Bob Franken

Hearst-New York Times Column

(As usual, the arrangement with the syndicators means these columns appear here a week after their newspaper release)

^THE AGE OF TWITTER COULD HELP PIERCE THE WASHINGTON FOG@< ^(For use by New York Times News Service clients)@< ^By BOB FRANKEN@= ^C.2011 Hearst Newspapers@= WASHNGTON _ That ``Hail to the Tweet'' meet at the White House opens a lot of possibilities, even though President Obama didn't have to comply with Twitter's rule that limits thought spurts to 140 characters. That requirement applied to his online questioners but the president responded verbally and talked as long he wanted, which is really unfair when you consider that TV news has long adhered to micro word limits. We call them ``sound bites.'' Even worse, he made no news whatsoever, choosing instead to do the real governing the old fashioned secret. We get only hints about what really goes on behind closed doors in the negotiations over... say...the debt ceiling. Witness the pabulum we got the two sides emerged from the most recent session to give us a few of the aforementioned sound bites President Obama called the discussions "Very constructive, adding "People were frank". And from House Speaker John Boehner it was "We had a conversation. It was productive". Not the kind of stuff that will cause anyone information overload. Typically, these boilerplate comments don't even begin to suggest all the intricate deal making or the complex legislation that these people are hatching. It's often unclear whether even they understand the details or how such a labyrinthine plan fits together. Perhaps the time has come to take the incomprehensible and simplify it. We could by imposing that 140 character limit on arguments by all the characters in Washington. Debates in Congress would no longer go on and on, press conferences would pick up some zip, the TV networks would only have to interrupt prime time programming for a couple of minutes to accommodate speeches from the White House. Think of all the free time that everyone would suddenly have available for more commercials It's not such a radical idea, considering that some present and former members of the House have so famously had experience with Twitter. In the Senate, of course, it will mean being dragged kicking and screaming into modern times, but maybe it really is the moment to replace the filibuster, which literally dates back to ancient Rome, with more economic and efficient ways of communication. With apologies to Broadway, maybe this is the dawning of the Age of Twitter. If a deal is reached, we could hold the debate with dispatch in the Twitspatch: (About the draconian cuts to social programs... Medicare and Medicaaid and Social Security accompanied by just a smattering of loophole closings which are shaping up to be the only tax increases when the President caves): ``@Barack Obama: Remember that `balanced deal' I talked about? We didn't get it but it's the best we could do.'' ``@MitchMcConnell: (Can you believe he has a twitter address? Well he does). Yes, there are job killing tax hikes which I promised wouldn't be on the table, but it's the best we could do.''

“@JohnBoehner: Whatever Mitch said.”

“@NancyPelosi: “No way!”

“@MicheleBachman: No way!!”

Other candidates fighting Bachmann for the Republican nomination also could weigh in. Imagine:

“@MittRomney: I support this deal now, but I’ll soon be opposed to it.”

“@timpawlenty: Huh? What?”

“@newtgingrich: (Well, he tried to do this, but he was way over the word limit and still going. Something about space travel and Kenyan colonialism…)”

See how streamlined can be? Truth is, it’s not much different than what we’ve been seeing and hearing. It presuposses, of course that a deal is reached. If not, come August 2, we might see a tweet like this:

“@Barack Obama: I am raising the debt ceiling myself because the 14th Amendment to the Constitution says I can.”

The alternative would probably be:

“@TimFGeither: There is nothing more I can do. For the first time in history, the United States is going into default

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