Last week, the Barack Obama campaign ran an ad against John McCain. The ad didn't target McCain on policy or even on personality -- it targeted him on his age. While a picture of a disco ball is seen, followed by one of McCain in huge square-framed glasses, the narrator announces, "1982!" "John McCain goes to Washington. 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 e-mail After one president who was out of touch, we just can't afford more of the same."
It turns out that John McCain doesn't use e-mail because his Vietnam War injuries prevent him from comfortably using a keyboard. But let's assume for the sake of argument that McCain truly doesn't like e-mail. Let's assume that he hasn't mastered the art of the "send" button, that he doesn't forward chain e-mails, and that he doesn't know the difference between "reply" and "reply all."
Now let's imagine an international crisis. And let's imagine the responses of John McCain and Barack Obama.
President John McCain sits in the Oval Office, looking over the latest federal budget, shaking his head and striking items with a red pencil.
Suddenly, his laptop, which is open just for show -- the President doesn't use it all too often -- dings. "You've got mail!" a smarmy voice announces. McCain looks at the newfangled doodad and somehow manages to click open the e-mail, which is addressed to CrotchetyPOW@whitehouse.gov, sent at 7:15 PM EST.
"Mr. President," it reads, "this is Mikhail Saakashvili from Georgia. This morning, we received hard intelligence that the Russians are massing troops on our border with South Ossetia. If we do not act preemptively, we will be overrun. We want your assurance that the U.S. will stand behind us if we strike Russian forces this evening. If anything is reported, please feign ignorance, so that we may pursue our objectives -- but we must know that behind the scenes, we have U.S. support."
McCain's eyes go hard and cold. Then he pushes the "Reply" button and taps his message in with one finger: "Never heard anything. Kick some ass." The time is 7:23 PM.
The next day, the McCain administration explains that it is surprised to learn that Georgian forces have routed Russian troops in a surprise assault in South Ossetia. The Kremlin is furious. McCain spends the rest of the day cleaning up the diplomatic mess.
President Obama stands in the Oval Office, shooting wads of paper into the wastebasket. Every so often, he looks at the 1,000-page federal budget, grins happily and writes notes into the margin -- additional programs that require funding.