In 1992, President George H.W. Bush seemed amazed at supermarket scanner technology seemingly not recognizing the device that was already commonplace in grocery stores from sea to shining sea. Critics at the time said it showed the president was too entrenched inside Washington's Beltway, "cushioned from reality" they wrote, he was "out of touch with American life."
Fast forward to 2012. Smartphones are vastly more ubiquitous than grocery scanners. According to the Food Marketing Institute, there were 36,569 supermarkets in the U.S. in 2011. Even if each supermarket had 20 scanners, the number of smartphones held by Americans is far greater. More than 30 million Americans use an iPhone, and 70 million more use similar smart phones.
To be certain, amazement at supermarket scanners or the inability to operate touchscreen devices is not a disqualifier from holding the office of president. What is a disqualification, however, is a president who loses touch with ordinary Americans, and is too insulated to truly know how families are faring under his Administration's policies.
Consider the following:
On June 8, 2012 at a White House news conference, a reporter asked about the president's policy failures. In response, President Obama disputed any failings, pointed to misleading job creation numbers and declared, "The private sector is doing fine. Where we're seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government..." The fact is the private sector is not doing fine. In August, another 368,000 people dropped out of the labor force, shrinking the workforce participation rate to its lowest level in 30 years.
On July 13, 2012 in Roanoke, Virginia, President Obama told the audience, "If you've got a business - you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." Does that sound like a President who's in touch with the entrepreneurial spirit that made this country great? Or a President who understands the huge risks of striking out on one's own? Or how debilitating increased taxes and regulations are to entrepreneurs trying to start or expand a business?
The iPhone incident, the president's view of the private sector, his view of small business, his response to the economic and housing crises, his failed stimulus policy--all evidence President Obama is not connected to what's happening in the real world. If he were connected, he'd know his policies aren't working and in fact they've done more harm than good.
As the campaign continues, it is certain someone will teach the President how to use a smartphone, but keeping college students convinced Barack Obama is "President Cool" and tuned in to their concerns just got a lot more difficult. It is hard to be in touch with the technology generation when you cannot use a touch screen phone.
America is facing tough times. We must repair our economy, stimulate growth, slash the national debt and government spending, and reform entitlement programs. Such a steep agenda requires a leader connected to reality, connected to how government impacts people, and certain the path to prosperity lies in individual achievement. That leader is not Barack Obama. How do I know? Siri said so.
LeMieux is a Republican former U.S. Senator for Florida.