By Rosie Spinks
City on a Hill Press Columnist
President Barack Obama can now check one item off of his colossal to-do list: keeping his Blackberry.
Throughout his historic campaign, President Obama publicly feared the day when he would have to give up his omnipresent hand-held device for security reasons, warning White House officials that they might have to “pry it out of [his] hands.” However, after endless negotiations and eventual compromises with White House staff, lawyers and the Secret Service, it seems that Obama can have his Blackberry and use it too, making him the first sitting president to use both e-mail and a desktop computer in the Oval Office.
Yet Obama’s first White House victory isn’t merely a personal one, but a victory for all of us. From Facebook to YouTube, text messaging to e-mails, Obama’s impressive ability to use the Internet and modern technology as an avenue to not only reach voters, but also to engage them is largely responsible for the massive success of his campaign.
As the country moves forward, it would be a step backward if this technological awareness disappeared now that Obama has actually reached the White House steps. Just as his campaign was interactive, Obama needs to continue that direct interaction in order to govern effectively. In a world of instantaneous news cycles, Twitter feeds, social networking and the blogosphere as primary channels of communication, the most powerful man in the world simply needs to be in touch.
And while you shouldn’t expect a Blackberry message from the commander in chief in your inbox anytime soon, Obama’s ability to keep in touch with the world outside of the Oval Office will prevent him from being isolated in the presidential bubble that many former presidents have both found themselves in and cautioned against.
As expected, Obama will be toting an upgraded device, with encrypting software to ward off hackers and a server that will reject messages from unapproved senders. Obama’s address book will contain an extremely privileged list of contacts, each of whom will be forced to receive a security briefing in order to be in communication via e-mail with the president. Insiders have surmised that in addition to his family, those allowed to e-mail Obama will be limited to chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and adviser David Axelrod, along with select lifelong friends from Chicago and a few other senior staffers and cabinet secretaries.
All of Obama’s communications, excluding those deemed “strictly personal,” will be subject to the Presidential Records Act, which ensures that all presidential records are preserved in the National Archive and released only after his presidency has ended. To ease qualms about hackers or foreign governments intercepting Obama’s communications, officials insist that his communications will in no way contain sensitive information, with Obama himself having agreed to limit his use of the device.
The presidency of Barack Obama is one of many firsts: the first black president, first president with a Muslim background, the first campaign to be organized primarily online. Now Obama is the first president to be actively connected to the information database that the rest of world runs upon: the Internet.
Now that Obama has won this battle, he can move on to more important tasks —like picking out a puppy.