With the White House and Republicans locked in a tense showdown over the US debt, both sides have taken to social network Twitter with a vengeance to score points in 140 characters or less.
Since talks began, President Barack Obama’s communications team and their counterparts on House Speaker John Boehner’s staff have scrambled to get out their message the traditional way — in print, on talk radio and in televised addresses.
But with time running out for a deal to raise the US debt ceiling by an August 2 deadline, all parties have rushed to post soundbite-friendly updates on Twitter — pushing for, or warning against, the various deals being proffered to avoid a potentially disastrous default.
On Monday night, after Obama and Boehner made live back-to-back primetime speeches to the nation, White House communications chief Dan Pfeiffer kept up the pressure on Twitter.
“Summary of tonight’s speeches: POTUS – compromise is not a dirty word. Boehner – compromise is a dirty word,” he tweeted from his official @Pfeiffer44 account, using the acronym for President of the United States.
They’ve also actively engaged the White House and Congressional press corps.
Time Magazine’s White House correspondent Michael Scherer (username @michaelscherer) noted that Obama’s press secretary Jay Carney (username, @PressSec) had invoked the word “compromise” 49 times during Tuesday’s press briefing.
“#somekindofrecord” he added.
Pfeiffer quickly jumped in, noting he had said it “49 more (times) than Speaker Boehner last night.”
Boehner’s press man Brendan Buck then arrived, “retweeting” the earlier messages but adding, “Thanks for the platform btw,” using the Internet acronym for “by the way.”
Buck remarked that White House chief of staff Bill Daley, in comments to the CNBC network, “refuses to say the President would veto the House’s two-step plan.”
He had earlier asked, sarcastically, “Do Senior Advisors sign bills or does the President?”
Both Buck and Pfeiffer have sought to use the retweet option to respond to the reporters’ questions, and used the function to advance their arguments.
The White House communications chief touted an article linked by Huffington Post online reporter Sam Stein (@samsteinhp), with the commentary “More bad reviews for the Boehner bill. Bank of America says Boehner approach risks downgrade.”
Buck, meanwhile, gave a hat tip to Politico reporter Jonathan Allen for pointing out that the US Chamber of Commerce, an influential group that champions corporate interests, supported Boehner’s proposal.
But Pfeiffer may have the louder voice in the Twittersphere with 16,000 followers to Buck’s 1,500.
The rush for the new media stage was not lost on some commmentators.
“If the deficit-debt ceiling issue could be resolved by press releases and partisan Tweets, we’d have a surplus by now,” Politico White House correspondent Glenn Thrush observed.