Columnist to discuss election

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— The increasingly popular Seminars at Steamboat lecture series continues this week with an appearance by a nationally syndicated political columnist and award-winning author.

The Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne is scheduled to speak at 4 p.m. Thursday at Centennial Hall to discuss, among other things, the polarization of the American electorate.

Dionne's visit comes less than three months before the November presidential election and at a time when polls reveal a neck-and-neck race between President Bush and his Democratic challenger, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

Using as a backdrop widespread reports that undecided voters number far less than in previous presidential elections, Dionne will share his thoughts on why national politics have become so divisive and negative.

Belle Sawhill, a Seminars at Steamboat organizer, said Dionne is a dedicated political observer who closely monitors the latest political and election news, including campaign strategies and financing, updates from battleground states and the latest poll results.

"He's a very astute political commentator," said Sawhill, who is a colleague of Dionne's at the Brookings Institute.

Among the issues Dionne is expected to address during his presentation are why so many politicians are unable to listen to dissenting viewpoints or distance themselves from party lines, and why political stalemates are becoming more prevalent than sensible compromises, particularly at a time when the country is dealing with a variety of foreign and domestic challenges.

Dionne, who has spent the past 14 years at The Washington Post, writes a column that is syndicated in more than 90 newspapers across the country. He's the author of numerous books, including "Why Americans Hate Politics," a 1991 bestseller.

His most recent book, published this spring, is "Stand Up, Fight Back: Republican Toughs, Democratic Whimps and the Politics of Revenge."

Dionne is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and a professor at Georgetown University, where he teaches at the Public Policy Institute.

Dionne's visit follows in the footsteps of a seminar last week featuring former deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott. Talbott's discussion, which focused on the importance of foreign policy this election year, was attended by a record crowd for the two-year-old Seminars at Steamboat series.

Sawhill, a vice president at the Brookings Institute and a part-time Steamboat resident, said event organizers are thrilled with the budding success of the series.

"We're very pleased with the response the community has given to both of our speakers thus far," Sawhill said, referring to the visits of Talbott and U.S. District Court Judge Andre Davis. "It motivates us to ... see that (the series) keeps going into the future."

Seminars at Steamboat events are free to the public, but organizers encourage donations.

For more information, e-mail goodrichjw@aol.com

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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