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Attention, McCain: Computers aren’t just for the young

Sen. John McCain should have a tremendous appeal with voters over the age of 55: He’s old and he still has high aspirations. This should inspire those of us who are old enough to join AARP, yet find we have to continue working for another 1 to 15 years or even longer, the way the cost of living is going up. 

Maybe it’s OK for us to not retire, considering a guy older than we are has enough energy left to be president. But does he have enough of the right experience? I think not. I just went to YouTube and saw John McCain admit he is computer illiterate. Well, how was he to know this would be important? When he started his career, personal computers didn’t exist.

They didn’t exist for me and my peers in nursing school in the 1970s either. But by the mid-1980s, computers had begun to creep into our work. It scared some of us — we were high-touch, low-tech people, but we learned to use computers because that’s what we had to do. As time went on, we learned to input test results, chart and schedule visits on computers. As the health industry became an industry in financial crisis, we learned to talk to patients on the phone and chart on the computer at the time.

I work now as a nurse in an insurance company. It’s a good job for an aging body. I work with nurses who are good nurses and dependable employees, but they really don’t want to learn anything new, certainly not anything like new computer software. We are old, we have paid our dues, our memories are shot and learning things other than compassion and patience at this age is difficult. 

Learning anyway
Nonetheless, every couple of months, we go to another training session on the software upgrades. We do this because we are working people with jobs in the 21st century. The economy being what it is, we thank this past administration for keeping us working so we stay current with the latest computer technology. Without our computer skills, we couldn’t email our kids and grandkids or use Google to find out if glucosamine helps arthritis or to make airplane reservations to fly to the Democratic convention. 

Which leaves me wondering how McCain will manage his role as commander in chief when he’s illiterate? I can tell you how. He’ll do what he’s been doing the last 50 years; he’ll depend on his staff. He will depend on his staff to read and send his email, access Internet information, key in data, and advise him on which telecommunication company should control the Internet.

Dependency like this will leave him completely vulnerable to people who got close to him by being smart and ambitious — smarter than he is, perhaps. Do we want another old guy in the White House who depends on his subordinates for basic functions the rest of us old people mastered long ago?  Just because he trusts his staff, should we? Do we want a president who embodies planned obsolescence? 

Reva Rasmussen is a nurse and writer in the Twin Cities. She blogs about China at

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Amy McCumber on 08/20/2008 - 10:45 am.

    A lack of understanding about the Internet by a president in today’s world would be akin to a president in the 20th Century being unable to dial a telephone. How can McCain grasp the security issues involved in the use of the net if he does not know the scope of the technology? We’ve just been through 8 years of a poorly informed presidency and have seen the disastrous results.

  2. Submitted by Erik Ostrom on 08/20/2008 - 12:34 pm.

    Expecting the man to read his own email is like expecting him to pump his own gas. He has people to do those things for him.

  3. Submitted by Virginia Martin on 08/20/2008 - 09:37 am.

    I think this is an important skill in the 21st century–not just so that McCain can get his emails and look stuff up, but because unless he has it, he has no idea of some of the capabilities of computers. They turn up everywhere, doing things one couldn’t have imagine just a few years ago. One of my own examples: testing my hearing, putting it online, and coordinating it with a hearing aid (I’m sure there’s more to it than that but that’s a summary). Weather. Demographics. Economic information. The computer in today’s world touches every aspect of our lives. And McCain cannot get it without learning firsthand.

  4. Submitted by Victoria Tirrel on 08/20/2008 - 01:56 pm.

    Once again, Reva Rasmussen combines wit and an eagle eye aim to point out what should be troubling us all but may only be troubling her. I checked out her blog and she brings as much humor and insight to life in China. Check it out.

    McCain would be older than REAGAN was he was elected and John is no Ronny in the charisma department. There are a lot of issues to consider and no candidate is perfect but Barack is about my children while McCain is about my parents…I know where I want my emphasis and empathy to be.

  5. Submitted by Shelley Jacobsma on 08/23/2008 - 08:03 pm.

    Reva brings up a really good point. I wasn’t aware that McCain remains so in the dark in regards to technology. It is a symptom of how he is not moving forward and he is not for change. Nice work Reva. Thanks for getting us up-to-date on this issue.

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