Monday, January 19, 2009

Day 6 & Day 7

Last day of lectures, and what a way to end: Sam Donaldson. I was looking forward to this session as something similar to Ted Koppel, it wasn't exactly what I hoped for, but still good nonetheless.

The net day was the last of our small group session, and the last site visit. I have to say, the small group discussions have to be my favorite part of the trip. Being able to have such intellectual conversations with so many different people with different political views isn't something I am normally pr ivied to as a Polytechnic student, so I really did enjoy them very much so. After we had our discussion we toured the Newseum. WOW. Of all the places we visited, I think this may have been my favorite. I spent 6 hours in this place, I've never spent so long in a museum before. The only reason why I didn't spend any longer here is actually because the little group we broke into got tired. I definitely recommend anyone who is in the DC area to give this place a visit, you'd love it just as much as I did.

Day 5

The main speaker for the day, Michael Genovese, continued his talk about what we should expect from our president. He started by asking a question of whether the president is our problem or the solution to our problem. He continued by stating that we idolize our president, but what about the great Speakers of the House, or Supreme Court Justices, a statement that is very true. Too often we elevate an individual beyond their level and forget about those who also contribute just as equally but perhaps on a different level.

The next featured speaker was Hussain Haqqani, the Ambassador of Pakistan. I must admit, I really was not expecting the type of lecture he had given; it actually became one of my favorites for the series, along with a number of other people as well. He started off by saying that the "World cannot solve its problems without the US and the US cannot solve its problems without the wolrd," a way of explaining how the world is all connected to each other and the necessity of ensuring everyones safety, not just one nation.

After this we journeyed to the Fiji Embassy. Absolutely beautiful. They welcomed us with some delicious food and tea and told us all about his country.

Later on we were able to go see a political satire comedian Mark Russel. If you are into politics and enjoy a good laugh, you should definitely check him out.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Day 4


Today may have been the best day yet. But before I get to why it was so great, I'll start off with the 1st speaker:

First up was Steve Bell once more, former anchor for ABC's "Good Morning America" as well as "World News This Morning". Of all of his lectures, I think this was his best so far. His topic of discussion was that of biased campaign coverage. According to the people, 65% said this was a very biased coverage and of those who said yes, about 2/3's claimed it to be leaning liberally. Personally I'd definitely agree, but in this case I don't even have to plug in my opinion because the facts speak for themselves; it was a biased coverage. For every one story about McCain, Obama received 4. That's a huge difference. Not only that, but statistically speaking, no candidate has ever held more than 50% positive stories since 1980. It goes without saying that this year, Obama beat that by attaining 65% positive while McCain received a mere 35%.

These numbers by far show a drastic favorance towards Obama than there really should be. Every candidate should have a fair opportunity, and it is clearly not the case here. It seems as though media may have been struck with the "Obama Phenomenon," and did not deliver the news as it should be delievered. I'd like to continue on this, but another speaker brings this up later on in the day, so I'll put my plug in over there.

Next up we had Dana Perino, White House Press Secretary, televised on C-SPAN hosted by Steve Scully. Um, I'll get to this later on in the trip. I want to get to my favorite part.

Ted Koppel. Yes, THE Ted Koppel. The only journalist I have more respect for than Ted Koppel is Peter Jennings (RIP), although my respect for Anderson Cooper steadily rising, he still can't beat Ted. He began his lecture asking a question: Should journalists be held accountable for what they write about. The vast majority of students voted yes. Teds opinion: let me tell you a story. He told a story about NBC calling for humanitarian aid needed for the starvation in Somalia. US then responded to this call by sending food brought by US Marines. Some 300,000 people survived because of this aid. After the food was brought, some Marines stayed behind, and in staying behind, rebel groups ended up shooting down a helicopter (remember Black Hawk Down?? Yea, that was a true story). Rebels then took the body of a soldier and dragged his dead body through the streets. After that action, no one wanted to be apart of Africa. That's why Rwanda had 800,000 die, even though only one battalion was necessary to quell the fighting.

Hearing him tell this story, it was clear that no matter what story you tell, you can NEVER predict the outcome. Who would have ever thought that a simple call for humanitarian aid would end such in an atrocious way. This is why, he said, that journalists must focus 99% of the time on the accuracy of the story and not on the repercussions of it. The facts must always be true, because no matter what story you choose to write about, you never know the actual outcome of it.

He also spoke about the change in news from being a show that was not expected to bring any sort of money to the network, to major source of income for these network stations (thanks to the success of 60 Minutes-not that its a bad thing). This changed the dynamic of the stories to covering things they wouldn't normally cover, but yet forced to do it just for ratings. Which bringing back to my point earlier: Obama's biased coverage may be due in part to our craving of more topics on him instead of McCain. To me, that's not exactly fair as every candidate should have an equal chance.

Still didn't get to the best part yet. Now, after today I respect Ted Koppel so much more, its actually absurd. He spent a tremendous amount of time on EVERY question asked. He ended up taking 40 minutes AFTER his lecture just for questions. Every response was well more articulate and detailed than I could have ever had hoped for. But he had one statement that really got me. Now, although I did just sit here and tell you how journalists should be unbiased, it is kind of nice to hear an opinion. There was a question that was asked to Dana Perino by a caller stating that the Iraq war was conducting only for oil and that we truly had no interest in Saddam. If we did, then we had more than ample time to remove him from power a long time ago, and the fact that we waited until now only makes that more obvious. Her response to this was that it is simply not true, and that Saddam was a threat to the nation. When I heard that, I thought to myself UMMMM, NO!!. I'm not going to deny what he had done to his own people is atrocious, but to claim that he was a threat to the US is absurd.

This same statement was brought up to Ted Koppel and asked to comment on it. His response was, and I quote: "For Dana to sit here and say that the Iraq War was not for oil, she is either silly . . . or protecting this administration." I cannot explain the roar of applause that followed that statement. It was by far the best moment of my trip thus far. He continued on by stating that he does understand Bush's claim though stating that they did have Weapons of Mass Destruction, of course they would, we sold it to them. But for him to say that he was a threat to national security is clearly false.

Like I said, I highly respect Ted Koppel.

After this, we went out to the US Capital. Here is a few pics.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

While being down here, I've had a few conversations here that I really want to continue to speak about. The first is about the duty of voting versus voting responsibly. Now, I am not going to deny the necessity of voting by any means. Without voting, as an individual your beliefs and ideologies are not represented and therefore prevent those elected from being able to properly serve the people. While the voter turn out for this election may have been an improvement over previous ones, it still is not great and has room to grow. However the question arises: should it grow? Who exactly says everyone should be able to vote? What exactly makes them capable of making such a decision?

In Australia, they implemented a system where every citizen must cast a ballot. While it does ensure that there is a high percentage of voter turn out, it does also bring those who are really apathetic to politics and force them to make a decision. By forcing an apathetic person to cast a ballot for a candidate they do not truly want inaccurately represents the wants of the populous. To me, forcing an apathetic to vote is a waste of a vote. Is this something that we want as a nation? How many people voted in this past election solely based on the idea of “change”? Whether that change be due to having a female Vice President or an African American President, is that really what we want to have as a country? Do we really want someone placed in power because they are different, or because we actually believe in their capability? Personally, while I do believe in the ability of Obama to be a very strong leader, I emphatically disagree with all those who voted merely because he is an African American. I do not think this is a reason to vote at all and in my eyes, I actually count those as wasted votes as well. While it may be great that we now have more people registered to vote and have cast ballots than ever before, the lack of knowledge of the candidate pre-vote, to be frank, scares me. What happens next? If we continue on a path such as this, then every time a candidate slightly different from the normal is on a ballot, does this mean we should worry about votes that aren’t genuine? What if we are elected a president that really isn’t wanted by all or even worse, isn’t qualified, but made it just because he stood on a platform of being different.

While this may seem like a paranoid rant, let’s look at what we have happening already. California, typically a blue state, passed a law repealing same-sex marriages because of voter turnout. Polls prior to the vote showed it was not going to pass, and through a lack of turn out, the proposition passed. What else can happen due to apathy? In all honesty, I don’t want to find out.

I honestly would rather see a lack of a voter turn out than to see a high turn out rate based on something that should not be an issue. In order to vote, you must actually believe in your candidates ability to lead, and not just because of a superficial reason.

Yet despite how strongly I believe that anyone who votes for this reason should not be voting at all...I will never deny them their right to vote. And that is what makes this country so great.

Day 3


Today was rather interesting; the lectures were actually CSPAN filming different shows with us as the audience, thus allowing us to ask questions. There were a few that I did not particularly like, that being an interview with the Wheelers, a couple that helped Obama during the primaries, but not the campaign. I didn't feel this particularly applied anymore because they aren't really apt for answering any of our questions.

The one I did like was the first one, conducted by the President/CEO of CSPAN Brian Lamb. I felt like his was more pertinent to the situation, that being what we are expecting/hoping to come out of the new Presidency.

After that we went to the Norwegian Embassy as well as the US Chamber of Commerce where we heard Bob Schieffer, CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent and Moderator of Face of the Nation.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Day 2


Listening to the lectures today, there were two that stood out in my mind. The first was given by Michael Genovese, author of "Memo to the Next President". In his address, he spoke about what President-elect Obama has to face. The world has changed quite drastically since he first announced his candidacy: we are now amidst a serious economic melt down where major reform needs to take place, currently facing two wars (which unfortunately seem to be consistently forgotten about), massive opposition to both Guantanamo Bay and Abu Garaib, among other things. Presidents that have been placed in office in times of prosperity have traditionally had their "hands tied", whereas in these times, Obama will be in a position to grab power much more easily. The question does arrise though: how does one use that power? The answer argued by Marc Pachter later in the day is through intellect and temperament, both clear qualities held by our new president. It is without question given the situation that Obama will possess power, so the real question we must ask ourselves before he begins his term is: will he be wise in his use of power?

The second was from two USA columnists, Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel, republican and Democrat respectively. Together the two of them have their bi-weekly column comparing views as well as their book "Common Ground". What separates these two in my mind from all other politicians is something that should actually be in all: their belief that at the end of the day, their goal is not the betterment of their respective parties, but rather the betterment of the nation. This is something that has been severely lacking in this country. The best case scenario is from the mortgage crisis which has lead to a massive bank failure. How is promoting individual parties a cause of this crisis? Because of the implications that emanate from it. By wanting to promote parties, they promote achieving the new American dream: owning a home. However, this is not a dream that should be held by all, and the responsibility of these politicians in realizing this has led to deregulation in the criteria regarding housing loans and mortgages and everything of the like. What should have been promoted is a sense of living within your means, but since every politician wants to say that "under their administration, they were able to have more Americans achieve the dream of owning a home then ever before" they forget what really happens. And unfortunately we are now learning the lesson: with loans becoming impossible to pay back, banks become stretched too thin and are now collapsing. While saying this is all due to politicians might be a little drastic, one cannot deny their hand in this. And it is this thought process that Thomas and Beckel spoke about, the idea that we as a people must refrain from promoting parties and rather promote the good of a unified nation, catering to all, and achieving a "Common Ground".

Day 1


The day started with Mr. Steven Bell speaking about Media and Presidency, and how one affects as well as influences the other. He told of how media allowed for another side of the president that is not normally seen, to be able to come out, and how the president can use this opportunity to better help himself as a way of bypassing the rigid structure of traditional news casts. This is best evident in moments such as when Hillary was emotionally speaking about her love of the country in what appeared to be a private moment and the effect it had on her ratings. He also showed the flip side of it and showed how it can even be used as a way to hurt a candidate, citing the famous SNL skit depicting the Democratic debates between Obama and Clinton where the former was clearly favored over the latter, helping influence the decisions of the viewers watching. These portrayals in the media can either help or hurt the president, and in order to gain the favor of the populous, one must understand how to use it adequately.

Tour: After the session for the day, we took a tour around DC and viewed some of the sites. We saw the Marine Corps Memorial,

Vietnam Memorial,

Lincoln Memorial,

Washington Monument, and the World War II Memorial.

All of these will be memories I'll never forget.