Mike, just bomb an aspirin factory

I have developed a certain perverse fondness for Gov. Mike Easley in recent weeks. He’s become the gift that keeps on giving.

Easley can’t seem to do anything right these days. While his endless pratfalls provide lots of fodder for the likes of me — ‘preciate it, governor — his reputation is taking a beating. If Easley hoped that everyone would just forget about the $400 million meltdown in the state’s mental health care system, he certainly got his wish. Trouble is, we’re now focused on his inept handling of the email flap.

After a recently fired state government spokeswoman revealed that deletion of email was a common practice in state government, Easley appointed a special panel to review the state’s policy on the handling and preservation of electronic documents. This is, of course, an important undertaking. More and more of the state’s business is conducted by email, but the current policy dates back (literally and figuratively) to the 20th century. Basically, state government employees have been free to use their own judgment about which electronic messages should be saved. That was fine for the time when most email was along the lines of, “Everyone gather in the conference room at 2 for Ethel’s farewell cake!” Today, though, it’s more likely that a message will say something like, “Water testing has detected benzene in the well serving the 100-home neighborhood. I recommend that we hold off on notifying residents until further testing can be arranged.”

You want the state employee who wrote that message later deciding — after homeowners have discovered their water is toxic — that it’s not really all that, you know, important?

So what does Easley do as he convenes a panel to study this indisputably significant issue? First, he fails to remember that Republicans use email, too. The panel initially was comprised solely of Democrats and independents, a situation that was fixed only after the state GOP complained. Then Easley names as the panel’s head a fellow who proudly claims that he’s never sent an email message in his life, and wouldn’t even know how to turn on his office computer.

Oh, yeah. That’s exactly who we want studying this issue — a guy who revels in his ignorance of technology.

I used to think Easley was merely disdainful of politics. Now I think he’s just clumsy at it.

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