One issue that’s been percolating in the Presidential election is the fact that John McCain isn’t an Internet user. For example, here’s former John Edwards blogger Tracy Russo questioning McCain aide Mark Soohoo yesterday on the subject.
The original event that led people to start questioning the idea of having an Internet-illiterate President was McCain’s statement on this video from a few months ago that he doesn’t use a computer. Matthew Yglesias weighed in on this matter today.
It’s tempting to apply George W. Bush’s famous soft bigotry of low expectations and assume that McCain’s an old guy, and old guys just aren’t computer users. However, I have an anecdote that should undermine that assumption.
Back in 1997 I worked for an IT consulting firm that built Web sites, set up email systems, designed networks, and so forth. One of our clients was the George Bush Presidential library in College Station, Texas. The company was responsible for setting up the LAN for the library, getting email up and running, and so forth. One of the tasks on that project was setting up email accounts for President Bush and his friends (folks like Brent Scowcroft), generating PGP keys, and teaching them how to use them.
President Bush has a good 12 years on John McCain, and he had his own laptop, email account, and PGP key ten years ago. He even had his own humorous domain name, which I won’t divulge for the sake of the former President’s privacy. (I checked it out in whois not long ago and he’s still the owner.)
If President Bush was handling his own email a decade ago even though he has staffers who can take care of that sort of thing for him, why isn’t John McCain doing it now? I find it troubling when anyone isn’t be curious enough about this whole Internet thing to try it out in this day and age. It’s kind of a big deal.