Asked by reporters today about McCain's grasp of technological issues, senior policy adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin noted the Arizona senator's tenure as a former chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. Then Holtz-Eakin held up his BlackBerry. "He did this," Holtz-Eakin said. "Telecommunications in the United States, the premier innovation in the past 15 years, comes right through the Commerce Committee. So you're looking at the miracle that John McCain helped create. And that's what he did."
So, OK, McCain doesn't claim that he wrote BlackBerry software or engineered hardware. McCain himself doesn't claim anything – the campaign instantly backpeddled and claimed the whole thing was a joke. But it doesn't sound like a ha-ha kind of statement. It sounds like the same argument we've heard before, that McCain doesn't have to know how to get on the Internet because as chairman of the Commerce Committee, he's made tech policy.
But whatever tech policy, McCain has shepherded through, it's hard to see the connection with the BlackBerry or any other technology innovation. If anything, the tech policy McCain wants to take credit for has locked in place a telecom duopoly, left U.S. broadband speeds pathetically behind Asia, failed to address technology's H-1B visa problem, allowed cable and telephone companies to dictate prices as they wish, etc.
Technology innovation happens despite our backward tech policy not because of it. The Obama campaign jumped on the comment:
If John McCain hadn't said that 'the fundamentals of our economy are strong' on the day of one of our nation's worst financial crises, the claim that he invented the BlackBerry would have been the most preposterous thing said all week," Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said.