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World Journos Take Briefing on US ElectionsPhotos by Gohar Grigorian

World Journos Take Briefing on US Elections

Editors and correspondents from 18 nations and five continents met with a UCLA political scientist and the chairman of California's Republicans on campus to prepare for presidential primary debates and Super Tuesday.

By Jessica Hoolko

A look at some unusual electoral mechanisms.

A delegation of journalists representing 18 nations and five continents—North America not included—visited UCLA on Wednesday as part of the U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center's program for the Super Tuesday Presidential Reporting Tour. The delegates were on campus to meet with Associate Professor Jeffrey Lewis of the Department of Political Science to discuss the American electoral process; the UCLA International Visitor's Bureau facilitated the meeting.

Lewis reviewed this country's "unusual electoral mechanisms," including caucuses, primaries, and the nuances of the party system before taking questions from the delegates.

The delegation had another briefing and Q&A on campus with Ron Nehrig, chairman of the California Republican Party. The day's schedule left time for reporters to travel to the Reagan Library in Simi Valley for the GOP Debate. They will continue their State Department–sponsored visit through Feb. 6, 2008.

Apart from technical questions about the election process, a major area of interest for the journalists was the change that this election may bring. When asked how big a change the nation could see with the election of a Democratic president, Lewis responded, "The reality of the U.S. system of checks and balances is you can never do all of the things you want to do, but I think we'll see steps in the directions they want to go." The election of a Democrat would usher in changes in foreign policy, tax policy, and perhaps distribution of income, though Lewis was careful to note that change does not always come quickly.

"If Hillary [Clinton] is elected, we're not going to see universal healthcare in four years," he said.

Delegates also wondered how ready America is for what might prove to be an even bigger change: the possible election of a female, black, or Mormon president. "It's an absolutely interesting thing," replied Lewis, who described Barak Obama's win at South Carolina's Democratic primary as "quite hopeful."

One visiting journalist discussed the possible need for change in the almost dynastic recent history of the American presidency. Lewis commented that the participation of multiple members of the same family in American politics is not unusual, and said the fact that many young voters don't remember the previous Clinton years could balance out the nostalgia that many older voters feel for that time.

A GOP View

In the meeting with Nehrig, the delegates expressed great interest in disagreements and differences within the parties and between same-party candidates. Nehrig explained that the competition of primaries "magnifies differences between candidates. But they're not as different as they're made to seem." Competitive primaries break parties up into camps, but candidates inevitably shift back to the center after they've passed the primaries, bringing the party back together behind them, usually resolving things before the general election.


Nehrig (left) chats with Christoph Pratner, an editor for Austria's "Standard."

While declining to speak about individual Republican candidates, Nehrig provided a questioner with six criteria for a successful candidacy: vision, the ability to translate that vision to the people, honesty, strength, caring, and personal resonance. He also applied this list to the top Democratic candidates, saying that both Clinton and Obama had their weaknesses. He identified trust as Hillary's main issue, and noted Obama's 130 "present" votes during his term in the Illinois senate. "There's no 'present' vote in the Oval Office," he said.

Nehrig also spoke of change. He said that foreign policy and "warning signs" in the American economy are challenges that the Republican party is prepared to face with appropriate change if they find their candidate in the White House. He noted that Democrats are likely to try to use Bush's approval ratings against the Republican candidates. He maintained that Democratic and Republican party membership were near parity, saying, "The political tide has shifted."

Some delegates discussed the important role of new media in decentralizing information about the candidates and the election.

Participants included Jorge Rosales, Columnist, La Nacion, Argentina; Christoph Prantner, Editor, Standard, Austria; Ouezen Louis Oulon, National Radio of Burkina Faso, Burkina Faso; Patricio Navia, Senior Columnist, La Tercera and Capital, Chile; Nanyi Zhang, Foreign Affairs Correspondent, Global Times, China; Gailane Gabre, Political Writer, Misr Alyoum, Nadet Misr, and Al Alam Al Yom newspapers, Egypt; Jan Ross, Foreign Affairs Editor, Die Zeit, Germany; Bae Myung-bok, Editorial Writer and Traveling Correspondent, Joong-ang Ilbo, Korea; Bardha Hamjaz, Editor in Chief, Zeri daily, Kosovo; Hristo Ivanovski, Foreign Affairs Editor, Dnevnik Daily, Macedonia; Leo Zuckerman, Columnist, Excélsior, and Host of "Imagen Electoral," Mexico; Yurira Sierra, Columnist, Excélsior and Anchor for Imagen Radio and Cadena 3 Television, Mexico; Walter Shintani, Cameraman, Cadena 3, Mexico; Leonardo Curzio Gutierrez, Enfoque Radio, Mexico; Luis Miguel Gonzales, Editor and Columnist, Milenio-Publico, Mexico; Arie Elshout, De Volkskrant, Netherlands; Paula Oliver, Senior Political Reporter, New Zealand Herald, New Zealand; Javed Siddiq, Resident Editor, Nawa-i-Waqt, Pakistan; Andrej Brstovsek, Foreign Policy and Commentator, Dnevnik, Slovenia; Chalermchai Yodmalai, Feature Editor, Naew Na Daily, Thailand; Anibal Romero, Senior Columnist, El Nacional, Venezuela; Davison Maruziva, Editor, The Standard, Zimbabwe.

The delegation's program was sponsored by the Washington Foreign Press Center. It was administered locally by the International Visitors Council of Los Angeles, and the itinerary at UCLA was arranged by the International Institute's International Visitors Bureau.

UCLA International Institute