Twelve months after Trump was elected president, one thing is clear: the 140-character whims of the Tweeter-in-Chief have dominated national attention and dialogue.
That has big implications. Trump's Twitter presence often effectively directs our attention away from what his administration and allies are actually doing.
Back in December, we questioned whether Trump's masterful ability to offer social media junk food in place of political broccoli was intentional or not. But one year into his leadership, it's apparent that the intention doesn't really matter. Either way, Trump has wrested control of our eyeballs, distracting us from talking about much more than whatever's on his mind.
We compared Trump's media-consuming Twitter moments to what else was happening at the same time for each month of the past surreal year. It's a look at what we might have missed while Trump was tweeting.
From the "Muslim ban" to the "transgender ban," (hmm, do we notice a trend?) Trump's tweets often concerned important issues that deserved the attention of the American public. But governing is not a one and done business; whether Trump was commanding attention on Twitter with something frivolous or substantive, a lot was still happening under the radar.
Here are the last 12 months in Trump distractions.
Trump hadn't taken office yet, but the Hamilton kerfuffle was just the first taste of a president more than willing to weigh in on the behavior of protesting citizens.
The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2016
Meanwhile: Trump's shady business dealings got swept under the rug. On the same day as the Hamilton cast's message to Pence, and Trump's subsequent responses that stretched out over days, Trump quietly settled the Trump University fraud lawsuit and avoided further prosecution from a class action suit. Trump did tweet about the settlement, saying that he wished he could have won properly in court but had to focus on running the country instead. But the multiple Hamilton tweets came literally 10 minutes later, turning everybody's attention to something more ... theatrical. And just like that, a man who paid out students he'd defrauded was poised to take office.
Throughout the month of December, Trump harped on about his supposedly massive election victory, denied (widely accepted) allegations of Russian interference in the election, and criticized President Obama - an unprecedented move for an incoming president. Oh, and he also used a "NOT!" joke.
President Obama campaigned hard (and personally) in the very important swing states, and lost.The voters wanted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 27, 2016
Meanwhile: Trump set about selecting and appointing cabinet picks rife with conflicts of interest. Though Trump announced many of his picks on Twitter, they were all matter of fact and (self) congratulatory. The public barely had time to register now Secretary of State Tillerson's business interests in Russia, or the ties of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to the oil and gas industry. We were busy with the Obama drama.
Ahh yes, inauguration month. Trump was focused on insisting that his inauguration crowd size and TV ratings were yuge, and deployed talking heads like Sean Spicer (RIP) to bolster his claims.
Wow, television ratings just out: 31 million people watched the Inauguration, 11 million more than the very good ratings from 4 years ago!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2017
Meanwhile: Trump prepared to sign an executive order that would drastically decrease U.S. funding to the United Nations — which would hobble the work of U.N. agencies around the world, including caring for refugees. Sayonara, world standing.
February was the first month of the travel ban wars. The Trump administration would attempt to enact legislation, people would protest, a judge would strike the policy down, and Trump would tweet angrily. All in all, the people had their eye on the ball for this one - and that turned out well for the side of non-discrimination and civil liberties.
What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2017
Meanwhile: Trump took his first steps to erode Obama-era financial regulations. He signed a directive to dismantle Dodd-Frank, which regulates the banking industry in order to avoid another economic meltdown like the one in 2008. He also took steps to remove a fiduciary standard of care for financial advisers managing the assets of retirement plans. In other words, the financial companies that control the money backing up peoples' retirement plans would no longer be legally obligated to act in the individual plan holders' best interest when giving advice or making investment/money management decisions. Fantastic.
The first Obamacare repeal attempt of Trump's tenure went down in March. Again, all the attention paid to this issue ended up leading to a victory for progressives. But the high-stakes tenor of the battle held all of our attention.
After seven horrible years of ObamaCare (skyrocketing premiums & deductibles, bad healthcare), this is finally your chance for a great plan!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2017
Meanwhile: Trump signed four bills that reverse Obama-era education policies, including teacher training and student success accountability requirements. Cool cool cool.
After meetings and phone calls with President Xi Jinping of China, Trump turned to Twitter to announce that 10 minutes really got him up to speed on the whole North Korea thing.
This was during the same time that he had dinner with the Chinese president at Mar-A-Lago, when he discussed Syrian missile strikes in public — and later bragged to a Fox Business host on TV both about the military mission and Mar-A-Lago's very delicious chocolate cake.
I have great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea. If they are unable to do so, the U.S., with its allies, will! U.S.A.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2017
Meanwhile: Since Trump had been unable to assist Republicans in Congress in the passage of their healthcare repeal, he began to take matters into his own hands. He revealed his intention to undermine Obamacare by cutting off Medicaid subsidies to insurance companies. Without payment from the federal government, the insurance markets would increasingly be in danger of collapse, and those most dependent would lose their government-provided healthcare. While citizens rallied to stop the healthcare bill in Congress, there were no widespread protests for this scheme.
Ahh May, month of the great Comey Tapes accusation of 2017. The Trump-Comey drama persisted after he fired Comey on May 9. Then, the former FBI director's recollections about allegedly inappropriate meetings with President Trump were leaked to the press, and all hell broke loose. Obviously, Trump couldn't help but weigh in. A lot.
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
Meanwhile: On the same day as Trump's "tapes" accusation, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed the Justice Department's Obama-era drug crimes policy, and return to harsh mandatory minimum sentencing. Mandatory minimums, a product of the war on drugs, require hefty prison time and strict parole requirements for low-level drug offenses. They have been widely criticized for being both ineffective, wasteful, and racist.
Trump took to Twitter to lambast Democrats, the FBI, and what he perceived as a Russian collusion "witch hunt" every so often. But in June — in the wake of James Comey's testimony, Mueller's investigation, and Congressional demands for records of Trump's interactions with Comey — he was particularly vitriolic. He rounded off one tweetstorm with a shrug, saying and thus avoiding a subpoena, that he doesn't actually know about any Comey tapes. But look at what the DEMOCRATS are doing!
...whether there are "tapes" or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2017
Meanwhile: Despite the courts keeping the travel ban at bay, the administration quietly rolled out new immigration policy. The new executive order removed the deadline for the Immigration department to review applications, which would increase wait times for those seeking to enter the country.
Out of nowhere, Trump tweeted that he would no longer allow transgender individuals to enlist or serve in the military — and individuals, civil rights organizations, and even the military responded in an uproar. The ban has since been blocked.
After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow......
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
....Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming.....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
Meanwhile: The Justice Department began to pursue a case that would set a precedent for allowing businesses to fire gay employees on the basis of their sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is currently understood as a protected class under the Civil Rights Act's Title VII, which prevents employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The case Sessions and his pals are pursuing would aim to remove sexual orientation from under the umbrella of "sex" discrimination.
In mid-August, the country erupted in outrage at a white supremacist march and attendant violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump's comments, both in press conferences and on Twitter, added fuel to the highly-charged fire. He also weighed in on the removal of Confederate statues, redirecting the conversation away from condemning white supremacy, and toward "history" and "respect."
Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realize once again that the #Fake News Media will never be satisfied...truly bad people!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2017
Meanwhile: Just days before Hurricane Harvey and while Irma and Maria were gaining steam, President Trump decided to roll back flood protection standards for new building projects. Because flood standards totally aren't going to be important in the extreme weather-prone years ahead.
When Trump turned his ire toward Colin Kaepernick, NFL players, and "disrespecting the flag," the country's singular attention to the issue followed.
If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
Meanwhile: While the 2008 financial meltdown was caused in part by a collapsing housing market, aggressive, risky, and unregulated derivatives trading also had a hand in the disaster. Which is concerning, considering that during the NFL protest hullaballoo, the Trump administration's Commodity Futures Trading Commission unveiled their plan to put in place a system of "self policing" for banks, and reduce the penalties for abusive derivatives trading in exchange for self-reporting. Don't see any flaws there.
Unfortunately, Trump's hijacking of the message of the NFL protests didn't die down as the leaves changed. Trump used Mike Pence's attendance at an Indianapolis Colts football game to re-charge the issue.
It's also worth noting that during October Trump got in an ongoing schoolyard fight with Senator Bob Corker on Twitter, who suddenly became a vocal critic of Trump over his volatility and immaturity — a feud too delicious to ignore.
I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2017
Meanwhile: October was a bad month for planet Earth. Pruitt and Zinke went to town de-regulating natural resource development and putting the kibosh on renewable energy. Zinke announced the largest oil and gas lease on public lands in US history. And Pruitt scrapped the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan.
It's been a year guys.
For year two, let's keep our eyes on the ball, and maybe hope there are some more rogue Twitter employees out there willing to provide shelter from the (tweet)storm.