The Mast-Head: Time for Twitter

There are plenty of straight-up maniacs, but there are also good, thoughtful people on Twitter

Having spent most of the past two weeks in bed with what appeared to be the flu, Twitter and I have gotten to know each other well. Not that I tweet, or post, much; instead I have spent hours upon hours following various threads on which the authors express outrage about the election. Twitter is as good a place as any to drive you to despair. But it is also a place where one can get a deeper understanding of what is going on.

There are plenty of straight-up maniacs, but there are also good, thoughtful people on Twitter. I have been reading closely, for example, posts from Norm Eisen, who was a top White House ethics lawyer in the Obama administration. Mr. Eisen co-founded a group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and with Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics lawyer in the Bush White House from 2005 to 2007, wrote a compelling op-ed in The Washington Post before the election laying out what they saw as the ethical challenges of a Trump presidency. 

The piece was persuasive — and here is where Twitter shines, in my opinion. Readers like me who wanted more have been able to follow Mr. Eisen’s thoughts in the ensuing weeks. Twitter is good for that. Used well, it is a way to understand the world as seen through many of its most qualified observers. 

On the other hand, it can be a bludgeon. See Donald Trump’s attacks on a union boss who crossed him at that Indiana Carrier plant ­or the president-elect’s tweet about the cost of a new Air Force One that tanked Boeing’s stock. There is some talk that Mr. Trump’s staff will wrest away his cellphone once he is in the White House to preserve the dignity of the presidency and avoid the possibility of a war based on late-night rant.

Whether or not Mr. Trump remains on Twitter, it is now an essential part of the contemporary political scene. Those interested in knowing what is really going on would do well to follow along.