Powered by IR Society at NYU

IR Insider is a production of NYU's International Relations Society. Our goal is to explain and discuss issues in IR in an engaging and thought-provoking fashion. We are written by students, for students, about issues students care about. 

The Cost of a Tweet

140 characters. That is the character limit for President Donald Trump’s preferred social media platform, Twitter.

Before President Trump announced his candidacy for the White House in 2015, Twitter was simply an avenue in which Capitol Hill politicians could communicate with their constituents and update them on major policy issues.

As the president began campaigning across the country, he started revolutionizing the way politicians used Twitter. As the GOP’s frontrunner, Trump quickly found himself in the midst of criticism for his lack of experience dealing with domestic and foreign affairs. Politicians on both sides of the aisle from the local, state, and federal level began using Trump as a talking point to criticize him.

Trump capitalized on this outsider approach. He came up with nicknames for his Republican opponents: “Lying Ted [Cruz], Little Marco [Rubio], and low-energy Jeb [Bush].”  Trump resorted to this name-calling on the campaign trail, and these catch phrases soon translated to applause from the crowd as well as retweets on his account.

U.S. News & World Report

U.S. News & World Report

President Trump’s rhetoric on Twitter supported the belief, held by critics and supporters alike, that he was not a standard politician.

During the Vice Presidential Debate, Trump’s running mate Mike Pence said, “he is not a polished politician like you [Kaine] and Hillary Clinton,” when asked about the presidential nominee’s controversial statement on abortion, which was highly criticized.

Trump’s DC outsider approach helped him grow his base. A general election voter noted that he “is exactly what you get.

Trump played up this approach. He often called out for the need to “drain the swamp” on Twitter and repeatedly lambasted DC politicians for being corrupt, elitist, inefficient, and unable to understand the needs of ordinary Americans.


It’s likely that Trump’s outsider approach majorly helped him win the 2016 election.

Now as president, Trump continues to use this tactic, despite filing cabinet members with corporate elites and D.C. veterans.  

The president’s “straight shooter” approach is not so straight-forward. He recently took to Twitter to reprimand Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a member of his own party, for his failure to repeal and replace Obamacare.


By attacking close Republican allies, the president is casting doubt on his relationship with colleagues on Capitol Hill -- ones he needs to help him get the legislative victories he desires.

Trump’s tweets have also complicated his relationship with his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. The president recently took to Twitter to comment on Tillerson’s efforts in establishing diplomatic relationships with North Korea, saying that he was “wasting his time.”  


Trump’s comments not only make it more difficult for Tillerson to do his job of negotiating with other countries, but it also suggests there is a lack of communication, discussion, and agreement in the White House when it comes to matters of national security and foreign affairs.

It seems that the president’s tweets have exacerbated the United States’ relationship with North Korea.

Recently seen conducting a slew of missile tests, North Korea has proven they have the nuclear capability to inflict significant damage to South Korea, a close ally to the United States. In retaliation, North Korea has threatened to attack Guam, a U.S military base located in the Pacific Ocean.

North Korea’s gradual escalation comes in the midst of President Trump’s name-calling of Kim Jong Un as “Little Rocket Man.” And when the president pairs that with saying that the United States will be “meeting [North Korea] with fire and fury,” these terms can imply that the U.S is looking to escalate tensions.

And it has. During Trump’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly, he echoed his tweets about “Little Rocket Man,” and even suggested that the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea. Shortly afterwards, North Korea’s foreign minister noted that Trump “has lit the wick of war.

While North Korea has not taken any direct measures to use its military and begin mobilizing, it could only be a matter of time before tensions come to a boil. Even after a set of harsh sanctions limiting resources for North Korea to build nuclear weapons, the nation continues to launch missiles as an exercise of force.

At this time, it is unclear what will become of the United States relationship with North Korea. One thing is certain, however: the president will tweet about it.