Last updated: October 9, 2008 - 8:36am
Do voters really expect the nation's chief executive to be computer-savvy? Does it matter if he is? As a practical matter, no. The number of "commissions and commissars and bureaus and agents and computer machines" surrounding the Oval Office has only increased since the publication of The Presidential Papers by Norman Mailer in 1963. Where FDR relied on "six anonymous assistants," the modern presidency boasts 125 offices and 5,000 employees. Tom Wolfe once described ordering aides around as the politician's ultimate power: "As soon as you see people jump when you raise your finger ... well, there's a great feeling of wholeness about that, apparently." Who would raise that finger to type — hunt and peck like a regular schnook — when he has 5,000 people to do it for him? Jump! Symbolically, though, our egalitarian era might demand a president as adept online as he is on The Hotline. By mocking McCain's computer illiteracy, Obama risks cries of "ageism" on the bet that Americans want their leaders to be like themselves, steeped in similar experiences, tethered (wirelessly) to reality. Ultimately, the numbers could be on McCain's side, even if the zeroes and ones are not. Census figures show that 64% of American voters cast ballots but that 72% of senior citizens do — and only a quarter of them use the Internet. Just imagine McCain's next TV ad, keyed to elderly populations and attacking Obama's digital-age fluency: "He fools around with computers — and annoys people with e-mails!" Savor the scorn! (James Rosen is a Fox News Washington correspondent)
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