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Twitter War: White House vs. Stephen Hayes

7:05 PM, Sep 2, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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WEEKLY STANDARD writer Steve Hayes got plenty of attention from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today, who used his Twitter account to carry on a long back-and-forth with Hayes over the small business bill the White House has been touting this week, but which stalled in the Senate earlier this summer.

It began when Hayes retweeted this Gibbs tweet about the bill:

Gibbs: "Mitch McConnell calls small business aid "itty-bitty" while small biz puts off hiring waiting for his help passing it http://bit.ly/9zTfKp"

Hayes: "Does the WH seriously think that small businesses aren't hiring b/c of a bill held up in Congress? Talk about a myopic, inside-DC view. In conversations w/small biz owners, they'll give you dozens of reasons they're not hiring. Never had anyone mention small biz aid bill."

Gibbs: ATTN @stephenfhayes http://bit.ly/9zTfKp

If Gibbs had left it at that, it would be a fairly normal Twitter interaction for him. He often tweaks Boehner on Twitter with a news story or asks one question of a specific political opponent before moving back to the message of the day. But it didn't stop there.

Hayes: Ask small business owners across the country if they'd rather have across-the-bd tax cuts or gov-backed loans @PressSec

Hayes: NFIB Small Biz survey: 51% of small biz owners ID declining sales as top problem. 22% said "uncertainty." 8% said access to credit "The problem is sales and to a lesser extent uncertainty. Access to credit is down the list tho it obviously is concern to many." Admin and Cong "knowingly initiated major destabilizing, policy changes in a deep, destabilizing recession." And rather than stimulate sales Admin/Cong "chose the ineffective route to increase small business access to credit by increasing the number and size of Small Business Administration (SBA) loans."

Gibbs: "the facts @stephenfhayes there would be ZERO capital gains on small business investment, expand tax cuts for new equip investments"

Gibbs: "so you oppose cutting taxes on and increasing loans available to small businesses?! the proposal cuts their taxes and helps them get loans through community banks...but all we ever get is no...

Hayes: "No, @PressSec, I'm for tax cuts (cap gains, payroll, income) so that small biz owners can spend their own $$ rather than seek loans from gov. But @PressSec, raising taxes on high-income earners disproportionately affects small biz owners and that's coming on Jan 1. And @PressSec, even Pres Obama acknowledged that raising taxes in a recession 'is the last thing you want to do.'"

Gibbs: 2 to 3% of small business would be impacted by high income tax rates - but all would have their taxes cut under small biz proposal

After more than an hour, Gibbs stopped replying, though Hayes kept putting questions to him about Obama's statement on raising taxes.

Hayes: If it's bad to raise taxes in a recession, as POTUS says, wise to do so in collapsing recovery w/economy flirting w/a double dip? @PressSec

Kevin Madden chimed in:

Nice to see @stephenfhayes engaged in twitter colloquy w/ the WH right now. Nah, WH not thin-skinned at all <eyeroll>

Maybe Gibbs is just psyching himself up for the White House's new question-friendly attitude. After all, the president is giving one of his rare press conference appearances next Friday, perhaps to announce a new business tax-cut-heavy stimulus.

Now, if only we could get Matt Labash on Twitter, I think the Press Secretary would really win some hearts and minds engaging with him.

Update: More Twitter wars featuring the NRCC vs. Hugh Hefner. It's the hippest way to fight these days.

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