"I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself"

By Risa Wechsler | July 13, 2008 10:11 am

Several months ago, in the heat of the republican primary, Yahoo news asked the candidates: Mac or PC? McCain’s response was revealing… and disturbing.

Neither. I am an illiterate who has to reply on my wife for all of the assistance I can get.

Now come some even more impressive quotes in an interview with the New York Times.

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.”

Mr. McCain said he did not use a BlackBerry, though he regularly reads messages on those of his aides. “I don’t e-mail, I’ve never felt the particular need to e-mail,” Mr. McCain said.

I know the internets are confusing and all, but I’m frankly a bit baffled by this. He needs help “getting on”??? To read newspapers? Hard to imagine that there’s not a computer he could use somewhere, already attached to the internet, and probably even with the browser already installed. I’m guessing he wouldn’t have to learn how to set his DNS servers in order to read the New York Times. Is it typing the URL that’s difficult? My grandmother, by the way, who is more than a decade older than McCain, seems to have figured this out just fine, even without a campaign staff to help.

The level of cluelessness here is deep — not only does he admit that he’s completely illiterate, he demonstrates a basic lack of familiarity with the terminology (he also mentioned that his staff shows him Drudge, because “Everybody watches, for better or for worse, Drudge.”), much like his colleague Senator Ted “series of tubes” Stevens, opposer of net neutrality.

And it’s important. At the risk of stating the obvious: Internet policy has direct relevance for our most fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, privacy, and democratic access to information. Computing is increasingly critical to our increased understanding of the Universe, financial markets, and disease. The internet and social networking tools are rapidly revolutionizing the way we interact with each other, citizen’s access to and engagement in government, and government accountability. These things are central not only to innovation and the global economy, but to 21st century democracy in America and the world. It’s really hard to see how you can fully appreciate these issues if you don’t know the most basic things about operating a computer. Leadership matters.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, has a twitter account. (He also hired one of the Facebook founders to start his myBarackObama site, which has clearly been responsible for a good deal of his internet fundraising and organizing.) He gets it.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Computing, Media, Politics, Technology
MORE ABOUT: internets, McCain
  • http://blog.chungyc.org/ Yoo

    Neither. I am an illiterate who has to reply on my wife for all of the assistance I can get.

    This is a really good quote to take out of context. It could be taken that he’s aiming to be the next illiterate president. 😛

    Seriously, I wouldn’t consider McCain not being able to use a computer without knowledge sufficient enough to even distinguish between a Mac or a PC to be too much of a problem; a president has other people to do that for him. I do worry about him tending to take public opinion on the Internet less seriously, since it gives much more direct exposure to the public compared to mainstream news media.

  • http://neuraltransmissions.wordpress.com Neural T

    My parents, now past 60, are the same way. It doesn’t make them stupid. It’s a lot harder to learn new things when you get old, but by that time you’ve mastered most things that you need in life (this was at least true historically, although the accelerating pace of technological change will change that pattern). John McCain still remembers and understands all the things that he learned to get to this point.

    And what exactly are you worried about? How exactly does no being able to fire up a computer make him a worse decision maker as president? The computer is just the tool. He can still perfectly understand the geopolitical information that it might bring to him.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Of course it doesn’t make them “stupid”; it means that they don’t know much about a technology that is increasingly central to the functioning of the modern world. Which is fine, unless you are applying for the position of “leader of the modern world.”

    The point is not that McCain doesn’t know how to read our blog, so is missing our marvelous insights (although there is that); it’s that he is ignorant about an important feature of modern society.

  • Rohith Daka

    You are talking as if internet is “the world”…. we all know that half of the content on the internet is BS. As a candidate for Presidency of country, one needn’t actually care about those people, who sit in their homes, blogging and cribbing about governments.

  • Otis

    If you want to see an example of “deep cluelessness” perhaps it would be one of those computer literate bloggers plopped into the cockpit of a fighter jet and told to fly a mission that would put him/her and others in mortal danger.

    Should we worry about fighter jet cluelessness in Barack Obama even though war making skills are still THE most important attribute of a President? I would think not, but that is the type of analogy that Risa employs in this post.

    Just because John McCain is unable to operate a computer does not mean he is unable to understand and appreciate the importance of the information revolution.

  • Frank Smith

    This is is my first and last visit to this site if this post is an indication of the quality of the “deep thinking” going on here.

    John McCain has an engineering degree from the Naval Academy and was a jet pilot. That requires brains, determination and an practical appreciation of physics that exceeds the entire list of contributors to this blog.

    While Obama may be slick on the internet, care to make a bet on results of a test of basic science and physics between the two?

  • Will

    Reply to Sean, and relevant to the original post:

    Not directly using the internet doesn’t mean McCain doesn’t understand its significance in the abstract. McCain has successfully operated as US Senator for the last 20 years, particularly through the last 10 years while this technology has become mainstream. This is really all the evidence you need that McCain “understands the internet well enough to be president”. As others have stated, for day to day stuff, the president has people do this stuff for him while he or she worries about trade pacts and energy policy ‘n stuff.

  • Thras

    McCain is stupid. Really stupid. He graduated fifth from the bottom of his class at Westpoint.

    That aside, I don’t particularly care whether or not he uses the internet. In fact, I’m sort of scared of the first wired president. People on the net are weird, really weird. Using Twitter really does not sell me as a qualification for the future leader of the free world. Actually, it’s sort of sad.

  • http://www.dorianallworthy.com daisy rose

    One can sure waste a lot of time on line – one thing leads to another; and does it *Really* help ? An obsession with email ? A train of thought interrupted ? Farther: If one has a staff………. – and we all know : it is vy easy to find people who love to do that internet stuff and do it well!!

  • Janus

    I’m unsure what to make of these comments.

    – McCain’s staggering ignorance isn’t important because he has “other people to do it for him”?

    – It’s ok for a presidential candidate to know nothing about some of the most essential technology there is because your parents are the same way?

    – A potential president needn’t care about computing and the internet? When 72% of Americans use it? When every single major newspaper has its own website? When the internet is by far the best tool most people have to get reliable information in a few minutes if you know how to use it?

    – Knowing nothing about computers doesn’t mean one is unable to understand their importance? Are you f*cking kidding me?

    – An engineering degree obtained some four decades ago is good evidence that McCain is technologically and scientifically literate, but that he knows nothing about computers is not good evidence that he isn’t?

    Think this through for a second guys. By his own admission, McCain doesn’t even use e-mail, and never has. Doesn’t this worry you a bit?

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B.

    Yes Janus, it does worry me. The apologetics of folks like Otis miss the mark. Presidents make policy judgments at a high level of abstraction, they don’t need to have flown jets themselves (and look at all the warriors running for Democratic slots who have been “shot down” by opposition campaigns.) But a President who doesn’t use computers and the Internet is missing out on a pervasive interface that almost all knowledge workers (in the broad sense of the term) use about every day. He just can’t stay on top on affairs, rapidly-changing information, etc. like he needs to. The fact he waited this long isn’t a good sign either. McAncient. Imperfect as he is, we need Obama.

    BTW, there’s a great thread on all this at http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2008_07/014075.php

  • http://www.sunclipse.org Blake Stacey

    “I don’t e-mail, I’ve never felt the particular need to e-mail,” Mr. McCain said.

    Why does the quoted statement sound like incorrect (or, to put it more mildly, nonstandard) usage to me? To my ear, it’s not quite as grievous as “an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday”, but McCain’s use of the word e-mail just sounds discordant. Maybe I’ve just internalized the use of e-mail as a transitive verb; I don’t e-mail my boss registers as a more natural sentence. I note that Janus (#10) employs the construction, “McCain doesn’t even use e-mail“, which also sounds natural in my head.

  • matt

    Knowing how to fly a jet and knowing how to point a browser at nytimes.com are completely different in terms of how fundamental they are to the problems of running a modern war and running a modern economy, respectively.

    I’d expect any presidential candidate to know military history. I’d be pretty scared of a presidential candidate who didn’t know the difference between Sunni and Shiite (though haven’t we had some presidents confused on that question?). Those are fundamental concepts to running foreign policy today. I wouldn’t expect the candidate to know how to fly a jet.

    Similarly, I’d expect any presidential candidate to know how to use a browser. I’d be scared of a president who had never used e-mail. I would not, however, expect the candidate to have developed linux kernel code.

  • Moshe

    The meta question is also interesting. McCain does seem to be enjoying living in a cave, and be quite proud of it, but why would his campaign choose to broadcast this embarrassment to the world?

  • http://www.dorianallworthy.com daisyrose

    Using email and the internet is easy – easy – There is the fact of an electronic foot print – That is scary – everything I read and re read ?? TMI — Rather have an eleventh edition of encyclopedia Britannica – 1911 deal with it – and a good staff ! Yes and staring at a computer screen is bad for your eyes.

  • http://vacua.blogspot.com Jim Harrison

    Republican candidates love it when people point out their intellectual limitations since ignorance and even stupidity endear them to their base and even more to the segment of the population that usually decides elections in America, the idiot independents.

    The mass media also routinely opts for the stupider candidate.

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B. ???

    I seem to have coined the term “ilbiteracy” for not understanding computers and the Internet, I couldn’t find it from Google search. John McCain is ilbiterate!

  • Mike

    Well, more than its relevance to the importance of electronic communication in our society, what I think is concerning about this is what it reveals about McCain’s intellect. Especially as one becomes very old, intellectual abilities seem “use it or lose it” and one might worry McCain has lost the ability to, basically, learn.

  • Lawrence B. Crowell

    This unfortunately signifies that McCain has not kept up with some recent developments. I remember when GH Bush was quoted as being amazed by seeing barcode scanners in grocery stores. Neither of these are fatal to a candidates qualifications, but they do seem to indicate a lack of being informed about technology.

    Lawrence B. Crowell

  • http://slac.stanford.edu/~bgerke Brian Gerke

    This isn’t terribly surprising coming from a candidate who doesn’t seem to grasp the technological implications of speaking in front of a green screen. I agree that it’s deeply problematic, though.

    Perhaps an appropriate analogy, following on matt’s (13) response to Otis (5), is that I also would expect the president to be able to operate a motor vehicle, but not an eighteen-wheeler. Or to stay with the militaristic analogy, I might agree that the commander in chief should know how to safely handle a firearm, but certainly not fly a fighter jet.

  • Brian Mingus

    More than anyone the POTUS needs technologies like e-mail and rss. More than anyone the “leader of the free world” needs to stay abreast of current affairs and drink directly from the hose as much as possible. There is just so much data out there that even a well chosen staff as large as that of the executive cannot possibly find all of the information that the POTUS needs to know and bring it to him. The POTUS should be doing some of that himself, selecting news sources and filtering for topics of interest. Even if you can make the case that with a large enough staff the President doesn’t need his own feed reader the president should certainly be an adept user of e-mail simply because it greatly increases productivity. For $400,000 dollars a year McCain owes it to us to quickly become an expert user of these technologies. There is little excuse for our President to be technically illiterate to this degree. It would be a downright embarrassment.

  • http://www.cwnresearch.com Chip Neville

    Over at Bang the Drum, Karoli Kuns has an important piece on why we need pols, both Dem and Rep, to get it. It turns out that Congressman John Culberson, (R-Tx) is on Twitter. And he engages in debates with people there, including people who seriously disagree with him, like Karoli. But the Democratic House Leadership is (GET THIS!) trying to censor him and forbid communication by House members on Twitter. As Karoli says,

    At this point I’m assuming that it’s ignorance and not malfeasance. But Culberson is right about this: If we don’t protest this obvious violation of the First Amendment they’ll succeed at silencing someone who is attempting to actually do what he was elected to do — represent the people in his District and communicate with them. The fact that his communication is in real time makes it more meaningful than any vetted and disclaimed statement would be.

    She suggests “writing Nancy Pelosi and Michael Capuano to let them know that Congress should not be BANNING social media; it should be embracing it.”

  • Otis

    I think that a careful reading of the responses from “apologists” would show that none of them put forth the claim that a president should have flown fighter jets if he is to make good policy decisions. My response #5 certainly did not make that claim.

    I would point out that little is known of Barak Obama’s computer & internet skills. His having established a twitter account does not tell us much. I sense in Risa’s post (and in some of its responses) a tremendous leap of faith in Obama’s imagined skills in information technology. Does he rely on email, does he read blogs, can he send a really large file, does he understand Google’s information hegemony, does he know why Microsoft wants to buy Yahoo, etc.? Very few lawyers, unless they work in the field or have completed additional study, know much about those things.

    Barack Obama is an “empty suit.” He has done nothing to distinguish himself other than being able to read a teleprompter and give speeches. (McCain has shown that this is not easy.) His main qualifications are “community organizer” and terms in the Illinois Senate. Controversies, such as McCain’s alleged lack of information technology skills, are an attempt to obscure Obama’s feeble qualifications.

    Note that this is not an endorsement for John McCain, just an attempt to get some facts on the table.

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B.

    OK Otis I may have breezed over your pilot remark, but the main objection is to your analogy, that *complaints* about McCain not knowing enough about computers are like hypothetical *complaints* that Obama doesn’t know how to fly jets. We have explained why McCain’s ilbiteracy is relevant, but lack of pilot experience is not. As for Obama being an empty suit, well that’s debatable but just saying so is … empty. He has written a well-reviewed book, and the media (not campaign) link below shows some real accomplishments:


    ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

    Hey, I found that on Google in a few seconds! What would John McCain have done if challenged?

    As for John McCain, anyone who would even have had (now repudiated) Phil Gramm – the corruption enabling sponsor of the “Enron Loophole” and other involvement with that sorry tale – as an economic adviser – has cluelessness problems going way beyond simple ilbiteracy.

  • http://ReRamsden Ray

    Age is not the issue. I’m 70 and have continually had to learn new technologies over the last 45+ years, since the computer world keeps changing. Somehow, I manage quite nicely and expect to stay reasonably current re technology until I finally Power Down in another 20 years or so. (Can’t wait to see what the ‘Net will be like in 2030…)

    What bothers me is McCain’s complacent attitude toward his “information illiteracy”. Having a staff to do his communication is about a half-step from having them do his thinking. Of course, that might actually be better than having him think for himself :-) A physicist/mathematician I know remarked that 5% of people think, 5% think they think and the other 90% would rather die than think.

  • Kirk Muse

    Cindy McCain has a net worth of greater than $100 million. John and Cindy
    McCain own eight (8) multi-million dollar private homes.

    Just like you and me.

    John McCain got into the U. S. Naval Academy because his father was a
    four-star Admiral. John McCain crashed and destroyed four U. S. Navy
    aircraft. He would have been grounded if his father was not a four-star

    While still married to his first wife Carol, he took out a marriage license
    to marry Cindy Hinsley, the only child of a beer industry executive.

  • anon

    i still dispute a sentence from #5

    “war making skills are still THE most important attribute of a President”

    first :”war making” what does that mean?

    second: we really, really cant afford to be in continual war.

  • Kai Noeske

    Otis, I strongly disagree with labeling Obama an “empty suit”. While he has not logged as many years in office – how could he given his below-retirement age ? – , he has managed to rise to the (presumptive) Dem candidate from a financial and social background that is far less fortunate than the typical upper class background that US presidents of the last decades have typically hailed from. He has displayed exceptional leadership, the ability to rally, motivate, organize, unite people, to raise hope in many, and the ability to make projects that he leads a success. Compare that to the record of the present guy.

    I recommend to read his biography from a source that is not his homepage. His credentials appear outstanding – he has worked his way through different colleges and professional life to the very top, gaining experience as a leader in a broad range of very relevant fields.

    Compared to those achievements, that demonstrated will and ability to constantly learn, improve, and to work hard, almost any of the guys who have recently run for office, more often than not with huge political and financial backing from their families, are the real empty suits.

  • http://www.dorianallworthy.com daisy rose

    As president one has perfect access to the best minds in the free world on a daily basis. The ability to delegate trumps all.

  • Fox

    McCain hates the bloggers, he said it himself:

  • http://doctorpion.blogspot.com/ Dr. Pion

    Look, my parents are a decade older and they use the internet regularly so I don’t buy the age part of the argument. Granted my Dad wasn’t in the bottom 1% of his class, like John S. McCain III managed to do despite his prep school background, but my Mom only got her MRS degree and she knows how to click on a link and send e-mail – as does her older sister.

    What should bother people is that he is that disconnected while serving in the Senate. The whole government is electronic, or should be. Does someone read everything to him? Does he delegate, or does someone tell him to delegate? Should someone else be up there debating for him? Coming on the heels of a President who at times seems to be Rove’s or Cheney’s sock puppet, this should be an issue.

    As for “Should we worry about fighter jet cluelessness in Barack Obama even though war making skills are still THE most important attribute of a President?”, that would totally disqualify McCain. It is obvious that his reaction time (physical and mental) is far too slow for the modern battlefield although he might not have looked quite so much like a deer in the headlights as Bush did on 9/11. But, as others pointed out, the actual WAR making skills are the province of our trained military; the DECISION making skills are the province of our civilian political leadership, both executive and legislative. Read the Constitution. Lots of people piloted airplanes over Vietnam, many with more skill than J. S. McCain III, but none of them decided whether or where to fly them.

    The military told Kennedy to bomb Cuba’s missile sites. My uncle would have done so, with great skill, had he been ordered to do so. Of course, the military and the civilians did not know that Russian soldiers in Cuba were authorized to use operational tactical nuclear weapons against Florida if we had done so. That was a case where DECISION making skills were more important than WAR making skills.

  • Kurt

    wow! great hack job sean. very bias as usual.

    when you are 70 years old and your kids are using a device that you need help with remember today.

    esidential candidates need not know how to send email or use the internet. that is not a sign of being qualified or unqualified.
    being a first term flip flopping hypocritical senator who has done virtually nothing for his state or anyone for that matter IS an important matter.

    this post is ridiculous to the max.

  • Kurt

    i meant to say Risa not Sean.

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  • Gest

    Using all of the educational examples above, I agree that McCain in an intelligent and well reasoned man. However, I am very concerned with his penchant for conflict (documented) and his temper (also documented) – both of which can undo education and reasoning.

    Do you want to go from a brain-locked imbecile who let one or two people make decisions for his presidency to one who may make decisions in the heat of the moment without the benefit advice of others because of a temper?

    Then again, BHO may lack enough experience that he may not know what to focus his presidency on. With him we may end up with another Jimmy Carter, bad decisions or lack of ability to make a decision. Or worse yet, we may get another presidency by poll (Bill C) but maybe it will be a presidency by twitter.

    I guess I would vote for the more the science guy. Which one was that again?

  • Joseph Durham

    My Dad retired from an automotive engineering company. Most of the modern day plastic trim you see on cars today is the direct result of his work in plastics. I would even say there are maybe less than 2 dozen people in the United States that know more about plastics than he does. I am not bragging here about my dad. I just wanted everybody to know that he is by no stretch a dumb person. Yet, he has problems working a computer. Once he is shown how to do something and has the time to sit down and learn (him being retired and time being the key word) he can do whatever is shown to him.
    Senator McCain is a very busy man. He dedicated his life to help his constituents. While I don’t agree with him on everything, he is passionate about what he believes. He gives his all to his constituents leaving him with no time to learn about computers and how to operate them. Besides when he’s in Washington doing what Senators do when working or back in Arizona speaking to those very constituents who elected him, he really has no need of using a computer that a phone and/or a good assistant cannot handle.

  • Brice

    @Kurt (32):

    Read Ray (25)’s post. My step-Grandfather, when he was alive, could use the internet efficiently and would IM me to debate politics. He was able to do so until he died at 82, 11 years older than McCain is now. Don’t let him use his age as an excuse, because that’s nothing short of bullshit.

    I can’t believe that no one has mentioned this yet, but how about how this effects his ability to be an effective lawmaker? Since McCain is most likely going to lose this election, he’ll remain a Senator. Which Senator would you trust to make the better decision on Net Neutrality: The Junior Senator from Illinois or the Senior Senator from Arizona? Think about your answer and then tell us that being computer illiterate (or ilbiterate) is unimportant.

    He has his aide, Brooke Buchanan, get him online, read him his emails, et cetera? Is she 30 or older? If so, why isn’t she Arizona’s Senator? She’s already doing his job; remove the puppet, I say.

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  • Kirk Muse

    John McCain is not young for his age. His father died of a stroke at age 70.
    His grandfather died of a heat attack at age 68. Both were four-stat Admirals,
    therefore both received top notch medical treatment.

    John McCain has a severe anger management problem. He has gotten into
    several fights with other Senators. Do we want that kind of person in the
    White House?

    John McCain has a memory problem. He cannot remember what he said a few
    days ago or how he voted a bill. Do we want that kind of person in the White

  • http://backreaction.blogspot.com/ B
  • http://blog.chungyc.org/ Yoo

    McCain has several problems that make me prefer Obama greatly over him (position on politics and economy, a tendency to look down on grass-roots, old age and health, etc.). The lack of fluency in modern computer technology is not one of them.

  • Nance Confer

    It’s bragging.

    “I am in a position in life where I don’t have to learn anything new. I have “people” for that.”

    And it appeals to the anti-technology, anti-modernity, old codger crowd.


  • Pineyman

    Some people have mentioned that all he needs is to delegate. Let’s think about that (in my career I have moved between PMing and straight tech work). JSM has no background in one of the most important tech fields of this time. He has no interest in learning about the basics of using it. No curiosity. Where does that leave him when forming a coherent IT policy as POTUS? He is at the whims of whomever he may appoint. APPOINT. Not friend, not trusted advisor. POLITICAL appointee. For political connections.

    While you’re running that through, think about any PMs you have had that were clueless. Did the team decide they would work towards the greater good even if the PM was clueless? Was a consensus built, or did each team member have their own “best idea”? Did anyone decide to put the screws to the PM “just for fun” and feed the PM a load of tech jargon that meant nada? How did the project end up?
    Now extrapolate.

    Overkill: Our current shining example, “I don’t read the newspapers” – Dubya.

    Ray @25. Love the quote. Mind if I steal…er, use it?

  • http://sum1ton.wordpress.com Jon

    I don’t think it’s McCain’s inexperience with the Internet and computing, per se, that’s the problem here. The real problem is A) He doesn’t seem intellectually interested in it, and B) it seems to be indicative of a trend.

    I don’t really need to say anything about point A. I think we can all point to a prominent example that shows why it’s a bad thing.

    On point B, I can just point to a few days ago when McCain said that the Social Security system was broken because younger workers were paying for retirees, i.e. how SS has worked since its inception. This leads many people to think he doesn’t understand what he’s talking about. And on a very major policy issue. It becomes a problem when it crops up again and again, is what I’m saying.

  • Kurt

    Brice- I do no trust Obama. sure he says he is for net neutrality a couple of years ago but he said a lot of things a couple of years ago that now he has effectively retracted. but how do we know he will not change his mind?
    He changed his views on several issues when he started running for office, then changed (“refined”) his views on Nafta, Iraq, Iran, FISA, Public financing, Bush faith based initiatives, Gun Control etc etc. after he became the nominee.
    so how do we know what he will change his mind on if (on the off chance) he becomes president??

    further, yes obama has used the internet to organize and raise money. but he has also used the internet to systematically try to control information and the media.
    that is very big brother like and creepy.

    i wish mccain did know how to browse the web. but that doesn’t mean he is going to get rid of the internet when he is president! it doesn’t mean he is going to curb free speech on the internet. he may not know how to use it but he KNOWS it is an extremely important tool for many people. he recognizes how important it is.
    you don’t have to understand something completely to respect and honor something.

  • joulesm

    I’d be scared of a president who had never used e-mail. I would not, however, expect the candidate to have developed linux kernel code.

    Matt: you made me LOL!!

    Also, he graduated at the bottom of his class. Obama on the other hand graduated magna cum laude. We don’t need another C-student president.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean
  • anon

    If we could combine both qualifications,
    the best candidate should have developed linux colonel code.


    thank you, i’ll be here all week.

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B.

    Claim, from #6:

    John McCain has an engineering degree from the Naval Academy and was a jet pilot. That requires brains, determination and an practical appreciation of physics that exceeds the entire list of contributors to this blog.

    While Obama may be slick on the internet, care to make a bet on results of a test of basic science and physics between the two?

    Well, I don’t know much about Obama’s science savvy (did that commenter either?), but McCain graduated near the bottom of his class:


    Sure, maybe it was from insubordination and temper problems and not stupidity as some comments there suggest, but is that the kind of person we want either? McDuhb II, McCrabby; no particular good pick either way.

  • http://togroklife.com greg

    I think it would be interesting to see people list all the areas in which they believe a presidential candidate should have knowledge which surpasses the average American’s. People here have been saying that the president should know how computers work and how the internet works. If he had that knowledge, he’d be in the minority of people in this country. If you add to that more than basic knowledge about farm economics, wall street economics, green technology, the foundations of biomedical research, a concept of the division of social layering within the united states, the state and history of our foreign relations with the major nations around the world, the strengths and weakness of the various options for fixing social security, the strengths and weakness of various proposed forms of nationalized health care, the causes for the weakening of the dollar and increase of oil prices, and the many many other issues that face American and the world, he would truly be a select individual. Or a blogger.

  • Count Iblis

    There is still some hope for McCain:

    You’re never too old to learn to blog :)

  • anon

    my main qualification:
    “don’t lie to us to get us into a war”

  • Gest

    I wish for McCain of 1999. Grit, las pelotas and the guts to kick the crap out of the bad guys in Afghanistan and the stop! I am pretty sure he would have been smart enough not to go into Iraq. He was about as centrist of a republican out there back then, enough to make people think McCain/Lieberman would have made a great ticket.

    …all Dubya’s fault. Don’t forget we have more than a president and congress to worry about. The big corps/MNC’s are knee deep in war profit. Just ask the Nestle company about a half a billion bottles of water supplied to the troops in the middle east. We are not going anywhere soon.

  • Gest

    To blog or not to blog, or surf or e-mail… It really is irrelevant. Can the man surround himself with good people to help run the presidency? (The president rarely makes decisions. The presidency makes decisions and runs the country with as much direction as the president is willing or can give.)

  • http://swimmingthechannel.blogspot.com Clara

    I think a few people are missing the point. McCain’s inability to use modern technology does not make him stupid. However, intelligence is not the only necessary qualification for the presidency (in recent years, it seems it has not been any sort of qualification whatsoever…). A president must be able to take in a lot of information and make good and reasoned decisions on difficult issues, which certainly requires intelligence, and he must also communicate properly: to his constituents, to his staff, to foreign leaders, etc. Personally, I see internet and computer illiteracy to be a problem in both these areas:

    1) As previously mentioned, his unfamiliarity with computers and the internet may cause him to underestimate their importance in global society. Does unfamiliarity necessarily rule out his ability to understand the importance? No. However, to me it seems a lot more likely, especially since he seems to be little interested in being sympathetic to America’s internet interests, even if he can not be empathetic.

    2) It’s true, McCain probably could get by on advice and information from his staff, but the problem is that he would always always always be getting his information second-hand. I realize that a lot of things come to the president’s desk, and a lot of times information has to be relayed in compressed memo-form, but I think there is a difference between choosing to get information from your staff for efficiency purposes and being required to do so under any circumstances because you are not capable of using the internet. It’s like in college when you consider scheduling two classes at the same time: sure, you may not plan on going to class all that often, but it’s nice to have the opportunity to go if there’s something that needs further reinforcement.

    3) As president, McCain would need to be on top of things all the time. His technology illiteracy would be a huge burden in terms of communication. Imagine if some sort of crisis occurs, and he’s having to communicate with people across the country or across the globe via his assistant’s BlackBerry. Email is now akin to being able to read and write a few hundred years ago. Sure, it’s possible to get by just fine without it. But not so much as the leader of the free world.

  • Gest

    1. Do we really have a concern about his attitude towards America’s internet interest? I suspect America has other interests he is not fluent in, but still think we will be ok.
    2. The presidency – and all it represents – is so immense that internet aware or not, most (if not close to all) of the information the president has is given to him is second hand, analyzed, filtered, condensed, etc… I wonder how many presidents back we would have to go to find a president that has actually opened an envelope to read a piece of mail; one that was not touched by another hand nor read by another pair of eyes first.
    3. …um… I think the presidency is all set when it comes to its communication needs – peace time or nuclear winter time. Love my Blackberry but it is not the first thing I would grab when the sky fell.
    E-mail=reading/writing. Hmm… So, if you cannot e-mail, you are akin to an illiterate person of a few hundred years ago? I know few people with ink stained fingers that would disagree with that assessment and back it up.

    I do agree that we have had a lack of intelligence currently in the presidency.

  • Gest

    Good luck on the swim…

  • Andre

    Being “plugged in” does not a profound person make. Having lost the ability to properly relate to parents, siblings, friends and students, due to the constant inane and interruptive chatter of their cellphone calls, text messages, and blackberries, I would consider McCain’s resistant attitude to be rather in his favor.

    In fact, required reading for all who would criticise McCain’s web-avoidance is the following article:

    Is Google Making Us Stupid? – July/August 2008 Atlantic Monthly


    In short, the author’s thesis, quite convincingly argued, is that “what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away [our] capacity for concentration and contemplation.”

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B.

    Andre, maybe you have a point but McCain should at least know how to use the Internet and computers as well, even if not an “addict.” The bad effects Carr notes are debatable, and even then the skimming etc. that he and others criticize is something subject to self-discipline: I don’t see any reason to believe it’s a necessary or even simply “probabilistic” result like the dangers of smoking. No, his lack of contact is a deficiency for a Leader of the Free World in this age.

  • Kurt

    McCain not be able to use a mac computer but can obama land a jet airplane on an aircraft carrier at night?
    I didn’t think so.
    See here for a comparison of McCain’s computer and Obama’s computer


  • Speedy Gonzalez

    Kurt, this kind of logic is what you could expect from an anti-educational troglodyte and his supporters – a complete misunderstanding of the whole question.

    This is not about who is better on this or that, it’s a question about basic knowledge, crucial for leading a modern country successfully.

    Sure, McCain can try to run the United States of America from an F-15 Eagle cockpit at 65,000 ft, but he will surely not be able to understand the life of Joe the Plummer, as he claims he do.

    The rest of us better get helmets and shelters, in case The Old Man fall asleep.

  • Speedy Gonzalez

    And by the way: “Joe the Plumber” – is no plumber, just another lie from the anti-educational troglodyte John McCain.

  • Kurt

    And by the way: “Joe the Plumber” – is no plumber, just another lie from the anti-educational troglodyte John McCain. —this is the anti-education soundbite of a lifetime.
    In Toledo, Ohio you do not need to have a license to be a plumber. Joe is studying for his exam to get a license. Joe HOPES to start his business one day. Joe Behar-major obama supporter- aka the HAG- called his dream a fantasy.
    secondly, mccain is keenly aware of blogs and how to use the internet to his advantage. havent you seen the 20,000 anti obama websites.
    mccain’s problem is money not knowledge.

  • http://vacua.blogspot.com Jim Harrison

    Granted his record as a pilot, I’d be running for cover if McCain we’re coming in for a landing on my aircraft carrier.

    McCain’s experience in the Navy is largely irrelevant to his fitness to be president–as Clark accurately pointed out, he never made command decisions under pressure–but he was, in any case, a mediocre officer who was only an officer in the first place because his dad and granddad were admirals. His entire career has been a monument to nepotism.


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