D5: Senator John McCain's league of extraordinary gentlemen

D5: Senator John McCain's league of extraordinary gentlemen

Summary: Presidential candidate Senator John McCain took fielded some tough questions from Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher in the opening interview at the D: All Things Digital conference. One of the more interesting exchanges during the interview, beyond McCain's positions on various campaign issues, was his call for the best and brightest, including Silicon Valley executives, to serve in government, a kind of league of extraordinary gentleman and women harkening back to the administration of John F.


Presidential candidate Senator John McCain took fielded some tough questions from Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher in the opening interview at the D: All Things Digital conference. One of the more interesting exchanges during the interview, beyond McCain's positions on various campaign issues, was his call for the best and brightest, including Silicon Valley executives, to serve in government, a kind of league of extraordinary gentleman and women harkening back to the administration of John F. Kennedy.

I know where the smart people in America are," McCain said, and proclaimed that most successful people are patriotic.

He would hire Cisco CEO John Chambers, who is also working on McCain's campaign and was sitting in the audience. Chambers later told me that he is locked up by Cisco's board for the next 3 to 5 years, and McCain knows that. Of course, that doesn't rule out Chambers from taking on role in government.

McCain also said he would hire FedEx founder Fred Smith for defense acquisitions, which he called the "most screwed up organization," purchasing small boats for $400 million that should cost $160 million. He also mentioned Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who was in attendance. Swisher asked if he wanted to hire the entire audience and nominated Ballmer for Secretary of State. McCain came back with Ambassador to China.

ballmermcain.jpg Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Senator John McCain, Cisco CEO John Chambers

McCain wasn't totally prepped for questions about broadband, telecommunications and Net Neutrality. He described himself as the greatest free trader and deregulator you will ever see in an interview to Mossberg and Swisher.

"Let's make the technology solve most of the problems. I have yet to see consolidation that has resulted in restraint of trade," McCain said regarding Net Neutrality. The telcos and cellcos who own the pipes should be able to profit by charging for increased broadband and accessibility, he said.

Mossberg asked why if you buy a cell phone from one company it won't necessarily work on another network. McCain said that the consolidation among cell carriers is worrisome, but he is not prepared to wind through Congress with legislation.

Mossberg challenged McCain that the U.S. is always behind other parts of the world in digital cellular. McCain responded that he would take the U.S. digital cellular technology versus Korea's. "We have the best minds in the world in the U.S. I have great confidence in every spectrum of information technology [in the U.S.]," McCain said. Korea outpaces the U.S. in broadband services and the growth in India and China, for example, in information technology, is challenging the U.S. in the flatter world.


I later asked McCain about his notion that the smartest people reside in the U.S. He mentioned a visit to Google he made recently, and that people from China, India, Pakistan and other countries work at the search engine giant and at other U.S companies.

People want to come to the U.S. to get and education and work U.S. to work in high tech industries, but many are going back to their homelands. Since 9/11 the U.S. has held back on H-1B visas for foreign student and workers. At the same time, the number of engineering and computer science students is the U.S. is declining, and accelerating in countries outside the U.S. McCain suggested one way to improve the imbalance is for science and engineering students in the U.S. to be offered a free rides (I presume scholarships) to college. How those free rides get funded is uncertain.

McCain's view that the U.S. is smarter and better than other countries in the technology arena might be political rhetoric, but it ignores the fact that the U.S. is falling behind in broadband and in churning out engineers and computer scientists compared to other parts of the world.

On copyright issues, McCain said the issue must be carefully thought through and leadership is needed from the White House. "Most in Congress don't understand the issue" he said, "and rely on some federal bureaucracy that looks at it." He advocated finding smart people--the best and brightest as in the John F. Kennedy era, not the biggest campaign contributors or political favorites--to help the U.S. become more competitive, credible and to solve problems around telecom, copyrights and patents. "Confidence is government is at an all time low--20 percent--which is mostly blood relatives and paid staffers," McCain quipped.

On immigration, McCain advocated passage of the Senate plan to deal with the estimated 12 million illegals living in the U.S. “[The country] expects us to sit down together and address an issue of transcendent national importance,” McCain said. He is also concerned about the Republican party losing the Hispanic vote as President Bush did in his second term.

On the war, McCain staunchly defended the Bush adminstration's decision to invade Iraq, supported the forthcoming troop 'surge,' and said that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld didn't send enough troops to deal with the situation.

Mossberg challenged McCain on the wisdom of keeping troops in Iraq. McCain said that the U.S. must execute a "classic counter insurgency to control and secure the environment," and said the new strategy is working.

He cited several reasons for the U.S. to stay in Iraq, including the endangered oil supply, the threat of Iran, peril to Israel's future, the Jordanian immigration issue and chaos in the region. "By January 2009 [a new administration], the issue will be resolved," McCain said. "Either we will be on a path to success or the situation will not have improved and will cause us to withdraw."

He called for a "league of democracies" to stand up to Iran, which he termed the greatest threat, with sanctions imposed outside of the U.N., where Russia and China have blocked sanctions on Iran.

McCain also believes that Hillary Clinton is the most likely Democratic candidate, although Senator Barack Obama has "spared something in the America people that is very interesting."

On the energy policy front, McCain believes that climate change is real. "Energy independence has to be the highest priority," he said, citing nuclear power, ethanol and biodiesel fuel as solutions.

McCain closed by asking the gather technology executives to help combat child pornography. "You have to give us the tools to do it," he said.

Topics: China, Broadband, Cisco, Google, Government, Microsoft, Patents, India

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  • Indian I

    You cannot discriminate in the hiring by race, creed, or NATIONALITY.

    Making nationality the sole consideration when deciding who can be hired into U.S. job is a case of rampant discrimination and prejudice.

    When Indian companies only consider h-1b candidates (and then only from from India), for jobs based in the United States, it is a clear case of discrimination.

    Prejudice in hiring of people is crime in the United States, it violates Federal Civil Rights laws. When companies are found the have violated such laws the punishment is usually monetary, sometimes criminal.

    The main question is, if there is a job in the United States, do Indian IT companies (that are h-1b dependent) even try to hire a non-Indian candidate?

    So far all evidence, and all the numbers point to a the fact that U.S. candidates are never even considered for jobs, and no attempt what-so-ever is made to hire a U.S. Citizen for a U.S. based job.

    There is not equality in the hiring practices of these h-1b dependent Indian IT companies, either you are Indian or you are not, that is the hiring criteria for an Engineer at an h-1b dependent Indian IT company for a job based in the United States.

    In open testimony before congress, a U.S. Citizen and job applicant tried to get an interview with for an open position in the United States. She was told that she could not apply for the job, just (and only because) because she could not be hired under an h-1b Visa.

    This clearly is discrimination, this is prejudice, this is wrong, and against U.S. law.

    The american people have the right to know when companies are destroying the very fabric of our society, by planting the seeds of racism, prejudice, and discrimination.

    The Senators are merely asking questions. We need to subpoena these companies. This is the biggest case of open-discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice in the United States today. If something isn't done then millions of americans are going to kicked out of there job and are we might find that they cannot even apply for an engineering job, because ALL the shops are going to H-1b only, americans need not apply.
  • handicapping the overachievers

    It is, of course, an open question as to WHO the smartest people in the USA might be, and if any president should give the swank, successful, and highly-visible ones even more power over our lives than they have already managed to grab for themselves (and their companies).

    The H1-B visa issue is now an open wound for many technically-trained Americans who cannot find decent employment opportunities (already discussed in another post). The corporate response (thus far) has been some politically correct posturing which more or less boils down to "let them eat cake" coupled with "not in my back yard." Empathy is, for now, apparently out of stock.

    Unfortunately, the main problem that none of the presidential candidates address is HOW any new president can manage to inspire and (if necessary) fire the cadres of Government workers who actually carry out policy on a year-in year-out basis....regardless of who is in elected office.

    A true leader must have the talent for extracting extraordinary performance from vast numbers of (reltively) ordinary people. Hobnobbing with rich and powerful trendsetters will not create this breakthrough. These high-profile folks are just looking for ways to further solidify their greatness, not submit to the needs and timetables of a demanding and creative political force outside their own familiar orbits of influence and control.

    Raw talent is not all that rare. But the will and ability to forge it into something greater than itself certainly is.
  • G W Bush II?

    Almost every time I hear McCain speak I hear the voice of GW Bush, is this remake of revenge of the body snatchers? Do we really need 4 more years of reckless spending and flawed foreign policy (while a certain VP is making money hand over fist as a direct result of that policy)? Republicans wanted Clinton impeached because of his mishandlings of his private affairs, Democrats wanted Nixon impeached because he bugged a Democrat campaign office and what is going on with Bush? Nothing. Compared to how Bush has handled his term in office Nixon and Clinton are saints. I don?t think that we need a Bush clone in office.

    So he strokes the ego of the Silicon Valley big shots with deep pockets, isn't that more than a little transparent? There are guys with brains in every industry; McCain is just probably trying to get a foot hold in Silicon Valley where most Republicans are nearly spit on. McCain is just telling them what they want to hear, it means nothing.
  • Fox guarding the chickens?

    McCain is typical of US policy makers. Protect the corporate rip off artists and forget about the consumers. No wonder Microsoft is the biggest monopoly in the world and growing every day.
  • McCain

    Yetanother reason NOT to vote for him. It is clear that:
    a: McCain has no grip on reality.
    b: He heaps praise on campaign contributors - with no regard to talent or experience.
  • McCain - A Disaster Looking for Some Place to Happen

    I have huge respect for John McCain as a legitimate Viet Nam hero and distinguished military officer. I have just about zero respect for him as a political person. Simply put, John McCain is a loose cannon. You never know where he is going to come down on any issue. This makes him a political liability to any party and to voters in general. Who knows what you are voting for?

    Then there are his comments that don't make any sense. Example:
    Quoting the article at hand "He described himself as the greatest free trader and deregulator you will ever see in an interview to Mossberg and Swisher" DEREGULATOR. OH REALLY? Is that why he authored McCain-Finegold, the single biggest assault on free speech in American history? That was nothing but a response to political correctness.

    As for his IT policies, who knows. I wonder what the rest of the professional world (medicine, aerospace, engineering, finance, entertainment, etc) is thinking when he says "I know where the smart people in America are" at an IT convention. No doubt these are amoung some of the smartest, but this is first class pandering.

    Thanks John for your gallant military career but I can only hope that I am not saying President McCain next fall.
  • Clear conflict of interest, isn't it?

    Politicians asking advice to someone who is trying to sell them something is a bad idea.

    And thinking the best minds are in the corporate world without looking at the academia, non-profit, and goverment organizations is silly. And dangerous.

    I really hopes he is not so blind.