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Remembering Former Rep. John Dingell And His Twitter Wit

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

When Michigan Congressman John Dingell came to Congress, Dwight Eisenhower was president.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

When he left, Barack Obama, America's first African-American president, was in his second term.

SHAPIRO: The Michigan congressman who died yesterday served a remarkable 59 years, making him the longest-serving congressman in history.

KELLY: Not quite as monumental but arguably more enduring was Dingell's embrace and mastery of Twitter. The social media platform kept Dingell relevant and showed off his rapier wit to all generations.

SHAPIRO: For example, replying to Aaron M. Sanchez's tweet asking people to, quote, "name one thing from your childhood someone younger wouldn't understand," Dingell replied with three words - the Great Depression.

KELLY: When People magazine tweeted that David Beckham was 2015's Sexiest Man Alive, Dingell shot back, snubbed for the 89th straight year; I'm feeling good about 90, though.

SHAPIRO: At a 2015 fundraiser, Dingell, who was known as the House dean, was given a silk sash that read dean of Twitter and asked to read some of his greatest hits.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN DINGELL: Wife is working late tonight, might eat ice cream for dinner - YOLO.

(LAUGHTER)

DINGELL: For those who need it - you only live once.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: You only live once.

KELLY: In 140 characters, Dingell could be cutting and direct with his words in a way that is unique for politicians of any age. Following a rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, Dingell wrote this.

SHAPIRO: I signed up to fight Nazis 73 years ago, and I'll do it again if I have to. That tweet has more than 700,000 likes.

KELLY: But it was President Trump who Dingell effectively and repeatedly skewered on the president's own favorite means of communication. There was this tweet from December 2017...

SHAPIRO: I fully support @realDonaldTrump's interest in space travel to Mars, and I wish him the absolute best in his travels.

KELLY: ...Or this bit of Twitter jujitsu when the president tweeted, I rarely use a cellphone, and when I do, it's government-authorized; I like hard lines. Well, Dingell shot back.

DINGELL: You tweet this from your landline?

KELLY: As news of his death became known, Twitter expressed its collective dismay, re-shared favorite posts from John Dingell and said goodbye.

SHAPIRO: GOP commentator Rick Wilson posted RIP John Dingell, a man who proved you're never too old to kick ass on the Twitter machine.

KELLY: Like and retweet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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