Much has been made of John McCain's status as a self-proclaimed "computer illiterate." Juxtaposed with his rival, the Blackberry-wielding, iPod-listening Barack Obama, McCain's inexperience with all things digital have raised concerns that he is out of touch with normal Americans. Although McCain is reportedly attempting to use computers more often
, a bigger question remains unsolved: should the President of the United States use a computer?
Lee Gomes at the Wall Street Journal seems to think the best policy is to "avoid computers
." Among such significant insights as any computer should remain outside the Oval Office "since it wouldn't match the furniture," is a recommendation that the President be limited to 20 minutes of computer time "to keep up with the common folk" by reading blogs, playing Solitaire or watching YouTube. But, don't get carried away! "The severe time rationing is necessary because a computer, far from making you more productive, instead loads you down with things to do, and it's important for the machine to know who is boss."
It is slightly shocking that the WSJ would have you believe that computers are only good for keeping up-to-date on the latest cute cat videos (as long as you don't get bogged down in pop-ups -- which Gomes warns is how most computer users waste away their time). Of course the President should delegate menial tasks to staffers, but Gomes and others who think that technology is peripheral to the role of the Commander-in-Chief miss the point. Computer literacy isn't about "being in touch" with the "common folk," it is about understanding the foundation of the knowledge economy. The next administration will need to correctly address important policies with technology at their root
, and if the leader doesn't understand the fundamental potential and differences of digital technology, the results will be much more catastrophic than wasting time deleting spam.