Pence makes AOL great again

I didn’t know AOL was still in business. If I got an email from someone  with an AOL account, I intuitively would delete it because I would assume it is a virus, a scam, or some version of bad news.

This is just smart email caution on my part.

But it turns out Mike and Karen Pence are AOL customers. Even after then-Gov. Pence had his AOL account hacked last June, the Pence’s just deleted their accounts and opened two new ones. That’s serious brand loyalty to a brand that is now the equivalent of the flip phone.

“You’ve Got Mail” is a 1998 movie starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. The movie is a romantic comedy about two competing book store owners who happen to anonymously fall in love with each other on the internet. They were both AOL users, and that now irritating incoming email alarm that the throwback company used was the source of the movie’s title.

Today the movie is on cable a lot, probably more than it should be. So much so that I’m sure almost no one streams it on Netflix. Why bother? It seems it’s in a loop on the throwback content delivery mechanism that our parents still love.

There are good lessons in this flick though.

Ryan emails Hanks using her “shopgirl” handle: “The odd thing about this form of communication is that you’re more likely to talk about nothing than something.”

Almost twenty years later, the rules have evolved.

Hillary Clinton got creamed on the campaign for seriously poor judgement in managing email. Everything via email is serious business in politics and governing. Why is that exactly? Two main reasons: first, the communication is often subject to public access, and second because email is not always secure.

The random thoughts that Meg Ryan wrote about in the movie now seem to apply to Twitter not email.  See @realDonaldTrump.

But Republicans are scrambling and stretching to make a distinction between the Mike Pence AOL emails and Hillary Clinton’s. Pence’s email account was used to conduct state business which was often confidential and sensitive in nature. No, national security was apparently not an issue. But before the GOP doubles down on this too firmly, what absolutely is an issue is Pence’s troubled record on public access.

The former governor remains in court on the issue of transparency with email communication. This is part of a lawsuit Indiana engaged on with 16 other states regarding President Obama’s immigration executive order. The governor hired his own lawyers to defend his lack of transparency on the issue, after the attorney general opted not to be involved. Yes, this legal bill is at taxpayer expense.

The great work this week by the Indianapolis Star and the Associated Press on seeking Pence’s emails highlight how difficult it has been. The release of these AOL documents are in response to the media outlets’ requests for them dating back as far as 2014, but specifically to July and September of last year. The same law firm continues to advise him and presumably bill all of us on the matter.

In other words, the main takeaway here should not be that Pence’s emails are not the same as Clinton’s. The takeaway is that Pence has a horrible record on public access, has spent public money on more than one occasion to hide public information, and yet still sees no problem here.

Oh, and it is just plain funny that he is still an AOL customer.

In the movie, Hanks discovers that his cyber romance turns out to be with Ryan, a woman he knows in real life. But instead of disclosing it or coming clean, his character spends the last half of the movie wooing her on email and in real life until true love prevails in the end.

I never understood why Ryan’s character didn’t mind at all that she had been manipulated so badly. Oh well, I guess love is blind in the movies.

Back here in real life modern America though, openness and honesty is a real ongoing issue. And it is not a challenge that is unique to either political party. This is an ethic, a state of mind, that actually is contextual and identical to both the Clinton “scandal” of the campaign and the current one involving Pence.

Both circumstances are an attempt to keep things private and personal that clearly are not either of those things. And it is clear to me that this cat and mouse game with what is public and what isn’t needs to end.

While I patiently wait for that, I offer a free pair of dad jeans and a used VCR to the first responder under 30 who can tell me what AOL even stands for. Send entries to shopgirl@aol.com.