By Kathy Eastwood, West Point Public AffairsNovember 16, 2011
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Nov. 16, 2011) -- For West Point cadets who underwent a real-world simulation of passing a bill through the Senate and the House for a course in American Politics Nov. 7-8 at Eisenhower Hall, the effort may have been like stepping into another dimension.
"Cadets role play as members of Congress, Senate, interest groups and press," Maj. John Childress, research analyst for the Social Sciences Department, said. "They all try to get a bill through Congress about immigration reform. We spiced it up by having the Dean of the Academic Board Brig. Gen. Timothy Trainor playing the role of president, and we try to include congressional guests."
More than 400 cadets participated in the two-day exercise, which is worth 150 points in a 2,000-point course and is more involved than it was in previous years.
"There were earlier iterations (of this exercise) in years prior that used the same principles, but the exercise wasn't an all day event and wasn't quite as complex," Childress said.
Currently, the exercise is in its third semester and ran for two days to accommodate the 400 cadets involved.
Cadet republicans and democrats were clearly identifiable. Democrats wore white shirts, republicans wore black shirts and the press and members of special interest groups wore regular gray cadet uniforms.
"It's a slow and arduous process," said Class of 2015 Cadet Thomas Kopec, a democratic Senator at the event. "There's a lot involved, from funding to dealing with interest groups."
Kopec enjoyed the process and may think about politics in the future.
"My legal studies may get me into politics," he said. "Now, it just makes me want to vote more."
Cadets spread into several groups, each attending two different aspects of the immigration bill from introduction, co-sponsoring, referring a bill to committee and voting.
"The cadets are learning just how hard it is," Doug Bush, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said. "They will be dealing with outside groups, special interest groups and the press. A few cadets told me they don't like politics, which seems to be true for many officers. Politics by design has no hierarchy like the military."
Cadets playing members of the press also found out how the process works.
"It's really busy. I'm on my 11th story," explained Class of 2015 Cadet Justin Borawski, who worked as a reporter for the Washington Post. "Senators and Representatives come to us with stories that benefit themselves or something that is negative about the other party."
That's exactly why "Representative" Peter Lee was sitting at Borawski's desk.
"I came to him about a story on two interest groups, the Tea Party express and the "Americans for Legalization," Class of 2014 Cadet Peter Lee said. "I make out a report and put my name on their (the reporter's) report. It's mutually beneficial to use the media because I can gain or lose points in the polls and they look for something juicy."
Cadets had some fun with the stories they wrote, which were placed on a corkboard for Senators and Representatives to look over, as they would do in Washington, by perusing the newspapers and watching news reports.
Broadcast media exposed scandals by having a representative "confess" in an exclusive interview on MSNBC and hamming it up by an exaggerated show of remorse.
"This was really a busy and hectic day, but it helped us to learn the process," Class of 2014 John Chrismon, who was the democratic Senate majority leader, said. "There's a lot of people to please, but we did a good job on the vote."
The immigration bill passed with a lot of bipartisan support, one of the few times everyone agreed during the process.