Should our President be computer literate?

Summary:Normally I don't like to talk about my political and socio-economic opinions, particularly because as a matter of experience once people discover my true leanings, they sometimes find my completely unrelated opinions on technology, food, or whatever it else we have in common to be less valid. It's stupid that people tend to behave this way but it's the harsh reality that is human nature, which is the tendency to latch on to personality traits or ideas as a way to "box" people.

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Normally I don't like to talk about my political and socio-economic opinions, particularly because as a matter of experience once people discover my true leanings, they sometimes find my completely unrelated opinions on technology, food, or whatever it else we have in common to be less valid. It's stupid that people tend to behave this way but it's the harsh reality that is human nature, which is the tendency to latch on to personality traits or ideas as a way to "box" people.

As a human being I would like not to be boxed by anyone, but that's the way it is. Even with technology, it's convenient for some of my readers to box me as a "Linux" person or a "Microsoft-basher" or "Anti-VMWare" or an "Apple hater" because of an article I wrote or a statement I may of made. The reality is that human beings are complex, and the principles that make us what we are are not necessarily so cut and dry, there are many grey areas, and I'd like to think of myself as a complex person. I refuse to be boxed.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

So with that disclaimer in place, on to the politics, as well as the consequences I'm likely to suffer for sharing it with you.

While I tend to vote Republican in most elections, I'm really more of a Libertarian. Fundamentally I believe in less taxes and minimized government interference into our lives, but I'm also very pro-defense spending and something of a hawk. From the perspective of social policy, however, I am a liberal. I believe women should have the right to do whatever they want with their bodies, that gay couples should have the same rights as heterosexual ones (and suffer the same taxes) and governments shouldn't be mixing with religion, ever. Not in the classroom, not anywhere.

Of course, this Libertarian viewpoint of mine gets very interesting when it comes time to elect a President or a major government official, especially over sometimes not-so-pleasant dinner conversation with my wife Rachel and other members of my extended family. When I told my wife in the car ride home from the airport this week that I would be voting for McCain, she said to me quite flustered, "Okay, I understand your reasons, but c'mon, the man doesn't even know how to use a computer."

Well, I'm not sure exactly what to make of this one. Should your President know how to use a computer? I mean, a President is a busy guy who has to be in constant meetings and speak with other world leaders, how much time should he be spending mucking about in emails or on on web sites anyway? Doesn't he have a secretary to print out his most important emails and such?

I know that Obama is a Blackberry Junkie. Palin's use of Yahoo email is, uh, well documented.

McCain, unfortunately, "has to rely on his wife" (EDIT: Apparently, this is largely due to the fact that his Vietnam war injuries prohibit repetitive tasks that involve raising his arms such as typing which are extremely painful to him)

Does that make him less qualified to be President of the United States?

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Somebody needs to get this guy a tutor.

I think that as the early Baby Boomer generation eventually dies off, these issues are going to be less and less important, as everyone living in the next two decades will have at least some exposure to computers and the Internet.  That McCain doesn't know how use a computer, access the Internet or thumb a BlackBerry doesn't really bother me, but that's certainly an easy enough problem to solve. Get the guy a tutor, who can spend a few hours with him over a few weeks showing him how to use a PC -- or dare I say it, a Mac, and teach him how to use basic applications such as a Web Browser and web-based email. I sent my own father-in-law to a PC/Windows class a few years ago, and he's the same age as McCain and is doing just fine. Now, if it turns out that McCain doesn't know how to type, well... There's always Mavis Beacon. (EDIT: He can type, but its physically painful for him)

At the end of the day, what I want from a President is experience, that I know that can deal with the issues that we are likely to face in the years ahead, has personal integrity and values that are similar to mine, at least when it comes to making decisions about important problems our country now has to address, not matters which are largely symbolic in nature (i.e., abortion, personal religious beliefs) and will not affect us anytime soon.

If it turns out that the man we elect doesn't know how to use a computer, that is a personal deficit that he alone has to deal with, because the Internet and use of personal technology enriches us in many tangible ways. Hopefully, he'll recognize that this is something he will want to  rectify, but if he doesn't, I trust that he will have advisers that can educate him on the important aspects of technology that affect our nation so he'll make the right decisions.

Must our President be computer literate? Talk Back and let me know.

Topics: Hardware, Browser, Collaboration, CXO, Government, Government : US

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet is a technologist with over two decades of experience with integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer... Full Bio

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