As, we saw in a poll, voters at least want their next president to be as conversant in the Internet as they are. The kickoff panel at yesterday's Congressional Internet Caucus conference (The State of the Net) provided an opportunity for some of the presidential campaigns to show their geek creds. The panel focused on how the next administration should manage and prioritize technology policy. It featured representatives (some ostensible, some actual) representatives of the Clinton, McCain, Obama and Giuliani (RIP) campaigns. Here's GCN's report on it.
My quick take: The new boss may not be the same as the old boss, but, at the very least, the rhetoric will sound strikingly similar. That is, the Mom and apple pie issues were covered extensively. R&D, science and tech education, clean tech, and broadband all were heaped praise.
Hillary's guy, Thomas Kalil, from the Center for American Progress and a Clinton 1.0 official, played right from the classic "Innovation Agenda" playbook shared by many. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Most of these "no brainer" policies have failed to connect to the right synapse at the right time in the last eight years to fully please many techies. An Administration and a few different shades of Congresses can all look in the mirror.
Obama's rep was a VC named Julius Genachowski. He's been a friend of Obama since they went to law school together. Genachowski mentioned Obama's fairly detailed innovation plan that he unveiled at Google a couple months ago [we wrote about it here] and touched on the big themes, namely, that the premise for the plan is that tech is essential to being part of the solution for almost every major issue that is important in this campaign. However, former congressman Tom Taucke and current Verizon policy boss complained in his later keynote that no one on the campaigns were pushing this exact salient point. (Tangent: How would anyone know? While flying out for the conference, I flipped back and forth between CNN and MSNBC's coverage of the campaign and think I got about three minutes of policy substance out of five hours of frothing horse race nonsense.)
Genachowski also noted Obama's call for a federal CTO, but didn't get into specifics on what the roll of this official would play beyond noting that the CTO could help fix "market failures" in key sectors that could spur private tech investments. And, he did echo Obama's call for using tech to create government transparency.
McCain's man, Doug Holtz-Eakin, said that Mr. Campaign Finance Reform is also a big supporter of using tech for transparency. In fact, he was so transparent, that he he let everyone know that through the magic of the Internet, the senator raised $500,000 from Midnight to the morning in his post-Florida glow. Eakin took the only pro-free trade stance for the day (which we highly commend) and called to end the annual R&D tax credit extension "charade". He was notably "on message" when it came to immigration rules that impact the industry: "We will secure the borders before engaging in any other immigration reform."
Someone close to McCain mentioned to me the other day that he thinks that the senator is unnecessarily playing his business and tech creds down. Mitt may have "managed" millions of dollars, but, bygone, Big Mac was the Chairman of the pretty-darn important Senate Commerce Committee. And, as this source said, he didn't punt all of his work to staff. He got his fingernails dirty on all sorts of business critical issues. Yesterday, I don't remember Holtz-Eakin ever so much as mentioning this role and McCain didn't either in the Republican debate.
All and all, an interesting panel that said all the right things. Can't wait to get those right things done.