Congress invited a group of Russian journalists, educators, and scientists to D.C. to show them how great American democracy is as part of the Open World Leadership Center program. Unfortunately for Congress, they came this week. According to The Washington Post's David A. Farenthold, "The mission of this 14-year-old program is to give foreign leaders, especially those from former Soviet republics, an up-close look at 'America’s democratic, accountable government.'" That gets a bit trickier when the government's shut down.
Our Russian visitors were obviously upset that they won't get to see America's government at its best. One of the participants, Dmitry Bespalov, told the Post:
"It’s effective, good democracy. But slightly weak. And I didn’t expect it to be weak." He cited Denmark and Finland as two countries doing a better job.
The visitors were still able to do some activities, like listen to lectures inside an Embassy Suites near Dupont Circle (the planned location was the closed Library of Congress).
The Open World Leadership Center is supposed to be something of a vanity project for Congress: a chance to show off what America has that other countries do not. But our visitors had a a different takeaway than some might hope. Farenthold reports:
Eduard Temnov, an educator from a city near Moscow... realized: What he was witnessing in Washington wasn’t actually democracy! It was actually a highly advanced vision of socialism. Here was what the old theorists had promised: a society functioning on its own, with no leaders in charge.
“Maybe you will come to communism soon!” he said. “No government ... but people are still managing!”
The Russians will leave D.C. today to visit local governments across the U.S. Hopefully they'll see a bit more action there.