Secretaries Don’t E-Mail

In March 2004, I appeared on PBS Newshour to discuss the European Union’s antitrust case against Microsoft. But I was by no means star of the night. The news show featured an interview face-off between Jim Lehrer and U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. I sat in another area of the same studio watching the Secretary answer Jim’s questions—well, sidestep many of them. The Defense Secretary struck me as out of touch, a sense I got more seeing him live than I ever have on television.

But even I underestimated just how out of touch is Donald Rumsfeld. Today, Newsweek columnist Mark Hosenball writes about the Karina hearings: “Congressional investigations of government responses to Hurricane Katrina have revealed that two of the nation’s key crisis managers, the secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security, do not use e-mail”.

Uh, yeah. 

What, do these guys get messages by telegram? Even, my 64 year-old mother uses e-mail, and she has done so for about eight years! Granted, Donald Rumsfeld is more than a decade older than mom, but my 84 year-old father-in-law uses e-mail, too. What’s the Defense Secretary’s excuse?

I won’t get started about Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Oh heck, I will get started. Maybe Mike feels safer because he’s not getting all that virus-loaded e-mail that pelts the rest of us. But isn’t that a false sense of security? From the guy charged with keeping us all safe?

Enough said.