Digital Cluelessness

The people I work with spend a lot of time and effort helping adults learn to how to use computers and the net in teaching the next generations. (me too!)

So, this kind of talk from John McCain, someone who potentially could be setting digital policy for the country, is a pretty poor example.

He said, ruefully, that he had not mastered how to use the Internet and relied on his wife and aides like Mark Salter, a senior adviser, and Brooke Buchanan, his press secretary, to get him online to read newspapers (though he prefers reading those the old-fashioned way) and political Web sites and blogs.

“They go on for me,” he said. “I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself. I don’t expect to be a great communicator, I don’t expect to set up my own blog, but I am becoming computer literate to the point where I can get the information that I need.”

Asked which blogs he read, he said: “Brooke and Mark show me Drudge, obviously. Everybody watches, for better or for worse, Drudge. Sometimes I look at Politico. Sometimes RealPolitics.”

I certainly don’t expect McCain, or Obama for that matter, to spend as much time as the people I know twittering or writing a blog.

However, a president in the 21st century should at least have a working knowledge of those and other communications tools, an understanding that comes from using them as a consumer.

And hearing a national leader admit “I don’t e-mail, I’ve never felt the particular need to e-mail” doesn’t inspire much confidence in his ability to learn.

5 thoughts on “Digital Cluelessness

  • July 14, 2008 at 11:33 pm
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    I’m with you. I blogged about this back in December. In a late November, 2007 debate McCain was asked about his reliance on a vice president. His reply was this:

    “In Wednesday’s CNN/YouTube debate, Sen. John McCain let slip a fairly stunning admission. The Arizona Republican assured viewers that he wouldn’t need to lean on his vice president, George W. Bush-style, for national security expertise, but might ‘rely on a vice president’ for help on less important issues such as ‘information technology, which is the future of this nation’s economy.'”

    How scary is that? You can read more in my blog post at http://scottsfloyd.edublogs.org/2007/12/02/oh-no-he-didnt/

  • July 15, 2008 at 11:17 am
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    Hi Tim,

    McCain seems to be subscribing to my theory about ironing shirts: If you learn how to iron a shirt, people will expect you to do it. I’ve never ironed a shirt in my life and am happier for it.

    At a certain level, paying (or coercing) someone to do your work for you is a better bet than doing it yourself.

    This is not a defense of McCain. Just that there seem to be other more important things that he is clueless about.

    All the best,

    Doug

  • July 15, 2008 at 2:49 pm
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    My problem with a president (or any other “leader”) relying on others to do their work for them is that they miss the basic understanding of an issue that only comes from some hands-on experience.

    As I said, I don’t expect presidents and legislators to spend their days immersed in the web (that’s my job :-), but if they are going to make good decisions about internet policy, digital rights and more complex issues related to communications, they need to learn something about this stuff first hand.

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