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After all, Jefferson didn’t sail the length of the Mississippi or captain a sloop of war. But he knew the Louisiana Purchase was a good deal, and he knew the nascent U.S. Navy could take care of the Barbary pirates.
TR didn’t circumnavigate the globe, but he constructed a great naval fleet that did. FDR never worked in a factory, yet he built an “arsenal of democracy” that armed Britain and then destroyed the war machines of Hitler and Tojo.
Reagan probably never sent a fax and certainly never fired a Stinger missile, but he used both to win the Cold War—the fax machines in Poland, the Stingers in Afghanistan. Moreover, it seems unlikely that he ever surfed the Web, but he understood enough to realize that the Information Age, which began during his presidency, would revolutionize communications, commerce, industry and life itself.
In the same way, the president doesn’t have to Facebook or blog or text or be glued to a BlackBerry to govern in this Digital Age—just as he doesn’t need to know the Constitution by heart to “preserve, protect and defend” it; or self-scan his groceries to know the cost of living is going up; or do his own taxes to recognize that the Tax Code is too onerous; or search for a job on Monster to realize that the Great Recession is far from over for millions of Americans; or put a home up for sale to know how much Americans have lost since 2008; or draft Social Security actuarial tables or Medicare eligibility requirements to understand that these programs are in dire shape; or pump gas or drill oil wells to know that it’s time to exploit more of America’s own petroleum assets; or speak Arabic, Farsi, Mandarin and Spanish to conduct foreign policy; or wear a Kevlar vest to grasp the dangers U.S. troops face each and every day; or know what DDoS means to get a sense of America’s vulnerability in cyberspace.
To be sure, connecting with voters in and through a variety of technology platforms is important on the political side of the presidential ledger. But wanting a tech-savvy person in the Oval Office just because he is tech-savvy is a trivial—if not utterly meaningless—matter on the governing side of the presidential ledger. America doesn’t need a “techie-in-chief,” to borrow Quindlen’s silly term. America needs a leader.
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