George W. Bush

President of the United States

It would be a stretch to argue that the vigor of the New Economy is correlative to the quality of the attentions paid to it by the commander in chief. But it would be naïve to say the president is irrelevant.

From privacy to the Microsoft trial, Internet taxation to international trade — in fact, in just about every realm of technology policy — President George W. Bush will wield great power. And the eyes of thousands of legislators, technology lobbyists, activists of all stripes and industrialists will watch him closely.

How freely will U.S. high-tech companies be able to trade with overseas countries? That depends, in part, on the attitude of the administration. Former President Bill Clinton lobbied hard for Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China while in office, and he got it — by a whisker. Without his work, PNTR — widely championed as the single most important policy event for technology industries last year — would likely have failed.

And had Clinton opposed the measure, passage of the bill probably would have been irrelevant, because he would have vetoed it.

Such power is vested in the presidency, and issues vastly important to the high-tech industry can be decided by the whim, prejudice or thoughtful deliberation of the current Oval Office resident.

Will the new president favor legislation dealing with online privacy, which is sure to become a central technology issue during this Congress? How about Internet taxation? The battle about whether — or how — to tax online commerce will rage on Capitol Hill this year, and the presidents position on the matter will certainly influence the shape of any bill.

Will the Microsoft case be pursued? How will the president, through his pick to chair the Federal Communications Commission, deal with the epic policy battles between competing sectors of the telecommunications industry, from cable to long-distance to wireless?

Theres already a pile waiting on his West Wing desk.

What he does with that pile matters.