Bill Gates: "Aw shucks, does
anybody care what I think?"
(credit: Ted S. Warren/AP)
Thank God, Bill Gates is weighing in on the controversy generated by Microsoft’s withdrawal of support for a Washington State bill to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation. Because his minions, Brad Smith (corporate counsel) and CEO Steve Ballmer have made a mess of things up till now. Gates apparently feels discomfort with the company’s previous position (or has felt enough heat from his employees and the blogworld to have second thoughts) and may reverse it (according to an interview with the Seattle Times) come the next legislative session:
"Next time this one comes around, we’ll see," he [Gates] said. "We certainly
have a lot of employees who sent us mail. Next time it comes around
that’ll be a major factor for us to take into consideration."
Well, that’s OK as far as it goes, but by no means good enough. This reminds me of the country that announces its going to war. After a good drubbing on the battlefield, it wants to withdraw but can’t quite wrap its arms around the idea that it might have to backpedal from a really stupid idea. It doesn’t want to lose face. That’s what Bill faces. His guys really messed up. But he can’t quite admit that and say: "Yeah, we messed up and we won’t mess up next time around. We’ll gonna throw everything we’ve got behind the bill and hope to see it pass." That would be nice to hear.
Instead we hear this fumfering around:
"Well, we didn’t expect that kind of visibility for it," Gates said.
"After all, Microsoft’s position on a political bill — has that ever
caused something to pass or not pass? Is it good, is it bad? I don’t
"Is my being behind it good? Look at the referendums I’ve been behind.
I’ve lost gun control — I’m looking really good on that one," he
Gee, is having Microsoft behind a bill really important to its passage? That’s a tough one: one of the state’s biggest private employers, economic engine of the state’s economy, the state’s richest businessman. I don’t know. It might have some slight beneficial impact to have MS behind it, don’t you think?
Bill, I’ve got news for you. People in this state (especially legislators) look to Microsoft for leadership on all sorts of issues. So in case you don’t know it already, YES, the company’s support is instrumental in the potential success of this legislation. Why anyone should have to tell you that is beyond me. I think you’re merely being modest or else disingenuous (take your pick depending on your view on Bill Gates).
Apparently, Bill got the message that people are really pissed off at the company. But he still doesn’t get what it would take to get the company back on track:
"It’s perfectly fair for us to be scrutinized on anything," he said.
"We didn’t realize that one would get that level of scrutiny, but
there’s people who care a lot. They care a lot about the issue."
Yes, and I hope they won’t let you or Microsoft off the hook until you do the right thing and put a full court press on the legislature the next time this bill comes to a vote.