President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence wave as they visit to Carrier factory, Dec. 1, 2016, in Indianapolis, Ind.
Photo by Evan Vucci/AP

Stung by criticism, Trump goes after local union leader

Donald Trump should be incredibly busy. The transition period is limited, as we talked about the other day, presidents-elect are expected to maintain a rather grueling schedule, choosing a cabinet, attending security briefings, staffing a White House, speaking to international leaders, shaping a policy agenda, and even preparing for his inauguration. Every hour of every day counts.

Trump, however, hasn’t yet learned the value of focusing his attention on what matters most. He instead likes to take time complaining about Broadway productions, sketch-comedy shows, and as of last night, local union leaders.
President-elect Donald Trump pledged to be “so presidential you will be bored” during the election, but he continues to keep Americans on their toes after again taking to Twitter to battle his most recent critic.

Chuck Jones, president of United Steelworkers 1999, told NBC News that he had been harassed and threatened in the wake of Trump’s latest attack – a broadside against Jones leadership of union workers at a Carrier manufacturing plant in Indiana that took center stage last week.
It should’ve been a relatively minor story. Trump made claims about the Carrier deal that were demonstrably untrue, and Chuck Jones spoke up about it – as American citizens are still free to do. Last night, the labor leader appeared on CNN to “correct some of [Trump’s] math,” and soon after, the president-elect who lacks impulse control decided it’d be a good idea to go after Jones directly.

Jones, Trump said on Twitter, “has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!”

None of this makes sense. For one thing, blaming American workers for corporate outsourcing decisions is bonkers. For another, Trump likes to pretend he’s a champion of regular, everyday Americans – unless, apparently, they cross him, in which case the president-elect will go after them personally.

After having some time to reflect a bit, Trump made matters worse, adding another tweet on the subject: “If United Steelworkers 1999 was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana. Spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues.”

To be sure, someone needs to spend more time working and less time talking, but I’m afraid it’s not the membership of United Steelworkers 1999.

Remember, all of this started with some criticism of a local union leader in Indianapolis who had the audacity to tell the truth. It’s not as if Trump is using social media to set the record straight about false allegations; rather, he’s using Twitter to try to intimidate a random American citizen – who’s now facing threats of violence from Trump’s followers.

When was the last time the United States had a leader who publicly targeted a local labor leader like this? Or more to the point, when was the last time Americans saw a leader who went after individual, everyday critics so directly?

The point of such tactics isn’t subtle: the president-elect appears to be sending a message that criticism of Trump isn’t welcome and may carry consequences. If that means Trump has to punch down, attacking a random citizen, so be it.

Such an approach is offensive and deeply at odds with American traditions, but it’s not surprising. We learned during the campaign that Donald Trump has trouble controlling his worst instincts, and his own aides were so concerned about his erratic and “self-destructive impulses” that they had to intervene to silence him on social media before the Republican did further damage to his own candidacy.

“If somebody can’t handle a Twitter account, they can’t handle the nuclear codes,” President Obama said shortly before Election Day. “If somebody starts tweeting at three in the morning because ‘SNL’ made fun of you, then you can’t handle the nuclear codes.”

Soon after, nearly 63 million Americans decided to put this man in power anyway. By rewarding his worst habits, Trump feels emboldened to be as irresponsible as he chooses to be.



Donald Trump and Labor

Stung by criticism, Trump goes after local union leader