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Jay’s U.S. Tour, Day 8: Atlanta

This blog follows Grainews editor Jay Whetter on a three-week tour of the United States at the invitation of the U.S. Department of State, as part of its International Visitor Leadership Program. The blog now appears on our Daily News service but will move within the next few days to its own page on the Grainews web site.

Atlanta, Georgia, Jan. 13 — We had another free day to see what we wanted of the city. A small group of us went to CNN in the morning, and then to the Atlanta History Center in the afternoon. Here are some highlights of the day:

The Atlanta History Center has the Swan House mansion built by the Inman family in 1928, the Tullie Smith farm from the 1840s, and a great Civil War museum. Emily Inman came from a well-educated Georgia family. Her mother, Emily MacDougald, led the suffrage movement in Georgia and was regional head of the League of Women Voters. The best story I heard during the Swan House guided tour was about Lizzie McDuffy, one of the family’s black servants. Lizzie’s husband “Mac” was a barber in Atlanta, and while Franklin Roosevelt was resting at his house in Warm Springs, Georgia, he hired Mac to cut his hair. FDR liked Mac so much, he took him to Washington when he became president. Emily Inman insisted that Roosevelt also take Mac’s wife, Lizzie. It seems this didn’t cross Roosevelt’s mind. But in the end, FDR learned to trust and appreciate Lizzie’s presence. She became his unofficial advisor on African American affairs.

The best tidbit from Tullie Smith farm, named after the last resident of the house, was about the traveler’s room. Middle-class southern homes often had a room on the front porch that was left for travelers. Each morning, the mother of the house would check the room to see if anyone had come along in the night. If yes, the traveler would get a big breakfast inside the house with the family. In exchange, the visitor would share news from his travels. This was the one of the few ways people could get information from outside their immediate areas. This warm welcome for strangers is at the root of “southern hospitality.”

I had only a few minutes left for the Civil War museum, but I learned a lot. The gist of the war is that southerners didn’t want the federal government to abolish slavery, which was a key part of the southern economy. The southerners thought they should have their own country and set their own laws. The northerners did not really care about slavery. Their motivation for fighting was to punish the south for treason against the union government. The war started in 1861 and ended four years later with the south surrendering. It was the bloodiest war in U.S. history, with 670,000 soldier deaths. One quarter of all the men in the south died in the war. (The U.S. lost “only” 60,000 soldiers in Vietnam.) What I found sad, but interesting, is that two-thirds of soldiers in the Civil War did not die in combat. They died from dysentery and other diseases caused by filthy conditions in the base camps.

In the morning, we had a boring tour of CNN headquarters. Ted Turner started CNN in Atlanta in 1980, and though the main newsroom is still here, most of the big names work in New York, Washington and L.A. While we were on the tour, CNN was running pundit commentaries on Hillary Clinton and her tear-up the day before the New Hampshire primary vote. These commentaries added absolutely nothing of value for a voter wanting enlightenment on the issues. It made me think of a comment by Jordan Lieberman, the magazine publisher we met in Washington. (See my Jan. 8 entry). He said there are basically four newspapers that influence all other commentators and pundits. These are the Washington Post, New York Times, Chicago Tribune and L.A. Times. Everyone else copies them — over and over. That’s what CNN was doing today.

Page one of this morning’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on a poll in which 35 per cent of Georgians say the “water crisis” is their biggest worry. Georgia has had a two-year drought, and apparently everyone is talking about water shortages. The 20-country metro region of Atlanta now has five million people, stretching the water infrastructure. People want the state government to build more reservoirs and do more to reward people for installing low-flow plumbing features. Some also want controls on suburban expansion in the Atlanta area, but Governor Sonny Perdue won’t consider it.

Atlanta, Georgia, Jan. 12 — It was a travel day, so we didn’t have any meetings. The big event for today was a hockey game at the Philips Arena, with the Atlanta Thrashers hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins. The game had it all — except a fight. I hadn’t been to an NHL hockey game since the Jets left Winnipeg, which was in 1996. Philips Arena is a really nice facility, but the Quebecers in our group said Bell Centre in Montreal is better. Sidney Crosby scored both Pittsburgh goals and could have had a couple more. Atlanta also scored twice, so the game went to four-on-four overtime and then to a shootout. The old man Mark Recchi won it for the home side. It was my first time seeing four-on-four overtime and seeing a shootout. They are way, way more entertaining than a tie.

I got a news release yesterday from the offices of the U.S. Trade Representative and the USDA. These offices had sent a delegation to Mexico City to discuss NAFTA with Mexican officials. NAFTA was fully implemented on Jan. 1 with removal of final duties on a handful of agricultural commodities. These include U.S. exports to Mexico of corn, dry edible beans, and non-fat dry milk; Mexican exports to the United States of certain horticultural products; and two-way sweetener trade.

Here is the lead quote from the release: “NAFTA has been a positive force for our respective agricultural sectors, creating not only dramatic growth in two-way agricultural trade, but providing our farmers, ranchers and processors with the potential to take advantage of new export opportunities, while providing a clear and certain path to enhanced trade,” said Mark E. Keenum, USDA undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services.

This comment backs what I said a couple of days ago about there being strong support for trade in these departments. But their actions have to respect the wishes of Homeland Security, and the voices of the many farm lobby groups who don’t always seem to realize the value of trade.

The release also noted that Canada and Mexico are the No. 1 and No. 2 export markets for U.S. agriculture, respectively.  In fiscal year 2007, two-way agricultural trade between the U.S. and Mexico was valued at a record $22.2 billion, a nearly fourfold increase over fiscal 1993 — the year preceding the implementation of NAFTA — when two-way trade was valued at $6.4 billion. In fiscal 2008, USDA predicts two-way trade at $24 billion.
According to Ag Canada data, two-way agricultural trade between Canada and the U.S. was $25 billion in 2005.

Washington, D.C., Jan. 11 — “There is an impression in Canada that Democrats would be bad for trade with Canada, and that a Republican president would be better. I think that’s complete crap.” Maryscott (Scotty) Greenwood said this during our meeting this morning at the
Canadian American Business Council
. Greenwood is managing director with the law firm of McKenna Long and Aldridge, and part of her job is to help with the business council. She is also a former Clinton-appointed attachee to the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa. The Can-Am business council is there to remind American politicians and business leaders that North America — not just the U.S. — is a global economic force when the nations work together to protect and enhance their integrated economies.

One thing Greenwood is watching is the U.S. Food Safety Initiative, designed to protect the U.S. food supply. It stems from recent scares about tainted pet food from China, E. coli in spinach, and E. coli in imported beef. As the bill is currently written, food could only enter the U.S. through a crossing with an FDA inspection site. The only one along the Canada-U.S. border is at Windsor-Detroit. The bill has been introduced and assigned to committee. Let’s hope the bill gets softened or scrapped before it gets passed. If there is another food scare shortly, it could pass Congress quickly, Greenwood notes.

Before the meeting at the business council, we met with David Biette, director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. The institute coordinates all sorts of learning programs, including a mini-UN type program that brings together students from Canada, Mexico and the U.S. for mock NAFTA negotiations. I hope to get more information on this in case you know a young person who might like to go. One thing that came up in our conversation with Biette is a possible border dispute in the Beaufort Sea. There are oil reserves up there, so location of the border is significant. The U.S. wants it to go straight north from the Yukon-Alaska border. Canada wants it to angle more toward Alaska.

We had lunch today at Agraria restaurant in Georgetown. North Dakota Farmers’ Union owns the restaurant, which serves local food, free-range chicken, and wild seafood. The attractive building is right on the Potomac River within sight of the Watergate Hotel. The location sounds great, but the business isn’t doing very well. In fact, the union board brought in two new managers to turn it around. The one manager we talked to had never been to North Dakota.

At the end of the afternoon, I had time to visit one more Smithsonian Museum: National Museum of the American Indian. The museum was designed by Douglas Cardinal, a Blackfoot from Alberta who also designed the Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec. Here are some trivia questions for you, based on what I saw:

  1. How many bison roamed North America in 1830? A: 50 million
  2. How many bison roamed North America in 1889? A: 1,000
  3. Who invented the revolver, the first gun that could shoot more than one bullet without reloading? A: Samuel Colt, from Connecticut
  4. Who is Rebecca Rolfe better known as? A: Pocahontas (Her father, a Powhatan from Virginia, approved the marriage of his daughter to Englishman John Rolfe in hopes that it would bring peace to his people. It did, for eight years.)
  5. Mohawks from Quebec and New York are known for exceptional skill at which job? A: Highrise ironworks. (They helped build the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center, and many other buildings and bridges.)
  6. South and North American aboriginals introduced Europeans to four key crops, which the explorers took with them around the world. What were they? A: Corn, potatoes, tobacco and chocolate.
  7. What did George Crum, an aboriginal from New York, invent in 1853? A: Potato chips.

Washington, D.C., Jan. 10 — In the January 14 issue of Grainews, which you haven’t seen yet, I write about my wish to have a dry-aged steak. Well, I had one today. One of the Canadians in our group, Ranissah Samah, had been to The Capital Grille on Pennsylvania Avenue, and thought we should all go. (Ranissah is senior policy advisor on the U.S. for the Ontario Ministry of International Affairs. She is based in Toronto.) Actually, she suggested we go yesterday and I shot her down. I can get steak anywhere, and this place would be expensive. So that night we went for Italian instead, and I had a sardine appetizer and a roast duck breast entree with the best polenta I’ve ever had. Tonight we went with Ranissah’s choice, and I’m glad I went. The Capital Grille is within sight of the Capitol Building, a block from the Canadian Embassy, and it attracts Washington’s political elite. Congress is not in session these days, so the restaurant was not packed with attractive young clientele like usual, our server Eric tells us. (Eric is a big jolly dude with slicked-back longish blond hair. He’s a fan of Our Lady Peace, a Canadian rock band.) The restaurant was fairly expensive. I chose a 14-oz dry-aged sirloin — which was the “small” steak — so I could finally say, with certainty, that I have eaten a dry-aged steak. It was thick and delicious. The steak alone was $37. Then you pay for vegetables, potato and soup separately. We also shared a few bottles of wine. It was worth it, for the company and the experience of being there. I am really enjoying my small group of fellow Canadian travelers, and I will remember this meal in Washington forever.

Before the good steak, we had our daily line-up of meetings. Today we met with the Department of Homeland Security in the morning and the Department of State in the afternoon. The main theme was the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which will tighten up ID requirements at the borders. The U.S. is way ahead of us on this one, which is good — I suppose — for those Canadian businesses that depend on U.S. tourists. As of June 1, 2009, you need solid proof of citizenship to get into the U.S. by land or sea. You already need a passport to get in by air. To help the situation, the U.S. will introduce a “Passport Card” that fits in a wallet, qualifies as proof of citizenship, and costs less than a passport. In the U.S., a passport — which lasts for 10 years, not the five years that ours is good for — costs $97. A passport card is $45 for first-time applicants and $20 for those who already have a passport. That card has a radio frequency ID code that the border staff can read within 15 to 20 feet of the border station. The cardholder’s RFID number pops up on the screen inside the border office, and the number lifts his or her photo and passport info out of a database. Not only does the card provide proof of citizenship that the border needs, but it should also speed border crossing. It sounds like a good idea for Canada to adopt. For someone who has no plans to fly to the U.S. or anywhere else, the Canada-issued passport card would give them a lower-cost alternative. As an aside, I asked whether it mattered to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security whether Canada issued five-year or 10-year passports, and the people we met said it didn’t. Is the passport office is ripping us off by issuing passports for only five years?

Washington, D.C., Jan. 9 (later) — The most interesting meeting today was with Aleta Botts, one of six staff directors with the House Committee on Agriculture. She works in the House of Representatives offices in the Longworth Building beside the Capitol Building. She and the rest of the committee are in the middle of drafting the new farm bill. The House has an 858-page draft and the Senate has a 1,800-page draft. President Bush says he would veto both versions as they are currently written. So between now and the end of February the House and Senate ag committees have to get together and create one bill that will pass both chambers and win approval of the president.

I get the sense that no matter how the final bill looks, the level of support will not change much, if at all. The U.S. is not likely to reduce its farm support programs unless it has to under a WTO agreement. And even then, it might not. Right now the House and Senate have different numbers for target prices, market loan rates and direct payments — the three tiers of commodity price support. There is also some pressure to level the real (or perceived) supports for southern crops — particularly rice and cotton — with the supports for wheat, corn and soybeans in the Great Plains. House committee leader Collin Peterson has to work with his Senate counterparts to go through the bill line by line to find middle ground, all the while taking advice from interest groups, who are widely varied and relentless, and from the president, who has veto power. We thought making policy in Canada was tough. Writing a U.S. farm bill is a two-and-a-half year process.

Washington, D.C., Jan. 9 — Not everything we see and hear in D.C. comes out of a stuffy meeting room. I heard two neat things about Ulysses S. Grant the past couple of days. Grant was president from 1869-1877, and it was in the famous Willard Hotel in Washington that he invented the term lobbyist. He must have had an office in the hotel and everyone who wanted to bend his ear over some issue would wait in the hotel lobby for their moment. Grant one day referred to these people as “lobbyists,” and the term stuck.

There is a big statue of Grant on a horse out front of the Capitol Building. Seeing him today inspired one of our guides Virgil Bodeen to tell another story about Grant’s dying days. He was poor and had throat cancer and was worried he would die and leave his family with nothing. So Mark Twain encouraged Grant to write his memoirs as a way to make some money. Grant did, and Twain edited them. Most of the stories are about Grant’s many war experiences and not his presidency, Bodeen says, but he says the book is a great read. And it did make some money to carry his family through.

I had time before supper today to go the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. All Smithsonian museums are free and this one is the most visited museum in the U.S. — for good reason. You walk in and right above you are Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis and Chuck Yeager’s Bell X-1, the first plane to break the sound barrier. It just gets better. There is a whole room full of First World War planes and another with Second World War planes. You’ll see lots about jets and space travel. Here is some trivia that I learned at the museum. You can test these questions on your family.

  1. How many Americans have walked on the moon? A: 12
  2. Where were the Wright Brothers from? A: Dayton, Ohio
  3. What type of business did the Wright Brothers operate? A: They made and sold bicycles.
  4. When was the first Boeing 747 commissioned? A: 1969
  5. How many planes did the Red Baron shoot down? A: 80

Washington, D.C., Jan. 8 — Trade is almost a bad word in the U.S. these days. We had two meetings today — one at the Department of Commerce and one at the office of the U.S. Trade Representative — that were “off the record,” which means I can’t report what was said. It wasn’t earth-shattering information by any stretch. It’s just that some government people are sensitive. But the general message I gleaned is that while civil servants in Washington appreciate the close relationship between the U.S. and Canada — and Mexico — many Americans do not share that appreciation. This is reflected in the statements of those running for leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties. Protectionism and security are fashionable. Free trade and the global market are not.

I learned a bit about the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Government and business reps from each country are working together on the dual pronged goal of improved security and improved prosperity. Critics in all three countries fear the purpose is to create a common market and erode sovereignty. Staff at the Department of Commerce recommended I visit the SPP’s web site for more information. You’ll find lots there, including a note under the “myth vs. fact” section that says, “The SPP in no way, shape or form considers the creation of a European Union-like structure or a common currency.” One component of the prosperity agenda is to “Lower costs for North American businesses, producers, and consumers and maximize trade in goods and services across our borders by striving to ensure compatibility of regulations and standards and eliminating redundant testing and certification requirements,” as the web site says. Agriculture regulations are a big part of that. (The Canadian SPP web site is www.spp-psp.gc.ca.) A poster on the wall of the commerce building noted that U.S. exports to NAFTA countries had risen to $360 billion in 2006, which was double the amount the U.S. exported to the rest of the world. You would think that figure alone would be enough to support a pro-trade agenda.

Later in the day…

We had a fun meeting with Jordan Lieberman, publisher of Campaigns and Elections magazine, who provided some background for the party leadership candidates. Here’s a review:

Mitt Romney (Republican) — a Mormon with lots of business experience and lots of money, but he got clobbered in the Iowa primaries because he’s not the kind of guy “you want to have a beer with,” Lieberman says.

Mike Huckabee (Republican) — Baptist minister, farther to the right than George W. Bush, Lieberman says. He’s a likeable guy with not a lot of money behind him compared to others. He won in Iowa but got beat bad tonight in New Hampshire.

Rudy Giuliani (Republican) — Former mayor of New York who guided the city through 9/11. He is pro-gay rights, pro-choice, and leading in national polls. But he got fewer votes than Huckabee in New Hampshire tonight.

John McCain (Republican) — Says he wants to personally find and shoot Osama bin Laden. He comes from a military family, has lots of political experience, and the press and people like him. The geezer won the New Hampshire primary handily over second-place Mitt Romney.

Barack Obama (Democrat) — On a roll with his message of change, but if the race stays close, Lieberman expects the Hillary Clinton machine to start digging up dirt on his past drug use and his middle name: Hussein.

Hillary Clinton (Democrat) — She has experience and passion and her husband, but some don’t view her as likeable. Women went with Obama in Iowa, but Hillary cried on TV last night, and women went back to Hillary in New Hampshire. She won the state primary by a hair over Obama.

Bill Richardson (Democrat) — Lots of experience, especially on the international scene with the UN, etc. Wants the U.S. out of the war in Iraq. He was a distant fourth in New Hampshire.

John Edwards (Democrat) — Lieberman talked about Edwards’ $400 haircuts, but didn’t mention anything else about him. He looks good and this is his second time around. Still, he’s a distant third so far.

After meeting Lieberman, we went to Porter’s pub a few blocks from our hotel to watch results come in from New Hampshire. It was a meeting site for Obama supporters. The place was packed tight but subdued, because Obama lost — which was a surprise. Lieberman and most other pundits and polls predicted Obama would win by 12 percentage points over Clinton. This proves once again that political pundits don’t have any more ability to predict election results than you or I do.

From what I’ve learned about U.S. electoral process in the past day or two, the primaries — which occur in every state — determine how many delegates each candidate gets to send to the leadership conventions in August. If you win 40 per cent of the vote in a state, you get 40 per cent of that state’s delegates. With only the small states of Iowa and New Hampshire counted to date, the leadership races are far from over.

Washington, D.C., Jan. 7 — It’s 9 p.m. and I’ve just returned from supper at a Moroccan restaurant three doors down from our hotel. I’m staying at the Palomar Hotel on P Street, about a mile north of the White House. Washington, D.C. has a reputation for violence but this area around the hotel seems clean and safe.

Before supper, a member of our group — Stephanie Trudeau, who works with the liquor control board in Quebec — organized a visit to the Canadian Embassy. Her friend Jonathan Sauvé is deputy spokesperson with the embassy’s media relations office. The embassy is on Pennsylvania Avenue within sight of the Capitol Building. It has this neat echo chamber just off the sidewalk. It’s like a concrete bandstand with a domed room. A whisper inside this chamber amplifies to a loud voice. The embassy could use this technique to get its message across more forcefully. Sauvé says the biggest issue for the embassy right now is the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which is the U.S. policy that requires passports to enter the country. Air travelers already need one, and the requirement for land and sea travelers has been bumped back to June 1, 2009 at the earliest. Not only would Canadians need a passport to get in, but American travelers who visit Canada would need a passport to come home. The hope is that the U.S. will accept an enhanced drivers’ licence as an alternative, so the one-year delay gives us time to develop one that meets U.S. approval. The travel initiative is one part of a general “thickening” of the border between Canada and the U.S. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security now says “security trumps trade” and this is “worrying,” Sauvé says. This thinking threatens the $561 billion per year in Canada-U.S. bilateral trade. It also reduces competition of North American industries built around an integrated economy. As Sauvé notes, a North American-made car crosses the border seven times before it’s finished. Restrictions on this movement will add costs to North American-built cars, while Asian-made cars come into the U.S. only once. Sauvé also notes that Canada is America’s No.1 energy supplier. One of the embassy’s jobs is to constantly remind U.S. elected officials and media of these facts. But with 170 other embassies in Washington and with a federal election going on, getting the message through is a challenge. Time to turbocharge the echo chamber.

Earlier in the day, we heard a presentation by Alan Levine. The associate professor with American University in D.C. gave a 90-minute introduction to the American republic system of government. I could have listened to Levine all day. He took a potentially dry topic and made it interesting with an animated and enthusiastic style. Every so often he raised his voice to a Jerry Seinfeld falsetto to make a key point. Levine talked about three tenets of the U.S. government system: separation of power, checks and balances, and federalism. I’ll give a brief summary of each:

  • Separation of power. There are three key bodies in U.S. government: legislative (which is Congress, made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate), executive (the president) and judicial (the Supreme Court). In short, the House and Senate pass laws, the president and his cabinet carry out laws, and the Supreme Court provides a fair and impartial body to settle disputes.
  • Checks and balances. Though Congress, the president and the Supreme Court have their separate duties, the spheres overlap to keep checks on each other. For example, the president can veto congressional decisions; Congress can override the president’s veto with two-thirds support in each chamber; the Supreme Court can deem laws passed by Congress to be unconstitutional; Congress can impeach the president; the Senate has to approve all treaties signed by the president; the Senate has to approve key appointments by the president; and while the president can take the country to war, Congress alone can declare war and Congress approves the war budget.
  • Federalism. The federal government only performs those duties outlined in the constitution. States control welfare payments, speed limits, whether to have the death penalty, etc. (Most states governments are also set up with much the same system of separation of power and checks and balances.) Local governments are responsible for zoning, education and police. There are 17,600 independent police forces in the U.S.

Levine’s most interesting comments:

  1. Since the constitution was first drawn up, in secret, and then passed in 1787, there have only been 27 amendments. All other changes have come through reinterpretation of the constitution by the Supreme Court.
  2. Supreme Court judges are appointed for life. That is by design so judges can maintain their “moral authority” without having to fight — and make compromising promises — to get reelected.
  3. Elected officials in Washington vote against their party 25 per cent of the time, on average.
  4. There are over 87,000 local governments in the U.S., including counties, cities, townships, school boards and “special government districts” (such as water authorities). With federal, state and local government combined, the U.S. has 521,000 government offices. “This system of government was set up to prevent tyranny,” Levine says. “In doing so, it guaranteed that we will not have an efficient government, but given the alternative, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Washington, D.C., Jan. 6 — This was our day to tour the city. We had a three-hour bus tour in the morning, which was very good. We saw the Iwo Jima monument at the Arlington cemetery for American soldiers killed in action. You’ve probably seen pictures of the Iwo Jima monument. It has four or five soliders pushing up the American flag. We also saw exteriors only of the National Cathedral (which looks very old but was built in the 1900s), the Capitol building and the White House.

Mary Speer, the U.S. consul in Winnipeg, told me an interesting story about the White House. She said Thomas Jefferson wanted it painted white to distinguish it from the red brick townhouses in upper-class Georgetown, an old community, now part of D.C. Jefferson wanted the White House to be representative of the common man, not the elite. Interestingly, Jefferson also greatly scaled down the size of the White House plan. Pierre L’Enfant, the man who designed the city of Washinton, D.C., envisioned a huge presidential palace on the scale of Versailles in France. Jefferson didn’t want anything of the sort, so the White House, grand though it is, is a shack compared to what it might have been had L’Enfant got his way.

While the tour was a great introduction to D.C., the moment I though, “OK, I’m in Washington,” came in the afternoon while I was walking around on my own. I hiked the whole length of the “mall”, which stretches from the Capitol building to the 500-foot Washington Monument obelisk to the Lincoln Memorial — a distance of about two miles. It was on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where I had my moment. From there, looking east over the large rectangular pool — the one the Forrest Gump waded through to find Jenny — you see the Washington Momument just like in the postcards. The monument completely blocks the Capitol from that vantage point, but if you move 20 paces left or right, the Capitol dome comes into view in the distance. From this same spot, Martin Luther King Jr. made his “I have a dream” speech on Aug. 28, 1963. It is when I can stand in the footprints of history that a city comes alive for me.

Inside the Lincoln Memorial, which looks like the Greek pantheon with its marble columns, is a massive tablet etched with Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. Delivered in Pennsylvania Nov. 19, 1863, this is perhaps the most famous two-minute speech in history. Here is the memorable lead line: “Four score and 20 years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” (It reminded me of Jefferson’s White House story.)

I have to hand it to Americans. They do a great job of idolizing their presidents. Franklin Delano Roosevelt has a more modest memorial built among the cherry trees behind Lincoln’s. Carved into Roosevelt’s memorial are not full speeches, but many of his best statements. Roosevelt led the country out of the depression and into the Second World War. He was elected four times, and after his death in 1945 Congress passed the two-term limit for President. Here is one of my favourite Roosevelt passages, spoken during the Depression: “In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice, the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.” Now fast-forward 60 years. I wonder how George W. Bush will be remembered? George McGovern wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post just today calling for Bush’s impeachment. About Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney, McGovern wrote, “They have transgressed national and international law. They have lied to the American people time after time. Their conduct and their barbaric policies have reduced our beloved country to a historic low in the eyes of people around the world.”

Which brings me full circle back to why I’m here in Washington in the first place. The U.S. Department of State hosts 4,500 people a year, from all around the world, for what it calls the International Visitor Leadership Program. I and six other young Canadians are here together for three weeks — at the expense of U.S. taxpayers — to find out how and why the U.S. makes its decisions on trade policy. The underlying goal, I suspect, is to get other nations to like or at least understand the U.S. a little better. The purpose of this diary is to share with you what I learn each day.

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