Talk about your nightmares.
White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer made an observation Tuesday on Twitter about how the changing media world was adding to political polarization in the country. Then he tried to add, to @jmartNYT, “also a much bigger factor on the right.”
Only his finger slipped, and he typed an N rather than a B on “bigger.” (Look at your keyboard; they’re right next to each other.) This was on an official White House Twitter account, mind you.
The Tweet was deleted, and he apologized. And the world moved on.
But then, some “veteran politicos” on the Hill started wondering why a senior adviser to the President was fooling around with anything as dangerous as Twitter anyway?
POLITICO explained, as would we, that he has little choice:
For years now, Twitter has served as the public square for political journalists, the place where the conventional wisdom is shaped before it turns into “the narrative.” Communications aides have always monitored that conversation closely, and some have long had an active Twitter presence. But many — top White House spokespeople, especially — often felt safer limiting their own remarks to carefully edited statements shared via press release. As a public forum, Twitter was too informal, too risky, too off-the-cuff.
Increasingly, however, flacks have come to see Twitter as a necessary tool in their communications arsenal. Instead of waiting to respond to reporters’ inquiries, Twitter enables them to influence reporters’ thinking and nip negative coverage in the bud.
“Twitter, like cable news, is another medium where the conversation in Washington gets shaped,” Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, told POLITICO. “Given the current media environment, we engage in real time so that as many folks as possible understand our perspective. Twitter is simply another resource to get our message out, and we generally like to avail ourselves of every opportunity to do just that.”
Brendan Buck, the press secretary for House Speaker John Boehner, said Twitter was “what the Speaker’s Lobby used to be. You want to find and talk to assembled reporters, open your Tweetdeck.”
I am reminded of Trav Robertson who dealt with media for the Vincent Sheheen gubernatorial campaign in 2010. I ran into him (at Starbucks, of course) some months after Sheheen narrowly lost that contest, and he confided that there was one thing that he had been unprepared for: the fact that the old “news cycle” was gone, and that he had to pump out information, and counter stuff that was out there, 24/7.
I was surprised that he was surprised, and wondered if that played any role in Sheheen’s defeat. Probably not, but it was a close race, for a Democrat in South Carolina…