Obama Mocks McCain’s Computer Skills
The Obama campaign launched a new ad yesterday, “Still,” which mocks John McCain for being out of touch because, among other things, he “doesn’t know how to use a computer” and “can’t send an email.”
The Charge: McCain Computer Illiterate
The key ‘graph in its entirety:
Things have changed in the last 26 years, but McCain hasn’t. He admits he still doesn’t know how to use a computer, can’t send an email, still doesn’t understand the economy, and favors 200 billion in tax cuts for corporations, but almost nothing for the middle class. After one president who was out of touch, we just can’t afford more of the same.
All of these points are distortions, as are most of the attacks in McCain’s ads, but they’re all based on half truths that are documented. Certainly, they’re all well within the bounds of the rules of the game.
McCain has repeatedly over the years, and as recently as the current primary campaign, stated that he doesn’t use the computer much and that he relies on his wife and staff to access it for him. HuffPo’s Sarah Granger dutifully rounds up several reports to that effect.
Basically, McCain reads email and uses the Internet to get information on a routine basis but prefers to talk to people on the phone and relies on others to do most of his keyboarding.
McCain Was a POW. In Vietnam.
The ad has given McCain a perfect — and wholly legitimate — opportunity to remind voters that he spent five and a half years being tortured while serving his country in Vietnam. (I was unaware of that! -ed. Yup, it’s true. You can look it up on the Google.) It turns out that there are numerous mainstream press reports, going back to at least the 2000 campaign, like this:
McCain’s severe war injuries prevent him from combing his hair, typing on a keyboard, or tying his shoes.
McCain as Web Politics Pioneer
It gets better. The point of the McCain “doesn’t know how to use a computer” attack isn’t really about technical savvy, after all, but being in tune with the modern world. The point is that McCain is stuck in 1982.
It turns out, though, that McCain was one of the first politicians to “get” the Internet as a powerful political tool. Jonah Goldberg points to a February 2000 Slate piece from “one of the most pro-Obama journalists out there,” Jacob Weisberg, called “McCain’s Web Explosion.”
Six months ago, no one would have pegged McCain as the most cybersavvy of this year’s crop of candidates. At 63, he is the oldest of the bunch and because of his war injuries, he is limited in his ability to wield a keyboard. But McCain’s job as chairman of the Senate commerce committee forced him to learn about the Internet early on, and young Web entrepreneurs such as Jerry Yang and Jeff Bezos fascinate him. Well before he announced his exploratory committee, McCain had assimilated the notion that the Web could be vital to the kind of insurgent, anti-establishment campaign he wanted to run. In December 1998, he sent his longtime political aide Wes Gullett to Minnesota to study Jesse Ventura’s successful gubernatorial campaign, which was the first to use the Web in an effective and innovative way. “Wes went up to Minnesota and talked to Ventura’s people,” McCain told reporters on the Straight Talk Express yesterday. “That’s really where we got the idea.”
Kevin Aylward notes that Joe Trippi, the Democrat considered by many to be the king of Internet political operatives, prasied McCain profusedly in his book The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything.
I had watched the “1-800” populist candidates, like Jerry Brown and Ross Perot, and I closely followed John McCain’s insurgent Republican presidential bid in 2000, the first national campaign to attempt to make use of the Internet. I held my breath that year – excited that someone was trying it, but terrified that they’d pull it off before I got the chance. They didn’t. McCain managed to pull a decent number of people, about 40,000, into his campaign via the Internet, but it was the Newton of online political campaigns. The technology simply wasn’t quite mature enough yet; enough snow hadn’t been plowed.
The Dean campaign and all that we accomplished was made possible by the ideas and hard work of countless others who came before us: From Gary Hart’s brilliant concentric circle organizing strategy to John McCain’s first bold attempt to harness the power of the Internet, there are staff members and candidates who plowed the terrain and helped create what we were able to build. [emphases added]
Obama’s Unforced Error?
So . . . Team Obama criticizes McCain for being unable to use the Internet and thus gives Team McCain 1) an opportunity to not only point out again how much he suffered putting his Country First, but to make Obama look meanspirited and insensitive for bringing up the point and 2) the ability to demonstrate that he’s not only not a moron about techical matters but actually beta tested a model that Obama and others have used more successfully since.
Beyond that, as Ace points out, Obama has inadvertantly insulted old people and handicapped people who don’t or can’t use the computer.
Oh, and in a classic rubber-glue situation, his attempt to belittle McCain’s being out of touch on technology backfires because, as half the blogosphere has pointed out, he’s demonstrated that he’s managed to hire a huge staff, none of whom apparently know how to use the Google.
My colleague Dave Schuler, who will presumably vote for his fellow Chicago Democrat in November, observed on this week’s edition of OTB Radio that McCain has, since at least the Palin pick, managed to “get inside Obama’s OODA loop.” It appears that, this time at least, Obama has done it to himself.