The 81-year-old senior senator from Iowa isn’t slowing down.
New Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, left, receives a gavel from Sen. Patrick J. Leahy Thursday.
It’s the morning after the State of the Union address and Sen. Chuck Grassley is seated in his Capitol Hill office, chatting with an aide about his newest social media venture.
“Say, I took some Instagrams. Did it come out OK?” the Iowa Republican asks his communications director, Beth Levine, leaning forward in his chair.
“Yeah,” she replies, with a caveat. “Well, one I couldn’t see the president. But the second one I could.”
He cracks an affirming smile, seemingly satisfied with his progress on using the mobile photo-sharing application.
At 81-years-old, Grassley is a more ubiquitous and entertaining force on Twitter than most lawmakers decades younger. Firing off missives that are wily, funny and downright bizarre has propelled him into the consciousness of a much younger, hipper audience that would otherwise ignore the grandfatherly politician. In 2012, Gawker showcased “The 15 Most Powerful Chuck Grassley Tweets,” which included a series of pocket-dial-style misfires and a strangely humorous description of an encounter with a deer during a drive.
Coverage of his mercurial 140-character messages has only multiplied since, lending Grassley semi-cult status among politically oriented tweeps. To admirers, it’s an endearing quirk. To detractors, it’s evidence he’s a doddering quack. Yet the whiplash ridicule the Internet inevitably produces hasn’t discouraged Grassley; in fact, it may have served as a source of inspiration. To broaden his reach, he just added the Instagram account to his repertoire earlier this month, the start of what will be an engrossing year for the oldest senator in the GOP caucus.
“I got 82,500 people on Twitter,” he boasts to this reporter. “I don’t have very many followers on Instagram, so why don’t you sign up?”
At a time when many his age ponder retirement, Grassley is showing little signs of slowing down – online or in Washington.
As he takes the reins of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley will be the point man on the final nominees of President Barack Obama’s term. Beginning Wednesday, he will preside over the confirmation hearings for attorney general pick Loretta Lynch, the president’s choice to replace Eric Holder, whom Grassley found to be a rogue, unaccountable political figure.
Stopping short of offering his full-fledged support, Grassley allows that Lynch is “probably qualified” and “appears to be very serious about doing a good job.” Perhaps more importantly, he subscribes to the traditional notion that a president be granted the Cabinet members he requests. But that doesn’t mean Grassley won’t seize the moment under the klieg lights to pose probing questions. He is, after all, about to embark on another re-election campaign.