Four Score And 140 Characters Ago…

I’m a big believer in social networking.  Because of that, I also have a healthy understanding of social NOTworking: those hours frittered away chasing random thoughts and digressions by people as addicted to Twitter as those poor sods standing outside to smoke when it’s -20º.

Which may explain my snarkiness as I surfed over to tweetcongress this morning.  Given some recent high-profile political goofs disseminated on twitter–Governor Schwarzenegger’s amateurish knife branding, Governor Palin’s ongoing…Governor Palin-ness–I assumed it would be a vast wasteland of semi-congealed thoughts and shameless political promotion.

And it is, largely.  Just like advertising is largely an uninspired medium of hackneyed insights and tired executions. But amidst the expected chaff, there are fascinating kernels of wheat.  It would be pretty much impossible to hone one’s position on health care down to 140 characters, and few try.  What does seem to work are cogent reactions to particular assertions on the key issues of the day.  Twitter is an of-the-moment, what’s-happening-now device, a play-by-play telestrator for the smart mobile device set.

This candor and intimacy can be bracingly refreshing.  Even comments by those I’d consider on the other side of some issues can provide thought provoking viewpoints that make me stop and reconsider.  The personal nature of tweeting on the pressing issues of the day carries a welcome unrehearsed tone that is deeply human.

And there lies it’s Achilles’ heel.  For any politician working in the bruising, bear-knuckled arena of national politics, Twitter’s ready searchabilty could quickly render such spontaneous in-the-moment thinking into a liability.  Because if there’s any way to turn those 140 characters against the candidate, the opposition will, with relentless ferocity.  And that’s a shame.

We like our politicians human, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s insatiable need for apologies notwithstanding.  But that humanity can quickly lead to vulnerability, which means press secretaries and legal counsels will inevitability step in with their sterilizing filters, crushing candor under their iron, wing tipped heels.

Still, one can always hope for a political embrace of brevity.  The single, greatest politician in American history proves that for the ages with 272 words in his brilliant Gettysburg Address.  The finest minds today would be hard-pressed to match Lincoln’s accomplishment  in searing concision.  It would be enough for me if lawmakers on both sides of the aisle would strive to match it in humanity.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79