back to article We have no self-control: America's most powerful men explain why they're scared of email

Two of the most powerful men in the United States have revealed they don't use email - because they're scared of what they might say. "I don't email. You can have every email I've ever sent. I've never sent one," Senator Lindsey Graham told NBC's Meet the Press yesterday. Graham's statement follows a similar admission by …

  1. Number6


    This is why you should always re-read an email carefully before hitting send. For the truly paranoid, type it in a text editor and only cut-and-paste when you're happy with it, lest the email client auto-save a draft of a rash comment.

    I use email, but there's stuff I've declined to send after typing and reviewing it, and times when I've gone to speak to someone or called them on the phone rather than put it in email because it's ever so easy to click "forward".

    1. Bob Dole (tm)

      Re: Discretion

      Considering the amount of crap that comes out of those two guys mouths, they are probably better off just not even using a computer.

    2. tfewster

      Re: Discretion

      Even hitting <Send> immediately builds in some delay, as you've typed the whole thing by then; If you start your verbal response off with "Dear asshole", it's already too late.

      But for McCain to claim that an email is "riskier" than sending a tweet that immediately reaches many people is just unbelievable.

      {edit - It's McCain, not Graham who uses Twatter)

      1. Eddy Ito

        Re: Discretion

        Be honest, congresscritters don't twitter. They have people for that.

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: Discretion

          Yep. If you have no scruples and lots of money (which describes absolutely everyone namechecked in this article), you just pay other people to send emails on your behalf.

          If you're even more of a slimeball (which again, I think can safely be said of everyone mentioned here), you also pay, or do other kinds of deals with, bloggers and twitters to say the things that you can't say because it wouldn't be consistent with your Nice image.

          It's astonishing how well that works. Here in New Zealand we had a lot of fuss, just before the last election, of a book that documented our very own Nice Guy PM, John Key, doing the latter kind of deal with a particularly vicious blogger. After the story broke, Key's share of the vote increased.

          I assume every US politician who's big enough that I've ever heard of them, is doing much the same.

  2. Len Goddard

    snail mail

    Presumably they don't send old-fashioned mail either? And it is just as easy (if not easier) to be an ass in a tweet as it is in email.

    Pair of idiots.

    1. Marshalltown

      Re: snail mail

      Snail mail takes time and thought to compose on paper. Even so, plenty of stupid stuff has been set down on paper, vellum, papyrus, clay and even on rocks, but proportionately speaking, far less than gushes forth from the general snarl of internet users out there now. In the US the existence of the First Amendment seems to make a good many folk think that since they have a right to an opinion, their opinion must be worth holding, rather than the ignorant drivel it is statistically. McCain at least suspects that not every random neuron firing is worth documenting.

      1. CaptainHook

        Re: snail mail

        I suspect the slightly longer composition time is not the reason someone like that might prefer snail mail to email.

        Snail mail is harder to forward to people that weren't on the original addressee list. Someone has to have physical access to the letter and time / desire to forward it to someone else, and the more people you want to forward it to the more effort it takes. And of course, a physical letter is much easier to destroy, in fact short of taking deliberate steps to preserve a letter chances are it will be lost / destroyed in a fairly short time.

        Email on the other hand is trivial to forward to lots of people, doesn't require physical access to the document and has a nasty habit of sticking around somewhere for long periods of time and also tends to have logs to backup it's authenticity to some extent.

        I suspect that people like those mentioned in the article prefer not to use email because it has a tendency to resurface years later at embarrassing times.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: snail mail

          Nowadays scanning a physical letter amd then forwarding to many people is a matter of a few clicks.

      2. Len Goddard

        Re: snail mail

        Compose on paper? Nah

        Wordprocessor/text editor - hit print.

        The only difference between that and email is you have to post the thing. No doubt this pair of idiots have minions to do that for them.

    2. Eddy Ito

      Re: snail mail

      It's just too precious when it turns out a certain other person doesn't use email either. Somehow I don't think you'll ever catch Keiren calling him a Luddite though but it think the bit about lacking self control is widely known.

  3. Sandtitz Silver badge


    "I don't do Facebook/Twit/G+/Linkedin. At times I post on ElReg forums. I don't know what that makes me."

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Luddite?

      "I don't do Facebook/Twit/G+/Linkedin. At times I post on ElReg forums. I don't know what that makes me."

      Intelligently selective.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Luddite?

        sadly, a bit like me - more cant be bothered than selective

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    'Graham told a confused Bloomberg News: "I've tried not to have a system where I can just say the first dumb thing that comes to my mind."'

    Maybe talking to the press is just that sort of system.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Then he doesn't speak on the floor in Congress when in session? Then again... maybe that's where he does his "dumb things"....

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So. Two people in charge of the way 600-ish million people use email either don't know how it works; or are afraid to use it. Well, that's not optimal.

    1. Eddy Ito

      McCain is 78 and I know lots of people his age who also don't do email. Yet they do things like Skype and Facetime so they can spend a little time with the grandkids or even great grandkids. Does that make them Luddites? I don't think so, it just means they couldn't give a gnat's arse about email but they see value in actually being able to see and talk face to slightly delayed video.

      Graham on the other hand doesn't really have an excuse but he is from the south. Oh that's sahy-owth, sah-yowth or even saaahouth depending on where you are.

  6. FreemonSandlewould

    Article is total BS. Apologist for the powered ruling elite........ohhhh the rules apply to you! not to me!

    1. Graham Marsden

      I do hope...

      ... that the above post is meant to be ironic!

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge


        It certainly means that he didn't read it, and '"Apologist for the powered ruling elite" means that he thinks they run on batteries, apparently.

  7. Msnthrp


    Another leftist hit piece. When considering whether to do something, it is idiotic to do something simply because everyone else is doing it. The lemmings effect. If email does not help a person do what they want to do, don't do it. The same goes for Twitter, Facebook, and all the other "social media" idiocies.

    As the Wicked Witch of the East knows, all emails are supposed to be archived for future use. No emails, no archive, although I would bet that the senator's subordinates do a lot of emailing, especially in answering emails from their constituents. I would say not doing emails is smart except that doing Twitter is incredibly stupid for a high-profile politician.

    1. Robert Helpmann??

      Re: Luddites?

      If email does not help a person do what they want to do, don't do it.

      More than missing the point given that what they do involves being accountable to their constituents which in turn means they have to use a variety means to keep them informed. I suspect that this is more a case of them not personally handling it, but instead having staff handle their official correspondence for them. If I wanted to be cynical, I would say their non-use of e-mail is a simple effort to avoid going on record without intending to. OK, I get being busy enough that they feel they don't have the time to learn all the ins and outs of (for them) new tech, especially as they almost certainly have heard stories of the e-mail that sunk someone's career, but it bothers me very much that people who have so much power are so out of touch with the day-to-day realities of the people they represent.

      1. Eddy Ito

        Re: Luddites?

        it bothers me very much that people who have so much power are so out of touch with the day-to-day realities of the people they represent.

        It seems like a rather large leap to say that not using email puts them out of touch with their constituency.

        It's very likely that most if not all other federal politicians have staff handle most email. As Senators they represent the entire state so there are potentially millions of emails on any given topic and to think they need to read it all to stay in touch seems a bit naive. Heck a spam filter could be trained to sort emails "for" or "against" the sujet du jour to see which way the political wind is blowing and don't think something similar isn't being used on a large scale. It's what keeps populists popular.

      2. skeptical i

        Re: Luddites?

        Somehow I got on Senator McCain's newsletter email list, so someone on his payroll is putting his words to pixels and sending 'em out. I guess if he's gone this many years without using it, and he has staff to field emailed constituent queries, there's pro'ly no point in his taking it up now. This doesn't explain the twaddle usage (because THAT's totally foolproof, oy!) but consistency is for cake batter, not politicians.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Luddites?

      Leftist hit piece???? I don't think so. I daresay this applies to both sides of the political spectrum.

      The rest of what you said does apply and I completely agree with.

      Hell, the CEO of where I work doesn't do his own email... yet, if you email him, you get back a "personal response".... from his drones.

  8. Nolveys
    Paris Hilton

    It may not have occurred to them that the very fact they are unable to introduce reason and critical reflection before responding is why they are unlikely to ever become president.

    I think that the author may have misunderestimated US voters.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A lot of powerful people don't read/send their own email

    They have peons to do that for them. That's becoming less and less common over the years, but these guys are pretty old. At least McCain is willing to admit the reason - he knows he's a hothead and would undoubtedly stick his foot in his mouth on a monthly basis if he was able to draft a quickie profanity-laden (he's famous for that) response in 10 seconds.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: That's becoming less and less common over the years

      Really ?

      Care to source that ?

      Personally, I would very much prefer that a prominent politician spend his time on his job rather than on Twitter.

      Unfortunately, I do acknowledge that it would seem that, for many politicians today, they believe that maintaining their image is their job.

  10. All names Taken

    Damage control?

    Seems reasonable - the best damage control seems to be don't use email at all.

  11. Adam White


    Email's a finicky form of communication. It feels like casual personal correspondence when you're typing it but there's a prevalent school of though that all emails, despite the silly disclaimers we attach to them, are official company records.

    So, hypothetically, when Billy G sends an email to Stevie B that says "DOS isn't done til Lotus won't run" that's not just some guy having a crack with his mate, that's (potentially) evidence of malicious intent.

    Email seems like private communicate but it often becomes discoverable public content. Whereas Twitter et al has no false expectation of privacy. When you know you're addressing the public you tend to mentally compose yourself properly.

    I'm sure we all see this sort of thing all the time where someone sends a meticulously phrased 100+ word email describing a proposed plan or task or other work related activity and gets a response of "Ok" or "Yeh sounds good lets do it".

    For many people, not using email is often a good thing. The less opportunity they have to stuff up, the better off they are.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: you tend to mentally compose yourself properly

      That sentence presupposes that there is a mind to compose.

      Given some of the tweets I have read, that does not always seem to be the case.

    2. Dan Paul

      Re: Email

      Hilarity Clinton "allegedly" broken the law when she operated a private email account for government business when she was with the State Department.

      However, both political parties have been guilty of the same behaviour.

      Depending on the severity of her offense, she could be guilty of a felony and THAT would make her inelegible to vote or hold any political office. If it can be proved that she obfuscated messages of a sensitive nature by using this or even another account, she could be sent to jail.

      The link below is for the legal language regarding some of the laws in question, ones that have been around since Nixon got caught tampering with records.

      The link below shows that the Whitehouse and it's staff (of which Hillary was certainly part of) was quite aware of the more recent legal requirement to have ALL communications archived.

      1. CarbonLifeForm

        Re: Email

        My wife works for a local government agency in the US. *All* her correspondence is to be available for public review, if called upon. "I was using a private email address for all my correspondence, and I decide what is relevant to your request" does not work here. (I shudder to think at the security implications of all Ms. Clinton's correspondenceto foreign leaders going outside the Department of State firewall.)

        Is my wife the head of the agency she works at? No. But the rules do not cease to apply once you're on the top. These are public records. They must be available, if not to the public at large, at least to *their duly elected representatives with requisite clearance.* Actions to make that impossible are highly suspect.

        Do others do it? Yes, I'm sure. Are others this brazen? No, they're not. She's made an art of being caught doing something illegal and then managing it: first, by having her surrogates deny it, then appearing confused by the controversy, later indignant, ultimately blaming the usual suspects, and finally waiting for the mess to die down.

        As for the reason Ms. Clinton did this: come now, let's not be naive. It's so she can selectively hide the contents of some of her emailers - the ones that she takes bribes from. Sorry - no other reason I can think of to set up your private email server to receive all your emails for years and keep it out of the government's reach.

  12. jberger

    McCain can't type, injuries as a POW


    McCain has injuries he suffered as a POW that keep him from being able to routinely use a keyboard and mouse. He downplays those injuries in deference to those fellow service members who didn't live to make it out of the camp, but the guy can't type on any real regular frequency.

    But feel free equivocate a physical disability suffered by an honorable man in service to his country to the intentional act of wanton disregard for law that Clinton showed by stringing up an email server to thwart the laws around eDiscovery and her communications.

  13. AbeSapian

    More Than Enough Damage

    We already knew this. But fear not Graham and McCain. You manage to do more than enough stupid with ordinary mail.

  14. John Tserkezis

    "they lack the necessary self-control not to say something stupid."

    Yes, they have assistants and advisors to tweet something stupid for them.

  15. netminder

    Interesting since the twit from South Carolina has a twitter account. So he is afraid of email because of the stupid shit that falls out of his mouth but is okey-dokie with tweeting.

    OTOH, we should not be surprised as ignorance seems to be a key indicator in the GOP to determine committee assignments. The Science & Technology one is led by Jim Inhofe who rejects all scientific research and consensus. Idociocracy is upon us in the US

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't get all the fuss......

    ....the NSA already has captured all her email. Ya wanna know what was deleted, just ask the guys you fund!

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like