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Is Barack Obama a Mac and John McCain a PC?

Based on the presentations (and presenters) at the annual Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference in New Haven, Conn., today, one could easily conclude that the two leading presidential candidates had taken the roles of the two guys in the Apple commercials.

Both Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama sent surrogates to the confab. P5220010_4For Obama, it was Daniel J. Weitzner, far right in photo, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is a member of the campaign's technology, media and telecommunications committee. Weitzner, who helped draft the campaign's tech policy positions, looked Steve Jobs-cool in his light tan blazer and open-collared pink shirt. And he had his Mac laptop with him on the lectern.

Carrying water for McCain was campaign special counsel Chuck Fish, far left. An intellectual property lawyer by trade, he took a more buttoned-down, corporate approach: dark gray suit, white shirt and tie. And no obvious sign of any Apple products.

The Mac/PC comparison really jumped out...

... when Weitzner and Fish started talking.

Weitzner, co-director of the Decentralized Information Group at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (yeah, his business card has really small type to fit all that in), talked in a breezy, casual fashion. He emphasized Obama's support for net neutrality legislation to prevent Internet service providers from discriminating against content flowing over their networks.

"Sen. Obama’s commitment is to preserve and enable the growth of the Internet with its current openness properties," Weitzner said.

He also said Obama was committed to strengthening privacy laws, appointing a chief technology officer for the federal government and increasing the availability of high-speed Net access nationwide.

The fate of the Net is important to Obama; his campaign's success has been built on using it for organizing and fundraising, allowing him to vault from an underdog last year into the lead for the Democratic nomination, Weitzner said.

"There’s an appreciation for the Internet, a recognition of the transformative value of the Internet that I think will go a long way toward shaping the approaches that Sen. Obama would take as president," Weitzner said.

Click here for a clip of Weitzner's talk.

McCain's guy, Fish, is a former chief patent counsel for Time Warner who also has served on the advisory committee to the Congressional Internet Caucus. He laid out in lawyerly terms a plan that was more in line with big technology companies than the bloggers, privacy advocates and online activists attending the conference. He said McCain preferred a more market-oriented approach to technology issues. While not opposed to government regulations to correct problems such as net neutrality, McCain prefers to wait until problems develop.

The McCain campaign does not have a detailed technology policy, but Fish read a carefully crafted statement (we're guessing written on a Windows PC) on net neutrality:

The danger of complex ex ante regulation [definition here] is to stifle investment in better infrastructure and subject revenue growth and innovation to the speed bump or worse of regulatory process and litigation. Most everyone supports open networks, but we think there are legitimate and serious questions about how we get there. The road to over-regulated markets is paved with well-intentioned but terribly misguided legislation.

Here's a clip from Fish.

By the way, organizers said Hillary Clinton's campaign was invited to participate in the session, titled "Presidential Technology Policy: Priorities for the Next Executive," but her team was too busy trying to stay afloat in the Democratic nomination race.

-- Jim Puzzanghera

Photo: From left, Fish; Ari Schwartz, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology; Susan Crawford, visiting associate law professor at Yale University; Weitzner.

Photo credit: Jim Puzzanghera.

Comments () | Archives (14)

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McCain is an Altair 8800....

I would think that McCain is more the typewriter type of guy than any sort of computer. I'm sure he's aware of the existence of computers but may not have a clue as to what they do.

To answer your headline, no. As the New York Times pointed out in February, Obama is a Mac, and Clinton is a PC. McCain, I'd argue, is a TRS-80.

where is the outrage over the newly surface Hagee comments about Hitler doiong God's work?

You do remember that MCCain actively sought out this
anti-semitic nut's endorsement? You do remeemb er how Lieberman is always at MCCains side? I guess the both approve of this sleeze.
they have a tape of this nut

This pretty silly. I am a looong time Mac user and advocate. I am also a NObama person, actually an ex-leftist who knows the silliness of the left and therefore migrated to the more thoughtful and effective tenants of Republicans and reasonable conservatives. The Mac expresses simple, effective conservative thought. One has to consider that the PC represents the back to the future change. The left is probably better represented by the mimeograph machine that any computer.

Obama is way too OLD to be a MAC...c'mon folks, he's not in his teens or twneties...not even thirties....Obama is a PC ...don't think you want a MacPresident

If Obama is a mac, and Mc Cain is a PC. Then that would make clinton a virus.

A virus that has no affect on the Mac and causes nothing but trouble for the PC.

Well, perhaps. But the Mac-is-cool tilt (it is cool) obscures the fact that Apple has under 6% market share in the personal computer business. So think about that before you dismiss McCain's PC vibe in a presidential election.

Seriously? This was like February in the New York Times. And not even late February, this was early February.

Way to be original. That being said.....sooooo true. Hence why I'm voting for Obama

McCain is an abacus.

If Obama is a Mac super computer then McCain reminds me of Pacman

John McCain has been asked this question in an interview, and answered that he uses neither. He admits to being computer illiterate, and relying on his wife for computer help.

McCain's lack of computer skills and knowledge is crucial to him NOT being qualified to be President in this modern world. It has absolutely nothing to do with knowing how to use Google or a Blackberry. Much of this country's business, security, and infrastructure is WIRED. You CANNOT lead in the 21st century without understanding all the underlying issues behind eComerce, digital security (both corporate and national) and all the electrical, telecommunication, transportation, nuclear systems and even educational issuesvthat rely on broadband (wired and wireless) communication. It has been well documented that terrorism's next intended target includes these systems. How can you even comprehend how to defend against that when you don't understand the technology or the impact of such an attack?
Having John McCain as a candidate is like having a caveman running for modern day office.

Republicans use Windows. Democrats use Mac OS X.l Indepnets use LINUX.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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