Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Politics, the press, and public opinion: who is influencing whom?

Harvard professor Maxine Isaacs will explain


By SABINA DANA PLASSE
Express Staff Writer

As a Harvard University faculty member at the John F. Kennedy School of Government in Washington, D.C., Maxine Isaacs has spent a great deal of her career researching, understanding and explaining why U.S. political systems are functional and dependable.

Isaacs, a part-time Sun Valley resident since 1989, will give her first talk on the subject of who is influencing whom in presidential politics at the Community Library in Ketchum on Thursday, July 24, at 6 p.m.

"I've been teaching it for such a long time, that I can really help people understand the process," Isaacs said. "We will talk about things that are widely believed but are not demonstrated as so."

Isaacs' lecture will explore the campaign system and certain public opinions, such as is the campaign system too long, too expensive and is the public not interested? She said these are widely held beliefs, and she will examine how the public views the process.

"It isn't so," Isaacs said. "It's a big process, and it's hard to communicate in this country."

Since 1994, she has taught hundreds of students about presidential campaigns and elections and "Foreign Policy, the News and American Public Opinion." In 2005 and 2006 she taught a freshman seminar at Harvard on "American Presidential Campaigns and Elections 1960-2004." She also has taught at George Washington University and frequently lectures on the relationship among policy, politics, the news and public opinion. In 2007-08 she took a leave from teaching to explore the world of theatre production with her own production company, The Max Productions.

Before Isaacs turned to teaching, she was Press Secretary and Deputy Campaign Manager to former Vice President Walter F. Mondale when he ran for president from 1983 to 1984. She worked for Mondale in the White House and the U.S. Senate from 1973 to 1981, and before joining Mondale's Senate staff she worked as Legislative Assistant and Speechwriter to Congressman Louis Stokes from 1971 to 1973.

"There is a belief that the press has an extraordinary influence on the public," Isaacs said. People are quite serious about their presidential choice, quite engaged and very serious. They are following it because they are worried about the country and tying to do the right thing."

Isaacs plans to make her case and explain why she believes and has a great deal of confidence in the choices Americans. She said it's not a fashionable view because the common view is the public is frivolous.

"I believe in the system," Isaacs said. "I am a political person and have worked in politics my whole life. I believe in government, and it can form a useful role in society."




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