CHILL JUNE 11, 2013
Hillary Clinton joined Twitter on Monday. The political press and the feminist Twittersphere (many of whom moonlight as semiprofessional Hillary groupies) all but had to sit on their hands to contain their excitement. Her bio: “Wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD … .” Was that TBD a signal that she might run for president, wondered the Christian Science Monitor breathlessly? Her first tweet, “Thanks for the inspiration @ASmith83 & @Sllambe – I’ll take it from here ... #tweetsfromhillary,” was a reference to the popular blog Texts from Hillary (as is her Twitter icon). At the Cut, which ran an extensive dialogue on Clinton’s new social networking move, Kat Stoeffel bubbled, “She's so good at it already, perfect first tweet,” in response to her colleague Charlotte Cowles’s sharp observation, “AHHH, I love it.” “Would that everything on the Internet were even a quarter as self-aware, witty and badass," added Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams to the chorus. (Note: As of press time, Clinton has not tweeted again. )
At Buzzfeed, Ben Smith argued that from that one semi-sentence, we could see straight into the heart of Hillary and capture her deepest neurosis: the fear of being perceived as old. (Apparently, per the much-recycled pantsuit joke, this trepidation does not extend to a fear of being perceived as cheesy.) “So the new Clinton brand will be painfully, ostentatiously hip,” Smith writes. “This will be the late Hillary, her hair literally let down, dancing ecstatically in Africa. It will be a campaign of conference calls about hashtags.”
Only if you let it be, Mr. Smith! There is a puzzling unwillingness among the chattering class to recognize politicians’ Twitter accounts for what they are: another, more efficient way of broadcasting talking points. Remember how excited everyone was about Bill Clinton joining Twitter? Mere weeks later, his account has, inevitably, settled into the usual platitudes. “Grateful for a morning spent remembering the meaningful life of Medgar Evers, and inspired by the work of his wife, Myrlie,” he tweeted recently. “Does @Twitter have a family share plan? Great to be here with @HillaryClinton & @ChelseaClinton. Looking forward to #tweetsfromhillary.” What topical humor!
The few politicians who show any inclination to do anything else, no matter how stunningly egotistical and annoying it might be (yes, that blind item refers to Cory Booker), are greeted as savants. There is an US Weekly of D.C. aspect to the excitement: For political journalists and junkies, who have a greater-than-average attachment to Twitter, the idea that politicians, too, are taking time to carefully craft that 140-character devastating apercu must be secretly a little thrilling. Somehow, it ratifies their own rapt attention to the medium. It’s not just a way to publicly joke with friends, we vehemently assert, it’s a place to find stories! Clinton, who has displayed a talent for situational mirroring and probably has hired a good communications staff, will surely be just fine at tweeting. (How many Twitter bios have you seen that include “TBD”? She’s learned the lingo.) But would journalists be as ingenuously excited if that staff learned to craft really sharp press releases? Let’s not lose track of what this slightly more stylish feed is likely to deliver.