Twitter as a way to “move a nation” and said it’s “relatively impossible” to prevent him from tweeting.
Some political commentators have been critical of Trump sending out often critical tweets about policy, people and current events during the presidential transition.
“As a historian, my sense is that it would be relatively impossible to take the device out of Trump’s hand,” Gingrich said at a recent “Understanding Trump and Trumpism” event at the Heritage Foundation.
To illustrate the effect of Trump’s tweeting, Gingrich referred to some of former President Reagan’s advisers and the State Department suggesting he remove “tear down this wall” from his speech in West Berlin in 1987. Reagan decided to keep it in anyway.
“Reagan understood that when it mattered, he didn’t care about editing. He didn’t care about staff advice. He was going to do what he in his heart thought was right. Trump is in some ways a dramatically bigger version of that,” he said. “He has the energy of Theodore Roosevelt, the disruptive characteristics of Andrew Jackson and the permanent selling technique of P.T. Barnum, and when you weave those together you really begin to understand what Trump is doing. Trump wants to move a nation and he wants to communicate with the world.”
Gingrich explained that Trump’s “model” is the opposite of avoiding a mistake with careful planning.
“Trump’s model is the second you make a mistake cover it up, so he relies on enormous speed in order to keep moving,” he said.
As an example, Gingrich cited Trump tweeting about China seizing a U.S. Navy underwater drone.
“His goal was to totally devalue the drone, to say to the Chinese, ‘I’m not negotiating with you, you’ve got a piece of junk.’ The Chinese promptly, by the way, turned the drone over. Now, you couldn’t see the tweet in isolation without asking yourself, ‘what’s the brain behind it?’” he said.
Gingrich also mentioned Trump tweeting in reaction to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments about nuclear weapons.
“So Putin gives some speech about nuclear weapons, Trump promptly says, ‘we are going to build up our nuclear capability and if there’s going to be an arms race, we’ll drown them,’” he said. “Now, he’s sending a message to both China and Russia and, frankly, the truth is if his economic plan works and we get back to 5 or 6 percent real growth we will drown them. I mean, we are still far and away the most powerful economy on the planet.”
Gingrich argued that Trump’s use of Twitter is not random.
“This kind of stuff isn’t just random. He picks a fight with Meryl Streep. Why? Because Meryl Streep picked a fight with him. I mean, one of the things he learned from Page Six in New York is the second you hit him, he clobbers you,” he said.
“This is not a personality quirk. It’s not because he’s sensitive. It’s because he learned a doctrine that said never let somebody hit you without hitting them back. So my point is, this is who is he is. I mean, we are going to have to adjust to the reality that he’s not Franklin Roosevelt. He’s not Dwight Eisenhower. He’s not Ronald Reagan. He’s not Barack Obama. He’s Donald Trump,” he added.
Gingrich also predicted that Trump will be “more effective” than Reagan in “breaking up the left.”
“My prediction is he will be the most effective anti-left politician of our lifetime. He will be more effective than Reagan at breaking up the left and as a conservative that’s all right with me,” he said. “If he’ll break up the left, I’ll come along behind him and try to scoop up conservatism – and I absolutely think he’s going to break up the left.”
An audience member asked Gingrich about Trump’s positions on trade policy. In response, Gingrich said Trump does not want a trade war.
“Trump’s quite happy to say to people who are very successful, invest in America, but he’s not confused about it. Trump doesn’t particularly want a trade war; Trump wants a very tough negotiation that expands trade, but he wants to expand trade in a way which is favorable to the United States,” he said.
“Well, if the president of the United States isn’t favorable to the United States, who’s going to be? And so I don’t find that to be a horrifying or a bad thing to have a president say, ‘I want to get a trade deal that’s good for America.’ Now it has to be good for you too, otherwise you won’t make a trade deal,” he added.
Gingrich said the U.S. has had a “sloppy” and “incompetent” approach to trade.
“We’ve allowed the Chinese to steal intellectual property with no effective response. We’ve allowed all sorts of things to go on that make no sense and a lot of it is our own fault. We have a tax code and a regulatory code and an education system – all of which are destructive of our competitive capabilities. So all of those have to be fixed, too, as part of it,” he said.