I’m so tired of this argument. I’m tired of making it. I’ve been making it for twenty years. In the current cast of characters, the Republicans are on our side, our local Democrats support us because our arguments are obvious, and the other Democrats don’t—because they don’t get it. The president understands the argument and would like to support us, he says, but there are various political issues. That’s roughly the situation. That’s been true for twenty years, through different presidents and different leaders. It’s stupid. So my point is that if you want to get a sense of how to screw this up, to put it negatively, then make it harder for us to bring in the world’s smartest people.
Has there always been such disconnect?
Executive chairman of Google Eric Schmidt discusses the one thing he believes Washington needs to know about Silicon Valley.
Silicon Valley’s involvement with Washington dates from one event, which was John Scully—who was the CEO of Apple—had dinner with President Clinton and Vice President Gore in 1993. And we’re all going, like, what’s going on? Why would we have dinner with the president? And from that point on, people started to think it might be fun to hang out with these people.
So what happened was that there was something called the Clipper chip, which was the attempt by the government to enforce encryption on a particular communications aspect. And this was 1994. And it was the first time I know of that the Valley organized around a stupid technological thing that was going to be forced on us. This really had not occurred before. The chief proponent of the Clipper chip was Al Gore. So this is our first contact with Al Gore. All of us spent a lot of time and we eventually defeated it, but I think for many people that was sort of a wake-up call that the government could actually pass a law that was stupid, that would actually do something wrong and wouldn’t work.
You know, we had this naïve view of the world around here. So TechNet was formed after that. And then the way politics works is you have to make donations. Around here no one donated any money, whereas the other industries donated lots of money. So donations came. And then we had the bubble, so all of a sudden the politicians showed up. We thought the politicians showed up because they loved us. It’s fair to say they loved us for our money. And this was before caps were in place, so there’s this huge fundraising cycle in the late ‘90s. Republican and Democrat by the way. Everyone fed at the trough of money.
But at the time, we took the position of ‘hands off the Internet.’ You know, leave us alone. And that’s probably still the general view here. The government can make regulatory mistakes that can slow this whole thing down, and we see that and we worry about it.
Lillian Cunningham is the editor of On Leadership at The Washington Post. Follow Lillian and On Leadership on Twitter.