Inexorably, the cocoon that Barack Obama will live in for the next four or eight years is tightening around him.
Already in Chicago there are concrete barriers around his house. The streets in the immediate neighborhood are closed to outside traffic. Worshippers at a nearby synagogue must go through metal detectors. And would-be renters in the neighborhood have to be cleared by the Secret Service. He no longer goes to the barber; the barber goes to him. And he travels in an armored limousine in a red-light-running motorcade.
And the cocoon will only get tighter.
Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times reports that on becoming president Obama will likely have to give up his ubiquitous BlackBerry and his access to unfettered e-mail. There is the fear that his messages will be intercepted or hacked. And there are privacy considerations. The Presidential Records Act requires that all correspondence in connection with his official duties, including e-mails, be preserved and eventually made public. President Bush forswore e-mails when he took office for that reason. And sooner or later somebody will try to subpoena them.
This means that as Obama’s presidency goes on, the information presented to him will be increasingly prescreened and predigested. And his handlers will naturally want him to appear only before friendly audiences. In the natural course of events, he will be cut off from what the rest of us like to call "the real world."
During the campaign, an unreal world all its own, Zeleny writes that Obama relied on "a network of friends — some from college, others from Chicago and various chapters in his life" — to keep him plugged in.
There are valid considerations of security and confidentiality here, but at some level that kind of isolation can’t be good for a chief executive.