Altered States

Same Obama, New Issues

Obama’s still against racial profiling, just not as often on his Web site.

As a candidate, Barack Obama heralded his stance against racial profiling. As president … well, he’s not publicizing his position like he was last fall.

In the dutiful copying of “Issues” pages from campaign-centric to the newly austere, pretty much everything made it over intact. So a before-and-after comparison of this item is curious: In his “Urban Policy” agenda, the section on ending racial profiling is absent from

The pledge to ban racial profiling survives—just in a different part of the Web site. It’s part of the “Civil Rights Agenda,” which includes a whole new “Support for the LGBT Community” addition. I wonder what John McCain and Sarah Palin would have made of Obama’s newly prominent support for gay adoption and elimination of “don’t ask, don’t tell”? * (Then again, maybe I’m being too cynical. It’s entirely possible that these agenda items came about only because of the whole Rick Warren inauguration kerfuffle.)

Meanwhile, now that the Obama team must comply with federal privacy requirements at, it’s curious to note changes to the site’s privacy policy. In particular, apparently YouTube now has an exemption from long-standing federal prohibitions on cookies. Pretty lucky for Google, I suppose: We assume that the Obama administration won’t, therefore, go along with European Union efforts to put a stop to these persistent cookies? Hmm.

Overall, the bland new site, adult and oh-so-serious, is expectedly disappointing. Even the archival Bush bio is more enamoring than the official Obama page. And it’s not just that hint of Texan stubble; in Obama’s photo, he looks like he’s Employee #29137 at LAX Terminal 3.

Indeed, how to follow up on the vaguely messianic or its freewheelin’, anything-goes twin, And while the transition site,, had a more formal veneer, it still had wild-and-crazy “open government” apps like the “Citizen’s Briefing Room.” There, the most popular proposals included decriminalizing pot and online poker, re-evaluating aid to Israel, ending the “truth embargo on Extraterrestrials,” and eliminating the tax-exempt status on the Church of Scientology. (Wait, aren’t those last two at odds?)

It’s perhaps not unexpected that this sort of fantastical “citizen involvement” is completely absent from the new And, sadly, the blog at the new site is nothing more than a press release machine: boring, byline-less announcements with nary a crazy comment. Bizarrely, though, you still have a parallel blog happening at the campaign site: each entry with hundreds of comments.

Yes, Obama has been afforded some leeway with his BlackBerry. But his remarkable and game-changing online presence during the campaign has probably been crushingly and dully overhauled.

Clarification, Jan. 28, 2009: A previous version of this article stated that Obama’s support for gay adoption and elmination of “don’t ask, don’t tell” had been “newly articulated” on his White House Web site. The language supporting these issues is the same as on Obama’s campaign site, but the statements are now included as part of the “civil rights agenda” on the White House site, whereas on the campaign’s site they were part of a blog about lesbian and gay issues. (Return to the revised sentence.)