February 1, 2009
I'm happy to see that the Secret Service has figured out a way to allow President Obama to keep his Backberry. It may seem trivial, or perhaps even slightly sinister that President Obama would want to keep his cell phone. Some worry that the special few who have complete access to the president will exert undue influence over him. President Obama even joked about the whole thing the other night while at the Alfalfa Club dinner (the what??): "It's a very exclusive list. How exclusive? Everyone look at the person sitting on your left. Now look at the person sitting on your right. None of you have my e-mail address."
All joking aside, I like President Obama's justification for why he wants to keep it: "I'm negotiating to figure out how can I get information from outside of the 10 or 12 people who surround my office in the White House. Because, one of the worst things I think that could happen to a president is losing touch with what people are going through day to day."
Which reminds me of something that Thomas Paine said in Common Sense. Paine believed that monarchy was “exceedingly ridiculous” because “it first exclude[d] a man from the means of information, yet empower[ed] him to act in cases where the highest judgment [was] required. The state of kings shuts him from the world, yet the business of a king requires him to know it thoroughly.” I'm not saying that President Obama is everything that Paine would want him to be--maybe he is, maybe he isn't, maybe Paine was wrong--but I do think that he understands that we live in a republic, not a monarchy.
I think that his fight for his Blackberry points to a fundamental difference between George W. Bush and President Obama: one acted as a king, the other wants to act as a president. Monarchy was against common sense, according to Paine, because the distinction of people into “KINGS and SUBJECTS” and hereditary rule were oppressive and absurd, a lesson that the Bush family didn't seem to learn.
You go right ahead and keep that Blackberry, President Obama.