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Kid Magnets

Obama's Blackberry

Apparently, Obama hasn't yet given in to the wishes of the secret service and the lawyers that he give up his blackberry. 

"Well, here's what I think I can get. I think I'm going to be able to get access to a computer somewhere. It may not be right in the Oval Office. The second thing I'm hoping to do is to see if there's someway that we can arrange for me to continue to have access to a BlackBerry." (from an interview on CNBC.)

In the early days of the Iraq war, I was channel surfing one night and came across a remarkable scene on MTV-UK.   The prime minister of England was sitting among a group of teenagers -- sitting among them -- and answering questions about the invasion and the rationale for it.  And they were tough questions.  It was clearly not a carefully selected group -- they were sceptical and concerned and wanted answers, and Blair appeared to be doing his best to be straight with them.  I watched for awhile, somewhat wistfully, knowing that I would never see my president in a similar situation.   I did some more channel flipping, watched the end of a movie, and about an hour or so later came across that channel again and they were still at it!  I don't know how long the segment was, but it must've been an hour and a half or more.

And then there's the "Prime Minister's Questions" -- a tradition in the UK and several Commonwealth countries where the prime minister spends half an hour every week answering questions from members of parliament.

Part of the problem with W is that he never saw himself as accountable to the American people.  It was apparent (if you bothered to pay attention) as far back as his first campaign for president that he was actually rather contemptuous of the population at large.  So "politics" was a matter of manipulating the message as necessary in order to retain power, but once power was achieved, he believed that it was his job to "stay the course" according to his beliefs about what was best for the country.  His press conferences (such as they were) were designed to reveal as little as possible about what was actually going on, and his public appearances were simply theater.

I want a president who is willing to make unpopular decisions and to stand his or her ground when the going gets tough.  A president should not be unduly swayed by the opinion polls of the moment.  But the president does need to stay in touch with the people, listen to them and answer to them.  While I believe in respecting the Office of the President, we have come to a point where we give far too much deference to the individual in that position.  We need to remember that the title is Mister President, not Your Highness or Your Excellency.  The grimaces of annoyance and flashes of temper that W showed when being asked tough questions were an indication of his belief that he had the right not to be challenged in that way.  I think that Obama knows better.  I hope he gets to keep his blackberry.



When W visited the elementary school I was teaching at during his first campaign, all the members of the audience were hand selected and the students were confined to their classrooms all day, including lunch and recess, for "security" purposes. At the last minute, it was decided the students could assemble and greet him as he entered the school. Then they were shuttled back to their classrooms, and did not witness or participate in the speech in the gym. It was a completely manufactured photo op that disrupted our school day and provided no learning opportunity for our students. When Obama held a town hall meeting at the local high school this past summer, tickets were handed out, first come first serve, to anyone who wanted to attend. The two situations were so vastly different, and so indicative of the men they represented.

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