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Thumbs at Rest: Will Obama Give up the CrackBerry Habit?

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(President-Elect) Obama at rest with BlackBerry (and Axelrod)


November 16, 2008


Dear Mr. President-Elect Obama:


Say it ain’t so! From one BlackBerry addict to another, I feel your pain (as another Democratic president used to say with faux emotion). There, on mobile.nytimes.com, I read the words on the tiny screen in the palm of my hand and almost dropped my precious BlackBerry on the floor: “Say Goodbye to BlackBerry? Yes He Can, Maybe.”  This, on page A1, of The New York Times.


Yes, it’s sad but true: Your #1 New Year’s Resolution is you will have to surrender your BlackBerry, sir. Apparently, after you take the oath of office in front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2009, it will be way too risky for you to carry a BlackBerry and send text and email messages. Not because you have to worry about pick-pockets stealing the thing mind you: Unlike other Washingtonians who have to fear losing their wallet, purse or mobile device on the Capitol’s  streets, you’ll never to worry about that again because you’ll have Secret Service agents at your side every moment of every day for the rest of your natural life. 


The problem actually comes down to system security and presidential privacy: Hackers could hack into your email. Worse, every presidential email could be subject to public viewing and press snooping one day. We can’t have that now, can we?


Maybe this Presidential thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, after all. You’re facing two wars, the worst global economic meltdown since the Great Depression, rising unemployment, $700 billion in boondoggle government bailouts, the Detroit automakers and a long line of CEOs begging for bailouts for their own companies, the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, a ballooning federal deficit, and on and on the list goes. 


Mr. President-Elect: Between us, America and the entire world seem to be having a collective nervous breakdown — and you can’t even bum a damned cigarette. That’s because Michelle made you quit your three-Marlboro-a-day habit. Since then, we hear you’ve been chewing Nicorette gum to deal with the withdrawal symptoms. Poor thing. 


You truly have my full sympathies, Mr. President-Elect. You truly must be the most cool-headed man alive.  Just that short list from the even longer list of problems you will confront would be more than enough to send most mortals jumping off the nearest bridge. Lighting up for a sneaky smoke or two on the sly wouldn’t even begin to touch the anxiety level most of us mere mortals would have just thinking about being in your shoes. 


So now you have another addiction to kick, and addiction it is. According to a Rutgers University study, BlackBerry devices are so addictive that people may need to be weaned off them with addiction treatment similar to that given to drug users.

Now what are your poor thumbs going to do when their BlackBerry has been snatched away from them, Mr. President-elect?  Although, if the campaign is any indication, we think you’ll deal with the withdrawal better than most. McCain hurled every insult at you during the campaign, but you just smiled on that debate stage, looking cool and collected and way more presidential than your wizened opponent. Meanwhile, McCain had survived torture and years of imprisonment in Vietnam, but he couldn’t even contain his obvious rage at you for having the audacity to run against him and kick his butt in the process.  


Anyway, despite your campaign cool, we know it’s going to be even more stressful as president. So when the going gets a little tough, we came up with a few suggestions. Think of it as a little advice to guide you down that long, rocky road of CrackBerry recovery.


Idle thumbs are the devil’s workshop: You’d better replace your CrackBerry addiction with a new habit for your thumbs. You know, Bill Clinton played the sax well enough to appear on SNL. Yeah, right, he did a lot of things we’d rather not think about. But anyway, how about taking up an instrument, too?


 Since you don’t need to keep Condi Rice as your foreign policy tutor as W. did for eight long years of failure and more failure, you could instead appoint her to a new cabinet post — say, Special Assistant to the President for Music Education. I think she might do well as your presidential piano teacher.  


Just think: Condi could teach you to play “Hail to the Chief” to keep your spirits up and amuse yourself during those problem-laden late nights in the Oval Office. It’ll be fun  learning Condi’s play list, starting with Mozart Piano Concerto in D Minor. I hear “Rahmbo” Emanuel, your political fixer and chief of staff, was a killer ballet dancer back in the day at Sarah Lawrence College, so maybe he could dance around the room in his stocking feet, keeping time to the music as it swells to a full forte.


For those frustrating days when you can’t seem to get no R-E-S-P-E-C-T, you can pound away that Aretha Franklin standard. Then, working down Condi’s play list, there’s Kool and the Gang’s ‘Celebration’ when you and “Rahmbo” are finally able to push that first big bill through the Congress.


From looking at your FaceBook page, we know that your musical tastes run more toward Miles, Coltrane, Dylan, Wonder, the Fugees, but never mind: I’m sure Condi could somehow work some of those into your twice-weekly piano lessons.


No nail-biting allowed. Many times, people who try to give up one addiction (say, smoking) often end up turning to another (overeating) for comfort. It’s what people in the addiction recovery business call “addiction transfer.” To guard against this nasty withdrawal symptom from your BlackBerry-itis, we’ll have to bring in a couple of D.C.’s finest manicurists for what they call a “mani-pedi.” They’ll coat your fingernails in icky clear polish that will taste so bad that there’s no way you’re going to bite your nails and make sure your cuticles stay in tip-top shape for those camera close-ups.  Besides, you’ll get some TLC and relaxation for those tired hands and feet after a hard game of basketball on the White House indoor court.


If all else fails, try another addiction — Wii anyone? Video games are way more fun than thumbing away on a BlackBerry any day. Besides, it’s something you and “Rahmbo” can do as you’re plotting your next big political maneuver  (your excitable new Chief of Staff definitely seems like a video game kind of guy). Besides, it’ll get your heart rate up a little, Mr. President-Elect: It does seem a little low from all that working out at the gym. 


Here, from Amazon.com, are a few other video games worth the sore thumbs you’ll be sure to get:

  • Call of Duty: World at War: When things aren’t going well with your troop-drawdown plans for Iraq or the Taliban are heating up things over in Afghanistan, you can always de-stress by waxing nostalgic about a  simpler time, during World War II,  when we knew who the enemy was and where to fight them — and they weren’t hiding out in some underground cave in Pakistan.
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed: Cool relations with Congress? Unleash your frustrations by playing this Star Wars video game. What’s really cool about this one is the decisions you make along the way determine the path of the story — kind of like real life, Mr. President-Elect. That’ll help keep you a little humble underneath that oh-so-confident exterior and help keep you laser-focused on a key fact of presidential life: What you do impacts hundreds of millions of Americans and billions and billions of people on the planet. Your predecessor really didn’t seem to really get that — or not until it was way too late. Since you’re so tech-savvy, I’ll put it to you this way: there’s no “undo” key in the Oval Office, sir.
  • Hanna Montana: Music Jam: Since your daughters’ favorite TV show is “Hannah Montana,” how about squeezing in a little quality time with Malia and Sasha between briefings every now and then?  It’ll bring an instant smile to your face as you watch 7-year-old Sasha (a budding singer and dancer) and 10-year-old Malia (who wants to be an actress when she grows up)  “live out their dreams of being a pop star in this exciting musical adventure,” as the description reads.

The New Game in Town:  Come to think of it, I wish the Nintendo or Microsoft people would come up with a video game version of this past election and the presidency to come. Let’s see, the first edition of this video game series could be called “Obama: The Great Unending Campaign” or maybe “Obama’s Excellent Adventure I.”  I’m sure together we could come up with a great name for the video game. You’re great at slogans: that change thing really worked.


Through many ups and downs, thrills and breathtaking fear-mongering, villains and villainesses, it’s been a helluva two-year election ride, hasn’t it, sir? I think this once-in-a-lifetime election would make an amazing video game: The first African-American to run a serious presidential campaign beats off multiple challengers in the primary season and dukes it out for months with Queen Hillary, the establishment candidate, before seizing the Democratic mantle. Then he must overcome a pair of villains, let’s call them McCain and Palin-the-Unable, to finally take the presidential seal. Just think of the future storylines once you actually take office.


Anyway, back to reality and your addiction, sir.  The really good thing is, after a few minutes of playing video games on your Wii, you won’t even miss your CrackBerry. Now that’s full recovery for you.


Join in the discussion.

Click on leave a comment just below the headline for this post, and add your clever, funny and somewhat practical suggestions to help the President-elect kick his CrackBerry habit and deal with his withdrawal symptoms.  Do you have ideas for what to call our fantasy Obama video game? Please join in the fun. 


Written by Sheryl A. Roehl

November 16, 2008 at 2:15 am