Last week, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) called President Barack Obama stupid.
Using Twitter he wrote, "Constituents askd why i am not outraged at PresO attack on supreme court independence. Bcause Am ppl r not stupid as this x prof of con law."
Now, first of all, I think if you're going to go out on a limb and call the President of the United States "stupid" -- especially one educated at Harvard -- you should be really careful about writing something like, "Bcause Am ppl r not stupid."
Actually, if you are going to call anyone "stupid," you should be really careful about writing something like, "Bcause Am ppl r not stupid."
Actually, if you're going to call anyone stupid, period, for absolutely any reason at all, you're probably best advised not to use as your outlet something whose root word is "twit." However, if you do feel utterly compelled to tweet and convey to the world that you believe someone is stupid, it's probably a good thing to craft your thoughts beforehand and try really, really hard to make it sound thoughtful, credible and substantive. "Bcause Am ppl r not stupid" sort of backfires on you.
Secondly, if you're a U.S. Senator and want to address philosophical differences with the President of the United States, you're really doing yourself and your constituents a huge disservice by limiting yourself to 140 characters. There are perfectly good reasons to use Twitter if you're a Senator (like maybe you saw Justin Timberlake at the restaurant you're at and want voters to think you're cool). But name-calling the American President isn't one of them. It's the equivalent of a 12-year-old texting, "Becky is so mean. I hate her." (Or, as Mr. Grassley would put it, "Bcky mean i h8 hr.") If you're a U.S. Senator and you have serious, valid issues with the Leader of the Free World, you actually have far better options at your disposal than most seventh graders.
For starters, your local TV station would be thrilled to do an in-depth interview with their senator. Or you could call Fox & Friends, who would fall over themselves to have an actual senator willing to slam President Obama on air. They might even turn it into a primetime Sean Hannity Special. But if you didn't want to go on television for fear of having to extemporize, then simply lay out your charges on your personal website -- all U.S. senators have them, free of charge. It's one of the job perks. Or better yet, if you want to seem hip (as you surely do because you have a Twitter account), put your presidential blast on YouTube -- maybe it'll go viral! Or just write something for Facebook. You can not only criticize the president, but actually take the time to explain why you think he is stupid and do so in a contemplative way that can be scathing in its details and show u to b a gr8 thinker. That's the thing about limiting your whining to 140-characters -- it pretty much suggests that you don't have anything meaningful to say.
But third, though, there's this. That pesky matter of perspective. The always-problematic "Consider the source" kind of thing. After all, if you're going to go on record stating that the "Am ppl r not stupid" but the President of the United States is -- then you probably don't want to be on record trying to terrify those same Am ppl by suggesting Your Government is trying to kill old people.
He wasn't even being metaphorical about Death Panels™: Charles Grassley (R-IA) told an Iowa town hall meeting in 2009, that you should be actually scared. "You have every right to fear," he fearfully insisted. And then added, "We should not have a government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on grandma."
To be clear, we don't have a government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on grandma. And anyone who thought we did is, actually, really stupid. And you don't have to be an "x prof of con law" to figure out why.
Mind you, unlike Charles Grassley sniping at President Obama, I don't think the Republican senator is stupid. I think he was shamefully pandering to that town hall crowd and pandering with his tweet. But ultimately, when you're a United States senator and claim that Americans should fear that the government is going to pull the plug on grandma -- and then insist, "Bcause Am ppl r not stupid," you've not only ceded the high ground, you've started digging a hole to get as low as possible.
It's the same pattern we see as Republicans try to rile their party by attacking any word out of Barack Obama's mouth for the sole reason that it's out of Barack Obama's mouth. There's no attempt to offer any thought or explanation. It's the political equivalent of having the Terrible Two's. Stomping your feet, pouting and crying, "No!!" just because someone else said "Yes."
It's fine to disagree. But actual leadership demands thought. Reasoning. The "why." Without it, you'll always come across like a twit. And the Am ppl deserve better. Because in the end, it's true. The Am ppl r not stupid. It's just that some senators keep treating them that way.
Follow Robert J. Elisberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/relisberg