What a Week of Watching CSPAN Will Do to You

Watching C-SPAN All These Days

For over 25 years now, CSPAN has been providing first rate access inside the political process for the general public. It is a public service brought to you by the cable television industry. Before this assignment, I knew that CSPAN existed as a channel. In the past, I have glanced at it from time to time for a few spare moments but never actually sat down to watch an entire program besides the occasional televised session of British Parliament. The advent of this assignment brought on watching C-SPAN all these days.

Sunday was the first day to start the festivities. The programs I viewed were: a discussion from Catholic University concerning the third Presidental debate, a Bush-Cheney rally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Booknotes featuring John McCaslin: the author of “Inside the Beltway” and a session of the British House of Commons. The discussion from Catholic University in Washington DC was basically a discussion between a professor and his students about their views and opinions from watching the third debate. One question that I heard from this discussion which I have never heard before was “If you were from another planet and watched the debate with no sound, who do you think won it just from presence and their actions during it?” The Bush-Cheney Rally included all the usual important issues touched and discussed. The only thing different was two things especially important in Michigan, farm issues and arms bearment. I did not learn anything new from it that I do not know about Bush already. It was a typical Bush rally to say the least (something I would never attend). Booknotes, a book discussion show was the next thing to catch that day. The guest for it was John McCaslin, the author of “Inside the Beltway.” A collection of short stories from the last 25 years of being a Washington DC journalist is the basis of the book. The fact of hearing about John discuss Washington through the eyes of a journalist covering it was something I have never been exposed to. Last on tap for the night was a televised session of the British House of Commons. Topics touched in this session were labor relations and Britain’s involvement in the Iraq Conflict which got Tony Blair heated up very much. Watching this showed you where the Senate and the House of Representatives get their standards, practices and methods from. I thought all four of these programs were well-presented in their own ways:

-Discussion included both professor and students on camera
-Bush Rally showed Bush speaking and his signs and supporters on camera
-Booknotes gave a good impression of the book without going overboard
-House of Commons being televised showed how its done in the UK
All of these had a relationship to the course in that they all showed the freedoms of democracy and what can be done with it when put to action.

Monday was the next viewing day. The programs viewed were: Washington Journal, the South Carolina senate debate, and the New York senate debate. The Washington Journal’s topics included medical marijuana, keeping doctors from leaving a state due to malpractice and health care debate. All the issues were discussed in an informative nature. One thing that I learned from this was how big of an issue medical marijuana really is. Next on viewing tap was the South Carolina senate debate. This debate touched base on South Carolina’s troubles with having one of the nation’s worst graduation rates, being at the bottom of the SAT scores list and the general education trouble in the state. The highlight of this debate was one senator’s blatant refusal to answer a certain question brought up by the mediator and his constant apologies for it. This happening in a debate was the first time I have ever seen it. Final viewing for the day took place in the form of the New York senate debate. Issues touched based ranged from immigration to homeland security to import prescriptions from Canada. This debate was better done than the South Carolina one in that each of the three candidates got equal camera time, not a 90-10 split in camera time in the South Carolina debate. One thing I learned from the New York debate was how low the state ranks when it comes to getting homeland security money. I thought all three of these programs were well presented in their own ways:

-Washington Journal gave equal exposure time to all the issues.
-The South Carolina debate showed how lopsided the race is.
-The New York debate gave all candidates equal exposure time.

The relationship between these programs and the course was political culture. These shows showed how cultures is depicted from a candidate in a debate’s angle and also from a journalist’s angle such as the Washington Journal

Tuesday was the midway point in the viewing festival. The Shows that were viewed were: absentee balloting questions and answers, the South Dakota senate debate, A Teresa Heinz Kerry speaking engagement in New Hampshire and A Laura Bush speaking engagement in Pennsylvania. The absentee balloting questions and answers session covered all the different aspects of absentee balloting from the rules of it to how it should take place. This program to me did not really get my blood going. I learned from it what exactly goes on with absentee balloting. It was a monotone questions and answers session. Next was the South Dakota senate debate. Issues mentioned ranged from rural development dollars to military bases to the economy. One thing that I learned was Senator Tom Daschle’s bad relationship with Bush compared to the good one he had with Clinton. This debate was done in a well presented fashion with both candidates getting equal camera exposure time and equal response time for all the issues. Teresa Heinz Kerry was next on the list. She spoke at the Costal Science Center in Rye, New Hampshire. Topics that came from her mouth included John’s ideas concerning cleaner communities, environmental issues, coal alternatives, cleaner air and black voters in Florida. The thing that I never knew was how public speaking isn’t exactly Teresa’s strong point. She looked down at some points and spoke in a soft, unreadable voice most of the time. The final thing for the day was catching Laura Bush speak to a crowd in Primos, Pennsylvania. Her topics of choice included education, improving college tuition packages and advancing health research with more spending. In contrast to Teresa, she was clearly a better public speaker with constant eye contact with the audience and a much clearer and translatable voice. The thing I learned from this is how Laura is clearly better at speaking to a crowd than George W. is. The strong points for these programs in the way they were presented were:

-The absentee balloting answers taught me things I never knew.
-The South Dakota debate had equal time for both candidates and issues
-Teresa Heinz Kerry spoke her mind thoroughly.
-Laura Bush spoke to the crowd with no troubles at all.
These shows related to the course in the fact that politics shows which values will prevail in society.

Wednesday was next on top in the week for viewing CSPAN. The shows I caught were: a program explaining US election assistance and the Intelligence Committee’s televised hearing. The program explained the US election assistance process mentioned general training, the struggle of finding workers for Election Day, environments and conditions and the increase in polling places. The thing that was a new thing to me with this program was how much of a struggle there is to find people to work the polls on Election Day itself. This program was done well in the fact that all the information was presented to me in a nature that was informative and not boring. Next on tap for viewing was the televised Intelligence Committee hearing. Topics mentioned in this hearing ranged from asylum abuse to the need for an inspector general and the truth about Iraq. The hearing itself taught me how important the committee finds the creation of a National Intelligence Center and the need for an inspector general to be. The strongpoints of these programs were:

-The US election assistance program gave equal camera time to the committee and the speakers.
-The Intelligence Committee hearing stressed the importance of the information without going overboard.
The two programs related to the course in the fact that ‘competition for power among a great many interests of all kinds-is a major characteristic of American politics’ as the book states.

Thursday was the coming down the homestretch day in this viewing escapade. The programs that I caught included: Ralph Nader and the 2004 election, the 4th Congressional District debate in Kentucky, and the 12th Congressional District debate in Georgia. The first program was about Ralph Nader and what he plans to do with the 2004 election. The discussion included how people who supported him in the 2000 election have deserted him now with the 2004 election, how his campaign is being financed without corporate help and how his main concern is helping to defeat Bush in the election. I didn’t really learn anything new from this program, it just reaffirmed my believe that it is a waste for Nader to run. Next on the viewing schedule was the 4th Congressional District debate in Kentucky. The many issues that were touched upon in this debate ranged from the oil shortage to minimum wage raising. I learned from this debate that how some candidates actually do have respect and compassion. One of the candidates in the debate was dealing with a sudden death in the family and the two other candidates expressed understanding and concern with what he was going through. Family was stressed a lot throughout this debate. All three candidates were given equal camera time and all the issues were discussed equally. The final program to be viewed was the 12th Congressional District debate from Georgia. Important issues that were brought up in this debate included: the effect that a national sales tax would have on the nation, interstate proposals, weeding out needy malpractice from the unneedy, frivolous lawsuit regulation and property taxes. This debate was firey from the beginning. Both of the candidates were far from boring and expressed their views in very dramatic fashions. A unique fact that I learned from this debate was that 85% of businesses are 10 miles from an interstate. Both candidates were given equal time in this debate to tear each other apart.

Highlights for these programs were:

-Finding out that Nader is most concerned about defeating Bush.
-The honesty shown by all 3 Kentucky candidates
-The two Georgia candidates were shown in two identical boxes next to each other during all questions so you could see reactions from both sides at all times.

This assignment taught and shown me that CSPAN does a valuable thing by showing the general public what exactly goes on in the political process and how it does it so well. Maybe in the future, I will sit down and watch CSPAN some more.

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