More and more, everyday, I shake my head in amazement….
Okay, if any of you have read some of my previous w/u’s it should come as no surprise that I’m not so enamored of President Bush and his policies, both domestic and foreign. I’m feeling even less enamored today when I got my daily dose of news and was greeted by this. (Courtesy of the New York Times.)
Do you want to send an e-mail to the White House?
According to the article, (http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/07/18/nyt.markoff/) if one of us lowly citizens, in simpler times, wanted to get a message to the President, all they had to do was plop themselves down in front of a pc, get on the Internet and shoot a message off to firstname.lastname@example.org. It didn’t matter if the message was supportive or was critical of the Presidents policies and was more of a free form text type of letter. Of course there was no guarantee the President or any of his aides would actually read or take into consideration your expression but still, the concept of direct access to the president was reassuring.
Well folks, not anymore. It seems that now, if you use the address the article mentioned, your message will come back to you with an automated reply and offer you some advice on how to send it in the new format. I’m okay with that, times change and , for the most part, we should change with them. I don’t know if this is one of them though.
According to the article, it seems you now have to wade through up to nine Web pages before you can convey your message. Just for shits and grins, I thought I’d give it a try.
Page 1 is sort of a disclaimer stating that there is no guarantee that the President will read or respond to your message. I’m okay with that too. The President is quite naturally a busy man with more important things on his mind. It’s some of the other pages and questions that I have a problem with.
Page 2. First of all, you are asked if you support the President’s polices or if you have a differing opinion. (It comes as no surprise that the default value is "support".) I asked myself, what difference should that make? What if I just want to offer up some friendly advice? I’m (for the most part) a law abiding, tax-paying member of society and whether I agree or disagree with the current Administrations polices has little or nothing to do with getting my message to the Commander in Chief or one of his staff.
Next, one is provided with a selection of topics to choose from. The current list provides a drop down list of values with various sub –categories attached to them. Here’s the major ones.
General Defense/Homeland Security
Here’s the thing folks, you can only choose one major and one sub-category at a time. For example, lets look at the Environment. Under that heading, I can choose from:
Clean Air/New Source Review
Healthy Forest Initiative
What if I wanted to talk about some other issue related to the environment like oh, I dunno, endangered species? Where can I express my thoughts about that? Or, better yet, what if I wanted to express my feelings about the Environment and the Economy (another major category) at the same time? I will now be forced to send two separate messages.
Page 3. You must then enter your full name, your full address and your e-mail address. Optional fields are Title and Organization. Actually, it’s at this point that I gave up since I don’t need nor do I want my name on file with a certain government agency just because I might have sent a letter to the White House expressing my dismay over current Presidential policies. I’m surprised they didn’t ask if I minded giving them a DNA sample.
If the article is to be believed, you are then prompted to send your message. You would think that would be it wouldn’t you. No, again, according to the article, you will receive one of those automated responses to your e-mail address ( I guess they wanna confirm that it’s you) that asks if you really want to send your message. Only after you confirm that, yes indeed, I do want to send my message will it be delivered to the White House.
The White House advises that if you have a “sensitive” or “personal matter” to discuss with the President, you can always write a letter, send a fax or give him a jingle. Yeah, right.
All in all folks, this is one of the worst designed websites I’ve ever seen. It’s slow, it doesn’t meet my needs and as for user friendly, forget about it.
To me though, that’s not the important part. While it might be well intended, to me it’s just another sign of the current Administrations attempt to put a wall around itself. It’s sorta like them saying “Yeah, you can ask us all the questions you want but we’ll tell you which questions to ask.”
Oh yeah, if you don't believe me, try it yourself at www.whitehouse.gov/webmail.