Obama's Crackberry

2009

Okay, so it turns out the first major challenge facing the Obama administration is not a foreign power or an economic crisis, it's an IT issue: should the President of the United States be allowed to keep his Blackberry?

The President's addiction to his Blackberry is well known, and I don't use the term lightly (they don't call it a Crackberry for nothing). Addiction is defined as "the condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or involved in something". We've all seen the signs and while it's not as expensive a habit as crack cocaine (at least if you have a decent provider) it is easily as hard a habit to kick.

Now, it might seem a silly thing to be focused on but think about it. If the de facto CEO of the most powerful nation on earth is being asked to function without 24 hour connectivity (and is being quite pouty about it by all reports), how would those of us with considerably less responsibility cope with the same thing?

People aren't acting like this is a big deal. This is America, after all. There is no constitutional right to bear a hand-held computing device. Now, if they wanted to take his Glock 22 you'd have people lined up around the block to defend his right to carry it but as it is, this is not something lobbyists or people in Texas are likely to get worked up about.

As with all controversies there are two sides to be considered (with the exception of Pia Zadora's Golden Globe win in '81 which no one can explain or defend).

First, look at it from his point of view. Like any good executive, he wants to get incoming information immediately and unfiltered, without getting it from underlings. He wants to communicate with people directly, not have his message interpreted by people with agendas that may or may not match his own

Of course, with two young daughters he will need texting privileges (and as a taxpayer we can only hope we've sprung for the "unlimited texting" plan). And since this is the 21st Century, can't we safely assume he won't be using it to update his Facebook page on the country's time?

Last – but by no means least - since we've already asked him to quit smoking (with questionable success), do we really want him to go cold turkey on this too? The only withdrawal I want him dealing with immediately is from Iraq.

On the other hand, there are compelling reasons for him NOT to carry one of these soul suckers. Just ask the Secret Service IT people. They're apoplectic at the idea of someone getting hold of the President's personal correspondence and Blackberry's servers are not exactly airtight. (I'll pause while you consider the uber-geek credentials of someone who is a Secret Service IT person and try to get the vision of someone in a black suit, sunglasses and a Motley Crue t-shirt).

Then there's the quality – or otherwise - of the information that comes through unauthorized channels. How many managers have over-reacted to an email only to find out the information is sketchy, badly interpreted or just plain wrong? What if he responds to a fake email and the only way we tell is a sudden increase in foreign aid dollars to Nigerian royalty?

Since the man is only human, I also shudder to think of the consequences the first time he hits "reply all" and the ambassador from Kazahstan gets the launch codes. And do we really want him sitting in briefings with his head down typing under the table? I would think some attention to detail is warranted.

Finally, of course, don't forget that Blackberry is Canadian and therefore suspect (although not much feared).

If one of the most important people in the world do his job without a Blackberry, maybe we all can take a step back at least once in a while. I mean, it's not like my need to get the results of the McMartin account is any more important than the news from the embassy in Moscow. Now if someone will just tell that to MY boss so I can quit answering email at 3 am . . .

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

Wayne Turmel is a speaker, writer and co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute. He’s passionate about helping people present, sell and lead people and projects using today’s virtual communication technology. His books include Meet Like You Mean It - a Leader’s Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings. Wayne is based in Chicago, IL.