Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Senators

So, I got an invitation out of the blue to attend a breakfast with Jon Kyl, Senator from Arizona and current Republican Whip, which was taking place on our campus. There ended up being about 70 people or so attending, at 7:30 this morning, mainly business and community leaders with a handful of faculty. I was certainly the only guy there not wearing a tie and jacket. Kyl spoke for a while, primarily about how terrible he felt the “so-called stimulus bill” (his words) was. At one point the head of the Maricopa Community College District (the largest in the country) asked a question about their financial crisis and if the stimulus plan could help and Kyl said back, in no uncertain terms, that first off he felt that education was a local issue and it was a mistake for the federal government to get involved in education (funding, I would presume). Anyway, for the life of me I couldn’t think of a question I wanted to ask, or at least one with any chance of getting a real response.

And then in walks Senator McCain (there's a hyperlink there, but who doesn't know who he is at this point?), which was something of a surprise (a brief moment thinking, “that’s not…”). He looks much like he does on TV, a touch less hair. Everyone immediately leaps to their feet and starts clapping. He and Kyl answered a few more questions, primarily criticizing the stimulus bill, though McCain took some time to put in a pitch for a guest worker program and argued that we need to be much more worried than we seem to be about drug cartel violence in Mexico. I notice a couple of folks getting out cell phones to snap pictures. Then they both swept past me and out.

I found out they had a press conference scheduled in the next room, and since I was ASU faculty they let me hang out in the back of the room (and, yes, snapped a blurry cell phone picture). I was mainly curious to watch how the whole press conference thing worked, what the reporters would ask, how they would answer, and so on. It was a pretty sparsely attended conference (see above picture). I bet the Senators were wondering who on earth that long-hair was hanging around the breakfast and conference. Anyway, news reports of the press conference here and here and here. The Senators certainly have their talking points down about the stimulus package (“neither bipartisan nor stimulus”; “generational theft”; etc) and the economic crisis (according to them they’ve been pleading with the congress to do something about this pending housing crisis since the early 2000’s, but those darn Democrats would have none of it). The reporters were definitely asking more pointed questions than the community leaders, not surprisingly.

The vast majority of the political news in Phoenix today is about Obama’s visit (he’s in town overnight to introduce his housing plan in the morning), coverage of the Kyl-McCain press conference seems limited to smaller papers (or Fox news--the Grand Canyon metaphor and graphic on the flatscreen display towards the start of this piece is hysterically bad). Anyway, glad Obama’s in town, jealous of a friend of ours who got a ticket to see him, and hoping that traffic’s not too tied up because of the visit that I can’t get the kids to school.


Phaedra said...

I was hoping their presence meant they might be talking about higher education funding--did they?

Greg said...

Not a word about higher education funding (despite the setting), only Kyl's brief response to the community colleges.