NYT reports a rather disturbing development:

In the past, to tell President Bush — or at least those assigned to read his mail — what was on your mind it was necessary only to sit down at a personal computer connected to the Internet and dash off a note to pr*******@wh********.gov.

But this week, Tom Matzzie, an online organizer with the A.F.L.-C.I.O., discovered that communicating with the White House had become a bit more daunting. When Mr. Matzzie sent an e-mail protest against a Bush administration policy, the message was bounced back with an automated reply, saying he had to send it again in a new way.

Under a system deployed on the White House Web site for the first time last week, those who want to send a message to President Bush must now navigate as many as nine Web pages and fill out a detailed form that starts by asking whether the message sender supports White House policy or differs with it.

The White House says the new e-mail system, at www.whitehouse .gov/webmail, is an effort to be more responsive to the public and offer the administration “real time” access to citizen comments.

Completing a message to the president also requires choosing a subject from the provided list, then entering a full name, organization, address and e-mail address. Once the message is sent, the writer must wait for an automated response to the e-mail address listed, asking whether the addressee intended to send the message. The message is delivered to the White House only after the person using that e-mail address confirms it.

This is one boneheaded PR move.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. IIRC many senators and congressmen have similar setups, although they are less elaborate.

    And, while it may be bad PR, it will reduce organized spamming campaigns by interest groups; at least the “form letter spam” I had to deal with in the mid-90s as a senator’s intern cost the sender something to produce.

  2. This sucks. Don’t they have assistants to filter out the spam? I gave this guy a job; I should be able to send him an e-mail when I feel like it.

  3. Meezer says:

    When my mother was on a Reagan council, she said that a hand-written letter was considered to represent 25,000 other voters who felt the same way. Phone calls were given *much* less credence – almost a five-to-one ratio. Making e-mail a little harder may be intended to find out how many care enough about an issue to make a little extra effort.
    If you really want someone in government to take you seriously, a hand written letter is still the way to go. They are kept in files and carefully scrutinized.

  4. joy says:

    A “me too” comment here. When I go to communicate with Jim Jeffords, for example, I have to fill out a form that is similar.

    If a web form is good for Jim, then it should be good enough for the president. Also, I don’t have a problem verifying the legitimacy of an email address.

  5. Paul says:

    Little Miss Attila is anyone stopping you from mailing the Prez?

    you said:

    I gave this guy a job; I should be able to send him an e-mail when I feel like it.

    That is quite a silly statement. You can mail him all you want the procedure is just different.

    Am I the only one that sees this as a positive?

    Think about it people.

    He could set the mail server to just delete the mail!!!!

    CLEARLY they are going to use the information they are asking for or they would not bother.

    Even the “agree/disagree” is a valid metric. If the Prez gets 1 million disagree mails and 1000 agree, you don’t think they will try to figure out why?

    This is only a PR problem because of spin.

    I would FAR rather the Prez pay attenion to mail vs just ignoring it.


  6. jen says:

    I’m always late to the party…what Paul said.