Commentary Magazine


Obama’s Twitter Pitfalls

As President Obama prepares for his “Twitter townhall” today, the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Bluey takes a look at how the White House has used the social networking site to bully critics. The Obama administration recently appointed former DNC staffer Jesse Lee to help steer its “online response” operation, and Bluey reports that more than 15 percent of Lee’s official White House tweets have been directed at prolific conservative Twitter user Kevin Eder. [Full disclosure: Kevin and I previously worked together at the Media Research Center, and he's a friend of mine.]

But interestingly, Kevin is not a prominent political operative — he is a business analyst at an IT firm. Which is why it he finds it strange the White House has felt the need to engage in so many scuffles with him:

Of the 267 tweets written by Lee in just over a month, a stunning 40 of them have been directed at Kevin Eder, a prolific Twitter user with more than 83,000 tweets to his credit. That means 15 percent of Lee’s tweets — from an official White House account no less — have been with Eder. …

“I like going back and forth with him,” Eder said of Lee. “But if you engage your fiercest critics on new media, you’re doing two things: On the one hand, you’re showing that you take their opinion seriously. That’s good for the non-influencer public to watch what’s happening. But on the other hand, the White House is legitimizing me. And quite literally, I’m a nobody.”

Bluey sees this as part of a trend with the Obama administration, which often comes off as thin-skinned when faced with criticism. White it’s not unusual for presidential administrations to get aggressive with critics and pushy reporters, this particular White House’s use of controversial intimidation techniques have been well-documented.

Which is sure to make this afternoon’s Twitter townhall all the more interesting to watch. All Twitter users are free to ask the president questions by Tweeting them to @AskObama today, and the most popular questions will be the ones chosen for the town hall. Right now, both Republicans and labor unions are encouraging supporters to interrogate Obama about his jobs plan. And that’s one area where he’ll have a tricky time playing to both sides of the fence.