Somewhere—heaven, surely—Charlton Heston, former spokesman for the National Rifle Association, is doing 360s.
“I’m still clinging to my BlackBerry,” President-elect Obama has announced. “They’re going to have to pry it out of my hands.”
I wish he’d given it the full NRA mojo and added, “out of my cold, dead fingers,” but that’s his style. Our new president is a calmer, not an exciter. But this business of not letting our leaders go on communicating with the world beyond the Oval Office is problematic. Terrible, in fact.
You’ll recall that our outgoing president—whose name shall not be mentioned—was compelled to give up private email shortly after he took office, on various grounds: his emails might be intercepted, or used against him in a court of law, etc.
The only thing standing between us and Armageddon is—a red BlackBerry.
Doubtless, those gas-pipeline-cutting dastards, the Russians, have an entire division of the FSB (trans: KGB) devoted to compromising the personal communications of U.S. presidents. Doubtless, too, there are entire buildings in Nigeria staffed with people sending messages to our presidents informing them that they have just inherited $62 MILLION DOLLARS U.S. from their great-great-second-uncle Mr. Umbaku Kakabele.
If you thought that the BlackBerry story might prompt serious reflection on the merits of allowing a president to keep an open line to outside people on whom he relies, fuggedit, and file it away under Is This A Great Country Or What?
No, the follow-up story in The Times was on another theme: how much Mr. Obama’s implicit endorsement of his BlackBerry would be worth.
“More than $25 million, marketing experts say, and maybe as much as $50 million.”
It’s good that, as we plunge into the fiscal abyss—I refer to the impending $1.2 trillion deficit—that we’re focused on the important things, like Oval Office product placement. The Times story concludes with a wet dream BlackBerry ad campaign, as visualized by a modern-day Mad Man:
“In the foreground, you have the [Oval Office] desk, but instead of having the proverbial red phone, you have a red BlackBerry.” With the tagline: “Shot Caller.”
It has—finally—come to this: the only thing standing between us and Armageddon is—a red BlackBerry.
As I type, pitch meetings are being held in Hollywood.
Okay, it’s called ‘The President’s BlackBerry Is Missing.’ The daughter takes his by mistake when she’s rushing off to school. And he’s got her BlackBerry, but he doesn’t know it. So when he goes to send the critical message to the Kremlin telling Putin to kiss his black ass, the text message goes to the English teacher at Sidwell Friends School. You with me?
On a more serious note, why—pray?—do we connive at isolating our presidents, by taking away their ability even to keep a journal (might be subpoenaed!), email (see above) and now, their connective tissue to the outside world? Sure, they have access to the media. They can turn on a television or pick up a newspaper, but that’s not the same as being able to receive a message from someone who used to wipe their runny nose, saying, WHAT IN NAME OF ALL THAT’S HOLY R U DOING, INVADING IRAQ, NUMBSKULL!!!???
As E.M. Forster said, “Only connect.” Shouldn’t our president have the advantage of hearing it with the bark off, from people who don’t work for him, and whose judgment he trusts?
For that matter, wasn’t history richer when presidents had tape recorders in the desk? Tell me that you’re happier now that you don’t eventually get to listen in on the really juicy conversations in the Oval? You are? Honestly?
With all due humility, I hereby propose the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and urge swift ratification by the states:
The President shall be able to tape conversations, keep a journal, email, and text-message with absolute and total legal impunity. Any persons attempting to contravene this amendment shall be deprived of their BlackBerrys and have their life savings invested with the firm of Bernard Madoff.
Christopher Buckley’s books include Supreme Courtship, The White House Mess, Thank You for Smoking, Little Green Men, and Florence of Arabia. His journalism, satire, and criticism has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Esquire. He was chief speechwriter for Vice President George H.W. Bush, and the founder and editor-in-chief of Forbes FYI.