Barack Obama is the very definition of an Internet politico-geek, not least as I just invented the term. However, there is no denying that the President-Elect of the US has understood the power of the Internet, the power of social networking, better than any other political candidate for high office. His application of that understanding helped drive his campaign, and ultimately Obama himself, all the way to the White House.
But now things are getting really interesting. Nope, I am not talking about the decision to broadcast the weekly Presidential address directly via YouTube. That was, given the campaign strategy of the last year or so, pretty much to be taken for granted. It is another technology ground breaker for sure, marking the first time that such Presidential addresses will have been delivered in a video format and moving forward from the Bush administration which went with audio but not as far as video. Plus, of course, the fact that doing so via YouTube will reach the younger demographic that is all too often overlooked by politicians but which has been spurred into action so smartly by Obama and Co. In fact, Obama is not even waiting until he takes up office to start the YouTube broadcasts. The President-Elect starts today, via the Obama transition website, with the Saturday Democratic address.
However, what really caught my geek eye and alerted me to the nerdiness of Obama was something altogether different. Something altogether more, well, political. It seems that in order to get a top job in the forthcoming Obama administration you will need to be squeaky clean. No surprise there, for sure, every holder of high office will do their best to ensure the people around them are not going to attract media mud slinging because of things they have said or done in the past. Vetting applicants is par for the course. So what is so different about the seven page questionnaire that is going out to applicants looking for cabinet or other high ranking positions with Obama? Well, how about more than 60 requests for personal and professional records? How about some of those requests covering the applicants spouse and children? How about them including email and blog entries?
Aha, we hit politico-geek gold dust at last. Yes, the vetting form wants applicants to 'fess up if they have ever sent an email which might embarrass Obama. What's more, they want copies of the potential smoking email gun. Oh, and copies of all blog postings by the applicant for good measure, and not forgetting links to their Facebook or MySpace page should they have one. Even more sharply, Obama wants to know every single online alias the applicant has used when communicating on the Internet. Not just recently, but for the last ten years as far as most questions are concerned.
I am sorry, but a questions such as "Electronic communications: If you have ever sent an electronic communication, including but not limited to an email, text message or instant message, that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President-Elect if it were made public, please describe" would prove pretty much impossible for me to answer. I do not keep copies of every text message ever sent, nor indeed every email. My bad. My not applying for some government bigwig job, funnily enough.
things get even more problematical with "Please list and, if readily available, provide a copy of each book, article, column or publication (including but not limited to any posts or comments on blogs or other websites) you have authorized, individually or with others. Please list all aliases or 'handles' you have used to communicate on the Internet" I mean, c'mon now, who keeps a copy of everything they have ever posted online? And tracking down the same is not just the simple matter of 'Go Google' that many non-experts think.
The chief spokeswoman for the Obama transition office, Stephanie Cutter, has stated that the vetting process simply exemplifies the fact that "President-elect Obama made a commitment to change the way Washington does business."
To be honest, sounds like more of the same old 'watch your back' politics to me.