Whoever the next US president is, they won’t know their way around a computer

“How do I turn this thing on?”
“How do I turn this thing on?”
Image: Reuters/Carlos Barria
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

President Barack Obama is famously geeky about technology. He has played with VR with Angela Merkel, took a selfie at Nelson Mandela’s funeral, and once told Bloomberg he’d be up for going into venture capital after his presidency.

“I’m a nerd, and I don’t make any apologies for it…it’s cool stuff,” he said just last month at Carnegie Mellon University.

The next US president? Not so much.

This week’s episode of This American Life made the mind-boggling revelation that Hillary Clinton “doesn’t know how to use a personal computer.” So reported former Politico magazine editor Garrett Graff, whose forensic analysis of the FBI investigation into her emails draws a picture of woeful tech incompetence on the part of both Clinton and her campaign staff—and doesn’t quite align with the opposition’s portrayal of Clinton as a Machiavellian schemer using an detailed knowledge of technology to hide a litany of scheming.

Her inability to work a PC (and her then insistence on using one, very outdated model of Blackberry) was seemingly one of the drivers of the decision to use the much-bemoaned server in her basement for her emails.

Donald Trump using a computer to answer Reddit questions
Image: Donald J. Trump campaign

But hold your breath before going into a rant about the idiocy of the public sector. Her opponent Donald Trump isn’t exactly tech-savvy either. The New York Times reported on Nov. 6 that Trump “does not use a computer,” which explains why he was perplexed at his campaign spending millions of dollars on digital ads. Court notes analyzed by the Times have revealed that while Clinton was blundering about emails as secretary of state, Trump seemingly wasn’t using them at all. “I don’t do the email thing,” he said in 2007. Six years later, he’d moved forward just a touch, saying he used email “very rarely.”

Indeed, the only known photograph of him using a computer was produced 45 minutes into his Reddit Ask-Me-Anything session this year, when aides realized the only way to verify that he was the one typing was to photograph him in front of a computer—having, we presume, just magisterially struck a key.

This, perhaps, explains his amazement at his son’s computer skills, expressed during the first presidential debate: “I have a son. He’s 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers, it’s unbelievable,” he said, ostensibly explaining the need to fight cyber warfare. God, help us.