CNN reports here that the Obama White House website has a new face, and they are certainly correct. Long on policy and substance, this site has the look of a campaign site, hungry to communicate with the world and publish its message directly to its audience.
I like the fact that President Obama’s website bio is brief. (I suppose that when the heading says “President of the United States,” you don’t really need to mention much more.)
Two items of interest in the “Agenda” section:
I’m fascinated by the fact that pretty much every sentence says, “Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe…” I wonder if that inclusion was part of Senator Biden’s agreement to become Vice President.
Of particular interest: Israel is addressed in two separate places in the “Foreign Policy” category, once under Renewing American Diplomacy and once under Israel.
The former includes a section titled “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” and focusses on realizing a two-state solution. The latter includes “Ensure a strong US-Israel partnership,” “Support Israel’s right to self-defense” and “Support foreign assistance to Israel.”
I have no objection to what the site says in either place, but I feel it would have made more sense to have included both sets of comments under “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” (And if the site’s point is that the US-Israel relationship is about more than just the conflict, then the sub-section “Support Israel’s right to self-defense” really belongs under the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict” sub-heading.)
What I would like to see:
1) I like the “Office of Public Liaison” concept (which already existed under President Bush), and hope it will be developed. Right now, it’s just a “Contact Us” form.
2) Under “Agenda,” I would very much like to see a daily or weekly list of the president’s key appointments, even without specific times. Security, secrecy and spontaneity may make a precise listing impossible, but knowing which briefings are going on, and what has the president's attention and with whom the president is working, would be a great step toward the promised transparency.
3) I would love to see a permanent focus on the ordinary citizen, especially since that has been a key part of the Obama appeal. I’m thinking a small corner or sidebar photo on the page, linking to an article about that person – an obituary of someone who had passed away, or a newspaper article about his/her achievement. The achievement doesn’t have to be as large as a CNN Heroes type; it could just reflect the life of an American citizen. The photo and article would change daily, or weekly.
4) Of course, I would love to see the President author a post or two in his blog, not as a press release or transcript of a speech, but just an everyday type of comment, the sort that appears on any other blog.
5) And most important:
It is evident that many of the people who have fallen in love with presidential politics have done so because of the star power of the new president, and not because of a newfound love for their country, or the American democratic system. That’s fine – as long as their love deepens into an appreciation for the system and country itself.
To aid that transition, I would like to see a permanent feature, such as a sidebar photo leading to an article, on specific legislators. Whether municipal, state, or federal, regardless of party affiliation, the site could spotlight people who are making positive contributions to government, and could thereby encourage others to become involved.
Of course, there is an inherent risk that with such a spotlight you accidentally endorse the next Ted Stevens; you would need some serious vetting, and the wording would have to eschew the laudatory. But if you did one every week or every two weeks, that should be manageable – and it might go a ways toward inspiring interest in government and appreciation for the best of America.
[And one more: Having just attempted to submit some of these suggestions on the Comment Form on the website - change your programming so that "Enter" does not automatically submit the form. It's quite frustrating.]