It certainly isn’t important in the present scheme of things that President Trump has made a petulant decision not to attend the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. His decision upset some of the dinner planners, but he may have inadvertently accomplished a good thing for Washington journalism.

Over the years, presidents have found time, often reluctantly, to attend the glittery, black-tie dinner, inelegantly known as the Nerd Prom. The dinner boasts the good deed cover of raising money for scholarships. It also is an opportunity for reporters to have a convivial evening with people they cover and to have a good time.

In recent years, however, the Correspondents’ Dinner became a showbiz celebrity event with respected media organizations vigorously competing to bring in as many Hollywood and entertainment world celebrities as could be fitted at a table. The dinner probably reached its nadir when reality television stars, like the Duck Dynasty hillbillies were sought after celebrity guests.

And to continue the Los Vegas glitter, a big-name comic emcee was necessary who often wasn’t as humorous as the President who has his speech writers and outside New York/Los Angles talents working overtime coming up with funny lines. And partly because he is the President, he often received the biggest laughs, his jokes dutifully picked up by television the following day.

Having been both a guest and also having covered the red carpet arrivals for television, it was often disheartening to see respected Washington newsmen acting like 13-year-olds catching sight of Justin Bieber.

The more affluent media organizations like NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, Bloomberg, Vanity Fair host impressive cocktail parties, as do several other media organizations with more shallow purses. The dinner is also a big money raiser for the Washington Hilton where most of the parties are held and where the largest ballroom in town is jammed with as many tables and people that the fire marshal will allow.

It is often argued by journalists that this hot ticket dinner, and the more prestigious Gridiron Dinner (President Trump also declined an invitation to attend), exists mainly to get newsmen and political leaders to get to know each other better and to have a better understanding of the roles of each.

There is some rationality to that reasoning, but conscientious journalists are expected to maintain some distance between themselves and the people they cover. Politicians, by their innate nature can be likable, and it is sometime difficult for a journalist to be tough when necessary on someone you cover and enjoy meeting with over dinner and drinks.

Journalistic organizations are aware of this problem and understand that regular beat reporters can get the good day-to-day stories, but if there is a need to dig beyond the daily news events, it takes a reporter who is outside the news beat structure. The Watergate expose by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein is the obvious example where many beat reporters, even at the Washington Post, were opposed to the digging by the young newsmen who eventually brought down a president.

There is no question that the White House is a prestigious beat, but too often the famous newsmen who cover there are more like stenographers taking news information fed to them in press briefings and announcements. It’s a great beat because you get to travel the world with the President and be part of televised press conferences and maybe be seen by people back home.

President Trump, with a greater antipathy toward the press than perhaps even Richard Nixon, has injected new energy into the White House press corps. No reporter there is going to readily accept the often alternative fact information from the White House press office. And that is a good thing. The media and the politicians from municipal governments to Washington, need to have a respected adversarial relationship.

Both sides need to develop a trust for the role each plays and President Trump deciding not to be part of the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner may be off to a good start. Obviously, the thin-skinned president would not have enjoyed the friendly jibs from the head table speakers and he knew that even the powerful media organizations would have difficulty producing glittery celebrity world guest if he attended and he would be blamed, not that he cared. All one needs to do is look at the paucity of Hollywood celebrities at the Republican National nominating convention in Cleveland.

President Trump wasn’t trying to do Washington journalism a favor, but by not attending the Correspondents’ Dinner, he has. Maybe the dinner can truly focus more on its earlier established roll of promoting responsible, ethical journalism. Good journalism is and should be hard work, and just maybe, a dinner focused on responsible, First Amendment journalism, is a move in the right direction.

Joel Payne, Director of African American Paid Media and Advertising for the 2016 Hillary Clinton Campaign, discusses his insights on the final outcome of the election and assesses how both campaigns engaged with African American voters. Payne rejoined Qorvis MSLGROUP in November 2016 following the election.

 

Chuck Conconi welcomed James Zogby on this week’s episode of Focus Washington for a discussion on the current political climate. Zogby, President and Co-Founder of the Arab American Institute (AAI), discussed the implications of the 2016 presidential race  and Donald Trump on the Arab American population.

In the last polls AAI conducted in 2014, the political gap in the Arab American community was 2-1 Democrat and voter engagement was 3-1 Democrat, making voter patterns and party identification similar to those of Hispanics or the Jewish population. According to Zogby, nothing in the last two years has changed that dynamic, even the 2016 presidential election.

The election may not be changing the political leanings of America’s ethnic groups, but it is having an effect on the attitude of Americans about the Arab American community. Zogby states that hate crimes, while nothing new, are still occurring after a sharp increase following the 9/11 attacks. The increase in negativity toward the community, however, is equally matched by positive support from additional groups throughout the years, including African Americans, Latinos, mainline protestant churches and civil liberties organizations. These groups “wouldn’t give us the time of day 20 years ago,” exclaimed Zogby, but now quickly come to the defense of the Arab American community.

Like many Americans, Zogby has hung memorable documents on the walls of his office over the years. The most important document, he explained in the interview, was his father’s naturalization papers. This is important to him because his father came here illegally in his twenties at a time when the Senate “zeroed out quotas and said Syrian trash aren’t welcome.”

Hanging next to his father’s naturalization papers is a parchment from President Obama appointing Zogby to a post in the government. This, he contends, is the nature of the country – where even the son of an illegal immigrant can rise to serve the President of the United States.

“I continue to manifest though, in all the positions I make, the fact that you cannot view America either as fundamentally good or fundamentally evil. We are both. We are the Statue of Liberty and we’re Donald Trump.”

For Zogby, that is the story of America.

 

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2016 Presidential Election Odds: Trump, Clinton, Cruz and Sanders21 April, 2016; Washington, DC: At Sports Insights, we have been tracking the 2016 election for some time now. However, we do not focus on the polls or what the pundits are saying, we focus exclusively on how the oddsmakers are assessing the race. Our goal is to highlight to our members which candidates are providing value so that they can make the smartest “futures” bet possible.
 
(A futures bet is a wager on a game or event that will not take place until several months or years in the future. For example, right now the Patriots are +600 to win next year’s Super Bowl (odds via Bovada). So if you put a $100 futures bet on the Patriots right now, you would win $600 if the Patriots win the Super Bowl).
 
 
At the time, Hillary Clinton was a +105 favorite to win the presidency (odds via Sportsbook). This means that a $100 futures bet on Clinton would pay out $105 if she is elected president.
 
Jeb Bush was the runner-up at +850, followed by Marco Rubio (+1200), Scott Walker (+1500), John Kasich (+3000) and Paul Ryan (+3500). Ben Carson, Chris Christie and Ted Cruz were all listed at +4000.
 
Interestingly, Bernie Sanders wasn’t even considered a legitimate candidate at the time. He opened at +6500, well-behind fellow Democrats Elizabeth Warren (+5000) and Joe Biden (+5000).
 
Even more mind-blowing is the fact that Donald Trump wasn’t even listed at all. Simply put, the idea that Trump could become president was so unimaginable back in May of 2015 that the oddsmakers didn’t even provide him as a betting option.
 
Much has changed over the course of the past 12 months.
 
After her big win in New York, Clinton is now a -1500 favorite to win the Democratic nomination and a -275 favorite to win the White House (odds via Bovada). That means if you want to bet Clinton to be the Democratic nominee, you would have to risk $1500 to win $100. If you want to bet Clinton to win the presidency, you would have to risk $275 to win $100.
 
On the Republican side, Trump is the clear-cut favorite. Back in June of 2015, Trump debuted at +4000 to become the next president (odds via Sportsbook). Now, following his blowout victory in New York, Trump is down to +350, best odds of any Republican and second-best odds overall behind Clinton. (Trump is a -225 favorite to win the Republican nomination).
 
In other words, the oddsmakers are predicting a Clinton vs Trump showdown in November. 
 
Beyond Clinton and Trump, only three other candidates remain in the 2016 conversation.
 
The first is Sanders. 
 
While the media ignores him and the establishment does everything they can to defeat him, Sanders has succeeded in energizing the liberal base and creating a political revolution. After debuting at +6500 to win the presidency, Sanders is now down to +1200, tied for the 3rd-best odds overall behind Clinton and Trump. He is +700 to win the Democratic nomination.
 
The second is Cruz. 
 
Like Sanders, Cruz is +1200 to win the White House. Despite Trump’s massive win in New York, he still may not receive the 1237 delegates needed to win the nomination. This leaves a (small) opening for Cruz, who has become the de-facto alternative to Trump. Cruz is +225 to win the Republican nomination.
 
The third is Kasich. He is currently listed at +3300 to win the White House and +1000 to win the nomination, which means he is a considerable longshot in the eyes of the oddsmakers. Simply put, Kasich is hanging by a thread, but he is still in the conversation.
 
Overall, Democrats are listed as a -280 favorite to win the White House, regardless of who the candidate is. Republicans are a +240 underdog (odds via BetOnline).
 
A couple variables to keep in mind: Clinton is currently being investigated by the FBI over her unprotected email server. Rumors are swirling that a decision whether or not to indict Clinton will be coming down in May. If Clinton is cleared of wrongdoing, her path to the White House is close to a done-deal.
 
However, if she is indicted, it changes everything. Clinton would be forced to exit the race, thus handing the nomination (and likely the presidency) to Sanders. If you view this is a legitimate possibility, you may want to place a futures bet on Sanders now. At +700 to win the nomination and +1200 to win the White House, Sanders backers would receive a huge payout if he can pull off the upset.
 
A similar wild-card scenario exists on the Republican side.
 
Ryan, the current Speaker of the House, is being listed at +15,000 to win the presidency and +5000 to win the Republican nomination (odds via BetOnline). Although his odds of winning are minuscule (he hasn’t even entered the race), the fact that Ryan is being listed as an option shows that oddsmakers are bracing for the possibility of a brokered convention in June.
 
 
Josh Appelbaum is the Customer Service Manager, Affiliate Manager and Political Expert for Sports Insights, a sports betting analytics web-site based in Boston, MA. For over a decade, intelligent sports bettors have relied on Sports Insights’ innovative software to make smarter bets. Learn more at www.sportsinsights.com or follow Sports Insights on Twitter: @SportsInsights
 

America’s Other Army: The Podcast Series

On January 10, 2013, in DCView, by Focus Washington

By Mary Morgan

Former Financial Times and Washington Times correspondent Nicholas Kralev covered the State Department for a decade. He traveled with four secretaries of state, and his experience has granted him a superb knowledge of diplomacy and foreign service. Finding himself frustrated with the media practices, he quit his job and wrote the book America’s Other Army.

The research for his book granted him unprecedented access to Washington and across the world. He visited over 50 embassies and consulates, and interviewed 600 diplomats.

Diplomats have a never-ending set of responsibilities to ensure national interests. Their day-to-day service affects the lives of millions of individuals across the planet.

His book launch party, held at Qorvis Communications‘ headquarters in D.C., kickstarted Kralev’s tour. On Jan. 8, he announced his hope to launch a podcast series in order to dive into the topic he feels so passionately about.

He seeks to prove that foreign affairs is more than crises, scandals and policies. Kralev has seen the foreign service protect security and prosperity, and he hopes to teach people more about America’s Other Army: The diplomats.

This video, produced by Qorvis’ video team, seeks to help Kralev find sponsors to make the podcasts a reality, and further his dream of unveiling to the public the rigorous role of a diplomat.

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Superstorm Sandy Sweeps Across DC

On November 1, 2012, in DCView, by Focus Washington

By Mary Morgan

The hurricane indirectly hit the nation's capital

Superstorm Sandy slammed into the Atlantic coast this week, and left behind a stream of unparalleled northeastern wreckage. Sandy wreaked havoc in DC, Philly, New Jersey, New York City and Boston, and left some in historic states of emergency.

On Sunday night, the Federal offices of D.C. officially closed for Monday, and the majority of other companies followed suit. The metro and bus systems were also closed. The same occurred the next day, extending the closure through Tuesday. Most residents of Washington, D.C. worked from home, and waited for Sandy’s rude arrival, and her aftermath.

While it had been inevitable for DC to be effected by the storm, the degree of what the damage would be was unknown.

Due to the location that Hurricane Sandy ended up hitting shore, the storm sideswiped Washington instead of delivering a direct landing. Residents awoke Tuesday to find that even a dampened blow was enough to make its mark.

Massive power outages and extensive damage swept across the greater D.C. area. Trees fell into homes; roads were closed due to flooding. By 4 p.m. Tuesday, around 238,000 people in the Washington-Baltimore area had lost their power. Most power outages were concentrated in Northern Virginia, Bethesda and Rockville. The rising Potomac River gained six inches, and hovered inches away from its banks.

DC residents felt the storm in an additional way: This hurricane extended its reach into politics. Gallup suspended its nightly polling of the presidential race. State officials asked residents to bring political lawn signs inside, as to avoid them becoming projectiles. The presidential candidates suspended campaign appearances. Former governors George Allen and Timothy Kaine took breaks from their Senate race. Allen rested at home, and Kaine carved pumpkins with his children.

Much of the damage to the capital is being repaired swiftly. Work resumed Wednesday, and the metro lines returned to normal. Power is being restored, and trees are being removed.

While D.C. residents marvel at how their city was spared, their hearts and thoughts reach out to their northern neighbors. To the residents of New York and New Jersey, we at Focus Washington give you our deepest thoughts and sympathy, and hope that your lives are restored to normal as quickly as possible.

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