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Obama's email ID defines Washington's new haves and have-nots

Washington has a new measure to define its elite: if you don't have President Barack Obama's email address, you are not in it.

world Updated: Feb 02, 2009 06:22 IST

Washington has a new measure to define its elite: if you don't have President Barack Obama's email address, you are not in it.

Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, Steny H Hoyer, the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader and many members of the cabinet, including Defense Secretary Robert M Gates does not have Obama's email ID, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

Vice President Joseph R Biden Jr has it, along with his own new super-secret BlackBerry and e-mail address. So do Obama's chief of staff, his top advisers and some of his oldest friends from Chicago, it reported.

Senator Richard J Durbin, a fellow Illinois Democrat, probably has it but refuses to say.

"We're not going to discuss it," his spokesman Joe Shoemaker was quoted as saying. Asked why, he said, "That's pretty obvious, isn't it?"

"It is now the ultimate status symbol in a town obsessed by status. Mr Obama was spotted last week trying out his new BlackBerry - or actually a more sophisticated, encrypted variation - and aides say that he uses a computer in the study next to the Oval Office but that he has agreed to limit the number of people he would exchange e-mail with. In the process, he created a new measure for Washington to judge who really has the ear, or the thumb, of the president," the Times said.

"This is the 21st-century version of the same special access that certain people are always granted to the president," Joel P Johnson, a senior White House adviser under former president Bill Clinton was quoted as saying.

"In FDR's White House, it was Harry Hopkins and Harold Ickes. There will be a similar select few in this White House."

The select few who have Obama's e-mail address, say people informed about the matter, include Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff; David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, both senior advisers, and Robert Gibbs, the press secretary.

But cabinet members like the interior secretary, Ken Salazar, said they did not have it. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is a frequent BlackBerry user, but a spokesman said he did not know whether she had the president's address.

Obama himself joked about the exclusive nature of his e-mail list at the annual Alfalfa Club dinner in Washington ON Saturday night.

"How exclusive?" the president asked. "Everyone look at the person sitting on your left. Now look at the person sitting on your right. None of you have my e-mail address."

First Published: Feb 02, 2009 06:15 IST