Monday, August 9

Adam Smith (WA 9th CD)

Congressman Adam Smith (Congressional Site, Election blog) represents Washington's 9th Congressional District, and he served as chair of the state delegation in Boston. I caught up with Congressman Smith for a couple questions after the state caucus on Monday, and heard his remarks at a forum called 'Technology, Politics, and Economy.'

The 9th Congressional District is a swing district that sent both Democrats and Republicans to Congress in the 1990's. It's generally more conservative leaning than, say, Seattle's Democrat-friendly 7th District. I asked Smith what it was about the Democratic party's message that he thought was most effective in reaching out to his mixed audience.

Smith said that what worked was the party's "opportunity agenda." He said that by supporting stronger public schools, higher education, and the right to organize, Democrats provide working class Americans with a chance to get ahead. He said that healthcare "transcends right, left, and center," but President Bush is doing nothing to fix it, while Kerry has a plan.

Smith also cited responsibility as an important issue, saying that "George Bush won't take responsibility for a single thing he's done." He said that his constituents are concerned about what distrust of the United States in the world means for their security.

Some members of the Washington State delegation wondered why Smith voted against what's come to be known as the Sanders Amendment, a bill which would have repealed a portion of the PATRIOT Act that would allow searches of library and bookstore records. Smith said he was concerned that the amendment was an "all or nothing" repeal of the contested portion of the law. He said that he would have preferred amending it to add further judicial oversight, but that wasn't an option.

Smith said that before the law passed, there were certain types of information that law enforcement didn't have access to, though parts of it went too far. He says that considering what he's discovered since the vote about what probable cause means when used in the PATRIOT Act, he would now vote differently.

Building on a theme he touched on in his Monday interview, Smith talked more about promoting opportunity at the Tuesday Democratic Technologist's forum, along with representatives from the information and biotech industries, as well as other elected officials with an interest in technology policy. He was introduced as an expert on telecommunications and digital signature issues.

Smith said that what was really important about the technological issues discussed at the forum was the economic growth potential they represented. He said it was important to convince the country that Democrats will foster economic growth, and to put together policy initiatives that will help the public cope with the rapid pace of changes in technology and the economic picture that have made them nervous.

Highlighting a specific issue, he cited the current battle over export controls on certain types of information technology as something that puts the United States at a competitive disadvantage. Speaking about a current regulatory climate where certain types of encryption and computer technology can't be sold overseas, he said that the situation would result in the United States falling behind, and potentially hurting our national security by losing access to the latest technology.

Summing up, he said, "Economic growth is what it's about, and technology is the key."

Update: This post was accidentally first published when it was meant to have been saved as a draft.


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