Sunday, January 30, 2011
Debate: Whether the United States should strongly support democracy movements or engage in realist foreign policy
We'll be using the recent events in Egypt as a starting point for our discussion. For details on recent history, see here.
In addition, please read the following articles for Thursday's Debate:
1. The Worst of Both Worlds (framing of debate related to Egypt)
2. Arab World need bold U.S. support for Democracy (pro-democratization)
3. President George W. Bush speech (pro)
4. White House Wobbles on Egyptian Tightrope (con-realist foreign policy)
5. How to Not Spread Democracy (con)
Cover story of this week's TIME magazine is "The Role Model: What Obama Sees in Reagan"
By Michael Scherer and Michael Duffy. (Yes, the writers actually used the word "Bromance" in the article.)
Might be relevant to your discussions about the American presidency.
A Washington program Alum :)
I was very impressed by the power of AIPAC after reading chapter 9 in Smith's book. It reminded me of an article that I read in Professor Cafruny's International Relations class, which talked about how the power of AIPAC was, ultimately, hurting the U.S. I do not necessarily think that this was the case when Smith was writing, but America's close relationship with Israel, coupled with our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and saber rattling toward Iran, has certainly increased tensions with the Arab world. I found this article, which is very similar to the one I read in my IR class. The article is about a Harvard study that argues that "treating Israel as America's most important ally in the campaign against terrorism and assorted Middle East dictatorships both exaggerates Israel's ability to help on these issues and ignores the ways that Israel's policies make U.S. efforts more difficult." This would make for a good debate.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Friday, January 28, 2011
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
“In short, power depends heavily on the illusion of power. Presidents—past, present, and future—have less power than the country images, but the successful ones convey the impression of power and get reputations as strong presidents by playing down their problems and trumpeting their few clear victories.” (56)
Although it is true that the illusion of power can fool most at a glance, the above statement is no longer applicable to visions of the President. Technology plays an ever-increasing role in our society and now there is constant scrutiny coming not only from major news sources, but also any type of media (such as a class blog). The media is pervasive and very cynical, with the President always the first to be targeted. The media often highlight what is unfavorable, because such news is controversial and eye catching. The President and politicians can no longer hide behind their accomplishments. Instead they are now eternally on the defensive, reminding Americans of all that they have accomplished.
In The Power Game, Smith discusses the effect of new media, specifically television, on the power game. He refers to it as a "major revolutionary ingredient in the new power mix", and says that new outlets for political news have allowed more politicians to be heard and become "policy entrepreneurs. However, I would say that since Smith wrote The Power Game, these new political news outlets have become more of a hindrance to power than he lets on. Michael Robinson argued that "the changes in the media have given...members more political visibility --and hence greater power -- than ever before". I would argue that many news outlets don't let voters come to their own conclusions, and instead act as a barrier between a politician's message and the voter. News outlets on television provide so much different coverage and so many different viewpoints that they undermine a politician's message rather than make it clearer. Thus, television in the 21st century often does more to hinder power than to spread it around.
Although I have no proof, after reading Smith this weekend I wondered if this idea applied to the recent media discussion over whether it's feasible or necessary for states to be able to declare bankruptcy in order to deal with their sizable deficits. For instance, this NY Times article and earlier ones discussed how policymakers were discussing bankruptcy options due to fears over state deficits. This option has been discussed for weeks, prompting varied counterarguments from a diverse group of scholars and think tanks, including the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities where I am currently interning. Most recently, Eric Cantor (R-VA) came out against this idea, which had been pushed by Newt Gingrich. I wonder whether the initial articles that discussed "behind the scenes" efforts were prompted by leaks from those policymakers opposed to a state bankruptcy option that they feared was possibly coming into vogue.
The latter half of the 20th century imposed the acquisition of a new skill set on United States politicians: personability. Power now means being able to engage viewers around through visual media -- appearance and public speaking to the masses became a crucial necessity to a successful campaign. As politicians entered living rooms, the essence of power as simply the ability to write well and be the brains behind policy and leadership has faded into the distance. This change has brought enthusiastic and energetic young politicians in the limelight: "as Michael Robins observed: "the changes in the media have given younger members and maverick members more political visibility -- and hence greater power -- than ever before" (38). Smith writes: "Quite clearly, television has offered a fast track to those with political sex appeal and a knack for personality politics" (37). Politicians must be actors. And as we have seen, some actors are destined for politics: Ronald Regan, Arnold Schwarzenager, Al Franken, Clint Eastwood, among others.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Sunday, January 23, 2011
For those that like to run, find solid places can be difficult in DC. Some are satisfied with jogging on the treadmill at the gym beneath Calvert-Woodley or at a local gym. However, both of these are too boring for many runners, myself included. Therefore, in the past summers that I have lived in DC, I've set out to find several greats spots and areas to go running.
On Friday I took a trip to the Hirshhorn Museum, which is one of the many Smithsonian museums. Although it was too cold to enjoy the sculpture garden outside, I had a great time looking through the collection. I chose to visit the Hirshhorn because it holds mostly modern works of art, something I studied last semester at Hamilton. One of my favorite artists in the collection is Willem de Kooning. De Kooning painted many abstract expressionist works and was friends with many other famous artists such as Jackson Pollack, Clyfford Still, Franz Kline, and Mark Rothko. I definitely recommend a trip to the Hirshhorn. Not only can you see some great works of art--it's also free!
Does the McCarthy bill stand to reduce the incidence of gun-related violence? Keep in mind the constitutionality of and practical arguments for and against the McCarthy bill.
"Mary from Louisiana asked Olympia from Maine because they are BFFs, but had a backup in Bob from Tennessee in case she was rebuffed. Kirsten from New York went the Sadie Hawkins route and asked John from South Dakota, and thus the deal between two members of the Senate with seriously good hair was sealed."
A bunch of us were looking at the "Fifty Most Beautiful People who Work on the Hill" last night. I think that I have seen a couple of them around my building! I definitely told Nichelle Williams that I liked her sweater in the elevator. I have now been to every floor of the Longworth House Office Building (pictured to the left) as I spent an hour wandering around lost on Thursday. To be fair, everything looks exactly the same and the building is HUGE. By the time I finally found the room I was looking for my feet were in so much pain from my heels! Hopefully I don't go on anymore adventures around my building and I get to meet more beautiful people!
Saturday, January 22, 2011
The stormy relationship between Keith Olbermann and NBC executives has finally come to its natural conclusion, with Olbermann abruptly announcing on air last night that that episode of 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' would be his last. Olbermann, who rose to stardom during the Bush years as the loudest cable news voice on the left, represented a natural foil to Fox News hosts such as Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, and exemplified MSNBC's own push to the left in reaction to Fox's cornering of the conservative cable news market. Depending on who you talk to, he is either an arrogant jackass, a principled hero of the left, or maybe just that guy who used to be a Sportscenter anchor.
John and I were invited by the Department of Justice to attend the 50th Anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy's swearing in. The ceremony took place in the great hall of the R.F.K. Main Justice building. There were a lot of very interesting and powerful people at the ceremony, including many members of the Kennedy family. After the ceremony, John and I were walking down a flight of stairs and when we turned a corner, a burly Secret Service guard told us to stand back against the wall. A few feet behind him stood Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General. Mr. Holder was very friendly and shook our hands and asked us about our internships. He jokingly accused us of not working hard enough! It was very cool and somewhat intimidating experience
Friday, January 21, 2011
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
An interesting follow-up to our discussion today. One problem I have with her argument--and there are many--is the segment of the Chinese population she references: Sino-American immigrants. These people, I would imagine, are some of the most ambitious in China. They would likely expect the same of their children. To be sure, there are many millions in China who would fail Chua's standards. What she calls the "Chinese mother" must therefore be amended to something like the "ambitious Chinese mother who moved to America because of her ambition and expects the same ambition of her kids." There were plenty of white American kids whom I went to school with with equally pushy parents. They will make equally good doctors. And I can say as a matter of fact that they did not think of themselves as Chinese.
My circumstantial evidence for the day is a scene I witnessed walking back from the metro. A member of the Chinese "delegation," 5 or 6 years in age, was running around a patch of freshly poured pavement that was surrounded in yellow tape. The parents paid no attention and nearly walked away without their child. Hardly attentive parenting, by my estimation. This example is less than conclusive, but I figured it was relevant on several fronts.