His running mate may be raising the ire of scientists with her positions on creationism and wildlife conservation, but Republican presidential nominee John McCain is touting his tech cred. In a page out of the Al Gore playbook, McCain boasts that "under my guiding hand, Congress developed a wireless spectrum policy that spurred the rapid rise of mobile phones and Wi-Fi technology."
McCain's remark today was in response to 14 science-policy questions posed to him and Democratic opponent Barack Obama. The Arizona senator's replies are published online by Science Debate 2008, a group of science and business leaders. (Obama answered the group's queries about three weeks ago.)
Gore, of course, famously contended that he "took the initiative in creating the Internet" — a comment mocked 'round the world. Now, McCain says he's "uniquely qualified to lead" America in technology because of his work with scientists and engineers during his Navy service from 1959 – 1981. In addition to his role in the wi-fi/cell phone revolution, McCain chaired the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation (from 1997-2001 and again from 2003-2005) when Republicans controlled Congress.
McCain's campaign didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking clarification on what wireless policy the senator is referring to, or his role in it.
U.S leadership in science and technology, he says, will be a "central priority" if he's elected to the Oval Office. Like Obama, McCain promises to institute a cap-and-trade policy to reduce Earth-warming carbon emissions, to foster privacy around genetic testing, and to restore the integrity of federally funded research that's been politicized under the Bush administration. He'd keep a science and tech advisor on hand in the White House but doesn't elaborate further. "Scientific research cannot succeed without integrity and trust," he says. "My own record speaks for integrity and putting the country first, not political agendas."
McCain also says he would invest in clean-coal technology, build 45 new nuclear reactors over the next 22 years and offer $5,000 tax credits to Americans who buy zero-emission vehicles, which are not yet widely available.
McCain appears to have shifted his position on embryonic stem-cell research; he now says that he supports funding research that does "not involve the use of embryos." As The Scientist notes, McCain voted for the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, which would have made fertility clinic embryos set to be discarded available for research if donors consented. "I believe that we need to fund this," he said during an MSNBC presidential debate that year.
Obama says he would lift a federal ban on studying embryonic stem-cell lines created after Aug. 9, 2001. A blow-by-blow comparison of the candidates' positions on other topics can be found on the Science Debate 2008 Web site.
(Image from United States Congress)