The Washington Post

Attention, politicians: We see you deleting those Bergdahl tweets

When Bowe Bergdahl's transfer from the Taliban was announced, the initial reaction of many Americans was one of happiness and relief. Included among those Americans were a number of elected officials, some of whom tweeted their pleasure. And then the politics shifted, quickly. So they deleted their tweets.

And now, an interlude from Ms. Barbra Streisand.

Why Streisand? Because about a decade ago, Babs tried to keep photos of her house in Malibu from being published. Which, of course, simply inspired everyone to want to publish photos of her house in Malibu. This became known as the "Streisand effect." As soon as we know you don't want us to see something, man, do we want to see it.

So it is with politicians' tweets. The Sunlight Foundation runs a nifty service called "Politwoops," which throws elected officials' tweets into a database and then posts them if they're deleted. Often, the tweets are typos or misfires. Sometimes, they're attempts to cover tracks.

Earlier today, three different members of Congress — two Republicans and a Democrat — deleted their tweets of support for Bergdahl's release.

And on the day it happened, Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst deleted hers.

As BuzzFeed pointed out, Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.)  tried another version of this, deleting his statement of support from his Web site.

We see these, guys!

So what is a politician to do, in this media-saturated age, when every little step is observed and critiqued and every statement is analyzed and dismantled? Maybe this: Explain why you changed your mind. Politicians don't have to know everything about everything. If what you've learned about Bergdahl prompts you to rethink your initial comments, say so. We are all adults! Yes, people will call you hypocrites (I mean, people call out random people for being hypocrites on Twitter); some people will say worse than that. But if you learned something, share what you learned. Informed electorate and all that.

As for the rest of us, cut elected officials a little slack. People make mistakes. And when they try to pretend they didn't, call them out. Perhaps by sharing news articles about that behavior with people you know. That sort of thing.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He is based in New York City.



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