In the buttoned-down Senate on Capitol Hill, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is known for his tough questions for Department of Justice officials or intense scrutiny of judicial nominees. In the free-for-all of the Internet, however, the 78-year-old ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee has become famous — well, infamous — for his unpolished Tweets from his account, @chuckgrassley.
He tweets everything from meetings with constituents (“Norwalk HS 41students issues STOP Gasprices AfgNistan gaymArriage Iowa economy F16”) to railing against programming on the History Channel (“Ocassionally I turn to History channel hope to c history. Whenevr will the history channel hv a real old fashion histry program”).
The tweets from his iPhone (announced with a tweet, “I now h v an iphone”) have drawn criticism on D.C. gossip site Wonkette and from other Twitter users. Some find unintentional comedy gold in his tweets, with some noting @chuckgrassley “is not a parody account. It is the work of a sitting United States Senator.” His Twitter account was the target of a hacker in January.
But Grassley has rarely discussed his Twitter style, why he has typos, or the reaction to his tweets. The National Law Journal and Legal Times sent Grassley a list of basic questions last month, and Grassley opened up, admitting he hates to type and “I probably hit send a little too quickly.”
His spokesperson passed along his answers in an e-mail Friday, as he is in Iowa during a two-week Easter recess for Congress:
@toddruger: When did you start using Twitter? What prompted you? Why did you continue?
@chuckgrassley: My first Tweet was on November 26, 2007. I’m committed to making representative government work. Twitter’s a new way to communicate with constituents. The real-time feedback and contact with the grassroots that Twitter offers is a real value. That said, I don’t substitute Twitter and other technologies for personal contact with Iowans. I’ve held at least one constituent meeting every year in every one of Iowa’s 99 counties since I was elected to represent Iowa in the U.S. Senate.
@toddruger: Tell me about your Twitter set up. How do you post your tweets (i.e. on a mobile device, on a laptop)?
@chuckgrassley: I recently got an iPhone, which I use mainly to Tweet and email. Before that, I used a Blackberry.
@toddruger: Do you do all the tweets yourself? Why do you find it important to do so?
@chuckgrassley: Yes, I do the Tweets myself. My Tweets are authentic, and Iowans know it’s me when they read my posts.
@toddruger: Do other Senators ever discuss Twitter or computers with you? How do you rate your ability to use computers and technology compared to your fellow Senators?
@chuckgrassley: I don’t use a computer. I rely on my Blackberry and now my iPhone for everything I need. The iPhone has been a little bit of a learning curve, but I’m starting to get the hang of it.
@toddruger: A recent tweet was: “Norwalk HS 41students issues STOP Gasprices AfgNistan gaymArriage Iowa economy F16.” What was the story behind that tweet, where you were and how you tweeted it?
@chuckgrassley: Every year I hold a town-hall type meeting in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. I hold these meetings in factories, schools and service clubs, along with what you would call “traditional” town hall meeting, as a way to reach a cross section of Iowans. Not everybody can go to a town hall meeting in the middle of the day, so I try to get other places to answer questions from people. I try to remember to Tweet after each of these meetings so people know what topics are being brought up at the town halls. This particular Tweet came after I met with students at Norwalk High School in Norwalk, Iowa and the questions the students asked.
@toddruger: Your tweets draw attention/criticism, often because they sometimes have random punctuation or capital letters. What is the story behind why you leave those in there? Do you pay attention to anyone’s reaction to your tweets?
@chuckgrassley: I think there are a couple of factors involved. I suppose a lot has to do with the automatic correcting done by my iPhone. Second, I love Tweeting, but I don’t like to type. So, I probably type and hit send a little too quickly.
Sure, I pay attention to reactions to my Tweets. That’s part of the purpose, it’s the two-way communication needed in representative government at work.
@toddruger: Have you ever thought about quitting Twitter, or having a staff member control the account?
@chuckgrassley: I haven’t, although I’m sure my staff has!