Lawmakers a-Twitter during Obama speech
President Obama spoke of economic calamity and war Tuesday night in that solemn rite of democracy, the address to the joint session of Congress. In response, lawmakers whipped out their BlackBerrys and began sending text messages like high-school kids bored in math class.
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — President Obama spoke of economic calamity and war Tuesday night in that solemn rite of democracy, the address to the joint session of Congress. In response, lawmakers whipped out their BlackBerrys and began sending text messages like high-school kids bored in math class.
"One doesn't want to sound snarky, but it is nice not to see Cheney up there," announced Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., as Obama entered the chamber.
"I did big wooohoo for Justice Ginsberg," broadcast Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., upon sighting the ailing Supreme Court justice. She could be seen applauding with BlackBerry in one hand.
"Capt Sully is here — awesome!" announced Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, spotting the US Airways hero pilot in the gallery.
Then there was Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, in whose name this text message was sent at about the time the president spoke of the need to pull the country together: "Aggie basketball game is about to start on espn2 for those of you that aren't going to bother watching pelosi smirk for the next hour." A few minutes later, another message came through: "Disregard that last Tweet from a staffer."
And it wasn't just Twitter. "I'm broadcasting live from the middle of Independence Avenue," announced Culberson, in live streaming video on Qik.com. He jammed his 8-gigabyte camera phone into the faces of three Capitol Police and demanded that they introduce themselves. They did not look happy.
"The presidential motorcade will be coming from where?" Culberson asked. "What time are you expecting him to arrive?"
"That's classified," an officer replied.
Culberson went on: "I'll do one more broadcast and then I will tweet from the floor."
Lawmakers were so excited about the speech that they began reacting to it long before it was delivered. "The urgency and tone we heard from President Obama tonight is appreciated," Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., wrote in an e-mail two hours before the speech.
But on this night, e-mail was so five minutes ago. Lawmakers simply didn't have the attention span for anything longer than a tweet.
"On the House floor. Awaiting State of the Union speech. We need positive solutions," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla, proclaimed at 7 p.m.
Others were atmospheric. "Place is on fire," tweeted Rep. Dennis Rehberg, R-Mont.
Many more were self-referential. "I am sitting behind Sens Graham and McCain," wrote Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va.
Or extraneous. "Fixed the teleprompter, I think," wrote Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.
Some lawmakers did a passable job giving play-by-play and color commentary of the speech: "Sounds like nationalization — very bad news." ... "Not many applause lines. Some in the audience not sure how to react." ... "First big divide: he thanks Congress for recovery act. D's cheer, R's silent." ... "Some Republican Senators are standing and clapping, including McCain." ... "We must stand our ground as conservatives." ... "Best line: 'For 7 years we have been at war. No longer will we hide its price.' " ... "Seems to me honoring our troops should come on page one rather than the end of the speech." ... "Americans are not quitters — Amen — what a great story."
And how many were reading these dispatches? Those following Wittman at 9:40 p.m.: 44. McCaskill: 1. Blumenauer: 0. The live-streaming Culberson topped them all with 8,216.
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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