Apparently that "Tech Policy Smackdown" between the Obama and McCain camps that we promoted earlier this week was a little bit a lot bit one sided.
The McCain representative had a scheduling conflict. Which, one week before election day is entirely plausible. However, some weren't so happy about it and noted that said representative appeared on MSNBC at the same time that the event was scheduled (recalling the Letterman/Katie Couric episode). From ThinkProgress:
ThinkProgress spoke with Troy Schneider, new media editor at the New America Foundation, who said that the McCain campaign contacted them and canceled at 9 a.m. today. “I do think that this was just an honest scheduling conflict,” said Schneider. “He got pulled into meetings he had to do with the campaign today.” An aide in the McCain campaign press office said that he believed Holtz-Eakin simply had “campaign stuff” to do, but our call to Holtz-Eakin’s office has not yet been returned.
However, Holtz-Eakin appeared on MSNBC today, raising questions about whether there really was a true “scheduling conflict.” Holtz-Eakin’s appearance was at 1:00 p.m., right during the middle of the New America event.
The moderator of the debate, Wired's Nicholas Thompson wasn't happy, either, and gives more backstory to the process of getting participation from the McCain team:
I’ve been wrangling with the McCain campaign, trying to get someone to defend his tech record and platform in a debate. There are enough Obama surrogates to fill the Queen Mary and the first one I called, former FCC chair Reed Hundt, was eager and willing to find a time.
But finding a campaign surrogate for McCain was not easy.
Carly Fiorina? Alas, she was vetoed by the campaign, ostensibly because she’s not a policy person; but almost certainly because she made a gaffe earlier in the election cycle. Former FCC chair Michael Powell? Supposedly traveling until election day --- and, according to one friend of his who I spoke with, wavering in his support for McCain, just as his father, Colin, did. Meg Whitman? According to the McCain people she couldn’t possibly fly east for a debate in Washington. Funny then that she spoke at a conference in Virginia earlier this week.
Finally, the McCain camp offered economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin. Excellent! We started planning and everything went well. Technology has been the ignored step-child of this campaign. No issue that matters more has been discussed less. The event sold out immediately.
Then, oops, yesterday morning, a couple hours before the event began, the McCain camp emailed to say that, actually, no, sorry, Holtz-Eakin can't make it for the 12:30 debate. Apparently he had very important meetings to attend. Right. Apparently, though, he stepped out in the middle. At 1pm he was on MSNBC attacking Obama, trying to tie him to George Bush's economic policies. Meanwhile, Reed Hundt ended up talking about complicated tech issues alone. The event was still fascinating (and you can see video here) but a huge opportunity was lost.
I can't fault the McCain team for pulling their top economic guy for either a "meeting" or a MSNBC opp in front of many, many more of voters than in the room for the tech policy event. But, given the obviousness of busy campaigns, it would have obviously been nice if had a back-up ready.