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Making light of a war hero

The latest political conceit — the president must be e-mail savvy — deserves all the disdain that can be heaped upon it.

In case you missed it, the Barack Obama campaign contends anyone not computer “literate” isn’t hip enough to occupy the Oval Office. I kid you not. Obama’s commercial ridiculing John McCain goes like this:

“He admits he still doesn’t know how to use a computer, can’t send an e-mail. After one president who was out of touch, we just can’t afford more of the same.”

What an asinine assertion. First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: The reason McCain doesn’t spend time in front of a computer is not because he’s out of touch, it’s because he’s physically unable to use a keyboard thanks to beatings received in a Vietnamese POW camp.

He also can’t comb his hair or tie his shoes, for the same reason.

If the Obama campaign brainchildren will backhandedly poke fun at a hero’s war injuries, what other disabilities are up for ridicule? Might they taunt the blind for not driving enough to understand the plight of commuters? Or, how about jeering a wheelchair-bound adversary for not getting outdoors enough to know the need for wilderness areas?

Furthermore, the arrogance of tying computer use to human worthiness is the height of smug. It is the Elvis of condescension.

It is not only untrue, it insults many people who, thank you very much, either elect not to join the computer rat race, or go into it kicking and screaming. They don’t like computers, don’t want to spend time with them and get ticked off by ill-mannered people who use them to the exclusion of gracious human interaction.

Being computer independent doesn’t make a person less worthy or useful in modern society. When the Obama campaign geeks laugh at McCain for not sending e-mail, they not only taunt a war hero’s disability, they sneer at millions of Americans who prefer human contact to the self-absorption of a PDA. Somebody needs to tell Obama that this is not a smart idea in a tight election.

But most importantly, this kind of smugness reinforces what has become the primary reason the bloom has come off the rose of late with the Obama mystique: This guy’s campaign has revealed itself to be just plain arrogant.

We’re hip. We’re cool. We’re different. We’re above politics. We’re what the world’s been waiting for. We e-mail. We text message. We blog. We Wii.

If it was ever cute, it has now become unbearably self-centered.

It’s a funny thing, though. The know-it-alls at the Obama campaign were quick to offer contempt, albeit ignorantly, for an opponent’s disability. But when it came to offering something enlightening about the woes of the U.S. economy last week, the Obama geeks had nothing substantive to say other than to mindlessly blame Republicans.

And so the conceit comes full circle. As much as we might hope differently, arrogance rarely begets knowledgeable leadership, no matter how hip it may sound. You can take the “smart” out of “smart-arse,” but not the other way around.

Sherman Frederick (sfrederick@reviewjournal.com) is publisher of the Review-Journal and president of Stephens Media.

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