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Paul Coletti | 17:39 UK time, Monday, 6 November 2006

It's stop #1 on the WHYS US mid-terms tour. The topics will be dictated by you Dear Listener, so I've no prepared pointers to post right here. However, I've a feeling the elections and a certain former president will feature at some point in tonight's talk.


Woodrow Wilson high school, classroom L14 is our studio for tonight . . . a nice welcome from the students there. They are about 17 – 18 years of age and racially diverse.

The school setting is getting to Ros . . . he’s laying down the rules.

The guest list is impressive tonight.

Jennifer M. Palmieri: VP for Communications for a think tank in Washington and former press ecretary for John Edwards.

Rich Galen is a Republican strategist and “polar opposite of Jennifer.” He’s been to Iraq and knows a thing or two about the place.

A quick class poll: Who thinks the Saddam verdict is an issue?

A student in the audience just said: “What happened to Saddam is having no impact on the situatio there. I don’t think it would affect any swing voters.”

Kathy Kaye, BBC Washington correspondent, is with us too: “Most people in Iraq have made up their mind about Iraq already.”

Jennifer: “I think it’s too late to affect the elections. To have had an effect it would have had to have happened a week ago. A lot of people thought he had been sentenced. It could help the GOP base.”

Someone has challenged Rich on his “stability in Iraq” comment. His defence is stout.

Lubna is in Baghdad: “The Republicans might use this to show the American voters that Iraq is going well.”

Rich : “Jennifer is right, if this (the verdict) was arranged by the Republicans it would have happened ages ago. It was decided by the Iraqi people.”

Mustafa is in Baghdad: “I don’t think we need them anymore. We need military equipment. They’ve had their time to train the Iraqis. . . all we need is a withdraw timetable. We’d like to say thank you - you did a great job.

Kathy: “Have you been follwing the midterms Mustafa:

Mustafa: “I’m bewildered by American officials’ statements. The American troops don’t give the Iraqi troops full control. Who should I believe?”

James is a student: “Are the troops helping to keep Iraqis safe? If they leave could there be anarchy?”

Mustafa: “I feel so grateful for what they have done but I would ask you . . . in places like Ramadi and Anbar they don’t provide security anymore. Maybe there is security in Baghdad.”

Brian, a student who is eligible to vote: “Mustafa wants equipment not troops . . what I understood is that our US troops are there to train the Iraqi troops.”

Ros is posing the question of the night: Q. What exactly do the Democrats stand for on Iraq?

Jennifer: The position is that there should be a timeline for getting out of Iraq and redeploying the troops to other hot spots in the worlds. Even if the Dems take over both houses GW will still be in charge of the war. So the best we can do is better oversight.”

Rich: “It could have a dramatic imp[act on the day-to-day operation because the Congress decides where and how the money is spent. Jennifer mentions ‘oversight’: I have no problem with that.”

Some statements from our students in class L14:

“Even with a Republican Congress GW has been unable to carry through some domestic policies.”

“The American media spends so much time on Iraq . . almost every news station is Iraq, Iraq, Iraq. It’s one of the big issues but it’s blown out too much”

“During the Clinton admin they worked with the Republicans on the budget – that worked well. Would GW work with the democrats?”

Jennifer: “It’s the issue that is on most people’s minds because the situation is so dire. Economic issues: big disparity. Regarding a Democratic Congress: losing both houses and the Congress could be the best thing for the GW presidency. If he’s willing to work with a Democratic Congress he could salvage his last two years.”

Kathy: “Historically people use mid-term elections as an excuse for change. Ethics issues, scandals, corruption . . . there is a strong sense for change.”

There appears to be an obscure quote on the wall - Change your thoughts and you change your world - and neither Ros nor the teacher in the class know who Norman Vincent Peel is . . . it’s down to our guest Rich Galen to explain. He was a proponent of positive thinking, if you’re reading us live on this blog then check out this link.

We’re back from the news . . . .

Zak: “I think healthcare is a big issue.”

Emma: “I think stem cell research is important.”

“Stem cell is big but I was thinking about the rich/ poor gap.”

Sam “In Washington DC even if we were all 18 we don’t have any power in Congress. Because of home rule they didn’t give the same voting rights to residents of Columbia as in other states.”

If you’re wondering what Sam is on about then research District Columbia voting rights here.

Sarah: “Immigration is important. Immigrants are not treated as people. They’re treated as scum. The fence will do nothing but hurt everyone.”

Cynthia: “I agree with Sarah. Legalisation for youth immigrants is a big issue.”

Ros is posing another question of the night put forward by a listener: Q. Are you more engaged than your parents?

“My parents are more involved but they do help me”

Byron: My parents are much less political than I am. They grew up in New Jersey and W. Virginia and it’s not such a conducive environment.”

Rich: “We know from experience that people of this class’s age don’t vote. They would have an enormous impact but they don’t”

Jennifer: ”World have hope. This generation care more about issues outside of their own lives and are more tolerant of other ethnicities.”

Kathy Kaye: “Because 18 – 20 year olds don’t vote is why Dems do better in polls than they do in results.”

Would you vote for the same party as your parents? It’s a 100% YES on that quick straw poll within our class. I find that quite surprising actually . . .

Rich: “We may be looking at the end of the 2-party system and moving into a 4-party system.”

Some responses from our class . . .

“You are only offered two points of view”

“I agree with the 4-party system. It’ll make it a broader range. You’re issues may not be covered by either of the two parties.”

Bob from Ohioville has phoned in : “The people should bring up the issues not the politicians. Abortion, gay rights should not be issues for government. I’m for smaller government, low taxes. Lets take abortion – it should be something to do with individual rights and freedom of choice.”

“Our Congress is very inactive. Issues like abortion are used by the president to energise his base.”

Hagoscalled in, he has a low opinion of the mid-terms: “It’s garbage in garbage out.

“The problem I have with Congress was the amendment they made to raise their pay! Their capabilities to make decisions is hindered by the filibustering.”

“The most definitive way to get rid of scandals like Abramoff is to boost voter turnout. If everyone expresses their opinion then the people’s power is greater than lobbyists.”

“The bigger issue was that Republicans knew about it and didn’t tell anyone. Dennis Hastert hid information from American people. That was the issue.”

“I look at all these scandals and it’s usually the Republican party involved. Like the evangelical priest down in Colorado.”

Rich agrees: “Power corrupts.”

“Foley wasn’t such a big deal. People do that all the time.”

Kathy’s asking: “What do you think about the negative ads?”

“It’s really sickening. It’s on all the time. Quotes are taken out of context.”

“Most of the time the politicians just put other people down they don’t talk about themselves.”

“Those advertisements are the ones that are remembered by voters”

Jennifer: “President Clinton said ‘negative ads will stop when they stop working.’ I would love it for this to be the last one”

The final quote of the night and the beans are spilled on Woodrow’s political makeup “We’re almost all politically to the left,” says one student. Rich is objecting but we’re outta time . . . see you tomorrow in Cleveland!


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