Episode 68, with guests Alan Schroeder and Kevin Doyle

Alan Schroeder and Kevin Doyle are our guests this week.
Show produced by Katherine Caperton.
Original Air Date: August 25, 2012 on SiriusXM “POTUS” Channel 124.
Polioptics airs regularly on POTUS on Saturdays at 6 am, 12 noon and 6 pm.
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This show was a watershed for Polioptics as we recorded it from an undisclosed location (Latitude: 41º: 4′ – Longitude: -73º: 39′, if you really care) using a nifty software program called LuciLive and a Yeti Blue USB microphone connected to SiriusXM studios in Washington, D.C. Using this equipment, our audio was near studio-quality and I truly got the feeling that anyone can broadcast anything from anywhere.

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Recording the show from a remote location was a perfect setting to talk to Kevin Doyle, the deputy editor of Condé Nast Traveler, who wrote the 25th Anniversary cover story for the September 2012 issue of his magazine recounting his 19,000-mile journey with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in April and May to China, Bangladesh and India. You can read the store here: “Where in the World is Hillary Clinton? Nine Days with the Most Traveled Secretary of State in History.”

You should grab a copy of the September issue for the Clinton article (which brought back many fond memories of traveling as a delegate of the U.S. Government to 40 countries around the world during my White House years) but also for an amazing 4-page graphic spread in the middle of this issue entitled “A Short History of the World.” The feature includes an amazing wealth of statistics and data comparing travel in 1987, when Condé Nast Traveler first appeared on newsstands, to today. Twenty-five years ago, for example, there were 350 million trips taken by international travelers worldwide. Today, there are 1 billion. My 7-year old son, Toby, and I spent about two hours going through every graphic in the spread. It’s a great way to teach kids about the world and how things have changed in a quarter century.

When you learn a little more about Kevin Doyle, you understand why he was the right guy to accompany Secretary Clinton and her entourage to the Far East. He’s been with the magazine (minus an interruption or two) for almost all of its 25-year history, joining it right out of college. Both Kevin and I hailed from the college class of 1987 (different schools), so we had a common perspective on the march of travel history. His answers to a brief Q&A at cntraveler.com are particularly evocative:

How did you become so passionate about travel?
It was congenital. Even as a very small child, I was excited by the smell of jet exhaust, and whenever we dropped someone off at the airport I’d cry—not because I was going to miss them, but because I wasn’t getting on a plane myself.

Approximating Bill Kilgore, I love the smell of jet exhaust in the morning.

Kevin Doyle of Conde Nast Traveler

Back in my White House days, whenever we were making a stop on Air Force One, my usual perch, just before takeoff, was with the press pool under the port side wing of the VC-25 (a hyper-modified 747), taking final pictures of the president as he prepared to leave for another hop. As the AF-1 captain needed to be always ready for immediate takeoff, the starboard-side General Electric CF6-80C2B1F turbofans were constantly churning out jet fumes to initiate taxiing as soon as the forward hatch of the plane was sealed and the departure greeters were escorted away. On many occasions, my business suit was soiled by those fumes and more than once was I witness to the unfortunate fellow who didn’t get away from the plane in time and was instead hurled backward by the thrust of the engine as it made the right hand turn from the apron onto the taxiway. Like Kevin, fond — sometimes comic — memories.

As I have recounted in Part 5 of the 10-part Story of Polioptics, Bill Clinton’s 1995 trip to Northern Ireland and Ireland was particularly meaningful for me, and the Emerald Isle has an even deeper meaning for Kevin given his ancestral heritage. In another of Kevin’s responses to his Q&A, he cites a fondness for fireplaces in hotel rooms, and the top two hotels for him in this category are in in the area: The Ardtara Country House and The Lodge at Doonbeg. If you’re staying in the Continental 48, he also favors the cabins in Zion National Park. Next time you’re in one of those places and crave a crackling fire for your slumber, check them out.

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Professor Alan Schroeder of Northeastern University

I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that the focus of political geography in the next few weeks isn’t overseas, but rather in the Southeast U.S., particularly Tampa, Florida for the Republican National Convention and Charlotte, North Carolina, for the Democratic National Convention. We talked extensively about these events in prior episodes with James Davis of the Tampa 2012 (Episode 32) and Theo LeCompte Charlotte 2012 (Episode 63).

But I would argue that these events, which evoke nostalgia for the smoke-filled room are, nonetheless, entirely scripted affairs, largely stripped of any spontaneity unless a teleprompter breaks down or protesters penetrate a vast and impermeable security perimeter. Beside offering a massive watering hole for party stalwarts and national journalists, they are, in addition, a nationally-televised proving ground for how a nominee can deliver a well worked-over speech and, to a lesser extent, how rising stars can emerge and shine in the national spotlight. It was only eight years ago, after all, that an Illinois state senator named Barack Obama captivated Boston and the rest of the nation with his convention keynote address.


So where in the world, in this teleprompted campaign, can any spontaneity be found? You can wait for the next unscripted gaffe, stupid remark or unfunny attempts at humor on the campaign trail or instead set your GPS for the following locations and dates:

  • University of Denver, Denver, CO
    First presidential debate: Wednesday, October 3
    Jim Lehrer, Executive Editor of the PBS NewsHour
  • Centre College, Danville, KY
    Vice presidential debate: Thursday, October 11
    Moderator: Martha Raddatz, Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent, ABC News
  • Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY
    Second presidential debate (town meeting format): Tuesday, October 16
    Candy Crowley, Chief Political Correspondent, CNN and Anchor, CNN’s State of the Union
  • Lynn University, Boca Raton, FL
    Third presidential debate: Monday, October 22
    Moderator:  Bob Schieffer, Chief Washington Correspondent, CBS News and Moderator, Face the Nation

The presidential phase of the 2012 presidential campaign has so far resembled a kind of naval warfare that went out with the Iowa class battleships that I wrote about last week: long-range broadside bombardment with paid ads (both by campaigns and Super-PACs) and surrogate-fired cruise missiles, but none of the close-range, hand-to-hand combat that requires nimble movement or improvisation with boots on the ground. The four debates upcoming in October (three presidential, one vice-presidential) may give us the only six hours of spontaneity we’re likely to see in the remainder of this cycle.

So who else to give us a preview of what’s to come beginning in five weeks than my old friend, Professor Alan Schroeder of Northeastern University’s School of Journalism. Over the past twenty years or so, since he left broadcasting for academia, Alan has become one of the world’s foremost authorities on debates — the venues, formats, moderators and combatants — not just in the U.S. but overseas as well. Among other published works, Alan is the author of Presidential Debates: Forty Years of High-Risk TV, one of the definitive textbooks of debate history.

You can read Alan’s view of the 2012 moderators chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates here, at the Huffington Post, and listen to our show for his take on the venues, formats and, most important, the combatants. That debate in Danville, Kentucky, between Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan should be one for the ages. Stay tuned.

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