#WhatsRomneyHiding Demeans Us All

Shouldn't a hashtag be beneath the President of the United States?

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Shouldn't a hashtag be beneath the President of the United States? Check out the handiwork of @BarackObama last night.

The complaint was based off an article in The Washington Post detailing Romney's use of a "loophole" to hide much of his investments from the financial disclosure rules required of presidential candidates. (Like many investors, Romney has a non-disclosure agreement with Bain Capital, who has most of his money, which means he doesn't have to disclose the underlying assets held by his Bain accounts.) Romney is breaking no laws and he's not the only politician to use said loophole to "hide" the sources of his wealth. Maybe a guy who wants to run the country should go beyond the bare minimum of legal requirements and maybe his opponents are right to ask where a guy who is running almost exclusively on his business acumen puts his money. (And what's in that Swiss bank account, anyway?) Or maybe Romney doesn't really owe anybody anything (if you don't like it, change the law) and doesn't really control what those account managers do anyway, so lay off.

So, yes, it's a legitimate (if somewhat tiring) political question. One that is made entirely unserious by throwing a pound sign in front of it and inviting Americans to submit their best one-liners. Any social media "expert" could have told you that tweeters would not be politely asking @MittRomney anything. Or that it would take about five seconds for conservatives to turn it back on the President with #WhatsObamaHiding. You can probably guess where that went. #BirthCertificate.

So now a real policy question becomes a bitter war of insults where no questions are answered and nobody learns anything. (In fact, all the top Tweets for the original hashtag are actually insults directed at Obama.) That's how most political fights seem to go these days, but it shouldn't be up to the president to start them. Weren't we all trying to raise the level of discourse?

If you want to get technical about it, the @BarackObama account belongs to his campaign operation, not the White House. However, since it's his name, his picture, and there's that little blue and white verified check mark on it, the distinction between candidate and president is even less clear than usual. That "are you the candidate or the President right now?" problem has always been a tricky one for incumbents, but the world of social media has nearly obliterated the line.

Yes, Twitter is major platform now, widely used by most Americans and (in certain circumstances) a perfectly reasonable place to have political discussions. But like all "young" mediums, it's still quite childish and there are few things more immature than a hashtag fight. Maybe some of your advisors and surrogates — mercenaries, who don't ask for or command that level of respect —  want to have those mud battles, more power to them. Just don't drag the president (or the nominee) and the rest of us down into it, please.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.