COMMENTARY | Former president Bill Clinton looked a bit wary when comedian Stephen Colbert announced suddenly that he had taken the liberty to create a Twitter account for the popular ex-commander-in-chief. He still seemed a bit reluctant while Colbert typed on his cell phone and sent the account’s first tweet. So if you’re a fan of Bill Clinton’s, you might want to jump on Twitter and follow Billy Jeff Clinton @PrezBillyJeff , but it isn’t looking as if the rather garrulous former president will be working on become an avid tweeter.
On a special edition of “The Colbert Report” Monday night , the faux conservative comedian sat down with Clinton to discuss the ongoing Clinton Global Initiative , which had convened its fifth annual CGI University at Washington University in St. Louis over the past week. Not to be outdone, the comedian created his own initiative, also CGI, the Colbert Galactic Initiative.
In discussing the various organizations the former president has founded and become involved in since his presidency ended (January 2001), Colbert noted that the busy schedule required that Clinton catch up with technology that could help him, like Twitter.
“I took the liberty of opening you a Twitter account,” Colbert said during the taped interview (which occurred over the weekend at the Clinton Global Initiative University conference). “Now President Clinton was taken, William Jefferson Clinton was taken, but Prez Billy Jeff was available.”
But if there was any doubt that Colbert had a hand in creating the account, one need look no further than the account’s “Profile Summary,” which reads: “I am President William Jefferson Billy Jeff Rodham Clinton. Stephen Colbert is my BFF.”
Further proof needed? The only account being followed by @PrezBillyJeff is @StephenAtHome , which is — you guessed it — the official Twitter account of Stephen Colbert.
Colbert even helped the former president construct his first tweet. Although he went along, Clinton looked askance at the comedian as he typed, his body language a portrait of wariness — almost like he was waiting for the punchline (or the creme pie to the face, as if anyone would have the audacity to do that to a former president).
The tweet : “Just spent amazing time with Colbert! Is he sane? He is cool! #cgiu”
Colbert noted that Clinton had several more characters to go to fill up his 140-character quota, but Clinton hastily assured him that what was there was enough.
It did not look as though the ex-president was too comfortable with being on such an informal and public platform. Perhaps he was all too familiar with the kind of parsing that has gone on with misinterpreted and purposely misconstrued tweets of others.
But who knows? Before long, he just might embrace the online social medium and start posting away. But his body language and the way he watched Colbert type in the first tweet like he was watching the head of a swaying cobra does not seem to indicate he’ll be doing it anytime soon.
Of course, he could always hire out his Twitter account to a third party, like President Obama has reportedly done .
Since @PrezBillyJeff opened, more than 132,000 followers have attached themselves to the account. But they’re all likely to be simple sentinels while it remains all quiet on the Billy Jeff Clinton front.
Just the followers following that one lonesome tweet.
Why? Simply put: Aware of social media’s pitfalls and being the astute politician he is, Clinton will choose not to take the initiative — or follow up on Colbert’s initiative.