Framing Science

“Grandpa” McCain?: The presidential hopeful relies on his wife and aides to show him things online or to read him email messages.

As I’ve written, McCain’s admission that he doesn’t know how to use the Internet or a computer has helped feed the Obama campaign’s narrative that the GOP candidate is out of touch with average Americans. It’s a framing strategy that you can bet McCain’s campaign advisers are more than sensitive about.

Today, the Associated Press reports that one such adviser has gone so far as to present McCain as a creator of the BlackBerry. From the AP:

MIAMI (AP) — Move over, Al Gore. You may lay claim to the Internet, but John McCain helped create the BlackBerry. At least that’s the contention of a top McCain policy adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin. Waving his BlackBerry personal digital assistant and citing McCain’s work as a senator, he told reporters Tuesday, “You’re looking at the miracle that John McCain helped create.”

A McCain aide later dismissed the remark as “a boneheaded joke by a staffer.”

As Major Garrett at FoxNews observes, this one has the potential to be a major campaign gaffe, a mistake that the Obama team has already re-interpreted as part of their master narrative about McCain. In an email sent by way of BlackBerry, an Obama staffer quickly noted: “If John McCain hadn’t said that ‘the fundamentals of our economy are strong’ on the day of one of our nation’s worst financial crises, the claim that he invented the BlackBerry would have been the most preposterous thing said all week.”

So what is it about conservatives and an absence of computer or Internet curiosity? While McCain admits that he doesn’t use the Web or email, President Bush has infamously referred to the “internets” and that he “uses the Google.”

In contrast, the Pew survey organization reports that about three-quarters of white, college-educated men 65 or over use the Internet, putting McCain and Bush among the technology laggards for their demographic group.

And just this Sunday, on ABC’s This Week, columnist George Will admitted that he similarly has little understanding of email or the Internet. In responding to whether or not the age issue will hurt McCain, Will said:

GEORGE WILL: I’m four years, eight months and five days younger than him.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But who’s counting?

GEORGE WILL: But who’s counting, yes. And I am really not good at email and that stuff. That’s why god made Georgetown interns to work in my office. I think this – I don’t think this will have much traction with people. I just don’t believe that John McCain looks like someone who is not up to speed.

Hmmm. George Will could probably benefit from being able to access Pew survey data online instead of relying on his Georgetown interns. 😉


  1. #1 wintersweet
    September 16, 2008

    George Will: America’s benchmark for being up-to-speed!

    Oh, wait, hold on…

  2. #2 Warren
    September 16, 2008

    So what is it about conservatives and an absence of computer or Internet curiosity?

    I don’t know that it’s conservatives per se. In the case of W., I think lack of interest — the same kind of lack of interest that perpetuates his ignorance of so many other things — is the key issue. And if you’ve ever been to Conservapedia, you know the interweb isn’t lacking in ultraconservative wackaloons with far too much free time.

    The Pew study is interesting but how does it factor for retirees? Both McCain and George Will are still working, and can therefore rely on staffers to handle technical details (and may not have the time, energy or inclination to investigate the net); whereas retirees are probably more likely to actually sit down and figure out the intertubes themselves, possibly to see if there really is as much porn out there as they’ve heard. (Hey, retirees need hobbies, right? Onanism might qualify.)

    That said, the McCain camp’s blooper about the BlackBerry is at least as goofy as the GOP narrative about Gore — the difference being that the GOP actually overinflated Gore’s claims (he never said he invented the internet); whereas McCain’s group have openly and baldly made a ludicrous claim that they can’t possibly substantiate.

    The question is why. Are they really that clumsy, or is there something else going on here?

  3. #3 Patrick
    September 16, 2008

    This is probably super cynical, but I figured they didn’t like to use email and like b/c it leaves a permanent trail of whatever slimy stuff they leave behind as they go about their day. The easy excuse is that you don’t know how, rather than saying you won’t.

  4. #4 Robert Jase
    September 16, 2008

    Gees, my mother is 85 and she uses email every day.

    You’d think a kid like McCain would be up to her speed.

  5. #5 MRW
    September 16, 2008

    Apparently, McCain’s war injuries make him unable to type without pain. This line has the potential to backfire as it gives a legitimate reason for McCain to use the “I was a POW” defense.

  6. #6 Monado
    September 16, 2008

    To be fair, they backpeddled enough to claim that they supported the telecommunications industry in the U.S. by regulating and deregulating.

    However, RIM is pretty much a Canadian success story. It’s one of many high-tech spinoffs around the University of Waterloo, where graduates with bright ideas rent a garage… and the rest is history.

  7. #7 The Ridger
    September 16, 2008

    But “I don’t because it hurts because I was a POW!” isn’t the same as “I don’t know how to…”

  8. #8 tguy
    September 16, 2008

    Conservatives are good upstanding citizens, and that’s why they aren’t much into the computers and those internets. Everyone knows the internets are a cesspool of porn and librul politics. A fine man like John McCain will have nothing to do with that.

    I also have heard the malicious rumors about George W. Bush going back on the google. Don’t believe the smear tactics. He might have tried the google a few times long ago, but he gave all that up.

  9. #9 Bob O'H
    September 17, 2008

    It gets funnier. McCain also (when suitably spun) invented Wifi. Whilst receiving donations from a Wifi company.

New comments have been disabled.