Photo courtesy of Russel Neiss
Russel Neiss did the unthinkable: He found a way to make Trump tweets appear presidential.
There is a universe where, each morning, the president of the United States confers with a well-briefed cadre of communications professionals before drafting policy statements to the American people.
Of course, we do not live in that universe, because President Trump has the temperament of a piss-soaked kitchen sponge with daddy issues — and unfortunately for American foreign policy, this piss-sponge-in-chief has access to a Twitter account. But! Through the simple magic of an automated Twitter bot, St. Louis educator and software developer Russel Neiss has cast Trump's infamous Twitter tirades into something resembling a presidential mold. And people are loving it.
Launched Sunday afternoon, the Twitter bot @RealPressSecBot
pulls Trump's tweets and repackages them on the official letterhead of the White House press office. Less than two days after launch, the account has drawn more than 84,000 followers and a slew of press coverage from national outlets, including The Washington Post
and The Atlantic
The timing couldn't have been better, as Trump spent Monday morning on a remarkable tear of shit-posting, starting with a misrepresentation of statements by the mayor of London following a terrorism attack, and then progressing to insisting that yes, he really, really
wants to institute a travel ban.
"His tweets can move markets, his tweets can create political issues both at home and abroad," Neiss tells Riverfront Times.
"These aren't just tweets. These are presidential things at their core, and they should be treated as such."
The idea, he says, was inspired by former Obama staffer Pat Cunnane, who on Sunday tweeted a mocked-up version
of one of Trump's tweets and suggested that all of the President's missives deserved the same treatment.
Neiss instantly saw a way to assist.
"This is the sort of thing that I like to do," explains Neiss. His previous work included the automated Twitter account @Stl_Manifest
, which was designed to commemorate the Holocaust victims
who were killed after the U.S. forced their ship, the MS St. Louis,
to return to Germany
For Neiss, @RealPressSecBot represents another effort to contextualize a piece of history through the Twitter platform. He says building the bot took all of 40 minutes — the length of his kids' nap on Sunday afternoon.
What Neiss couldn't have known Sunday, however, was that the very nature Trump's tweets would become a cable news talking point the very next day, as the president's surrogates attempted to argue that media was "obsessing"
over Trump's social media use, seemingly in the attempt to separate the president's Twitter statements
from his presidential actions. (After all, the lawyers forced to defend the "travel ban" can't be happy that the president is single-handedly destroying their carefully crafted legal arguments in 140-character Tweet bombs.)
But, as Neiss observes, that argument gets wrecked by Trump himself on a near-daily basis.
"You have a press secretary, Sean Spicer, who could say one thing on the podium one day and then be overruled by the Twitter account the next day. If you want to ask about what the president is actually thinking, an actual presidential statement, the only thing you’re left with is the Tweets themselves."
Neiss doesn't consider @RealPressSecBot inherently anti-Trump, and he rejects characterizations that he's constructed a platform for parody. These are simply Trump's words, and any dissonance of seeing them neatly typed on White House letterhead isn't the fault of the bot — it simply shows Trump being Trump.
Neiss intends to keep the bot running for the duration of Trump's presidency. Normally, we'd wonder how the president feels about that — but hey, this is Trump. We don't have to wonder. We've got an official statement addressing just that:
As Sean Spicer would say, the Tweets speak for themselves. We can only surmise that Trump absolutely loves that the half-formed ideas he stole from Fox News morning shows now look so presidential.
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com