Monday, November 17, 2008

Why I could never be president

I couldn't risk having this happen to me:
President-elect Obama is a big user of his Blackberry, "but before he arrives at the White House, he will probably be forced to sign off," the New York Times reports.

"In addition to concerns about e-mail security, there is the Presidential Records Act, which puts his correspondence in the official record and ultimately up for public review, and the threat of subpoenas. A final decision has not been made on whether Obama could go against precedent and become the first e-mailing president, but aides said that was unlikely..."

"Obama, however, appears to be poised to make technological history in other ways: Aides said he hopes to have a laptop on his desk in the Oval Office. He would be the first American president to do so."
Dude, if anyone should have a mobile computing device, it's the President of the Frickin' United States. I'm an iPhone person rather than a Blackberry person, but the same dynamic applies. I understand about the security concerns though. It would have to be super-encrypted by the secret service or something.

J Ro at MyDD has concerns that being cut off from email might contribute to a "bubble" that cuts the president off from reality:
This is disheartening. Modern forms of communication like email, instant messaging, blogging, and more recently social networking and twittering have revolutionized the way we relate to each other. While it might be a stretch to expect Obama to become the first twittering or blogging president (we can hope!), certainly indispensable tools such as email (invented in the 1970s and thoroughly mainstream by the 1990s) shouldn't be beyond the grasp of the President.

Without these tools, Obama will be forced to relate to the outside world through his circle of aides and advisers, who it seems will have access to email. While this might look no worse than a clumsy work-around to some - allowing Obama to access essentially the same lines of communication - I'm not so sure. Again, the Times:

"Given how important it is for him to get unfiltered information from as many sources as possible, I can imagine he will miss that freedom," said Linda Douglass, a senior adviser who traveled with the campaign.

Even more than the campaign trail, the White House can be a bubble far removed from the outside world. Having access to information only through aides and advisers is guaranteed to remove a President from reality, at least slightly. Given that 1.5 billion people use the Internet (nearly 1/5th of the world's population), cutting the most powerful man in the world off from our society's most important communications device seems downright dangerous.

Both security and disclosure laws seem to be the issues holding back Presidential email, and these are two valid concerns. Still, there are no problems that can't be solved. I know our intelligence services use email and other online communication tools constantly. If they can handle sensitive data online, so can the White House. In my view, we should strongly consider updating whatever rules apply to allow the first truly 21st century President (possibly post-modern, too) to use 21st century tools so he can do his best to govern a 21st century country.


Blogger Sarah said...

I hope they can address the security concerns so that Obama can still go online. That's such an important part of modern life, and I don't like the idea of our intelligent president being cut off.

6:26 PM, November 17, 2008  

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