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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

I'm going to my best to channel Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley, here. Actually, I'm going to try to act out the irate tweets that Senator Grassley fired off using Twitter yesterday. The first tweet was this: Pres. Obama, you got nerve, while you sightseeing in Paris, to tell us time to deliver on health care. We still on schedule, even working weekend.

The second tweet was this: Pres. Obama, while you sightseeing in Paris, you said time to deliver on health care. When you are a hammer, you think everything is nail. I'm no nail.

I can't do justice to the all caps or the abbreviations in there. Well, here to talk about the perils of politicians issuing broadsides in 140 characters or less is Clay Johnson. He worked on the tech-savvy Howard Dean campaign. He's now with the Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for the use of social media in politics. And Clay Johnson, sounds you will be a defender of tweets and politicians' right to use them.

Mr. CLAY JOHNSON (Sunlight Foundation): That's right, yeah.

BLOCK: How would you assess this performance by Charles Grassley, here?

Mr. JOHNSON: Well, you know, he may not be the most prolific writer in 140 characters or less, but there's something really authentic about it. I'm not going to lie. As you're reading it, I'm sort of laughing like a schoolgirl over here at how…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JOHNSON: …the grammar - I mean, for the listeners, it's hard, because, you know, weekend is spelled W-K-N-D, and…

BLOCK: I think he put one E in there.

Mr. JOHNSON: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JOHNSON: It's short on vowels. It's - again, it's not the most well-written thing, but there's something really authentic, here. In a world were, you know, we get these emails from candidates all the time, or hear speeches from candidates all the time that are, you know, well-prepared and eloquent and, you know, they say, today I need you to go for blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah - here's something authentic that an actual member of Congress has written. Members of Congress don't write those emails. They rarely write their own speeches. Here's how they - here's how a member of Congress writes.

BLOCK: Okay. So when Charles Grassley says Pres. Obama, you got nerve, that, to you, is not rude. That's refreshing.

Mr. JOHNSON: You know, I - there's two sides of the coin, here, right? So it is refreshing. I wish Senator Grassley was a better writer, but it is a little refreshing. So I'll take what I can get.

BLOCK: Can you tell how many members of Congress, high-profile members of the administration are tweeting?

Mr. JOHNSON: Yeah, sure.

BLOCK: And I know this just came up during the State of the Union address. Some of them were actually sitting there in Congress…

Mr. JOHNSON: Sending out tweets.

BLOCK: Yeah.

Mr. JOHNSON: There are, I think, about 200 members of Congress right now tweeting, and I'd say that, actually, like, Republicans outnumber Democrats about 2-to-1 on Twitter. Last year, we ran a Let Our Congress Tweet campaign. That let me go throughout the Sunlight Labs office, saying…

(singing) let our Congress tweet…

(Soundbite of laughter)

…all the time, to actually make it - to change the rules so that members of Congress could use Twitter from the floor. That was a lot of fun.

BLOCK: You need a new theme song.

Mr. JOHNSON: I know. It's - now it's (singing) let our Congress tweet grammatically correctly…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JOHNSON: …or something like that.

BLOCK: Something like that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Clay Johnson, thanks for coming in.

Mr. JOHNSON: Absolutely.

BLOCK: Clay Johnson advocates for government transparency and the unfettered use of social media in Congress for the Sunlight Foundation.

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