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Bush, Kerry Don't Worry About Tech

By Cynthia L. Webb
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, October 21, 2004; 10:03 AM

Election Day is less than two weeks away, but so far technology has yet to make more than the occasional cameo appearance on either presidential candidate's priority list.

While the war in Iraq, terrorism and very real fiscal woes are the top issues of the campaign, some tech bigwigs are getting weary from waiting in the wings. Chief among them is Intel's head honcho, Craig Barrett.

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During a speech at a high-tech industry conference in Orlando on Tuesday, Barrett said "the lack of attention by the presidential nominees to how the United States is losing its competitive edge over other nations on education, technological infrastructure and research and development. ... In the past decade, 3 billion people from India, China, Russia and Eastern Europe have joined the world economic system, Barrett said. Many of them have well-educated engineers and they're going to compete with the United States for jobs, he added. 'What we're debating about instead is how we're going to protect a textile worker in South Carolina,' Barrett said. 'The future of the United States is not pillowcases.'" Barrett also stressed the importance of education for Americans to stay competitive. "We'll wake up to that eventually. I wish it was part of the debate. But you didn't see it in any of the three presidential debates."

The Orlando Business Journal also covered Barrett's speech: "To get back in the game, the federal government should increase the $5.57 billion budget of the National Science Foundation, which researches infrastructure, Barrett said, and reduce the approximately $25 billion in agricultural subsidies." Barrett said: "Why are we investing five times as much in ag than we are basic research?" My guess is that some farmers won't be happy with that remark.
The Associated Press via washingtonpost.com: Intel CEO Candidates Ignore Tech Debate (Registration required)
Orlando Business Journal: Intel CEO Barrett Says America Not Leading Technological Revolution
Webcast of Barrett's remarks (Registration and sign-in required)

Some in international circles want the run-up to the White House to focus on trade issues, particularly for high-tech goods. The Indian Express touched on the high-tech debate in an article today and what the current campaign means for international relations for India. "Whoever wins the tight presidential election, which is less than two weeks away, there is bound to be significant change of personnel in the US government. Even if President George W. Bush returns to power, there would be movement in and out of the administration. If Senator John Kerry wrests the White House, his administration could take months to settle down. In that event, little political business between New Delhi and Washington would be conducted before next summer. Under Kerry, there is the prospect of a comprehensive review of the Bush policies. Given the intense polarization of American politics today, delays in expanding high-technology cooperation under a Democratic Administration must be expected in New Delhi."

More from the article: "The Bush Administration wants to promote cooperation with India in high- technology sectors despite the basic nuclear differences that hobbled bilateral relations for decades. This political commitment from the Bush Administration reflects a basic change of direction in the Indo-US nuclear dialogue. If denial of high technology to India has been the norm for three decades in the US, the Bush Administration has begun to reverse that approach."
The Indian Express: Tech Talks Get Urgency As Next White House Is Just Days Away

Maybe the candidates are listening to gripes like these. The Associated Press reported that later today, "Kerry will be heading to Democrat-rich Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Democratic presidential candidate is expected to deliver a speech on how improved science and technology can help create jobs. The speech is designed to reach voters the campaign suspects are just tuning in." Stay tuned for details on this tech-themed speech. My hunch is it will focus more on other issues du jour.
The Associated Press via CNN: Kerry Plans Hunting Trip, Speech On Jobs

Bush: Wireless or Not? So far, the hottest tech topic surrounding the campaign is whether Bush was wired during his debate earlier this month with Kerry. San Jose Mercury News columnist Dan Gillmor thinks that it's high time that such props should be allowed. "In the 2004 presidential campaign's latest detour into relative trivia, there's been a small uproar over whether President Bush was wearing some kind of audio receiver during one or more of the debates with John Kerry. The implication was that the president might have been getting unfair coaching. Bush and his people deny they broke the rules prohibiting such devices or other aids. I don't see any big reason to doubt them even if the bulge in the back of Bush's suit was remarkably rectangular. I would argue that in this case the rules need updating. Voters would have been better off if the candidates had all kinds of technology at their disposal, so they could double-check their own facts and precisely rebut opponents' misstatements," Gillmor wrote. "In the Information Age, the ability to find relevant information quickly and use it intuitively will be at least as important as the ability to memorize numbers or slogans. This will be as true for everyday people as presidents and their staffs, and powerful tools will soon be at our beck and call."

More from Gillmor: "Even more valuable would be giving the candidates more tools to correct each other. I would build a personal computer into each podium, connected to whatever online resources the candidate and his staff found useful. I would hate to see candidates and officials rely entirely on technological props, because preparing for debates and press conferences is a vital way for politicians to synthesize details into coherent policies. I would hope for some balance, and that we could find out when someone was just reciting someone else's lines on the fly. But when I vote for a candidate, I'm not looking for a wonk whose chief skill seems to be rattling off facts and figures. I'm looking for people with strategic vision and the ability to lead. Leave the memorization -- the details -- to other people, and to Google."
San Jose Mercury News: Tech Aids Should Be Welcome In Debates And Beyond (Registration required)

Who's The Tech Savviest Of Them All?

An online survey software company out of Northern California has the pulse on which political party is the most clued in on technology. Zoomerang's survey of 260 people revealed that 41 percent favored the Democrats, followed by 36 for Republicans, 11 percent for independents and 3 percent for the Green Party.

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