Obama needs to have his BlackBerry

January 25, 2009|By JEAN MARBELLA | JEAN MARBELLA,jean.marbella@baltsun.com

After such an action-packed, eventful week, I think this ranks as my favorite news item: After satisfying all the security concerns, such as the potential for the device to leak classified information or his GPS coordinates, President Barack Obama is getting to keep his BlackBerry.

I'm not actually a full citizen of CrackBerry Nation, whose ranks famously include the new geek-in-chief. Yet. I only got mine a month ago, as a Christmas present, and still haven't gotten all the applications fired up. But already, fiddling around with it when I'm in a WiFi spot, I can totally understand why Obama was loath to give up having this connection to the rest of the world in the palm of his hands.

So Mr. President, e-mail me on yours, and I'll send you the pictures I've taken with mine this past week.

Not only was this the week you were inaugurated, it was also the week I started playing around with the camera on this thing, so my entire BlackBerry photo album for now involves you.

If you ever want to see what you look like in miniature, say about an eighth of an inch tall, e-mail me. I have mini-you waving at me - and I suppose those 1,799,999 other people too - right after the oath of office. I also have nano-Michelle standing next to bitty-you during the ceremony.

And you at War Memorial Plaza in Baltimore, when you hopped off the train here two Saturdays ago - or, rather, a guy in an orange hat who popped into the frame at the last minute.

Ah, the perils of a presidential paparazza and her pocket-sized picture-maker.

But seriously, it's great news that you get to keep your BlackBerry, or your new Sectera Edge or whatever it is you're going to be using to stay in touch with close friends and staff or check in on your bookmarks.

For all the festive atmosphere of this past week, I couldn't help but worry about what would happen after the already tight bubble that has surrounded Obama, and also his family, during the election season enclosed them even more.

The many and great advantages first families get surely come at the cost of privacy, freedom and, perhaps most of all, normalcy. Even more than ever, all sorts of minor pleasures - spontaneously meeting someone for breakfast at the neighborhood spot, hopping on a bike when the weather turns unseasonably warm during the winter or, yes, forwarding a hilarious YouTube video to friends - fall out of reach from within the bubble.

Not that keeping his BlackBerry will change all that - surely the Presidential Records Act still applies to even whatever e-mailing Obama does on his secure device.

But I hope he gets to keep whatever familiar slivers of his past life that he can, even as he moves further and further into his new one.

Surely national security won't be compromised by the president checking on how his fantasy football team is doing, or sending a shoot-me-now e-mail about what a boring Cabinet meeting he's stuck in.

For now, it doesn't look like Obama has much time for such things - he seems to be trying for the record of fastest start out of the presidential gate - but no doubt he'll eventually find a spare minute here and there to thumb around a bit. You know, like the rest of us who take mental breaks by checking out Facebook or mindlessly following links around when we really should be working. It's a form of human contact without the mess of, well, actual humans.

I wonder if Obama's kids e-mail him when he's away. Surely Michelle does - doesn't every wife? - as do his buds from Chicago, and he seems like someone who keeps close, tight connections with friends and family.

Someone in what is one of the loneliest jobs possible - there aren't many leaders of the free world out there - can't afford to lose even one way of connecting with the people in his life who don't call him "Mr. President."

The swell of adoration that has built over Obama and his family over the past couple of years totally crested during inauguration week.

Many of the inauguration tchockes on sale on Washington's sidewalks this week featured the lovey-dovey mister and missus - and this was before the vendors had access to pictures of them dancing like newlyweds at the inaugural balls - or with their daughters.

That adoration comes, I think, at least in part from how quote-unquote normal they seem to have remained even in such an extraordinary situation.

Normal, that is, for a preternaturally telegenic family - sleek, athletic dad, brisk, stylish mom, prepossessed elder daughter, scamp of a little sister - that happens to have an entire staff to drive, feed and arrange for custom-made J. Crew clothes for them.

But whatever stage-managing goes on behind the scenes, I don't think you can successfully fake this kind of authenticity, not for the two or so years that they've been in the spotlight.

If so, someone got cheated out of an Oscar nomination this week. They really do seem loving, happy and, yes, normal - and you'd have to be pretty hard-hearted or named Rush Limbaugh not to hope that they'll find a way to stay that way in the coming years.

Now that the parties and parades, the concerts and all the inaugural hoopla have ended, their new life - their new normal - begins. I'll try not to intrude too much, but that might require disabling the camera on my BlackBerry.

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