Sunday Column – Tweet On, Chuck

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is coming at us live, raw and unfiltered.

I, for one, like it.

In case you missed it, last weekend President Barack Obama used his weekly radio address to urge Congress to get moving on health care reform. The speech was broadcast while Obama was in France to commemorate D-Day. The prez also took in some Paris sightseeing.

Grassley saw this as an unfair and unwarranted croissant fired across the congressional bow. And he took his anger to Twitter, the online microblogging/instant messaging tool he’s embraced to convey his thoughts in recent months.

It’s all the rage. And Grassley was enraged.

“Pres Obama you got nerve while u sightseeing in Paris to tell us ‘time to deliver’ on health care.

We still on skedul/even workinWKEND,” Grassley said in his first fiery Twitter tweet, which is limited to 140 characters.

Fire two: “Pres Obama while u sightseeing in Paris u said ‘time to delivr on healthcare’ When you are a ‘hammer’ u think evrything is NAIL I’m no NAIL.” Instantly, this was news. Tweets heard ’round the world. And not all that world embraced Grassley’s digital diatribe.

Gawker, the snarky Manhattan-based blog, called Grassley an “illiterate jackass.” Pundits and politicos piled on.

When I defended Grassley on my blog, some readers took issue. “Once upon a time, we valued eloquence. Now we get ‘We still on skedul/even workinWKEND,’ ” B.J. Smith wrote.

Even I admit that when I heard his tweets read aloud on NPR, I cringed with a reflex hammered into me by a long line of English teachers.

Still, I say Grassley should keep his itchy Twitter finger and keep firing at will.

I don’t know how many hours of my life I’ve lost listening to politicians recite tired talking points and prepackaged, poll-tested platitudes. I’ve read thousands of useless, jargon-laden news releases. And by read, I mean skimmed and deleted.

Now, we have Grassley, sending out his authentic thoughts in real time from his BlackBerry-clicking thumbs, with unvarnished emotion.

I have no problem with that. I applaud it. Agree or disagree, it’s hardly business as usual.

I happen to disagree with his objection to Obama’s sightseeing. The last thing we need is another isolated president locked in a bunker.

But Grassley’s tweets, grammatically fractured as they are, give us some insight into the emotions and frustrations infusing a very important policy debate. That’s a glimpse we won’t get from the senator’s press flaks.

So keep tweeting, senator, even if you get hammered for it. After all, you’re no NAIL.

RELATED — Grassley explains his tweets to Slate’s John Dickerson.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Sunday Column – Tweet On, Chuck

  1. Tom

    I know the Gazette has to be nice to Sen. Chuck or lose its most favored newspaper status, but this is going a little too far. Grassley’s outburst of Blackberry rage is indefensible, and he has rightly been called to account. Yes, the President was with his daughters in Paris when he chided Congress and called on them to do more for health care reform. I don’t remember such outrage when Pres. Bush took a month off before Sept. 11, or when the same Pres. Bush did his famous Katrina fly-by after another month-long vacation.

    I suspect Sen. Grassley is angry mostly because he isn’t going to be able to stall reform this time. His 1993 claims that a free market is an efficient regulator have been shown to be false, largely because there is no free market in health care. The public finally realizes this, and is demanding government intervention, and Sen. Grassley can’t stop it. So he’s lashing out at the person he sees as the cause of his exposure as a failed advocate for inaction.

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