Computers in the Oval Office

In England, they call it "silly season": the slow-news days of the summer where newspapers find themselves forced to run faux-provocative opinion pieces, just because there’s nothing else to fill the newshole. It was surely only a matter of time before someone at the WSJ decided to declare it a jolly good thing that John McCain can’t use a computer:

Does anyone who spends all day in front of a PC, forging a river of data posing as information, have any time to think?…

A computer, far from making you more productive, instead loads you down with things to do, and it’s important for the machine to know who is boss. Most people don’t have the luxury of off-loading their email-reading chores to a group of competent assistants. It’s an office perk that presidents are still important enough to deserve.

I suspect even the author of this piece, Lee Gomes, doesn’t really believe it. It simply can’t be better for a president to have all his information filtered through assistants playing office politics, rather than getting it directly from trusted sources who also have the advantage of not being paid employees.

Gomes claims it’s a better use of time for a president to have coffee with a blogger rather than to simply read that blogger’s thoughts online. But one can get much more information much more quickly by reading than one can through having coffee, even if the coffee is more enjoyable – although given the social skills of most bloggers, even that is far from a sure thing.

In any case, the president is the elected representative of the people, and the internet is the best way yet discovered for a president to keep in touch with his constituency. Does McCain’s computer illiteracy disqualify him from the presidency? No. But it is a severe handicap.

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