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In a perfect democracy, all are tweeted equally


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We’re not saying it was the first time in the history of the universe. Although we would like to say that.

So we’ll use the traditional media gambit of quoting someone else: “I would be shocked if it’s not the first one,” said Casey Mills, deputy press secretary to Sen. Charles Grassley.

In any case, it was a fascinating moment when a powerful U.S. senator appeared at a funky little tweetup in Des Moines.

Twitter is the hot social networking phenomenon that gives you 140 characters to assure your devoted followers that you’re still alive and clicking. A tweetup is what results when a bunch of Twitter people suddenly crave human contact and get together.

A U.S. senator appearing before a group of constituents is not a new phenomenon at all. Senators and public appearances go together like the news media and 10-year anniversaries. What’s surprising is that Grassley, at age 75, is a devoted Twitterer himself.

Why bother? The guy has a Senate seat for as long as he wants it. But Grassley is sincere about this public service stuff, and if someone invented a way to beam his thoughts directly into citizens’ minds, he would sign up.

As Grassley said at the tweetup: “Most of the people at my town meetings are over 50, some of them retired. When I’m doing a series of town meetings, I hope to get a cross section of what people are feeling, and I wouldn’t if it was only people over 50.”

The event at Impromptu Studio, 300 S.W. Fifth St., drew a younger crowd, and after an introduction that sounded something like “we invited several people, but only this guy showed up,” the first couple of questions were about Twitter.

How come you’re not the first person to get a million Twitter followers, someone asked. “Because my name isn’t Obama,” Grassley answered. Actually, the first human to hit that mark was Iowa-born Ashton Kutcher. Lots of time on your hands when you’re between movies.

What led you onto Twitter, someone asked Grassley. Just trying to use the latest technology to keep in touch with the public, he said. Before most of the attendees were born, Grassley noted, he was one of the first members of Congress to use a fax machine.

The crowd sat silently, wondering what a fax machine might be.

Then came the questions on topics he would expect from any old crowd at all: Bailouts for automakers, health care, undocumented immigrants.

As “Lloydb” reported one exchange during the tweetup via Twitter: “‘If you break the law you should go to jail, agree?’ Girl: ‘blah blah immigrants are good’ repeated 3x’s.”

If Twitter is an escape from the shackles of traditional conversation – all of that laborious nodding and eyebrow moving – a tweetup brings a person back to reality. After the question-and-answer session, Grassley listened patiently to everyone who wanted some of his time, as he has been doing for decades now.

But even Twitter isn’t a total escape, not for public figures. Earlier in the week, when Grassley sent a tweet about burning his leg, people ripped his tweeting style, suggested that he can’t spell, and wondered why he was working on his farm on a Friday instead of passing some legislation or something.

The “why Friday?” critic will be glad to know that the tweetup took place at the end of a beautiful Friday afternoon and that Grassley was still going strong at 5 p.m.

Even without a quotation to back us up, we’ll go out on a limb – Grassley’s limb. It had to have been the first time in the history of the universe that a U.S. senator at a tweetup in Des Moines, Iowa, hiked up his pants leg to show us a bandage.

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