Government by Tweet


Whether 'tis nobler to repeal and delay, repeal and replace, delay repeal, repeal and return to the status quo ante.... Republicans are dizzied by the array of possibilities. Some among them seem to be finding that it is easier by far to paralyze government by refusing to compromise on demands to which your opposition cannot accede without abject, unconditional surrender than it is to, well, govern.

In response to Rand Paul's tweet that Donald Trump agrees that repeal should be accompanied by full replacement, the great statesman from Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, a repeal and replace guy, said, "If it is his [Trump's] view, it would be really good if he would consider tweeting it out very clearly."

Tweeting it out? How about presenting a reasoned, well articulated case for the course he has in mind? No, that would be too Obama-esque, maybe even too 19th century. Perhaps it is quaint to suggest that more than 140 characters might be required to address issues of the day.

The infatuation with Twitter and other social media reaches far beyond Trump and politicians much to the detriment of public discourse on serious and complex matters that concern us all. We are not well served by it, nor are we well served when journalists and pundits treat it as an acceptable way to deal with the business of the nation.

I jotted down a few notes on this topic yesterday evening before reading this morning of John Kerry's timely remarks at a Passing the Baton Conference sponsored by the U.S. Institute of Peace:

If policy is going to be made in 140 characters on Twitter and every reasonable measurement of accountability is being bypassed and people don’t care about it, we have a problem. And it’s not just our problem here in the United States; it’s all over the world. I mean, do you realize that in the entire presidential campaign here in the United States of America there wasn’t one question asked about climate change? In three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate, not one question. It’s stunning. What are you going to do about the environment? What are you going to do about climate change? Not once. So we’re – I just – this is a huge problem, folks, and we’re all going to have to figure out how we are going to restore a measure of accountability to our system.

Minor, nonsubstantive revisions were made to this piece after it was initially published.

Remarks at the U.S. Institute of Peace's Passing the Baton 2017: America's Role in the World (interview by Judy Woodruff with questions from the audience)

Nolan D. McCaskill, Kerry warns Trump against abusing Twitter).

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David Matthews

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