War On Twitter

NJN: New Jersey News
November 5, 2010
By Zachary Fink

Several years ago Susan Lucci hosted Saturday Night Live. This was around the time she would constantly get nominated for an Emmy, but never win. For the opening skit she walked around the SNL studios and each cast member was using his or her Emmy for some mundane purpose. One guy was hammering a nail with it, someone else was using it as a paper weight and in the climax of the scene she walks into another room and someone yells “Emmy Fight!” And they all take their multiple Emmy’s and begin hurling them at each other in a playful manner.

It was a pretty funny skit, and she was a good sport for going along with it. But it came to mind recently when questions were raised about how often Governor Christie uses Twitter and for what purposes ( alright, I’m reaching again…but you gotta admit that skit was pretty funny, right? ).

Governor Christie has fully embraced Twitter as a means of getting his message out. And that includes bantering back and forth over policy as he did two weeks ago with White Horse Strategies Democratic Consultant Joshua Henne. It was over the ARC tunnel. And a sampling is below. When people drew my attention to it (and by the way, lots of people were talking about this) the words “Twitter Fight” immediately jumped into my head. Kinda like when Belushi yelled “Food Fight!” in Animal House or when SNL-ers yelled “Emmy Fight.” Ok, there is the connection. Phew.

Henne: @GovChristie Isn’t it unfair how much NJ gives to fed taxes & $$ goes to other states? With ARC fed gov would pitch in. For once NJ benefits

Gov: @JoshuaHenne How do we pay for $2-5 billion in cost overruns?

Henne: @GovChristie Why do you pick+choose when to use “we just dont have the money” mantra. Example- how ya gonna pay for proposed income tax

Gov: @JoshuaHenne Talk about fast & loose! Figures came from fed DOT (as I already said) & I am now clear u have no answer on $. Typical partisan

Henne: @GovChristie I’m proud to be called a typical partisan by a bush ranger. I’ll wear that as a badge of honor.

Gov: About to enter the premiere of “The Soprano State” movie. Chronicles 7 yrs of my life chasing crooked pols around NJ. Looking forward to it.

Is Christie doing his own tweets? It certainly sounds like him. But it was these political tweets that wound up drawing criticism.

Gov: @mattmeadforgov Great job Matt. We are rooting 4 u here in NJ.

Gov: Getting ready to enter rally for Jon Runyon for Congress in Toms River. 9 days until big change in NJ CD-3!

Gov: Great rally with @CharlieBaker in Melrose, MA. Change is coming to Massachusetts in 9 days with Gov-elect Baker. Thanks Massachusetts!

Senate President Stephen Sweeney said Wednesday that it is wrong to use the Governor’s taxpayer funded Twitter account for politics.

Then of course there was the widely reported back-and-forth the Governor had with Jimmy Fallon who made some crack about only coming to New Jersey when one is lost. I am not going to reproduce that one, but you get the idea.

Here is what I would say about all of this. To begin with we are living in an unprecendented age of new communications. The boundaries are still being drawn. I have informal contacts with people over social media sites, even if I know them in a more formal setting. And everyone seems to draw their own conclusions about where those boundaries lie.

Years ago, Governors would send sharply worded letters on “Office of the Governor” stationary ( as Christie mighta down with fallon in another era ). Today, Twitter makes that much easier. It’s also less stilted and more conversational. That plays to this Governor’s strengths.

Suffice to say that I am generally of the opinion that more communications particularly on policy are a positive thing for the State. As for using it for poltical purposes…that is a little trickier. I do recall people being very unhappy about Al Gore making fundraising calls from the White House.