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To Twitter or Not To Twitter?

Twitter should be off limits for politicians

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley's declaration -- via Twitter -- that "I'm no NAIL" has made headlines around the country and reinforced our view that politicians should stay far away from the micro-blogging service.

Grassley's semi-incomprehensible rant about Obama's health care plans, which crescendos with his odd proclamation that he is, in fact, not a nail, is the latest in a series of Twitter gaffes by politicians.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) apologized for using the word "racist" in a tweet about judge Sonia Sotomayor while Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff accidentally twittered his plans to challenge Sen. Bob Bennett in next year's Republican primary.

As we wrote in a piece on the dangers of Twitter for politicians:

"The thousands of innocuous tweets you send won't matter. It's the one time that you decide to pop off in the space of 140 characters -- perhaps after a cocktail or two at a fundraiser -- where problems will arise. Make one slip of the tongue, er, finger, and the sweet joys of Twitter will sour in a moment."

Voices of disagreement to the Fix position have quickly arisen. David All, a Republican consultant who specializes in social networking tools like Twitter, tweeted (of course): "Agree pols need to be careful, but to not Tweet at all seems idiotic."

Others on the Fix Twitter feed have pointed to shining examples of politicians who are using the technology effectively. Or, to state it more accurately, have pointed to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), the one politician cited as an example of the benefits of Twitter.

We're willing to be convinced that Twitter can be used to a politician's benefit. And, as a reporter, we can't urge politicians strongly enough to keep the tweets coming. But, three negative incidents makes a trend, do they not?

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 8, 2009; 4:30 PM ET
Categories:  Twitter Time  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Sarah Palin To Attend GOP Fundraiser
Next: Morning Fix: Virginia Governor's Race Viewer's Guide


My dog has a Twitter account (TerriTerrier) and nearly 200 followers. I'm a human, so I have my own website:

Posted by: roblimo | June 9, 2009 10:04 PM | Report abuse

no, let them show their true color. Some of them are rainbow. Some of them are just an airhead.

Posted by: infoshop | June 9, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Sen. McCaskill is one of the WORST offenders. Further, elected officials promoting this abbreviated version of the English language are setting a poor example to a generation who desperately needs quality education, and to learn how to actually communicate properly - not only in 140 character increments.

Posted by: toddadam | June 9, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

From Conan.
Websites Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook will combine to become one huge waste of time website called


Posted by: strictly_liberal | June 9, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

These are supposed to be our nation's leaders, so to use a tool that makes them look like teenagers squealing about how "th Jonas brothrs r totly awsum!" just makes them look really, really stupid.

Posted by: g99999 | June 9, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Since these politicians lie overtly, as well as by omission, and via intellectual dishonesty to earn campaign contributions, and further peddle influence for personal gain TWITTER IS GREAT FOR THEM!!!

We need them to keep blabbing so their true ideas, thoughts, motivations, and goals are inadvertantly revealed to the electorate.

Newt is a perfect example - the hypocrite served his wife with divorce papers at her bedside as she lay in a hospital cancer ward. Let him tweeeeeeet!

Posted by: onestring | June 9, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Jake, I've actually met people in person who were as self-absorbed as you are in these comments. They were all transvestites.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 9, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

For the record, I have only posted 4 times in this thread -- that's only 14% of the 27 total posts -- and not at all on the most recent open threads, for a ZERO percentage ; )

Posted by: JakeD | June 9, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, this is the 121-character version: "People have got to know whether or not their president's a crook. Well, I'm not a crook. I've earned everything I've got."

Posted by: mattintx | June 9, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

You can say a lot in 140 characters. Consider this 121-character gem from 1973, which would have made a great tweet:

"People have got to know whether or not their president's a crook. Well, I'm not a crook."

Posted by: mattintx | June 9, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

FlownOver has it right.

"Twitter is the natural electronic evolution of bumper-sticker politics."

It is difficult and frustrating to do anything useful in 140 character statements but I hope our Congress members will try.

I also hope that our politicians will see Twitter as just another avenue of communication with their constituents and join in. Those Americans currently enjoying the use of Twitter will appreciate your effort to keep in touch.

My identity on Twitter is ANGRYVOTERS and I think it is useful.

Posted by: johnhkennedy | June 9, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Maybe the ( ! )'s should focus on doing the people's work.

Posted by: whocares666 | June 9, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Culture and technology move quickly and have an organic nature.. all things related to cellular communications have evolved.. remember when everyone had the annoying push to talk..walkie-talkie.. Twitter seems to be holding it's own, texting is becoming a national traffic hazard, in it's own right...

After years of being attached to blue tooths, overweight prehistoric phones and star trek knock-off flip phones.. I now turn off the ringer (and vibrator) and often forget the device (usually in the auto console)... I find that the caller i.d and voice mail are all that I need.. I am much happier...

Posted by: newbeeboy | June 9, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Let them Twitter. Encourage them to Twitter. The more people know they elected those twits the better.

Posted by: James10 | June 9, 2009 6:21 AM | Report abuse

"I thought Ashton Kutcher's tweets were drivelous (and he never answered me when I asked why we went from something as good as "Butterfly Effect" to such an unmitigated PoS as "Guardian").

Cillizza's tweets would have caused extra charges on my cell phone, I only get Dan Froomkin's to my phone now."

I hear Shaq's tweets are very entertaining.

Posted by: DDAWD | June 9, 2009 5:25 AM | Report abuse

The Merriam-Webster Online dictionary defines "twitter" as:

1: to utter successive chirping noises

It defines "twit" as:

1: an act of twitting : taunt

2: a silly annoying person : fool

Definition 2 seems to fit this case the best.

Personally, I don't feel the need for successive chirping by silly, annoying people, i.e., fools.

Posted by: pagun | June 9, 2009 4:05 AM | Report abuse

Actually, I think Twitter is most suited to the likes of jaked. It's his medium. Light, insubstantial, transient, shallow, discouraging follow-up or response; a perfect vehicle for distortion, misinformation, innuendo, and slander.

But who would follow him? Zouk, I guess.

Posted by: nodebris | June 9, 2009 1:00 AM | Report abuse

Twitter may have some uses. Serious journalism is not one of them.

Posted by: nodebris | June 9, 2009 12:56 AM | Report abuse

My tweets have gotten a few dozen followers hooked on sleepbot. I can think of no better use for it.

I just finished a Caeser salad. Is your life enriched by knowing that? I doubt it.

Just replaced the keyboard on my partner's laptop, after my cockatoo tore up the one that it came with. Did you need to know that?

Need to vacuum the bedroom. Does that help? Of course not.

I thought Ashton Kutcher's tweets were drivelous (and he never answered me when I asked why we went from something as good as "Butterfly Effect" to such an unmitigated PoS as "Guardian").

Cillizza's tweets would have caused extra charges on my cell phone, I only get Dan Froomkin's to my phone now.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 9, 2009 12:11 AM | Report abuse

Grassley sounded like a jr high kid - In Twitter speak:

Grassley u no senator ur jerk

Posted by: FauxReal | June 8, 2009 11:36 PM | Report abuse

Twitter is the natural electronic evolution of bumper-sticker politics. It's perfect for simplistic overstatement and divisive sloganeering; i.e., it's as evil as it is annoying.

Posted by: FlownOver | June 8, 2009 11:23 PM | Report abuse

Do it if you can somehow be interesting and non-controversial. If you're not interesting, you're not going to hook the gen-xers you're going for. If you're controversial, then you've got fodder for the opponent.

So most likely, its best to avoid it.

Posted by: DDAWD | June 8, 2009 10:04 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Chris, I do. It'd be nice if you'd actually post real quote instead of making stuff up. [Rule #1 of interpreters: don't make sh** up.] It's hard to take what you say seriously when you have a serious lack of ethics.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | June 8, 2009 8:47 PM | Report abuse

"Anyone out there please, talk to me! Anyone! Please! PLEASE!!!

Posted by JakeD


Moms, make sure your kids get plenty of love and orange juice or, well, you see what can happen?

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 8, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Ashton Kutcher has well over a million followers on Twitter. And he can spell.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 8, 2009 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Cillizza:

I am forced to agree with kdemko. Where is the Political HALL OF FAME you've been promising?

Posted by: JakeD | June 8, 2009 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Please end the Fix Twitter feed ASAP and concentrate to your extremely informative blog!

Posted by: kdemko | June 8, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

FWIW, Gov. Palin has 28,000+ "followers" of her Twitter.

Posted by: JakeD | June 8, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Only 40% of people who try it out use twitter for more than a month. It's fun but it's mostly noise, and you quickly stop having tweets sent to your cell phone (I Followed Cillizza for about a day, the crap about his kid and Bob Dylan got old REAL fast).

Some people send out interesting links, mostly it's people announcing they just had a great pizza or vital info like that.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 8, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

The message should clearly be to be careful, not to not Twitter entirely.

By the line of argument in your original article, Joe Biden would have to give up talking.

Posted by: tzeigler | June 8, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Have you had enough of twitter?


Posted by: usadblake | June 8, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

David All says "Agree pols need to be careful, but to not Tweet at all seems idiotic."

They need to do a risk-reward analysis. Of course, a guy like The Newt probably did and thought "I can control myself & use this thing appropriately." Whoops.

Point being, Twitter is a tool. If you're going to use it as a politician, you have to think carefully before sending messages. If The Fix is looking for more examples of boneheaded twits, he should look into the MN House, where some DFL nitwit sent messages out like "Why is Rep XYZ wearing shades? to hide a black eye?"

Posted by: bsimon1 | June 8, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

"Agree pols need to be careful, but to not Tweet at all seems idiotic."

Sorry, no. The very nature of Twitter makes everyone sound like they are a 12 year old boy. If i was a politician, i wouldn't risk it.

Posted by: drindl | June 8, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Why use Twitter when I've got "The Fix" comments (and more than 140 characters to boot)?

Posted by: JakeD | June 8, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

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