The Obama staff took position in their new digs on Pennsylvania Avenue and when they took a look around them thought they heard the pitter patter of feet.
The pitter patter of Fred Flintstone, riding in a car so ancient that it was powered by his feet. The Washington Post reports:
If the Obama campaign represented a sleek, new iPhone kind of future, the first day of the Obama administration looked more like the rotary-dial past.
Two years after launching the most technologically savvy presidential campaign in history, Obama officials ran smack into the constraints of the federal bureaucracy yesterday, encountering a jumble of disconnected phone lines, old computer software, and security regulations forbidding outside e-mail accounts.
What does that mean in 21st-century terms? No Facebook to communicate with supporters.
(You can just hear the previous occupants now: “Why do people want to see Facebook? I thought only Joan Rivers looks at that before she has her latest operation…”)
No outside e-mail log-ins. No instant messaging. Hard adjustments for a staff that helped sweep Obama to power through, among other things, relentless online social networking.
“It is kind of like going from an Xbox to an Atari,” Obama spokesman Bill Burton said of his new digs.
(“What’s this ‘X-Box” stuff? Is that a box that has porn videos? What is this world coming to? I told you John Ashcroft should have stayed!”)
One member of the White House new-media team came to work on Tuesday, right after the swearing-in ceremony, only to discover that it was impossible to know which programs could be updated, or even which computers could be used for which purposes. The team members, accustomed to working on Macintoshes, found computers outfitted with six-year-old versions of Microsoft software. Laptops were scarce, assigned to only a few people in the West Wing. The team was left struggling to put closed captions on online videos.
Senior advisers chafed at the new arrangements, which severely limit mobility — partly by tradition but also for security reasons and to ensure that all official work is preserved under the Presidential Records Act.
But the post notes that the Obamaites can’t point to the Bushies for everything: the White House website wasn’t updated sufficiently, etc. etc. Go to the link to read the rest.
(“Why are they making such a fuss about him wanting a BlackBerry in the Oval Office? I’ve got a banana in the car…”)
In reality, what the Obamaites found is indeed surprising. Keep in mind that when George Bush came to power, his longtime political maven Karl Rove was considered a state of the art political operative. Rove was constantly on his cell phone and was considered almost surgically attached to his BlackBerry. He used specific mail techniques to differentiate voters and voting blocks. Yes, in 2008 it was no secret that Obama had out technologied the Republicans: the community organization experience that former Mayor Rudy Guiliani openly mocked as if it was nothing had helped Obama win.
This experience included taking advantage of any techniques and technology available to link up with people — and that includes using the Internet with its ever growing and increasingly sophisticated social networks.
But, even so, it was assumed that the White House would at least be somewhat up to date, even if it couldn’t compete with the technological Obamalanche in the elections.
FOOTNOTE: Fred Flintstone is one of yours truly’s favorite characters. If you haven’t gone back and watched the first seasons of this cartoon
, you need to do so. If the show was being produced today, they’d probably have Fred on his computer…an Apple..made out of a real apple.
Hey, that’s what the Obamaites found in the White House…
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Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.