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P.J. Crowley Knew What He Was Doing

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, April 19 2011

That's the takeaway from a new profile piece by Ben Smith that highlights Crowley's blunt way of engaging in public dialogue, a trait that ultimately led to his resignation of White House spokesperson:

At the State Department podium, Crowley seemed to find his voice and to realize that his voice could shape policy. “In the digital global age that we’re in, our actions and our words have greater impact. I knew that at the podium — that I would say something, and within a few hours the message would be received somewhere else — and a response,” he said. “That has impact, because on a regular basis, at the podium, I would challenge the impact of other countries on the treatment of their own citizens, their treatment of prisoners, on their treatment of the media.”

And no regrets even over a tweet that that was almost inarguably in poor taste:

Even on the morning of his Manning remarks, Crowley had tweeted — and then deleted — a comparison of the Japanese tsunami to the metaphorical “tsunami” sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. He said he now regrets only that he deleted it, which he did because “my staff thought that that was insensitive.”

To the Obama administration’s careful national security team, these and other Crowley comments were sloppy and infuriating. To Crowley, they were part of a deliberate strategy in a job that has, as he sees it, an institutional role beyond the demands of day-to-day politics.

Interesting stuff. Crowley seems to have seen Twitter and the like as a chance to define the State Department's message, where others might see them as tools for amplifying an institutional voice. What would be fascinating to ask the next spokesperson when one's made permanent is what, if anything, he or she's been told about how to go about tweeting.