Jewish World Review
March 7, 2000 /30 Adar I, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- REMEMBER PRESIDENT CLINTON'S famous "bridge to the 21st century?" High-tech entrepreneurs built that span, not Clinton. He was too busy snoozing beneath the bridge's shade.
Now, Bubba Van Winkle has arisen from his deep slumber. And there's a lot of catching up to do.
Earlier this week, Clinton sat in on a computing class for senior citizens in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. For the first time, he witnessed a rudimentary development in software technology: the animated screen saver. According to a little-publicized Reuters news report, Clinton reacted with enchantment "as he watched a series of images -- coffee cups, deer, and a blackboard -- form and dissolve on a monitor."
Golly, gee whiz, hot dang, wouldja take a look at them movin' objects! "That's amazing," Clinton reportedly gushed. According to the Reuters article, a White House spokesman explained Clinton's apparent fascination with the screen saver by joking, ``His only has the presidential seal, and it doesn't move.''
Well, just wait 'til the president gets a first glimpse of the animated waving flags on the White House's official website. Yes, Mr. President, those flags on your own homepage really do flap around as if some virtual winds were blowing. Wonder of technological wonders.
What other mundane miracles of the Information Age has our caveman-in-chief yet to discover?
He'll be electrified, for sure, by the sophisticated innovations in his spellcheck program. ("Didja see that? I accidentally typed 'Moncia' and it corrected her name for me automatically!")
Imagine how awestruck he'll be when he learns how to use his computer's recycle bin. ("You mean it'll empty all my trash for me? Neat-o. Tell me which button to push. Hurry.")
And who knows what kind of revelation he'll have when he encounters that bossy animated paper clip from the latest version of Microsoft Word. ("Awmigawd. Where in Hillary's name did that come from? It knows I want to write a letter. Amazin'. Look, look. Now that talkin' paper clip is ASKIN' ME A QUESTION! Hey, alright now, stop being so nosy. Get the Attorney General in here. Puh-lease, Janet, make that thing shut up and go away.")
This week's screen-saver incident isn't Clinton's only Encino Man moment in recent memory. Just last fall, he showed up in Norfolk, Virginia to help renovate a local elementary school. When handed a cordless electric drill, a bedazzled Clinton – clad in hard hat and denim work shirt -- remarked: "I never used one of these…I've never seen one."
Never seen a moving screen saver or cordless electric drill? This from a man who proudly claims credit for the new economy; wears his populism on his costumed shirtsleeves; convenes marathon technology gabfests; lectures other countries authoritatively about the digital divide; espouses heavy government interference in the high-tech world through clipper chips and encryption restrictions; and exploits his Rhodes Scholar reputation to drum up Silicon Valley contributions.
Even more remarkable is the complete indifference with which Clinton's bizarre signs of presidential detachment are being met in the mainstream press. In 1992, when President George Bush praised a new supermarket checkout scanner at a grocery exhibition in Orlando, Florida, the New York Times published a mocking front-page account under the headline: ''Bush Encounters the Supermarket, Amazed.''
The ridicule was grossly unfair. As White House correspondent Ann McFeatters noted at the time, "nobody had ascertained from Bush the exact source of his amazement and whether he was truly unfamiliar with scanners." Nevertheless, NPR, CBS's Charles Osgood, late-night comedians, columnists, and editorial writers nationwide piled on with contemptuous riffs about how out of touch Bush was with everyday life. The media-manufactured incident remains a cultural reference point to this day.
I'll be waiting to see whether the New York Times ever gets around to
publishing a front-page story under the headline, "Clinton Encounters
Flying Toasters, Amazed." In the meantime, someone should teach the
president how to type the keywords "Clinton" and "screen savers" into an
Internet search engine. He really would be astonished by the boundless
creativity of the American
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