Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Obama-berry

I voted for President Obama even though I’m convinced he can’t solve all the crises currently facing this country. The current wrangling over the stimulus package is proof even though Obama has done a fine job of selling it, appearing everywhere but The View to bolster support.

Still, Obama has already proved he is a tough negotiator. For just hours after he took his hand off the Bible (twice), word came down that our new president had indeed triumphed in a very controversial debate.

He gets to keep his Blackberry.

Just in case the nation’s comedians are still searching for ways to poke fun at the nation’s first African-American president, look no more. The idea of Obama texting Michelle during boring Cabinet meetings, or consulting his calendar to see that, yes, today he is scheduled to meet with the Iranian president, is hilarious simply from a visual standpoint. Wait until things settle down in Washington and comedians actually start writing about the guy.

I was excited when I heard Obama was hooked on this device because it proved I had something in common with the leader of the free world. I had nothing in common with his predecessor. I never owned a baseball team, never lived on a ranch, never wore cowboy boots, never bombed a foreign country and never doubled the size of our national debt. Okay, there have been a few times that I didn’t pay my credit card balance in full. Does that count?

Obama admits to being a “crackberry,” meaning he is addicted to the annoying little device. I share this trait with him. I can’t do without my Blackberry for the following reasons:

1) I’m self employed

2) I travel extensively

3) I have no staff or secretary to handle my schedule for me

4) I feel comfortable knowing that I can get in touch with anybody at any time and vice versa. Yes, that means I might get a call at a restaurant or while coaching a Little League game but at least I know that a potential customer can always contact me.

Wait a minute. Now that I look at this list, it seems the only thing that Obama and I have in common is number two. As I write this, the news has broken that Obama has scheduled the first of what will be many overseas trips. Granted, it’s to Canada but that seems like a safe place to start. The last time I checked, we hadn’t deployed any troops to Vancouver or taken over a ski resort.

Seriously, why does Obama need a Blackberry? Unlike me, he’s not self-employed. He works for the U.S. Government, which currently is laying off employees at a slower pace than Boeing. Right now it seems like an okay place to work.

Furthermore, his job comes with a staff that is fairly efficient, even if they occasionally fail to conduct background checks on cabinet appointees for minor indiscretions such as FAILURE TO PAY INCOME TAX. But every time I see Obama, he’s got about five people attached to his hip. Six, if you count Vice President Biden. That staff makes sure our president is always in touch.

I looked at my Blackberry’s home screen and wondered which applications Obama might use. Text messaging? Doubtful. As I said, Obama’s whereabouts are known ALL THE TIME. Secretary of State Clinton will never have to frantically text “Where R U?” to the president.

Likewise, that makes his calendar function useless. When you’re the president, you don’t need to be reminded, via a vibration on your hip, that the president of Afghanistan is landing in two hours, the gun control bill is scheduled for debate and you have a parent-teacher conference. In fact, during the middle of a recent Obama speech in Fort Myers, he was handed a note saying the stimulus bill cleared the Senate. A note! Real Blackberry uses don’t use notes. They get IM’s and interrupt whatever they are doing to read them.

What about contacts? Somehow, I think the home, work and cell number for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should be SOMEWHERE in the White House. Contacting her should not require Obama whipping out his Blackberry hours before a crucial vote and scrolling to the “P’s.”

Email? The White House has made a big deal out of proclaiming that Obama’s Blackberry will be, in the words of his advisors, “super duper secure” and will be limited to his “inner circle.” In today’s hack happy environment, we know that “inner circle” means Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Jimmy, an eight year old from Poughkeepsie, NY, who will soon penetrate Obama’s Blackberry simply to get extra credit in school. That’s going to happen and when it does, Obama’s email app will disappear faster than Osama bin Laden.

So what does that leave him with? Video? Voice recording? This is a man who is trailed by cameras and microphones 24 hours a day. If he wants a video clip, all he has to do is ask CNN for a dub. I believe the network’s policy is 50 bucks and a two-week wait.

Then I came to the final icon: GAMES. Now it made sense. The president of the United States must have some kick ass games on his Blackberry for it’s the only reason he truly needs it. My Blackberry came with something called Brickbreaker in which you try to bounce a little ball off a brick wall and destroy it. Rumor has it President Bush referred to Brickbreaker as a “weapon of mass destruction.”

I’m not a serious game player so I have resisted the urge to download other games for the Blackberry such as bowling, blackjack, hockey and god knows what else. But I suspect Obama has a few games on his device. In fact I suspect Obama, in addition to being the first African-American president, is also the first “gamer president.” I base this theory on three words:

Sasha and Malia.

Obama’s daughters are 10 and 7. My daughters are 11 and 6. It’s safe to assume the First Children play the same games that are so popular in the Schwem house. It’s also safe to assume that when the Obamas moved into their new White House digs, those games came with them. I highly doubt the girls left Guitar Hero in Chicago. It’s probably hooked up to a flat screen in the Lincoln Bedroom, much to the dismay of the White House curator.

Uh, Mr. President, our sixteenth president slept here. Might I suggest another room for the Wii?

My kids received Guitar Hero for Christmas and, although I’m not a gamer, I have used it as a stress reliever during working hours. It’s one of the advantages of working from home. Obama works from home as well which means all of Sasha and Malia’s high tech toys are at his disposal. Who knows? Guitar Hero may be just out the door and down the hall from the Oval Office. Obama played basketball on election day so I can easily see him strapping on a plastic guitar and pounding out licks to AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” just before discussing the auto bailout. Hopefully his children aren’t standing behind him saying, “Daddy, can I have a turn?”

Obama has made no secret of portraying himself as a hip president. The Blackberry is just one example although, if Obama were really hip, he’d have the iPhone. Still, a president who embraces technology like Obama is both cool and disconcerting. I’m fine with Obama keeping his Blackberry as long as it’s not a distraction. Right now we need a president who is focused at all times. George Bush was portrayed as aloof and he never carried a Blackberry. Obama’s passion for the device means he will have to resist the temptation to play games during Cabinet debates, subtly check football scores or worst of all, answer emails with the following subject line:

“Kim Jong II wants to be your friend on Facebook.”

No comments: