McCain Adviser Pulls Out Of Tech Debate Due To A ‘Scheduling Conflict,’ Only To Appear On MSNBC Instead

Today from 12:30–1:45 p.m., the New America Foundation and Wired magazine were scheduled to host an event on tech policy with top McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin v. Obama adviser and former FCC chairman Reed Hundt. Holtz-Eakin, however, never showed up. From a notice on the New America Foundation’s website:

NOTE: Due to a last-minute scheduling conflict, Douglas Holtz-Eakin is unable to participate in today’s event, and the McCain campaign will not be sending an alternate spokesperson. The event will proceed as scheduled with Reed Hundt representing the Obama campaign.

ThinkProgress spoke with Troy Schneider, new media editor at the New America Foundation, who said that the McCain campaign contacted them and canceled at 9 a.m. today. “I do think that this was just an honest scheduling conflict,” said Schneider. “He got pulled into meetings he had to do with the campaign today.” An aide in the McCain campaign press office said that he believed Holtz-Eakin simply had “campaign stuff” to do, but our call to Holtz-Eakin’s office has not yet been returned.

However, Holtz-Eakin appeared on MSNBC today, raising questions about whether there really was a true “scheduling conflict.” Holtz-Eakin’s appearance was at 1:00 p.m., right during the middle of the New America event. While on MSNBC, Holtz-Eakin tried to argue that Obama would be a third term of President Bush, saying that it’s “Barack Obama who’s doubling down on the Bush spending.” Watch it:

Why is the McCain campaign so afraid to debate tech policy? Last week, Thompson reported that WIRED originally requested that former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina represent the McCain campaign at the event. Although she said she would be “happy to participate,” the McCain campaign “vetoed her.” Thompson then requested Michael Powell, Meg Whitman, or John Chambers.


Instead, the campaign offered Holtz-Eakin. On Oct. 24, New America sent out an invitation to the event with the billing of Hundt and Holtz-Eakin. This morning, when he learned that Holtz-Eakin was going to be a no-show, Thompson asked for Lee Dunn, Bill Bailey, and Bryan Tramont. None of them were available.

ThinkProgress also spoke with Nicholas Thompson, Wired senior editor and moderator of the event, who said that he “thought it was lame” that Holtz-Eakin backed out. When we told him that Holtz-Eakin had instead appeared on MSNBC, Thompson was shocked at the McCain campaign’s poor etiquette:

What was frustrating is that how difficult it was to set it up, and they knew how difficult it was to set it up, and they withdrew at the last minute.

McCain has been noticeably weak on tech policy during this presidential campaign. McCain finally released his tech policy in August, a year after Obama. Both Stanford University professor Lawrence Lessig and vice president at the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Mark Lloyd have said that McCain would likely follow in Bush’s undistinguished steps on tech policy.

Today during the event, which proceeded without a McCain campaign representative, Hundt sharply criticized the McCain campaign for being too afraid to debate tech policy:

This is feeling ridiculous, isn’t it? Meaning, we were supposed to have a debate with the other guy. I’m gonna answer your question but I just want to say for the record I’m pretty sure that McCain will show up next Tuesday. I’m reasonably confident of that. And I’m sure that Doug had something better to do than come here and answer my questions about the Blackberry, which, you’ll recall, that it was Doug who said that John had invented it.

Watch the full event here.


PC Magazine has a write-up of Hundt’s remarks at today’s event.


,On the Wired blog Epicenter, Thompson writes, “There is apparently not a single prominent person who supports John McCain’s technology policies and is confident enough to go out there and debate in favor of them.” He continues: “In short: the McCain camp chickened out.”[u