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The Obama-McCain ELC government IT “debate”

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It was just about a week ago that I was down in Williamsburg, VA for the annual ACT/IAC ELC 2008 conference. I’m still catching up on items, but… I told you earlier that I was part of a team moderating a debate about government IT.

So the final day of ELC featured a debate between two representatives of the presidential candidates on government IT issues.

Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller and I discussed this debate on the Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris last week. Hear that conversation here. [MP3] GovExec’s NextGov covered the debate with word that the leaders said that government CIOs should be career workers. FCW covered the face off.

To be honest, I was looking forward to the conversation because we haven’t heard much conversation during the presidential race about government management issues, let alone government IT. The panel ended up being… OK. It certainly was a very valiant attempt and I think ended up being more entertaining then informative. There were several reasons for this. One was systemic — we had three moderators — Anne Armstrong of 1105 Media, Allan Holmes of GovExec/NextGov, and myself. With three of us, it left nobody really in charge of the conversation, which allows the presidential representatives the ability to either go on and on… or to get off track. The second issue was, frankly, the McCain campaign. Representative the Obama campaign was Michael Nelson, who is now a Georgetown University professor. And, while his answers were… detailed — more our fault as moderators then his — but he did stick to the topic: What will the presidential candidates mean to government and government IT. The person representing the McCain campaign however… well, it changed several times during the course of the conference planning. In fact, the day before the session, the McCain representative cancelled. ACT/IAC officials considered cancelling the session altogether — something that would not been good, in my view. They ended up getting Tim Hugo, a Virginia delegate.

The session was always a risk and was going to be complex. The campaigns, after all, don’t really care about government management issues, let alone technology policy. It’s too bad because there is a lot of gain that can come from these issues. And it was just one week before the election.

That being said, there were a number of media outlets there, as you can see above, and if Virginia is a battleground state, there were a number of potential voters there as well.

Hugo was somewhat thrown into this. I have heard from people that I trust and who know Hugo and they tell me that he is knowledgeable, but… he didn’t come off well and… I don’t think he ended up helping McCain. But I don’t think it was Hugo’s fault. It is the hapless McCain campaign, which has provided somebody and then threw Hugo into a situation where he was not prepared.

Another issue — and this one is my fault as much as anybody else, but… unfortunately there were three moderators. None of us were put in charge. (My sense is that nobody wanted to tick off the other two news organizations by making one of them above the others.) It led to a combination where there was nobody in charge… and one guy who was thrown into a situation… and it ended up being… less then it could have been. Nelson was fascinating, but Hugo essentially just kept going back to the tax issues — vote Obama and you’re going to be paying higher taxes. Unfortunately, I can turn on any network and hear that. The goal here was to delve into their technology policies and plans.

Just an aside: The New America Foundation and Wired magazine were scheduled to have an event this past week talking about the Obama and McCain views on technology. Representing Sen. McCain will be the campaign’s chief economic policy adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who Politico suggests could be the OMB director in a McCain administration. Representing Sen. Obama was former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt. It ends up that Holtz-Eakin cancelled at the last minute — and the New America Foundation and Wired magazine went ahead with the Obama view, rightly in my view. Too bad. Missed opportunities.

That being said, you can see the New America-Wired magazine debate-turned-conversation below (20 minutes in they talk about open government):

Written by cdorobek

November 3, 2008 at 9:18 AM

Posted in 2008 Vote

2 Responses

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  1. […] The Obama-McCain ELC ?debate? By cdorobek Just an aside: The New America Foundation and Wired magazine were scheduled to have an event this past week talking about the Obama and McCain views on technology. Representing Sen. McCain will be the campaign?s chief economic policy … DorobekInsider.com – https://dorobekinsider.com/ […]

  2. […] The Obama-McCain ELC “debate” To be honest, I was looking forward to the conversation because we haven’t heard much conversation during the presidential race about government management issues, let alone government IT. The panel ended up being… OK. … […]


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