It’s now fashionable to complain about social media, at least when we’re not busy using it.
But look on the bright side: Twitter is a valuable tool for revealing the character and judgment of people in public office, and those who aspire to be.
Thanks to Twitter, we now know that Carl B. Nett of Louisville, who is running in the Republican primary to be Kentucky’s secretary of state, is prone to poor judgment.
You would think that if anyone should know better than to joke on Twitter about assassinating a congressman, it would be a former Secret Service agent. But you would be wrong.
After Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, tweeted a picture of himself wearing an “F” lapel pin to show pride in the National Rifle Association’s rating of his voting record on gun control, Nett thought he would be clever.
He retweeted Yarmuth’s post with this comment: “Move it over just a bit. I was trained center mass.”
Since gunmen tried to kill Rep. Garbrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, and Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, most people consider public jokes about shooting congressmen to be in poor taste. For a would-be politician, a joke like that is a sure sign of poor judgment.
As his tweet made national headlines, was brought to the attention of the FBI and Capitol Police and prompted statements of condemnation from Democrats and Republicans alike, Nett showed more poor judgment by trying to defend himself.
He pointed out in a tweet that, as a Secret Service agent, he protected many Democrats he didn’t vote for, including former President Barack Obama, but he would have been willing to die for them.
Then somebody found a 2016 tweet in which Nett said he “only protected #Obama a few times….then bailed. I’m not a bullet sponge for just anybody.”
More than six hours after tweeting his tasteless joke, Nett finally apologized to Yarmuth on Twitter.
Nett says he’s staying in the race, but I would put my money on his primary opponent, Michael G. Adams of Louisville. Adams’ Twitter account describes him as a “conservative election-law attorney with a sense of humor.” As a Harvard Law School graduate, let’s hope he has a more mature sense of humor than Nett.
Twitter is beginning to remind me of the old saying about politicians’ speeches at the Fancy Farm picnic, the traditional kickoff for Kentucky’s fall election campaign: A good performance rarely helps much, but a bad one can be devastating.
Facebook and Twitter are Gov. Matt Bevin’s preferred method of communicating with the public. Most of the time, he’s pretty good at it. He posts selfies with admirers, pretty pictures of Kentucky and upbeat comments with the hashtag #WeAreKY.
He occasionally steps in it with an arrogant tweet or a Facebook video like the one last August that launched his ongoing campaign of insults against Kentucky’s public school educators. He also has become a champion at blocking other social media users who frequently criticize him.
But Bevin’s preferred tool for self-inflicted wounds is small-town radio, whose hosts let him ramble on and on without interruption or tough questions.
A week after calling teachers “ignorant and uninformed” on a Campbellsville radio station, Bevin told a Bowling Green station Wednesday that opponents of his pension plan have a “thug mentality” and “want to destroy what’s good for this state.”
Regular readers of Bevin’s social media feed get a pretty revealing look at his beliefs and self-image.
But nobody reveals himself on social media as thoroughly as President Donald Trump. He showcases his ignorance, narcissism and poor judgment on Twitter several times a day.
Twitter has become a virtual window into Trump’s soul, and the view reminds me of that song from the classic 1966 cartoon, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
You remember how it goes: “You're a monster, Mr. Grinch. Your heart's an empty hole. Your brain is full of spiders, You've got garlic in your soul. Mr. Grinch. I wouldn't touch you, with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.”
The only good thing is that Trump’s tweeting fingers are his own worst enemy. For example, the more he rants on Twitter about the Russia investigation — WITCH HUNT! NO COLLUSION! FAKE NEWS! — the more guilty he looks.
Maybe social media isn’t so bad, after all.