Reflections from DC: An Overview of Inside Politics’ Spring Break Trip
Inside Politics’ spring DC trip was quite the whirlwind of activity! We arrived in the afternoon on Sunday and had short individual meetings with EI Fellow Kasey Pipes to discuss our projects’ progress. While not meeting with Kasey, we strolled around DC, getting a feel for the city. Once we were all done with our meetings, we dressed up for a dinner with John McConnell, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. We had a delicious meal at McCormick & Schmick’s and listened to Mr. McConnell as he told us about his career, his personal experiences with both President Bush and Kasey, and his advice on speechwriting. After dinner, the Inside Politics team left for the hotel to prepare for a busy next day!
On Monday, we woke up bright and early and ventured off to Nebraska Avenue, where NBC Studios is located, sandwiched between the National Presbyterian Church and an office complex owned by the US Department of Homeland Security. Executive Producer Nancy Nathan guided both the Inside Politics team and the Women in Leadership team on a tour of the studios, showing us the “Meet the Press” set and the newsroom. We heard bits and pieces of the studio’s history, as well as information about the set’s technology, and just what goes into creating a weekly news program. Both groups met with NBC reporter Pete Williams where we had the opportunity to explore what exactly makes something newsworthy. It was a really interesting trip and a couple of us managed to spot some books about Ike in the “Meet the Press” set. After our NBC studios excursion, Inside Politics met with Tucker Eskew, who is a partner at ViaNovo Political Consulting. Mr. Eskew has an extensive career and he told us about the many projects he’s worked on throughout his life. A point that peaked everyone’s interest, especially since Game Change first premiered the Saturday before we left, was listening to Mr. Eskew discuss his work experience with Sarah Palin during Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008. He was exceedingly pleasant and also discussed with us what he does at ViaNovo, how he got there, and what it’s like to work in DC.
After lunch, we carried on to The Daily Caller’s office, where we met with the publication’s enthusiastic owner, Tucker Carlson. He talked with us about his decision to create the news site and what the process has been like since the company’s first day. Everyone had fun listening to Mr. Carlson discuss his take on US politics. We then returned to EI’s office and met with Jason Mida, a prominent DC fundraising consultant. Mr. Mida has worked with many charities and gave us some perspective on what it was like to work for nonprofits. He had plenty of experiences to share with us, working with many large charities– most notably the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. Monday concluded with an amazing dinner in the company of Politico’s senior editor, David Mark, at the Daily Grill. Mr. Mark and the Inside Politics team had an informal question and answer session throughout the night where we discussed a range of topics, but mostly focused on the current GOP presidential nomination cycle. It was an incredible opportunity to sit down with such a distinguished DC newsmaker.
On Tuesday, we woke up and left for the Eisenhower Institute’s DC office, where we met with Carl Cannon, the DC editor of RealClearPolitics.com. Mr. Cannon spoke passionately about his career in the news industry and his decision to work for RealClearPolitics.com. His anecdotes about how the industry has completely transformed over time were quite gripping and gave a unique perspective to others’ experiences in the news field. After meeting with Mr. Cannon, we joined the Women in Leadership team and left for a tour of the White House’s East Wing. We walked around and visited famous rooms like the State Dining Room and the East Room. The Inside Politics team traveled to the Capitol next, where we met with Will Kinzel ’96, policy advisor and counsel to Congressman Boehner, and Jamie Fleet ’02, staff director for the Committee on House Administration in Congress. They spoke with us about how their Gettysburg College education has helped them in their careers and offered us unique understandings of what working so closely with elected officials on the Hill is like. Both gave valuable advice about what to do and what not to do when applying for public sector jobs, especially those under elected officials. I had never been inside the US Capitol building before, and it was quite the experience to meet with Gettysburg alums inside such a breathtaking structure.
After lunch at the Capitol, we took a short ride to meet with former White House counsel and Gettysburg College alum, Fred Fielding ’61. Meeting with Mr. Fielding was a fantastic time. He has an exhaustive knowledge of DC politics and has worked closely with several presidents, including Presidents Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush. I particularly enjoyed hearing the ways in which DC politics has changed since Mr. Fielding first began working in the city, largely because he had such a tumultuous first few years there working under President Nixon during the Watergate Scandal. After meeting with Mr. Fielding, we traveled to Facebook’s DC office and talked with Joel Kaplan, their current Vice President of US Public Policy. Mr. Kaplan talked with us about his transition from the public sector, where he worked as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy under President George W. Bush, to the private sector. Especially pertinent were questions regarding the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Mr. Kaplan talked extensively about how the public reaction to the bill was quite unprecedented. To end our trip, the Inside Politics team had dinner at Morton’s Steakhouse with Scott Corley of Corley Consulting. Mr. Corley has worked for Microsoft as their Director of Federal Government Relations and he touched on their antitrust saga a few times throughout dinner. He also spoke candidly about the need for lobbyists in DC and cleared up some misconceptions about just what it is that lobbyists do. Having dinner with him was a great way to end the trip!
Our DC trip was a great success and everyone had a wonderful time. We were constantly on the move, meeting exciting, interesting people who worked in a variety of fields. All in all, the trip gave us a holistic, if not fleeting, perspective of how DC operates and what it takes to make it there.