Mr. Smith goes back to Washington

Published 5:01 am Monday, July 9, 2007

By By Tray Smith
There is no better place to celebrate the Fourth of July than Washington, D.C. Yet, I had the benefit of doing just that this past Wednesday. For the past three weeks, I have been studying American government and political science at Georgetown University in the nations capitol. This program has allowed me to visit interesting places, learn interesting facts and meet several interesting people.
Most notably, my fellow Georgetown Summer School students and I got to participate in a 30 minute question and answer session with Karl Rove, the political genius behind both of President Bush's successful campaigns. Love him or hate him, one must respect Rove's unparalleled knowledge of political science. Known as the "brain" behind the Bush White House, Rove's intelligence was on display as he took challenging questions from our group. The conversation was off the record in order to give Rove freedom to speak on a number of topics, including the Iraq war, the upcoming Presidential election and the Scooter Libby affair.
We also had the privilege of visiting the Supreme Court as it issued opinions on three different cases that it heard during oral argument over the past year. While President Bush's ability to influence domestic policy may have been drastically curtailed over the past few years, his judicial appointments have had a very noticeable affect on the Supreme Court. Just last week, the court prohibited racial profiling in school districts in Kentucky and Washington State. Though the Court does not have a solid conservative majority, its opinions have shifted noticeably to the right since Samuel Alito replaced Sandra Day O'Connor.
The Alabama students were given the honor of visiting U.S. Senator Richard Shelby and visiting the Senate gallery as the Senators voted to open debate on the fortunately now-defeated immigration bill. Anyone who has never visited the Senate should, because one visit explains why nothing ever gets passed through that body. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to watch as all of the famous faces go to "work."
In conversation, I often speak to people who applaud divided government, in which the different branches are controlled by different parties. Those people should be very content with today's Washington, D.C., as the Supreme Court is split between four conservatives, four liberals and one moderate swing vote, the White House is home to a Republican President and Democratic majorities narrowly control both houses of Congress. Unfortunately, I do not believe this division of power will last much longer, as the political pendulum is clearly swinging back towards the left in this country. In visiting each branch of government, it is as if you are visiting different eras, with the White House representing a now out of date conservative movement, the Supreme Court representing healthy division and Congress representing the liberal wave that will soon crash over the remainder of the Beltway. While Karl Rove believes there is hope for Republicans in 2008, and I am not ready to rule out victory for the GOP, the Democrats clearly have the upper hand going into that election.
It is interesting to tie the current political dynamics of the country in with the Fourth of July, when we celebrate our country's independence, because doing so raises the worthy question of what would our founders think. Of course, that is an impossible question to answer, because the founders are a wide group of people with a broad range of opinions. Each of them would probably like some things, yet there are undoubtedly aspects to modern America that would cause them great unrest. Regardless, they would likely take pride in the fact that the system that they created over 230 years ago is still guiding our government and has yet to fail our nation. (Though there is a serious question as to whether or not we have failed that system).
As much as I deplore the liberal phenomenon going on throughout America, I realize that the pendulum does swing. What does not swing is the beauty of our government and its effectiveness in governing the worlds greatest country. After all, the only alternative to having a swinging pendulum is having no pendulum, and allowing politics to be controlled without the consent of the people. As I have visited the different aspects of our government and heard from different leaders, I have strengthened my appreciation for the separation of powers, the wisdom of our founders and the greatness of America.
That is the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a sophomore at ECHS and former intern in the Riley administration. He can be reached for comment at

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