In May, the White House moved new media staffer Jesse Lee into a comfy, $72,000-a-year job as Director of Progressive Media & Online Response to deal with President Obama’s social media critics. Lee promptly began using the perch to heckle conservative Twitter users. It was another sign of the president’s thin skin, and it always looks petty when Lee goes after the twitterati.
But he seems to have impressed and inspired one person: Tim Pawlenty, who for some reason has decided what his campaign needs the most is some good old fashioned new media snark.
When Obama was in Europe for the G-8 summit in May, Pawlenty tweeted: “@BarackObama sorry to interrupt the European pub crawl, but what was your Medicare plan?” Yes, the president should put forth a serious plan to address Medicare’s bleak future, but if Pawlenty really wants to become president he might want to find a different way to characterize a G-8 summit during a global financial crisis than “European pub crawl.”
Next, Pawlenty aimed his Twitter at Mitt Romney. The most memorable moment of the second GOP debate was Pawlenty awkwardly refusing to own the nickname he made up for national health care reform (ObamneyCare). He responded to the accusations of pusillanimity by tweeting: “On seizing debate opportunity re: healthcare: Me 0, Mitt 1. On doing healthcare reform the right way as governor: Me 1, Mitt 0.”
Aside from the substance of the tweet—Pawlenty’s health care record in Minnesota is underwhelming, to say the least—the tweet only reinforced his reputation for a willingness to taunt people behind their backs while refusing to confront his opponents face to face.
And now we have this. Late night comedian Conan O’Brien tweeted, “Is it too early to predict that Tim Pawlenty will not be a popular Halloween costume?” Pawlenty tweeted in response: “@ConanOBrien Wait until I unveil my Team Coco wig then everyone will want the costume. It might even deliver IA for me #ginger #iacaucus.”
Conan could have let this end the conversation, and left Pawlenty looking weird and unfunny, but he saved the exchange with another joke: “Hey @timpawlenty – If wearing a Team Coco wig helps you win in Iowa, it’s probably because Iowans think it’s corn silk.”
Anthony Weiner showed us that politicians can find much worse uses for Twitter than schoolyard taunting or corny joke-telling, but Pawlenty should probably drop the act and focus on looking presidential. Some candidates leave us speculating about whether they are actually running for the vice presidential nomination. Pawlenty seems to be running for a new media job in the next administration.