What have we learned recently from a couple of embarrassing disclosures recently involving elected officials?
Put down the BlackBerry. Move gently away from the keyboard. At least, for heaven’s sake, think before you hit “send.”
Former Rep. Chris Lee learned this when a woman decided to forward to a gossip website messages and a shirtless photo the married former congressman had sent. The motivations of the woman, who cowardly remained anonymous until the Washington Post outed her, were overshadowed by the impact on the congressman, who quickly resigned.
And now we have Sarah Palin, the subject of a gossipy tell-all book in the works by a former aide, Frank Bailey. The Daily Beast obtained a manuscript of the book, which relies partly on E-mails Bailey exchanged with Palin. One can’t deny that the E-mails are revealing--including the one in which Palin describes her role in politics as a “divine calling.” But revealing other private matters, such as an E-mail in which Palin allegedly alludes to some marital troubles, reflects real indiscretion from someone who supposedly had Palin’s trust. [See photos of Palin and her family.]
By the way, the marital troubles are discussed in an E-mail in which Palin tells Bailey she thought her husband was working behind her back on the Troopergate matter. “We’re not like other couples, Frank. We don’t talk,” Palin reportedly wrote to Bailey (cue laughter from longtime couples at the idea that not talking makes the Palins unique). [See a roundup of political cartoons on Palin.]
Technology has already enabled some appalling bad manners and reckless behavior. It was bad enough when people navigated traffic while chatting away on a cell phone, but now people actually send text messages while driving. And as self-important as people looked walking down the street while yammering into cell phones, it was preferable to the modern scene, when people walk across the street, looking down at their “smartphones,” thumbs typing away. Remarkably, it’s become accepted practice for people to pick up their mobile devices during dinner to check for messages and respond to them.
Of course, this trend is clearly worse in Washington, something I hadn’t really realized until my sister came to visit me from Buffalo, New York. We were walking toward the National Geographic Museum, and my nice, normal sister stopped and said, “do you realize that every person we see is attached to some sort of electronic device? They’re either typing a text message, talking on a cell phone, or in a café, banging away at a computer. No one is looking at anyone else or talking to the person they’re with.” A good lesson for politicians and civilians alike: more talk. Less typing.