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TweetCongress is Twitter for twits

September 23, 2009|By TIM ROWLAND

Those who are convinced that Twitter is a passing fancy with no redeeming social value need only point to this as evidence: It's wildly popular with Congress.

This makes sense, since everything the average Congress member knows about everything can neatly fit within the 140-character format.

The site TweetCongress touts Twitter as a way to "get our men and women in Congress to open up and have a real conversation with us."

Here is an example of a real, congressional conversation: "Great HS football games this Friday night -- Stockdale at BHS and Liberty at Centennial." (Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Georgia.)

A study by the University of Maryland that was reported in The (Baltimore) Sun this week found that instead of a meaningful dialogue, most in Congress used the social networking format for shameless self-promotion.

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Tweeted Susan Collins: "Fortune Magazine names Senator Collins one of the 10 most powerful women in Washington."

Take that, Cokie Roberts.

And of course, some use it as a glorified social calendar.

From Sen. Charles Grassley: "I will b intrvud on AgriTalk at 10amCST. Pls tune in."

Why do I think Charles Grassley himself did not write this? What is he, like 75 years old? "Will b intrvud." Cool, man. Pretty soon Sen. Grassley is going to take over for the hipster in those Mac vs. PC commercials.

However, some of our politicians clearly struggle with the format. Here is Rep. Robert Wittman, poor soul, as he tries to sum up a half century of Cold War history in 140-character chunks:

"I remain committed to ensuring the continuation of our missile defense programs and honoring our obligations overseas."

Next post:

"Ending our programs overseas not only affects our relationships with our allies but also sends the wrong message to threats around the world."

Next post:

"I am extremely concerned with the Administration's decision to end our commitment to a robust missile defense program in Eastern Europe."

Someone needs to buy this guy a blog. It has to be rough, cutting up your pre-planned sound bites like you were dicing tomatoes. Imagine if Lincoln had been forced to Tweet the Gettysburg Address:

"That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve."

Next post:

"Like I was saying, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain."

The frustrating thing is that so many politicians do not, can not, hold themselves to such small sentences, so they wind up failing to finish the thought, as happened to Rep. Earl Blumenauer:

"Congress needs a steady source of financing -- a Water Trust Fund -- to protect Americans from these systemic water ..."

The suspense is paralyzing. These systemic water -- what? The tweet does list a url, which redirects you to Blumenauer's Facebook page, which provides the missing word: "failures." Oh. Kind of a letdown, if you ask me.

But then what else have we come to expect from Congress?

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under opinion@herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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