Obama's Staff Facing Life Without IM

Barack Obama's top strategist, David Axelrod, uses AIM to communicate, as does most of his youthful staff. How will they survive in a government bureaucracy where everything goes down on your permanent record?

The cutesy coverage of instant messaging — "CU l8r 2 IM," writes Ben Smith in Politico — is foolishly dismissive, failing to recognize that a generation which grew up with IM at home has made it indispensable at work.

White House records-keeping rules require that all written communications be archived for posterity, including IM, so government lawyers are inclined to ban it from Obama's administration. And the answer is, well, they'll just have to pick up the phone. Are they clueless? Try having a dozen simultaneous conversations on the phone.

The real issue is the risk of embarrassment when an administration's documents become a matter of public record five years after the president leaves office. Private, casual conversations will all be exposed.

There's an obvious answer — one that the Obama campaign has inexplicably adopted, then abandoned.

Twitter has become a sort of public instant-messenger for the tech elite, who chatter at each other all day with "@" replies. Most Twitter messages are public, and the embarrassment is instantaneous. Why not get it over with? By Twittering every little policy thrash, the Obamans can satisfy their leader's desire for transparency and meet disclosure rules.