Chad Blair: How Schatz Uses Tweets To Speak Out - Honolulu Civil Beat


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Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at cblair@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.


Last week it was reported that “multiple” Republicans in the U.S. Congress sought pardons from President Donald Trump in the weeks following the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol.

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The same day that news broke — June 9, the first day the House committee investigating the attack presented its evidence — U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz tweeted, “Ok I will start. I didn’t ask for a pardon.”

The Hawaii Democrat followed that tweet with this one: “I am not kidding about this. Every single member should answer this simple question.”

Hawaii’s senior senator then retweeted a tweet from presidential historian Michael Beschloss asking people how they thought the historic hearing went.

He also retweeted a comment from Tom Nichols, a contributor to The Atlantic, saying he hoped millions of Americans who watched the hearing “will now rethink the idea of voting for the GOP (or not voting) and destroying democracy just because gas is pricey this summer or they didn’t get their student loans forgiven. It’s clear that everything is on the line.”

The tweets show Schatz demonstrating two characteristics: a sometimes snarky wit, and a willingness to speak out strongly on issues he cares about — even if it ruffles partisan feathers. It’s a side of Schatz that may not be obvious to people in Hawaii who don’t follow his Twitter account and know him as a fairly mild-mannered senator perhaps best known for helping to secure big appropriations for Hawaii.

The tweets also underscore the power of the social media platform, which the richest man on the planet is currently offering to buy for $44 billion.

Whether Elon Musk’s deal goes through, it is clear just how valuable Twitter and social media are. Trump’s rise was enabled heavily on social media and, since being booted from Twitter just days after the Capitol insurrection for violating company rules, he has struggled to get any traction with his Truth Social app.

Schatz’s tweets in no way rise to the level of Trump, who was permanently suspended “due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” Twitter explained.

But Nick Grube, my colleague in Washington, D.C., tells me Schatz’s tweets have not gone unnoticed in and around the Beltway, in part because he writes the tweets himself, unlike some other elected officials who use communications teams or others to do it for them.

Schatz confirmed that in a phone call Monday.

“I think that what people like about my Twitter feed is that it’s actually me,” he said. “And although I have an extraordinary communications team, it’s clear that any communications team worth their salt would try to talk me out of some my tweets.”

Like this May 13 tweet, for example: “There’s a bunch of people on here that characterize every messaging tactic by Dems as feckless and every crazy action by Wingnuts as genius and I’m not saying we don’t have work to do, just maybe that’s not true every single time. Might delete this one.”

Schatz did not delete that tweet, and he did not specify what he was reacting to. But it came the same day there was a lot in the news: Democrats looking to codify Roe v. Wade after the leaked draft from the U.S. Supreme Court, the Kremlin worried about the expansion of NATO, inflation nearing a four-decade high, an Al Jazeera journalist killed in the West Bank and Musk saying he would reverse Trump’s ban from Twitter.

That same day Schatz also retweeted tweets from Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and historian Kevin M. Kruse. Both were reacting to a tweet from GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik, who was under fire that very day for attacking Democrats as “pedo grifters” on the baby formula shortage.

These are extremely divisive times, and Schatz is using Twitter to sound off on the issues of the day.

There are actually three Twitter accounts tied to Schatz, but he uses only one to say compelling things on matters political and more.

His campaign handle, @SchatzforHawaii, is safe and predictable. A typical tweet from last fall: “October is LGBT History Month and Pride Month in Honolulu, so we’re launching a new line of Pride merch!”

Same goes for his Senate office, @SenBrianSchatz. Here’s one from June 2: “Today I’m chairing a Senate Indian Affairs Committee field hearing here in Hilo. We’ll be hearing from Native Hawaiian leaders on how the federal government can continue to help and provide more resources. WATCH our live field hearing.”

@brianschatz

All the tweets above come from @brianschatz, whose bio reads “United States Senator from Hawaii. Dad. Climate Hawk. Chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Chief Deputy Whip.” It’s far more entertaining than the others and has many more followers — 402,000, compared with 1,180 followers of his campaign handle and 1,295 for the office version.

Sampling @brianschatz over the past month or so, a pattern emerges. He tweets and retweets in support of Senate colleagues (Cory Booker, Chris Murphy) and those endangered and running for reelection (Maggie Hassan). He advocates for Democratic policies on hot-button issues such as gun control, abortion and climate change. And he condemns GOP candidates who he thinks are just plain nuts (Doug Mastriano).

It’s not all about politics. He praised a New York Times piece on bodysurfing and weighed in on professional sports (“It is fashionable to say college hoops are better than the NBA but Luka has 24 in the half and Steph has 20 and this is very fun”).

But it’s politics that is at the fore of his tweets, often with a dry observation. When GOP Rep. Paul Gosar on May 15 tweeted, “When we take power, and we will, never forget how these monsters treated the January 6th political prisoners,” Schatz said simply, “He seems nice.”

Hawaii’s other three delegates in Congress tweet, too, but with the exception of the occasional zinger from Sen. Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) — shortly after the school shooting in Texas last month she tweeted, “I ask my Republican colleagues, what’s more important to you? Your political power or your humanity?” — it’s pretty bland stuff.

Schatz, who is up for reelection this year, says he will continue to tweet as he does.

“I think we exist in an era in which people want to know that their elected leaders are on some level regular folks,” he said. “And there is a lot of objectionable and alarming and wacky stuff out there, and my reaction to it is substantially similar to, I think, most non-politicians.”


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About the Author

Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at cblair@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.


Latest Comments (0)

After watching some of this partisan charade of the J6 to me is the reason one should vote for the GOP (low ratings BTW). Amazingly, the true coverage area not being done on Nancy Pelosi NOT allowing the Republicans to put who they wanted on the panel. Sick! "Schatz’s tweets in no way rise to the level of Trump, who was permanently suspended "due to the risk of further incitement of violence," Twitter explained" But yet they allow the Iranian Leader on there shouting "death to America". SMH. Mazi Tweeted "I ask my Republican colleagues, what’s more important to you? Your political power or your humanity?" After looking at this J6 Committee, the Kavanaugh hearings and others, I would ask her the same question. Thank for allowing my input.

Stopthemadness · 1 week ago

Aren't we being a little harsh with our representatives? They are working so hard to bring the Democratic vision to fruition and obviously we are all benefitting. Maybe the media should be a little less critical with it's coverage.

HonestQuestions · 1 week ago

Isn’t Schatz a big supporter of Build Back Better? Maybe someone should Tweet him about the inflation problem we’re facing. Tweeting some thanks to Joe Manchin might be in order, too.

HiloDon · 1 week ago

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