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(apologies to George Gershwin and Gene Kelly)

By Prof. Michael Cornfield

June 5, 2017

My Facebook reaction to the president’s announcement to exit the Paris climate agreement last Thursday was this:

GSPM grad Travis Taylor was skeptical:

Travis is right about the low priority Americans accord the environment as a campaign issue. A Reuters/IPSOS poll concluded just before the announcement was in keeping with the trend; environment was selected at the top issue by a mere 3% of voters, far below the top three of economy/jobs (20%), health care (18%), and terrorism (16%).

But I think Trump gave the issue a boost in salience. He is by far the most famous person on earth, maybe in human history; he gets more free media coverage than the next 1,000 people combined. His spotlight moves quickly from topic to topic, but the Paris exit was declared from the Rose Garden, it was a binary decision everyone understands, and the time frame for it is four years, not decades (the eco-time frame) or one day (the @realdonaldtrump time frame).

So I think the announcement sets off a messaging contest in sync with the 2018 and 2020 elections. Good issue positioning entails linking across standard categories. The battle will be over Paris AND job creation (especially job loss to foreign countries, Trump’s issue citadel), Paris AND energy prices (gas, of course, but also electric) and even Paris AND quality of life (hazards and disasters) in the battleground states and districts where voters live. We’ve already seen Dominion Power becoming an issue in the 2017 Virginia primaries.

Behind the messaging, this will be a battle of corporate clout: fossil-fuels against renewables, inland against coastal real estate. The fossil inlanders have a tremendous head start in the form of Koch-backed Americans For Prosperity (AFP) and its related influence organizations. By 2015, AFP had a $150 million yearly budget, 500 paid staffers including directors in 34 states, and 2.4 million activists advocating, among other things, a “No Climate Tax” pledge taken by three-fifths of GOP House members and over half of GOP Senate members in the 113th Congress (2013-2014).

The opposition to Trump’s announcement voiced by CEOs of big corporations, Michael Bloomberg, the governors of California, New York, and Washington state, and numerous mayors is a significant reaction. That’s all it is for now.

On Twitter, Trump Moments Resembled a Series of Seinfeld Highlights

by Prof. Michael Cohen

We could discuss a more substantive analysis of Twitter conversation around these important issues (we will) but, let’s face it, most of us are exhausted from the 2016 campaign and the first few months of the Trump presidency. So let’s have some fun, instead. Let’s look at the trip’s moments that Twitter obsessed over, in chronological order, most of which will mean nothing long-term but were as entertaining as some of the best Seinfeld episodes.

I promise to honor the Seinfeld credo, in part, with no hugging but we will add some learning. Let’s see how much of an imprint each of the following 10 moments had on Twitter when they were connected to President Trump. For the purposes of our research, I’ll limit the time frame of our data to May 20 to 27, the length of the trip. I won’t restrict the tweets to the U.S. as the trip was international news.

Read the full post on Medium.

It was a busy week in the world of politics and our professors at the Graduate School of Political Management had plenty to say about it. Here's a quick roundup of some of their insights.

Visit our news page for complete coverage.

Trump should follow the Bill Clinton scandal playbook

Professor Matt Dallek provides a scandal playbook for President Trump in Yahoo News. He says that the Bill Clinton approach, which requires delegating all scandal response to his lawyers and political aides, would work better than the current full-frontal assault on every new revelation.

Yes, Trump is getting pounded — but it doesn't mean impeachment is imminent

Professor Steve Billet tells the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that even though the headlines are bad for President Trump, the bottom line is that he is safe in office as long as he has the support of Congressional leadership.

The New TV Drama: As The White House Turns

Professor Michael Cornfield discusses the hottest drama in daytime television: the White House Daily Press Briefing with NPR. He says that the possibility of an eruption from  White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer makes each new installment must-see TV.

Deep dives into one’s personal life, hours on the road or the phone drumming up volunteer or financial support, and the understanding that most of the candidates that start a campaign finish it with a concession speech. Running for office is difficult both mentally and physically, so why do people do it and what should they know in advance?

At the Graduate School of Political Management, our students will be able to hear why, and everything that momentous decision entails in PMGT 6434, Running For Office, taught by former U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei, D-N.Y.

In addition to being a candidate, Maffei served as a communications strategist and spokesperson in the halls of Congress and on the campaign trail. Rounding out his resume was a stretch as a television news reporter and producer. His 360-degree view of the campaign process is part of the reason why our school is so thrilled to have him leading this course.

“’The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,’ proclaims Theodore Roosevelt. Having seen politics from so many viewpoints, I can communicate to the student how different it is to be the one with the name on the ballot. Political theory and well laid plans fly out the window as ideals are challenged and egos assaulted,” said Maffei.

Maffei’s course uses a series of in-class simulations to take students through key campaign milestones, such as an announcement of one’s candidacy, a stump speech, and a campaign contribution solicitation. Since the unexpected is to be expected in politics, Maffei’s class will also have to determine a communications strategy to debunk an inaccurate news story and hold a “damage control” press conference.

Maffei added, “Plans for governmental change and sophisticated policy ideas are irrelevant if their advocates can not win elections or – more likely given today’s toxic political atmosphere – refuse to ever run for office. Through personal accounts of and by politicians, readings on critical aspects of real world politics, and intense self-examination, group discussion and practice exercises, I will give students a sense of what it is like and what is needed to run, win, and hold political office.”

At the end of the course students should be able to understand the decision-making process behind a run, the components of a modern campaign, the purpose behind any effective candidate, and the key personality traits needed to succeed amid the intense pressures of a political campaign. Starting a run with that knowledge should give our prospective candidates and campaign managers a head start over the competition.


By Michael Cornfield, GSPM Associate Professor and Research Director

This morning Senate Majority Leader McConnell said that “Today we’ll no doubt hear calls for a new investigation, which could only serve to impede the current work.” By current work McConnell meant that being conducted by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

That puts the now radioactively hot potato in the lap of the Committee’s chair, North Carolina Senator Richard Burr, a distant descendant of “Hamilton” star Aaron Burr.  (The House counterpart committee has no credibility left after the antics of Devin Nunes.)  Senator Burr, who has said this is his last term in Congress, said last night he was “troubled by the timing and reasoning” of FBI Director Comey’s firing last night.  Burr has thus far collaborated with the ranking Democrat on the Committee, Mark Warner of Virginia, who has said the investigation into Russian involvement with the Trump campaign and the 2016 election “may very well be the most important thing I do in my public life.”

All this heartens me, as do Warner’s law degree and tech cred.

I presume and hope that neither Senator retains any ambition for higher office, as Warner has in the past.  I presume and hope neither has any financial ties to the Trump Organization or the Russian state.

Their success also hinges on their capacity to summon and manage experts in financial and online data analytics and Russian studies, to withstand the pressures of authoritarian personalities and media exposure, to command respect from both political parties and FBI agents, and to follow the truth and the law in the spirit of patriotism.

Right now, Burr and Warner are the linchpin in the American republic.

By Michael Cornfield

May 4, 2017

Last night’s presidential debate in France was full of personal invective and angry gesturing. Emmanuel Macron called Marine Le Pen a liar who says stupid things and “the high priestess of fear.”  “You are the France of submission,” Le Pen said to Macron, interrupting him to insist that he not lecture her.  She associated him with Islamic fundamentalists and Angela Merkel; he tied her to her father Jean-Marie and Vladimir Putin.


So it’s not just our debates that have turned nasty.  Three drivers seem at work: the fading of broadcast television standards and practices, the rise of women candidates and gendered confrontations, and the rumblings of a populist-cosmopolitan clash that cuts across the left-right spectrum.


I expect to see the debates in the Virginia gubernatorial race get more heated, even without a female candidate.


And I don’t regard this trend as a good or bad development.  In some exchanges between candidates, what’s lost in civility is compensated by a gain in substance.



Whether you hear about a job from an online advertisement, job board, or a friend, your first introduction to an employer will be through your résumé.

So, what can you do to make sure your résumé moves to the top of the pile? We asked our Career Services Director Mag Gottlieb what separates a good résumé from a great résumé.

Master the Basics

The first threshold your résumé must overcome from almost every recruiter is the grammar test, says Gottlieb.

Spellcheck is your friend, but it’s not the end. Read through the document out loud to make sure that there aren’t any typos that the computer wouldn’t have recognized (e.g. typing “no” instead of “on” or “form” instead of “from”).

Secondly, your verb tenses should be consistent. If you’re no longer at a job, for example, your duties should be in the past tense. Any current duties should be in the present tense.

Lastly, look for the verbs that the job posting uses to describe the position and integrate them into your resume. Be sure to use action verbs and consult a thesaurus to ensure that you're not using the same ones over and over again.

It’s Never the Same Twice

A résumé isn’t a curriculum vitae (CV). It doesn’t, and shouldn’t, include every position or every job duty you’ve ever had.

Your résumé is like a television commercial, and you’re the product. It’s quick. It’s concise. It speaks directly to the consumer’s (in this case the human resource worker reading the document) needs and wants in the ideal employee. Most jobs will accept a two-page résumé, but certain employers, especially Congressional offices, prefer a one-page document.

It’s a good idea to have a CV that lists everything you’ve ever done at every job for reference. It can jog your memory to help you craft a targeted résumé for the positions to which you apply. Executive search firms or academic positions may request a CV, but most employers just want the highlights.

Address for Success

All your correspondence should use the name that others use to refer to you. So, if you’re Anthony Smith, but everyone calls you Tony Smith, that’s the name that should be at the top of your documents. If you go by your middle name, consider an email address that uses it.

Save for personal emails and get something professional for your professional communication.

Lastly, don’t apply to jobs with your current work email or phone number. That signals that you lack discretion, which is a major red flag for any employer, especially those in politics.

Make It Social

Many recruiters scour LinkedIn for prospects. If you don’t already have an account, sign up and complete a profile. Make sure your profile uses the relevant buzzwords in your field, and join groups that are relevant to your current job or your career goals.

Once you’ve upgraded your resume, you’ll be one step closer to the profession you want. If you’re considering a career in politics, communications, or advocacy, the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management can help you develop the skills and the network you’ll need to succeed.

L to R: House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, and Ranking Member Richard Neal, D-Mass.


The Graduate School of Political Management, in conjunction with the Tax Foundation and the Archer Center at the University of Texas, recently hosted the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee, the chief tax writing panel on Capitol Hill, to discuss possible ways forward for tax reform.

Both Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, and Ranking Member Richard Neal, D-Mass., say there may be an opportunity for an overhaul, but any effort will have to be bipartisan.

Read more at GW Today.

From Left to right: Daniela Sinner, Chiquita Vaughn, Alyssa Wilson, Shana Feggins, and Min Hee Lee at lunch during SPR NY Trip.


On March 16 and 17, students in the Master’s in Strategic Public Relations (SPR) program, participated in the program’s annual trip to New York. Each year students meet with NYC-based leaders and peers in the industry from corporations, agencies and nonprofits.

Program Director Larry Parnell arranges the trip each year utilizing contacts and colleagues in New York and always tries to include a “special “stop to make the trip memorable.

In past years, SPR students have visited the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and rung the closing bell at the NASDAQ stock exchange in Times Square.

This year’s highlight was a visit to the United Nations to meet with the global communications team. However, this stop became more dramatic when they students received an unexpected invitation from the UN Communications Director!

Here are some student reactions and comments:

Cynthia Proctor, an online SPR student from Albany, NY, reports: Eric Porterfield, U.N. Foundation Sr. Communications Director, greeted us inside the UN security area with exciting news, ‘You just got access to the noon UN press briefing!’ There we found Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the United Nations Secretary-General, sharing up-to-the-minute reports on over 30 U.N. activities with a group of international reporters. When he opened the floor to questions, we found ourselves in a Media Relations master class. Mr. Dujarric was direct, concise and consistent. It was global communications, unfolding in real time.

For Daniela Sinner – a first semester on campus SPR student, meeting her online colleagues and industry leaders and peers in the PR field was a highlight – along with the UN visit.

“The NYC trip was an amazing experience. It allowed me to meet with peers that work at some great PR firms in NYC. This gave me insight on what to expect when I enter the field after I graduate next year,” she said. “I also felt like I had the chance to get to know my classmates through this experience. Plus, the visit to the UN and sitting in on the Press Briefing really blew my mind,” she concluded.

For Shana Feggins – a first year student as well, the trip was special for three reasons: gaining valuable insights, sitting in on the UN press briefing, and meeting classmates from all over the US.

“Being able to meet and talk with Gary Sheffer, VP of Communications at GE, and visit with Shelley Spector at the Museum of PR were two of my favorite parts of the trip. This collective experience in New York City was amazing and memorable,” she concluded.

“Each year we put together this trip to provide students with experiential learning in the center of the global PR industry. And each year something happens that is truly an “only at GW” moment,” commented Professor Larry Parnell, Program Director.

He added, “We appreciate the support of the GSPM administration and the CPS Dean’s Office in staging this trip and allowing us to provide a unique learning opportunity for our students.”

GSPM Interim Director Lara Brown recently joined the Fox News Channel to discuss President Donald Trump's first 100 days in office. She says that this benchmark, first established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first term, puts too much stress on a system designed to move slowly. Rather than using it as a first report card, Brown says, the first 100 days should be seen as a president's first introduction to Washington and the federal government.