KK: Under the Obama administration, Silicon Valley’s power actually expanded greatly. There are very few mergers blocked. Do you have any regrets about that?
The reason why I was given presidential power when I was given an assignment is because I kept the disagreements I had with the president just that, as I said at the outset, with the president. One of the reasons he said he picked me was I’d never walked in the Oval Office and be intimidated by being in the Oval Office. I’d always tell him what I thought, but at the end of the day, he gets to make the decision.
There are places where he and I have disagreed. About 30 percent of the time, I was able to convince him to my side of the equation. Seventy percent of the time I wasn’t when we disagreed, when he laid something out. And you may recall, the criticism I got for meeting with the leaders in Silicon Valley, when I was trying to work out an agreement dealing with them protecting intellectual property for artists in the United States of America. And at one point, one of the little creeps sitting around that table, who was a multi- — close to a billionaire — who told me he was an artist because he was able to come up with games to teach you how to kill people, you know the ——
CW: Like video games.
Yeah, video games. And I was lectured by one of the senior leaders there that by saying if I insisted on what Leahy’d put together and we were, I thought we were going to fully support, that they would blow up the network, figuratively speaking. Have everybody contact. They get out and go out and contact the switchboard, just blow it up.
And then one of these righteous people said to me that, you know, “We are the economic engine of America. We are the ones.” And fortunately I had done a little homework before I went and I said, you know, I find it fascinating. As I added up the seven outfits, everyone’s there but Microsoft. I said, you have fewer people on your payroll than all the losses that General Motors just faced in the last quarter, of employees. So don’t lecture me about how you’ve created all this employment.
The point is, there’s an arrogance about it, an overwhelming arrogance that we are, we are the ones. We can do what we want to do. I disagree. Every industrial revolution, every major technological breakthrough, every single one. We’re in the fourth one. The hardest speech I’ve ever had to make in my life, I was asked to speak at the World Economic Forum, to give an answer on, to speak to the fourth industrial revolution. Will there be a middle class? It’s not so clear there will be, and I’ve worked on it harder than any speech I’ve ever worked on.
The fact is, in every other revolution that we’ve had technologically, it’s taken somewhere between six years and a generation for a government to come in and level the playing field again. All of a sudden, remember the Luddites smashing the machinery in the Midlands? That was their answer when the culture was changing. Same thing with television. Same thing before that with radio. Same thing, but this is gigantic. And it’s a responsibility of government to make sure it is not abused. Not abused. And so this is one of those areas where I think it’s being abused. For example, the idea that he cooperates with knowing that Russia was engaged in dealing with using the internet, I mean using their platform, to try to undermine American elections. That’s close to criminal.