McCain and the Internet: Why It Doesn’t Matter
My Georgetown colleague, author and all-around good guy, Garrett Graff this week wrote a blog posting in the online version of Washingtonian magazine entitled “McCain and the Internet: Why It Matters.” I respect the points put forth, but Garrett, you are wrong, wrong, wrong — and I am here to help you see the light.
I encourage everyone to read the article, but the point is basically that McCain doesn’t get the Internet, so it is a metaphor for his larger cluelessness, and it should “give us pause:”
The fact that John McCain hasn’t yet learned how to use the Internet himself puts him not just at odds with most of the rest of the nation but, in fact, with many people in his own age bracket. More than a third of Americans 65 and older use the Internet, according to the May 2008 numbers from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Work by Forrester Research, which uses different age brackets, shows that more than a third of Americans over 55 regularly read blogs and online forums, watch videos, or listen to podcasts. This “Internet thing” isn’t some crazy person’s niche; it will be the driving force behind the next half-century of America’s economic growth. That John McCain isn’t part of that group of “wired seniors” should give us all pause coming into this fall.”
I love a good debate, so here goes.
- There is, without a doubt, a WIDE gap among online activists and enthusiasts in the Obama and McCain camps. Before penning this (old school reference), I consulted a friend of mine who, for a while, worked in McCain’s online shop. He basically confirmed what we can agree upon, and that is that Obama and the Dems do it better. “McCain Space” was embarrassing. But McCain, like any president before him, is going to leave the blogs and Twitter accounts up to other people. I doubt that Obama wakes up every morning and checks the Technorati ranking on his campaign Web site.
- I’ve been in Washington long enough to know that the Internet is such as powerful force, that not even the dumbest of politicians can kill it. The recent flap between the Dems and Repubs about “blocking” You Tube and Ted Stevens’ 2006 comment (presumably about “Net Neutrality”) – “the Internet…is a series of tubes..” doesn’t scare me at all. Not even Congress can kill this. I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago in Media Bullseye – Rubes, Tubes and Boobs.
- Once whomever the new president is steps foot into the Oval Office, I doubt that he will have time to touch a computer. The Internet is all about getting to the White House, but you can pretty much forget about it when you’re there. Unless you are Al Gore. And I concede, and wrote a couple of weeks ago, that this will be the first presidential race in which the online activism will truly cross over into offline.
- To hell with online. I want a president who is a Man With a Plan about the economy, the war on Islamic fundamentalists and other critical issues, not someone who is Tweeting with his pals. I am fine that McCain is “clueless,” just so long as he gets the big issues. Or Obama. My point is that understanding the Internet does not crack my Top Ten List for what I care about in a presidential candidate.
- To your larger point, “…what kind of president would he be in a world where just as much commerce travels over fiber optics as over interstate highways? What kind of president would he be in a world where, for the first time this year, there are now more users of the Internet in China than in the United States? What kind of president will he be in a world where the greatest force for Iranian democracy today is its thriving Persian blog community?” — you need to think past the Beltway. Washington, DC is the most active social networking city in the nation. I would bet that there are a lot of people who don’t care about the Internet (Columbia, SC, St. Louis and Chicago round out the bottom), but about other pressing issues as well.
My final point is about the line”…John McCain seems to have missed this [Internet] movement—an oversight that may have profound implications both for his campaign and the entire nation if he is to become president.” Propeller-heads like us care. A farmer in Nebraska probably doesn’t.
Nation? Hell, no.