Obama Talks Tech at Google
by Jonathan Singer, Wed Nov 14, 2007 at 01:44:48 PM EST
I'm down in Mountain View at the Google world headquarters for the coming dialogue with Barack Obama. According to media reports, Obama will lay out his tech agenda, which includes the creation of a chief technology officer position to ensure that the federal government is conducted in an open manner, and a commitment to net neutrality. The event should be starting momentarily and I'll be liveblogging with thoughts throughout.
Obama next takes questions from the audience. The first questioner notes that Bill Clinton was the only Democrat in the post-war era to win two elections and asks Obama what he would learn from Clinton. Obama says that he believes int he importance of the moment, that Clinton understood the moment in the early 1990s, worked as a different kind of Democrat, which was a powerful message for that time. The moment today, Obama says, requires an honesty with the American people, and not necessarily doing things the way they've been done before.
Democrats lose when they are not strong about what they stand for. Democrats lose when they don't know what they stand for and get defensive when they get hit rather then going back on the offensive. In effect, Obama says "bring it on" to Giuliani and Romney about the culture of fear, saying that we don't need to redefine torture-like tactics to make them legal, that we don't need to double the size of Guantanamo.
On a question regarding the deficit, Obama says that the first step is ending the Iraq War. Obama also talks about honest accounting, not hiding debts. But the biggest problem Obama sees in terms of the federal budget is healthcare spending, Medicare and Medicaid. Technology, he says, could help with the costs. So, too, could investing in prevention.
The next question comes on the "perceived weakness" surrounding the issue of experience. Obama talks about the fact that the people who founded Google didn't have a whole lot of experience running Fortune 500 companies, which elicits more than a few laughs. Obama then says that judgment and character are paramount, but also that his experience can be put up against that of any of the other candidates. Obama points to achievements within the Illinois state Senate. Obama also speaks about standing up for what he believed in even when it wasn't necessarily popular, such as when he spoke out against the impending Iraq War even when George W. Bush was at 65 percent in the polls. Obama also speaks of finding the right talent to achieve the goals of his administration.
The final question comes on fighting special interests -- how to get insiders to fix a system they benefit from. Obama says that people need to use shame, pointing to his successful work with Russ Feingold on the toughest lobbying reform since Watergate. Transparency is important in the process, he says, because the more the American people know the more government will be held accountable. On healthcare, Obama says the lesson from the Clinton healthcare plan is that the plan shouldn't be created behind closed doors, that he would bring everyone to the table but that that table would be in the open (on C-SPAN, on the net). "And if they put up 'Harry and Louise' ads", Obama would go on YouTube and talk back. Obama also says that decisions should be made on facts and reason.
Prior updates below the fold...
Obama is now taking the stage. I'm hearing that this crowd is significantly larger than the crowd for previous candidates, including John Edwards. Obama speaks of unlocking the potential of the future through a recommitment to science and innovation. Obama strongly endorses "an open internet", "tak[ing] a backseat to no one" in a commitment to net neutrality. Obama sets a goal of every American having broadband access, and working to speed up broadband. As President, Obama would make governmental data open on the internet in a number of formats, data including legislative info, lobbying contracts, etc. To achieve all of this, Obama would create the position of chief technology officer.
As a way to show his commitment to technological advances, Obama speaks of his campaign's embrace of new technologies. For instance, Obama points to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have signed up on his site or made contributions to his campaign online.
Obama also makes a commitment to doubling federal science grants and ensuring long term research and development tax credits. In addition, Obama voiced strong support for comprehensive immigration reform.
Following his remarks, Obama is taking questions from the audience. The first question is what would be exceptional about his presidency. Obama speaks of the audacity of America from its beginnings and through to today, but also that America is at a transformational moment in history when it needs someone who can transcend today's divisions, someone who can govern. What's more, Obama speaks of the need of having someone who has fought special interests, as he has. Finally, Obama talks about his ability to heal America's relationship with the world as a result of the "credibility" that he has and claims others don't.
The next question is on the Iraq War. Obama says that he will work with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, his Secretary of State nominee and his National Security Advisor nominee to set the new mission: ending the war in Iraq, which he believes would take about 16 months. Obama pledges that there would be no permanent bases. The only missions remaining for American troops would be protecting the embassy and civilian personnel, and a narrowly targeted mission of going after terrorist camps should they arise. Obama also speaks about the importance of diplomacy towards this end.
To the next question, which also focuses on diplomacy, Obama says that he will speak with Iran. To be clear, he says that this does not mean conceding to them, but rather having the conversation. That conversation, even if it did not bear fruit in new action from Ahmadinejad, would send a clear signal to the Iranian people, that we aren't their enemy, and to the rest of the world, as well, to build our credibility. On Pakistan, Obama says that there must be a reversal of course, including a suspension of military aid until the emergency state is lifted and political prisoners are released. He says that the lessons from the Cold War must be learned, that it's not beneficial to support autocratic regimes. Obama also speaks of the importance of lifting the culture of fear in America, that Guantanamo must be shut down and that waterboarding must be ceased.
On a question relating to the economy, Obama says that he believes that globalization is "here to stay" and that it can be a force for good -- but that everyone must be able to reap the potential benefits. Obama also speaks to the importance of improving the American education system. To this end, Obama speaks about the need to have creativity and innovation in schools. What's more, Obama says that college must be more affordable, which could be achieved in part by getting prvate companies out of the college loan industry. Obama also sees a need to rebuild social safety net, which hasn't been updated since FDR. This would include universal healthcare, but also retirement accounts that follows you where you work.
The next question centers on race. Obama quotes W.E.B. De Bois saying that the problem of the 20th century is race, and stakes his own ground by saying that the problem of the 21st century is "the other." Obama points to problems in Sri Lanka and "virulent anti-immigrant" sentiments here in America, for instance. Obama sees an "empathy deficit" -- an inability to see the world through others' eyes. Obama notes, though, that he sees the world through a number of angles given that his father was Black, his mother White, his sister half Indonesian, his childhood in Hawaii, etc. Tangibly, Obama speaks of the importance of enforcing civil rights law.