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Now Obama's got Colin Powell AND Google?

By Jimmy Orr / October 21, 2008

Cartoon by Jake Turcotte

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This week is turning out pretty good for Barack Obama in terms of endorsements.  First, Colin Powell.  Next, Google.

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Well, actually, Google the search engine didn't endorse Barack Obama.  But Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, is going out on the stump for the Democratic nominee.

No surprise

His support shouldn't come as any surprise to political observers.  Schmidt has been an informal advisor to Obama for months and is an active supporter of Democratic candidates.

The company itself remains neutral.

"Eric is actively campaigning for Barack Obama because he believes that it is time for a change in America. In addition, his personal views on technology and energy are similar to Senator Obama's. Google of course remains neutral in the campaign," said the company's statement.

Good interview

When Obama visited Google's campus nearly a year ago, he interviewed well.  According to Google's Public Policy blog, he was the first presidential candidate to have an answer to a standard question prospective engineering employees get asked.

That question?  What is the most efficient way to sort a million 32-bit integers?

"The bubble sort would be the wrong way to go," he answered - smiling.

"Though some might view this as shameless pandering to the bucket-sorting community, others will see a bold pragmatism," joked Andrew McLaughlin, Google's Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs.

Google and the presidency

Obama spent an hour with Schmidt discussing issues in front of Google employees.  As for what Obama said he would do in e-land if elected?

"I’ll put government data online in universally accessible formats," he said.  "I’ll let citizens track federal grants, contracts, earmarks, and lobbyist contacts. I’ll let you participate in government forums, ask questions in real time, offer suggestions that will be reviewed before decisions are made, and let you comment on legislation before it is signed. And to ensure that every government agency is meeting 21st century standards, I’ll appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer."

Just give him a check

Some critics are worried that Schmidt's public feelings toward Obama could backfire.

Clint Boulton from the publication E-week had a discussion with Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Central for Digital Democracy, who expressed concern with the endorsement.

"Mr. Schmidt's work on behalf of Obama—while undoubtedly heartfelt—does place a conflict of interest cloud over any future Google and Obama administration relations," Chester said.  "He's actually placing a potential President Obama in a potentially vulnerable situation. Mr. Schmidt is not General Colin Powell—his place is in Mountain View—not on the campaign trail. He should have written a check and kept in the background."

Regardless, Schmidt and Obama will appear together in Florida.  The two will moderate a panel on the economy.

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