Years ago, when George Steinbrenner ruled the Yankees (and some would say the American League) with an iron fist, he was very free with his opinions.
Steinbrenner was mostly known for throwing his money around and scooping up superstars, turning the Yankees into their very own all-star team. We all know that it worked more often than it didn’t.
But Steinbrenner was also quick to distribute press releases on every issue that irritated him, and very often those releases got him into trouble. He called one player a “fat toad.” He called another owner/general manager team the “Katzenjammer Kids.” He feuded with his managers so often that he hired and fired Billy Martin three different times. And his dealings with Yogi Berra left such lasting hard feelings that it took years before the venerable Yankee great set foot into the stadium where he’d been such a star.
He even feuded with Derek Jeter. Derek Jeter!
So why bring him up? Because Steinbrenner began to have cognitive issues before Twitter became the preferred way to pop off. When he was of sound mind, all Steinbrenner could do if he wanted to let the world know how he felt was bang out a press release and leave it up to the media relations people for the Yankees to distribute it. And those press releases were beauts, too.
Can you imagine how ubiquitous he’d have been with Twitter at his disposal? Does this ring a bell now? Is there anyone else you may wish would knock off the non-stop tweeting and keep some of his thoughts to himself?
Many people see President Donald Trump as the real-life Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from “Ghostbusters” (the concentration of all the evil spirits in the world). One of the reasons for that is that he tweets his private thoughts the same ways Steinbrenner issued press releases. They were friends, and Trump took a lot from “The Boss” — especially his authoritative way, according to Vanity Fair magazine.
So you can look at Trump’s incessant tweeting as Steinbrenner diatribes gone viral. But there’s a big difference — and one that the president would do well to remember.
Steinbrenner owned a baseball team. In real life, he built ships. The fate of western civilization did not hang in the balance (though we in Boston may have thought so a few times) when George got up on his hind legs and roared.
It does, however, when you’re the president of the United States. And therein lies the problem a lot of people have with The Donald. He has no filter, and his tweets seem to be full of things you might say in a barroom argument, as opposed to an official statement of policy. And what he hasn’t seemed to learn is that his tweets are official statements of policy, whether he thinks they are or not.
So when he tweets — as he did last week — that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should move to end the “rigged witch hunt” into Russian interference in the 2016 election, it’s a directive. Period. I felt bad for Sarah Sanders afterward when she had to get up there and say that, no, it was not an official statement, and that it’s just what he’d like. Baloney. If he says it, it’s a statement. Especially considering the way he’s bellowed and complained about the investigation since it began.
Over the weekend, he tried to explain away a meeting in Trump Tower between his son, Donald Jr., and a Russian attorney, whose purpose was to dig up dirt on Hillary Clinton as being strictly legal and “done all the time.” In so doing, he may have provided at least a smoldering gun that could end up being aimed directly at him. Shades of Watergate.
The irony of all this is that Trump likes to think he does this to avoid dealing with those dastardly purveyors of “fake news,” otherwise known as the “enemy of the people.” But in trying to bypass the media, he puts a target on his back that they use to kick the daylights out of him.
I spent a year in the 1980s working for a Fortune 500 company (call it my one foray into the real world) and I can attest to how many layers a press release has to go through before it sees the light of day. Most important, it has to go through the company lawyers to make sure no proprietary information, or anything that might otherwise damage the company, is revealed.
I would assume presidential pronouncements are handled with equal care. Trump’s tweets run counterintuitively to common-sense communication protocols in the world of finance, industry and politics.
He’s his own worst enemy.