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The debt-ceiling debate, @BarackObama & #hashtags: much ado about Twitter

    Barack-Obama-Twitter

As a debt-ceiling agreement has been hammered out, averting default (but not necessarily a credit-rating downgrade), everyone from President Obama to Sarah Palin to John Boehner took to Twitter to make their cases to the American people.

While many Twitter accounts went quiet Sunday (or even a bit earlier) as negotations got down to brass tacks, it's clear social media has become a big gun in the political arsenal -- even if it's one that can misfire.

This past week, the White House instituted a program called "Office Hours," pushing out tweets intended to school users on fiscal policy.

Apparently the administration's emphasis on money talk bored Twitterer....

...David Wiggs (@wiggsd),who commented, "This WH correspondence briefing isn’t nearly as entertaining as yesterday’s."

Brian Deese of the National Economic Council, tweeting for "Office Hours," responded, "@wiggsd Sorry to hear that. Fiscal policy is important, but can be dry sometimes. Here’s something more fun: tinyurl.com/y8ufsnpThe link leads to a video of the Rick Astley song "Never Gonna Give You Up," which is called "Rickrolling," a popular Internet meme from three years ago in which unsuspecting users of all kinds were unexpectedly sent to the video.

Never let it be said the White House isn't up to date -- unless you're talking about Web memes, that is.

There was also a little flurry Friday when a Daily Caller story alleged New York Times reporter Jen Preston helpfully supplied the #compromise hashtag to the White House during its big Twitter push for its vision of a debt-ceiling bill. The Ticket also commented along those lines.

A later story from the New York Times said the president's hashtag team had come up with #compromise in response to Preston's request for such a search term.

Conservative site Pajamas Media also looked into the Twitter streams of both Preston and the White House and came to the same conclusion.

So, despite accusations the White House didn't have a written-out plan for tackling the national debt and the debt ceiling, it apparently had full ownership of the #compromise hashtag, even if it took a question from a reporter to get it to come up with one.

With the hashtag in hand, the @BarackObama Twitter address -- to which the president himself occasionally contributed, with tweets labeled "BO" -- urged its followers to call, email or tweet the chief executive's Republican foes. That included tweeting out the Twitter handles of GOP leaders, state by state, a tweet at a time.

While the effort did send a lot of tweets to the Republicans' addresses, it also earned some of them a few extra followers -- and lost the president a bunch.

The @BarackObama account lost either 33,000 or 37,000 or 40,000 followers, depending which story you read. But as you can see from the picture at top, it still has well north of 9 million -- so what's a few tens of thousands among friends?

Lesson: Even if they voted for you, people don't like to be spammed.

Quite possibly the GOP's most influential Twitter presence also weighed in Friday, with a comment that was retweeted more than 100 times, per Twitter:

Sarah Palin
SarahPalinUSA Sarah Palin
@BarackObama you're wrong, threatening to throw seniors under the bus because you refuse to prioritize govt spending.Time to #womanup & lead

And from the leader of the House of Representatives came a video link (to a press conference, not to his own empassioned speech on the House floor):
Speaker John Boehner
SpeakerBoehner Speaker John Boehner
VIDEO: It's time for the President to finally tell us what he's for, and end this crisis http://j.mp/rlEu6V

While Congress and the White House may have backed off on tweets as talks heated up, the indefatigable anchor Greta Van Susteren of Fox News kept on it during the day Sunday, tweeting:

Greta Van Susteren
@gretawire Greta Van Susteren
Breaking News: Senator Reid has signed off on the debt-ceiling agreement pending caucus approval. http://bit.ly/ogJiTR

ABC's social-media powerhouse reporter Jake Tapper also kept working through his @JakeTapper account, even tweeting the picture below, entitled "All the President's Men" (including Vice President Joe Biden, second from right).
                             All the Presidents Men carney plouffe pfeiffer biden

RELATED:

Obama willing to work all weekend on debt deal

A surplus of deficit statements: John Boehner and Jay Carney speak at each other

More bad poll news for Obama, as debt deal brings smiles to the folks on Capitol Hill

-- Kate O'Hare

Media critic Kate O’Hare is a regular Ticket contributor. She also blogs about TV at Hot Cuppa TV and is a frequent contributor at entertainment-news site Zap2it. Also follow O'Hare on Twitter @KateOH

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Photos: screenshot of @BarackObama Twitter account; presidential advisers, including Vice President joe Biden . Credits: Twitter.com, Jake Tapper

 
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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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