With his nearly 35,000 tweets, President Donald Trump has amassed a dizzying catalog of droll cultural musings, salty personal attacks, self-plugs and political punditry.
His prolonged tweetstorm warning President Barack Obama not to attack Syria after it used chemical weapons in 2013 has gotten special attention over the past 48 hours, as Trump considered and then carried out the kind of retaliatory attack he advised against years earlier.
For most of us, tweets from the past remain mercifully swallowed up and hidden in the world wide cobwebs. But as Trump recently reminded an interviewer, “I’m President, and you’re not.”
His posts, landing on both sides of issues from war and peace to his predecessor’s golf game, keep coming back.
Syria then and Syria now
When the White House released a statement Tuesday calling a chemical weapon attack by the Syrian government “a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution,” Trump’s tweets – from 2013 – came under particular scrutiny.
Over the course of nearly two weeks that summer, as the Obama administration weighed military action against the Syrian regime following a similar atrocity, Trump kept up a steady drumbeat … of caution.
“President Obama, do not attack Syria,” he wrote on September 7, 2013, one of more than 50 tweets to that effect. “There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your ‘powder’ for another (and more important) day!”
When the US and Russia negotiated a deal to take apart the regime’s chemical arsenal, ending the immediate crisis, Trump jumped back in with a more familiar line of criticism.
“The Russians are playing a very smart game,” he tweeted. “In the meantime they are buying lots of time for Syria and making U.S. look foolish. Dangerous!”
Episodes like these – when Trump’s current actions or pronouncements run up against his pre-presidential blaring – have become a nearly daily occurrence. The juxtapositions are typically framed by reporters and livened by critics, creating the odd effect of Trump, the citizen or candidate, trolling Trump, the president.
Here is an (incomplete) account of his most frequently exhumed self contradictions.
A lesson in negotiations – and what to do if they fail
After Republicans agreed with Democrats on a deal to avert the fiscal cliff in 2013, Trump registered his dismay, saying of the GOP, “Just shows that you can have all the cards and lose if you don’t know what you’re doing.”
More than four years later, those words were rehashed by Democrats delighting in the demise of Trumpcare. When Trump publicly blamed House Freedom Caucus members for derailing the widely unpopular bill, another old tweet – quoting a Trump favorite, Henry Ford – resurfaced:
“‘Don’t find fault. Find a remedy.’ –Henry Ford”
Protests for me but not for thee
Trump initially believed that Republican challenger Mitt Romney had won the the popular vote on the night Obama secured re-election in 2012. This perceived injustice upset Trump mightily. So he called for a protest.
“We can’t let this happen,” he tweeted. “We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!”
But Trump, then president-elect, changed his tune four years later, condemning protesters in the aftermath of his own election.
“Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting,” he tweeted. “Very unfair!”
About the electoral college…
Compounding the irony, of course, is that Trump himself won under precisely the circumstances – with the popular vote winner losing the election – he called a “travesty” four years earlier.
“The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy,” he declared that night in 2012.
Reflecting on his triumph, Trump offered a revised take in 2016.
“The Electoral College is actually genius,” he tweeted, “in that it brings all states, including the smaller ones, into play. Campaigning is much different!”
Getting exercised over executive orders
Trump began his presidency with a flurry of executive actions. Critics have described his travel ban orders as illegal, cruel and overreaching, or some combination of the three. The Trump of 2012 seems like he would have agreed with them on at least two counts.
“Why is @BarackObama constantly issuing executive orders that are major power grabs of authority?,” he asked.
Keeping an eye on Obama’s time off
Fewer than 100 days into his presidency, Trump has already held a number of (2020!) campaign rallies and routinely spends his weekends at his “Winter White House” in Florida.
There’s no rule against either, but judging by his past tweets, Trump might be disappointed with himself. In September 2013 (not a campaign season), he tweaked Obama, who was at a G20 summit, saying the former president “is not a leader, he’s just a campaigner!”
Trump delivered a similar attack in November 2011, again questioning Obama’s leadership qualities.
“The habitual vacationer – @BarackObama – spent 9 days before the critical Super Committee deadline traveling,” Trump tweeted.
Jump ahead to 2016 and Trump did about the same, spending the March weekend before the GOP’s self-imposed Obamacare overhaul deadline at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.
But this runs much deeper. Over the years, Trump repeatedly ripped Obama over the cost his travel and vacations.
“President @BarackObama’s vacation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars—-Unbelievable!,” he tweeted in January 2012.
Four months earlier, Trump asked: “Why did @BarackObama and his family travel separately to Martha’s Vineyard? They love to extravagantly spend on the taxpayers’ dime.”
That thing you said about Medicaid
Trump broke with Republican orthodoxy when he said during the primary campaign that entitlement cuts to the social safety net were a nonstarter. And yet, there was Medicaid, on the chopping block during Obamacare negotiations. With Republicans considering a deal to roll back expansion alongside broader cuts to the program, critics exhumed this May 2015 tweet to haunt Trump:
“I was the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid,” he said then. “(Former GOP rival Mike) Huckabee copied me.”
We’re not so different, politicians and I
“Politicians are all talk and no action,” Trump tweeted on May 27, 2015, before he’d even formally entered the Republican race. “Bush and Rubio couldn’t answer simple question on Iraq. They will NEVER make America great again!
The line was revived a few months later, when details of a Trump legal deposition were published in The New York Times. In discussing his penchant, and talent, for shading a public narrative in his favor, he made a comparison.
“I’m no different from a politician running for office,” Trump said. “You always want to put the best foot forward.”
When it’s OK to accuse your political opponents of criminal activity
On Wednesday, Trump, in response to a question from The New York Times, suggested that former national security adviser Susan Rice had illegally sought the partially redacted names of Trump associates in highly classified intelligence reports.
It was the kind of thing that might have bothered Trump himself – if it were July 2012.
“So @BarackObama’s campaign is calling @MittRomney a potential criminal,” he wrote then, disapprovingly. “How about Obama’s Tony Rezko land deal!”
What do you call it when someone skips their party’s own convention?
In 2012, Democrats who took a pass were, per a Trump tweet, simply practicing “smart politics.”
When asked about the number of top Republicans and former presidents sitting out his convention in 2016, Trump was less assured, telling CNBC, “I don’t think it matters.”
Thoughts and feelings on his (likely future) ambassador to Russia
Years before he selected the former Utah governor to be his man in Moscow, Trump made good sport of lampooning Jon Huntsman, Obama’s first ambassador to China, on social media.
“@JonHuntsman called to set up a meeting,” Trump tweeted in 2011. “Haven’t returned his call.”
In January 2012, with Huntsman running in the GOP primary, Trump took another swipe – one more in a prolonged series.
“‘Nobody cares’ about the Iowa straw poll is what @JonHuntsman said yesterday,” he tweeted. “His problem is that nobody cares about his campaign (or him).”
Gallup catches up to Trump
Trump has regularly hovered at historically low approval ratings during his brief White House tenure. And if he brushes off those numbers now, he didn’t always.
“@BarackObama has a record low 39% Gallup approval rating,” he tweeted in August 2011. “Why so high?”
But Trump spoke too soon, and left too easily accessible a record of his own. In March, his own Gallup approval rating sunk to 37%.
On the importance of transparency
“Why is @BarackObama spending millions to try and hide his records?,” Trump tweeted in June 2012. “He is the least transparent President – ever – and he ran on transparency.”
Trump, who has still not released his tax returns, also griped about Mitt Romney’s tardiness in sharing his.
Mitt Romney didn’t show his tax return until SEPTEMBER 21, 2012, and then only after being humiliated by Harry (Reid)!
Keeping them honest
“Obama through his cronies said the Keysyone (sic) pipeline was ‘not political’ - how much can one man lie about even the most obvious things?” Trump asked in April 2014.
Less than three years later, Trump’s own honesty issues had become such that Time magazine dedicated a feature to examining them, asking on its cover, “Is Truth Dead?”
Define ‘credible source’
Trump has often sought to undermine news reports about his campaign’s alleged ties to Russia by pointing reporters’ use of anonymous sources.
But when it came to promoting his birther crusade, Trump was happy to employ his own.
“An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office,” he tweeted, “and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud.”
Trump’s “source,” of course, was either incorrect, lying or nonexistent.
Trump hasn’t let the burden of the presidency keep him off the links. But when Obama indulged the same pastime, he was relentlessly critical, mocking and chastising the former president at ever opportunity.
Here are a select few:
“Obama has admitted that he spends his mornings watching @ESPN. Then he plays golf, fundraises & grants amnesty to illegals.”
“@BarackObama played golf yesterday. Now he heads to a 10 day vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. Nice work ethic.”
“Can you believe that,with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf.Worse than Carter.”
“We pay for Obama’s travel so he can fundraise millions so Democrats can run on lies. Then we pay for his golf.”
“President Obama played golf yesterday???”
You can find many, many more here.