Political journalist speaks at U-Club

About 25 faculty, alumni and community members reviewed the political year at an intimate luncheon with Washington journalist Gloria Borger Monday.

The group discussed topics ranging from the 2000 presidential elections in Florida to the Winter Olympics.

“We can talk about the war to the recession to Enron but please do not talk about the Olympics; I don’t know anything about that,” Borger said jokingly.

She addressed issues that have dramatically affected American politics within the past year.

“(What) a difference a year makes,” said Borger, a seasoned Washington journalist for U.S. News and World Report.

Borger’s “On Politics” column is described as “making sense” of the Washington political scene. She is frequently seen on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and “Washington: Week in Review” on PBS and is a special correspondent for CBS News.

As a journalist, Borger recalled the 2000 elections when she and many of her colleagues traveled to Florida – the epicenter of ballot confusion that shook the election.

Borger said America then tried to figure out if then-presidential candidate George W. Bush was going to be a legitimate president, and up until Sept. 11, “we were still making fun of Bush.”

“Overnight is a lifetime in politics,” she said. “Ninety-two percent of Americans believe that Bush is doing a good job. You can’t get 92 percent of Americans to agree on what day of the week it is.”

Although a majority of Americans believe Bush is a changed man after the Sept. 11 attacks, Borger said, “I don’t think that he’s changed. Now I think that he a focused man. He means what he says.”

Borger said Bush’s popularity has been described as a “halo effect.” She said recent polls have shown that voters now favor Republicans 5 percent more than Democrats.

“If he is so popular, who will run against him?” audience members asked.

Borger suggested Sens. John Carry (D-Mass.), Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) and Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) as possible candidates for the next presidential election.

The real question, she said, is “Can the souffl? rise twice” for Al Gore?

The conversation then shifted to the Enron scandal. Borger discussed the government involvement with the Houston-based energy company.

Although Republicans did receive more money than Democrats from Enron, Borger said it was legal.

“There’s nothing wrong with taking money from Enron, but now they don’t want to even touch it,” she said.

The group also discussed Vice President Dick Cheney and the national energy policy. Cheney was the head of the energy policy before he “went into hiding,” Borger said.

Controversy and speculation has recently circled the White House as to what extent Enron advised the vice president on energy policy.

“Cheney believes in separation of powers,” Borger said. “The vice president is withholding the list (of energy advisers) because of principle not because he or the administration has done something wrong.”

On a lighter note, Borger and the group talked about the president at the Olympic opening ceremonies.

Borger agreed with an audience member who said Bush sitting among the U.S. athletes and talking to an athlete’s mother on her cell phone looked like a political advertisement. She defended Bush by saying “the president didn’t do it for that reason. He was given that opportunity and took it because he wanted to be there.”

“In the end it’s all about (American people) having trust in Bush,” Borger said. “The son will not make the mistakes of the father.”

Monday’s luncheon was the University Club’s second edition of its “In the Know” series. The club hosted Rep. Martin Meehan (D-Mass.) two weeks ago for about 100 students and faculty members. Few students attended the Borger lunch.

The series plans to bring a prominent member of the D.C. community to GW once a month, said Timothy Ramsey, a GW alumnus and “In the Know” coordinator.

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