Since I have started interning at the US Congress there has not been a week that was not eventful in terms of news. However, going to work this week was different. Every morning I walked into the office and what followed the initial exchange of “Good morning” and “How are you?” was “More pipe bombs were found”. This form of domestic terrorism is not new in American history and in recent years various acts of political violence have highlighted the resurgence of extremism and division in American society. Yet working in an institution that is the hotspot for partisan politics, such acts have a lot more of a direct impact on you. Despite congressional offices not being the target, you could still feel the tense atmosphere in offices and buildings every time a new package containing the bombs was found.
Following the unfolding of these bomb threats sent to prominent critics of President Trump’s politics kept me even more glued than usual to the screen reading news. I have emphasized before that most of my work is conducting research. This predominately pertains to proposed legislation in the House of Representatives, but part of it is also following the news. Despite currently being drawn into domestic affairs, especially with the midterms being around the corner, the majority of my work is actually related to following foreign news and media. This is because most of my research work is connected to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
In the realm of this, I have six countries (China, Georgia, Iraq, North Korea, Pakistan, and Venezuela) which I need to monitor daily. This means I first had to create a list of reliable news sources and research key domestic political and public figures in these countries in order to even start following the news. Each day I now write a short report on what are the most recent developments in these countries and evaluate their potential effect on US foreign policy and interests. With this I am, on the one hand, working on my policy research and writing skills as I need to capture the gist and assess the relevance of foreign events for the US. On the other hand, I also get to better know the profiles of countries that I have not paid much attention to before. I recently, for example, learned that Georgia has since its independence changed its political system several times, with the latest change happening this Sunday, October 28, 2018, when the country will switch to a parliamentary system with its newly elected president.
Interestingly enough, I came to this internship with an expectation of learning about the American political system and culture. Which, of course, I am, since there is probably no better time to be interning at the Congress for this purpose than when elections are coming up. However, foreign policy does not wait for US elections. So while I have been doing the day-to-day work of the US Congress I have also been able to learn about new facets of US foreign policy.