My heart, or at least some recondite part of me, went out to John McCain this weekend when I read his plaintive words: "I'm an illiterate who has to rely on his wife for any assistance he can get."
He was, I understand, referring to websurfing rather autocue-reading.
And I can honestly say that I feel his pain.
Thankfully, he is, on this page, in the hands of the experienced.
In the early part of this century, I was asked to help a company called Senior Surfers. Senior Surfers' goal was to find easy ways to take the wrinkles out of web-savviness for the wrinkled.
Together with my large-brained planning director, Chris Lydon (who is now a significant cranium at Coke), we talked to many people who had seen a few things.
Funnily enough, they acted as if they hadn't, seeming so relieved that they were now free of all responsibility that I half expected one of the 70-year-old chaps to pull out a condom and make a balloon out of it to impress the ladies.
Based on the knowledge gleaned from this eye-opening and, at times, tummy-twisting experience, I would like to offer Mr. McCain a few helpful hints on creating the lasting impression that he rules the internets:
1. Change your name to John MacCain.
This simple and very brand-aware maneuver will allow you, sir, to own the web progressiveness that Apple has so cleverly woven into its brand fabric. Mr. Obama already has the B and M from IBM. And it would only be a small stretch, surely, to refer to him as IBaMa.
2. Log on to Funny or Die daily.
This is a must. Mr. MacCain, your humor has thus far fallen into the indeterminate crack between juvenilia and senilia. My experience with seniors is that they are extremely fond of the juvenile end of the humor continuum.
Which I know will appeal to many voters south of, oh, Detroit. Funny or Die will be an excellent place for you to perfect (or, some would way, learn) timing, delivery and just the right level of puerility.
3. Make your homepage more, you know, cool.
Right now, John Mac, your homepage leads with COUNTRY FIRST. If that's the case, at least tell us whether you're more Alan Jackson or Faith Hill. Tell us whether you've got Julianne Hough's new album on your iPod. You've made a good start with that fabulous Pork Invaders game you have there, except, you know, well, Space Invaders was not, how can I put it, this century. (Was it even the last?)
We all want to know what sites are your faves. Plastic surgery? Plastic surges, perhaps? Maybe this one.
The people will be with you, as long as you update them daily. Don't worry, you have techy-types (don't you?) who'll create the links for you. You just have to do the Googling and to be seen to do the Googling.
4. Stop one of your speeches to read your Blackberry
Rudy Giuliani once stopped a press conference to take a call from his wife and mention 9/11. Not cool. The phone did not look modern. However, you can suddenly pause, perhaps during one of your impromptu 'um, er, is this Salt Lake City or Tehran?' moments and flip out your mobile nerve-killer.
Then, having read (or pretended to) the message, you can look up and say something profound like "The markets are up", "The Dark Knight just broke box office records", or even "My economics class has been moved up to 4.30."
5. Start commenting on Barack Obama's site.
John Mac, listen, Mr. Obama's most recent blog post, about canvassers meeting at a Tampa Dunkin' Donuts, has already got 176 comments as I write these words.
You, John Mac, can go right in there and tell them how it really is. All you have to do is log in. (Use your old name) Everyone reads commenters. Everyone knows they are the true voices of the people. Overnight, you will become like that cool chap on the Apple ads who used to date Drew Barrymore. And Mr. IBaMa will seem like the rotund nerdy one.
You could have these Democrat types eating out of your hands. Thanks to your web-savvy fingers.
Please let me know how it goes, John Mac. We'll be watching you on YouTube. You know, YouTube. Oh, ask your daughter.