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Presidential candidates at Google


Two presidential candidates have spoken at Google recently; the videos of their talks are now available on YouTube:

Both talks more or less took the form of interviews with CEO Eric Schmidt, plus Q&A with Google employees. I didn't see either one live; saw both on video.

My reactions to these had more to do with presentation and charisma than with substance, I'm afraid. I was a little disappointed in Clinton in that regard; she seemed a little stiff/wooden to me. And I was pleasantly surprised by McCain; he came across as smart and funny and honest and charismatic, and my impression was that he did a decent job of winning over a somewhat hostile audience. Of course, in both cases my reactions may've been colored by my expectations, which may've been too high for Clinton and too low for McCain. And (as y'all have no doubt guessed) I'm certainly more in agreement with Clinton's political views than with McCain's. Still, interesting to see them both speak.


More coming up; we've got invites out to all the significant candidates and will be having New Mexico Governor Richardson in on Monday.

For anyone interested, the video of the Bill Richardson visit (on May 14) has now been posted.

I thought Richardson said a bunch of good and interesting stuff, and thought he was mostly pretty well received, but the Mercury News said "Talk at Google bumpy for Richardson" and the New York Sun said "Richardson Faces Some Suspicion at Google." I kinda think that both articles misread the mood of the crowd, but I could be wrong.

It's unfortunately true that Richardson didn't seem to be up to speed on what Google's been up to lately, because he mentioned several endeavors that he said he (as President) would give us big tax incentives to do, presented with a kind of "I challenge you to step up and do the right thing" tone, and most of those were things that we're already doing. (Note to future candidates: it might be a good idea to either watch the videos of some of the past candidates, or have an aide do so, to get some idea of what to expect. Note to Tom and anyone else involved in bringing candidates: I wonder if it might be a good idea to give the candidates a brief précis on Google ahead of time, if we're not already doing that--they seem aware that the audience is largely young and smart and affluent and tech-savvy and liberal-or-libertarian, and they know about the search engine, but sometimes they don't seem to be all that clear on what the company's values are.)

Nonetheless, I found Richardson pretty compelling. I really like the idea of using diplomacy to try to work out world problems, and the idea that he's got actual experience talking to some of the less savory of the world's leaders (and convincing them to do what he wants). I was pleasantly surprised at just how hard he pushed the green-energy agenda, especially given that he didn't seem to know he was preaching to the choir. I mostly liked his sense of humor.

And, although I continue to be embarrassed at just how much of an effect this has on me, I found him an engaging and charismatic speaker. Intellectually, I know that charisma is not the same as intelligence or wisdom or strength or dexterity or leadership; I know that just 'cause someone appears to be forthright and friendly and personable, it doesn't mean that they ought to be in charge of running the country. But I nonetheless respond to charisma, as people tend to do. And that's not entirely bad; charisma is certainly part of leadership. I just need to remind myself to pay attention to other factors too.

John Edwards visited Google on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 30.

[The following paragraphs were lightly edited several hours after posting, to clarify a couple of details of timing.]

I was feeling kind of off-kilter and out of it when he started, and even though he was saying a bunch of good stuff (especially about the need for engaging in friendly and cooperative and helpful ways with the rest of the world), I wasn't really connecting with what he was saying. I thought that was just me, 'cause I've felt that way in a couple of other conversational contexts lately, but the large crowd was basically completely silent through the first half of the interview/talk. Very little laughter or applause; just sitting there. Weird. (This was especially in contrast with Richardson, who opened with a funny ad and continued to make jokes throughout.)

But then (in response to a question at about 44:50), Edwards said that one of his first acts as President, on his first day, would be to close down Guantanamo Bay, which got enthusiastic applause from the whole room, and that seemed to finally break the ice; after that, the audience reacted more to what he was saying (as did I).

I was disappointed that none of the questions people had submitted ahead of time were asked. Still, I liked almost everything Edwards said, and once everyone warmed up to each other, I thought he was pretty engaging and likeable.

I watched a bit of it, but don't really have time to watch the whole thing.

I really like Edwards. I'm having an unusual amount of trouble deciding who to back this year; I actually thought I would be a Richardson guy, but he hasn't done much for me. Obama is really exciting, but I don't know if the depth is there, and I'm not sure I trust his motives. I feel like Edwards genuinely cares about poor and disenfranchised people, and that may well turn out to be the bottom line for me.

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