The fifteen students of the 2013 Washington Minimester, pictured here outside the West Wing of the White House, arrived in DC on May 19 to embark on an intense three-week trip that would take us to the floor of the House of Representatives, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House, the East Conference Room of the Supreme Court, and a seemingly endless stream of meeting rooms, where we learned first-hand how Washington works — or doesn’t work — from key players in the political process. Among this year’s speakers: Josh Pollack, Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs; John Stipecivic of the House Republican Whip’s office; three clerks to Justice Elena Kagan; Neil Newhouse (Mitt Romney’s pollster) and Stan Greenberg (Bill Clinton’s pollster); the Chair of the FEC; Charlie Cook; E.J. Dionne; and a host of lobbyists, political party leaders, think tank fellows, and House and Senate Chiefs of Staff.
This year’s reoccurring theme was political dysfunction. Virtually all our speakers said Washington is broken, but — as if to prove the point — they couldn’t agree on why. Neil Newhouse put the blame on Barack Obama’s divisiveness; Stan Greenberg said Obama isn’t divisive enough. John Stipecivic of the Whip’s office said all would be well if Obama would just reach out to Republicans; John Halpin of the progressive Center for American Progress found that to be an amusing idea. All this gave the group plenty to think about between Metro transfers while braving Washington’s fabled heat and humidity.
– Matt Kerbel