Sunday, September 14, 2008

Barack Obama, Spammer-In-Chief

Barack Obama has released a new ad attacking, inter alia, John McCain's alleged inability to use a computer or send emails:

It turns out Senator McCain's war injuries make typing difficult for him. As reported in the Boston Globe back in 2000:
McCain gets emotional at the mention of military families needing food stamps or veterans lacking health care. The outrage comes from inside: McCain's severe war injuries prevent him from combing his hair, typing on a keyboard, or tying his shoes. Friends marvel at McCain's encyclopedic knowledge of sports. He's an avid fan - Ted Williams is his hero - but he can't raise his arm above his shoulder to throw a baseball. [emphasis added]

Hmmm. Not exactly a great way for Mr. Obama to endear himself to all the disabled veterans out there, is it?

Of course, Senator Obama's assertion that Senator McCain is somehow technologically illiterate doesn't jibe with history, either. As Forbes Magazine wrote eight years ago in an article about McCain's 2000 campaign:
This Internet-driven decentralization meant that the McCain campaign could organize down to a virtually block-by-block level for little cost. It allowed a thin organization to compete against the heavily financed and well-organized Bush machine, and it gave McCain campaign dollars an estimated 4-to-1 advantage over Bush greenbacks.

McCain himself was convinced early on that the Internet had to play a critical role in the campaign. Time and again it allowed him to leverage his money and his organization. "In the Virginia primary," McCain told me, "we needed a lot of petitions signed to get on the ballot. We had the form available to download off the Internet and got 17,000 signatures with very little trouble."

Ultimately, McCain realized he couldn't go the distance, but the message was clear to any political organization with hopes for the future. His Web team had played the Internet like a Stradivari. Ballot petitioning was simplified. Local email brought out large crowds on a few hours' notice. The Web was used to enlist phone bankers from all over the country to download voter lists in upcoming primary states and then to make calls from their homes. Hundreds of thousands were reached at virtually no cost, compared to the going rate of 50 cents for every call from a professional phone bank. The Web became a virtual political print shop enabling thousands of volunteers to download and reproduce millions of pieces of campaign literature and signs on their home printers. The various pages on McCain's Web site were used to put out key registration information and to douse political fires.
The campaign's innovative use of the Internet could turn out to be the most important single factor of this year's election. And woe unto the future candidate who doesn't study the McCain 2000 Internet campaign strategy carefully. "The Web was only an electronic billboard in the last two elections," Max Fose says, "but this is the first time anyone ran a truly interactive campaign." It certainly will not be the last.

So it turns out McCain was actually a pioneer in using technology for political campaigning.

The Forbes article continues:
In certain ways, McCain was a natural Web candidate. Chairman of the Senate Telecommunications Subcommittee and regarded as the U.S. Senate's savviest technologist, McCain is an inveterate devotee of email. His nightly ritual is to read his email together with his wife, Cindy. The injuries he incurred as a Vietnam POW make it painful for McCain to type. Instead, he dictates responses that his wife types on a laptop. "She's a whiz on the keyboard, and I'm so laborious," McCain admits. [emphasis added]

Perhaps it says a lot that Senator Obama and his campaign is reduced to arguing (in part) that because John McCain doesn't send his own email or use a computer (it's hard to do that when typing is painful) he's not technologically savvy or qualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief. No doubt, if elected, Senator Obama will fill our inboxes with all the crappy "Change We Can Believe In" spam you can imagine. Ugh. I may have to upgrade my anti-spam software.

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