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Gaffe, or Just Grassley?

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, June 9 2009

After 28 years of service to their state, Iowans have a pretty good feel for Senator Chuck Grassley. Now, thanks to Twitter, the rest of us are getting a unique first-hand look at the Hawkeye Republican. What we're seeing is a unique blend of passionate politics, curmudgeonliness, and rules-be-damned grammar. What has Grassley in the new's today are a pair of spirited tweets. With President Obama commemorating D-Day in Europe on Sunday, Grassley (a.k.a. @chuckgrassley) took to Twitter to harsh on the President's travels:

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.

And:

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

Well, at least Obama now knows where the senior senator stands; his political enemy is as "close" as a Twitter account away. All this openness has Washington Post political commentator Chris Cillizza horrified by the prospect of American politicians making themselves vulnerable to critique (not to mention the scorn of English teachers everywhere) with such naked postings. "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," writes Cillizza, "is the latest in a series of Twitter gaffes by politicians."

Gaffes? Or just Grassley in full? Politicians are weird, Chris. We know that. The very crew of folks who founded the United States was an odd bunch of characters, despite their genius at starting countries from scratch. Some very strange ducks have been tremendous legislators. But we're a tough nation; odd are that the republic will survive a daily demonstration of the quirkiness of our elected leaders. And there's every indication that the political impact caused by a goofy Twitter post will lessen as time passes, in much the same way that past drug use by politicians has slid from "oh my gosh!" in the '90s to "so what?" today.

The Sunlight Foundation's Clay Johnson was on NPR's "All Things Considered" yesterday to make the case that Twitter is a good thing when it comes to politics. (Seriously, you don't want to miss NPR's Melissa Block's brave reading of Grassley's tweets.) And then there's this take from Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, who namechecks Cillizza (@thefix) and challenges the popular press take on Twitter: "Say it ain't so.Many(media)down on pols who tweet.@thefix,Olberman,etc I disagree,desire to communicate should trump fear of making mistake." Great point. But still, some spaces wouldn't kill you, Senator.