What’s Wrong with Presidential Primaries?

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By this point you’ve probably heard some of the complaints about presidential primaries: the Democratic Party’s “superdelegates” undermine the will of the people; caucuses limit participation by average voters; and states like Iowa and New Hampshire have undue influence in choosing the eventual nominees.

When we launched the USC Project on Presidential Primaries last December, our goal was to create a crowdsourced and comprehensive resource that would illuminate the system of presidential primaries and answer key questions about how primaries work in each state. Through our research, we found some support for each of the critiques above, but we also found some things we didn’t expect. It turns out that the process of picking our presidential candidates is even more opaque and incoherent than most Americans realize. Here are a few findings from our research so far:

1) Rules vary dramatically by state and party, and change from election to election

Each political party has total autonomy over how their primaries are conducted, when they occur, and how delegates are selected and allocated. While the initial rules are published a year or two before the election – in what the Democratic and Republican parties refer to as their “Convention Call” – the parties can and do continue changing the rules all the way up through their conventions.

For example, the RNC has several opportunities to modify its rules in the coming months in ways that could dramatically alter the electoral equation: during its spring meeting on April 20-22, on the eve of the convention, and during the convention when rules must be approved. As Jeff Berkowitz recently explained on Medium, opportunities to change the rules could take on special significance for Republicans this year because of Rule 40. Originally designed to protect Mitt Romney from challengers in 2012, now Rule 40 could result in Donald Trump being the only candidate on the ballot at the GOP Convention in July. (In a recent twist, Ben Ginsberg, the lawyer who masterminded Rule 40 as Romney’s campaign attorney in 2012, now says it was a temporary rule that doesn’t apply to 2016.)

If you’re interested in more of the head-spinning details about primary rules, Josh Putnam’s Frontloading HQ blog provides an excellent running commentary on how the rules are changing nationally and state-by-state.

2) Because the rules are complicated and always changing, everyone including party officials are confused by them

The biggest problem we identified in our research is that there is no single, reliable source where voters and party officials can see all of the most important and up-to-date rules in each state. The Call of the Convention is the closest thing each party has to such a resource, but it is incomplete and, as mentioned before, subject to change. That’s why we created this spreadsheet of the relevant rules, dates, and delegate counts for each state.

The resource we started is only as good as the official source material, and unfortunately we found that these official sources at the state and party level are often out of date or in conflict with each other. Because of this, we resorted to making phone calls to Republican and Democratic officials in each state. Sometimes these calls helped us clarify discrepancies, and other times they led to more confusion.

For example, we made two calls to the Republican Party in Colorado and got two different answers regarding how their delegates would be allocated at the GOP Convention. First, a party official told us that delegates tend to publicly declare a preference before they are elected, which means they are “legally bound” to that candidate at the GOP Convention. But in a follow-up call, a different official told us that unpledged delegates are not bound to any candidate in any official or legally-binding way. Colorado is unique in that all 37 of its delegates are technically unpledged, so having a clear and consistent answer to this question seems important.

3) The press is paying attention, but also getting things wrong

Compared to past electoral cycles, the media has paid quite a bit of attention to the party rules during this primary season. But because the rules are so complicated, the media often misreport the details and distort the reality of how candidates are chosen. For example, because they don’t effectively distinguish between delegates and superdelegates, most major media outlets continue to suggest that Hillary Clinton has secured almost twice as many delegates as she actually has, when in reality the race between her and Bernie Sanders is still quite close.

Chart retrieved from Google as of 3/23/16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why should you care?

The confusion surrounding primary rules allow the parties to make major changes, out of sight and without any input from the public, that have an impact on the outcome of the race and the options before the American public in the general election. While the system of presidential primaries we have in place today is a great deal more democratic than it was in 19681912, and earlier eras, the parties effectively remain in control of which candidates the American people can consider for president – even as outsiders like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are challenging their traditional hegemony. This narrowing of options is not only about the DNC and RNC rules around primaries and delegates. It also extends to the media rules governing presidential debates, the barriers to candidates appearing on the ballot in each state, the rules around fundraising and political contributions, and other rules and regulations that serve to disconnect the will of the people from the interests of political parties, media outlets, and other special interests.

Stay tuned for future posts where we will begin to dig into some potential solutions and ideas for reform.

This post was researched and written by Soledad Altrudi and Rebecca Mulqueen, with additional editing and research support by Ev Boyle and Justin Chapman.



Students tour Washington, DC, over break

By Erick Morales, The Daily Trojan, 3/22/2016

When many students left campus last week for spring break, first-year Master’s of Public Diplomacy students Justin Chapman, Jung-Hwa Kang and Amanda Lester headed to Washington, D.C. for a networking tour of America’s capital.

The trip, which took place from March 14 to March 18, was entirely planned by the students.

It was billed as a “roving conference” where the participants received advice, information and even job opportunities from senior practitioners of public diplomacy to share with their classmates.

An MPD tradition over the last few years, faculty serve only the role of connecting participants with experts in D.C. they could potentially meet or sources of funding that may be available.

In their time in the capital, the MPD students managed to make more than a dozen meetings with high-level officials from the Brookings Institution, the U.S. Department of State and many other organizations while also making time to meet with alumni of the graduate degree program currently living in D.C.

Chapman said that meeting Capricia Marshall, a former U.S. chief of protocol and White House social secretary in the Clinton administration who is currently ambassador-in-residence at the Atlantic Council, was one of their most memorable experiences.

“[Ambassador Marshall] told us to grab every opportunity that we can. If someone asks ‘Who can do this,’ say ‘I can,’ then figure out how to do it,” said Chapman, who is also the project fellow at the Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy. “Make yourself invaluable.”

Marshall’s advice also stuck with Kang, who is still forming her nascent career goals.

Kang said that it set her free from guilt, reinforced the mindset she had been carrying and inspired her to walk out of her comfort zone.

“People often ask me what my plan is after completing the MPD program,” Kang said in an e-mail to the Daily Trojan. “They sometimes raise their eyebrows when I say that I am still exploring and figuring out my path, since I am learning a lot of new things in  the MPD program.”

The participants plan to share the information they collected in a report that will be internally distributed to students and faculty in the MPD program. The information will also be used to plan next year’s trip.

Along with building a stronger network for graduate students, the trip also has the intent of attracting interest to USC and the public diplomacy program. The participants had the opportunity to talk about their academic experiences thus far.

“We met with undergrads from Syracuse University who were interested in the program,” Chapman said. “The people we met with now have information and knowledge of the program and can recommend it to students.”

This year’s trip, under the auspices of Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism Dean Ernest Wilson III and MPD Director Nicholas Cull, is one of many that seeks to provide public diplomacy students with opportunities for learning and future employment.

“I see the trip as an important part of the transition to the workplace for students in the program, both because it exposes students to potential employers and because it reminds people in the field of the program and its work,” Cull said.

According to Cull, past networking trips have been taken by MPD students to Vietnam, India, China, Indonesia and Brazil.

But the participants swapped the excitement of an international location with a feeling of validation about their career goals.

“This trip opened my eyes to everything that can be done with the skills I’m learning in the MPD program,” Lester said. “Besides receiving helpful career advice at our meetings, it was inspiring to talk to people who are doing public diplomacy every day, facing its challenges, believing in its promise and still searching for answers to the field’s biggest questions.”

 CCLP meets with State Dept., Voice of America, and more in DC to discuss public diplomacy

The USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP) partnered with the USC Master’s in Public Diplomacy (MPD) program on a professional development and networking trip in Washington, DC, in March 2016. MPD graduate students Amanda LesterJung-hwa “Judy” Kang, and myself, Justin Chapman (I serve as CCLP’s Project Fellow), represented CCLP and the MPD program at events and in high-level meetings with officials from the State Department, Voice of America, Congress, the Kennedy Center, the British Council, the Atlantic Council, the Brookings Institution, USC’s DC office, the United Nations Information Center, the White House, Ford’s Theater, the National Press Club, the Washington Post, Global Ties US, the Korean Embassy, the Kazakhstan Embassy, the National Air and Space Museum, and more.

Having just started the program in January, it was an honor, a privilege, and a responsibility to represent the MPD program in Washington, DC. I stayed with my new brother-in-law Nick Kirkpatrick, the Washington Post’s only foreign section photo editor. He assigns photographers to shoot stories being covered by the Post’s foreign correspondents, and ultimately chooses which photos will accompany those stories on the front page of the paper. Before Lester and Kang arrived in Washington, I went to work with Kirkpatrick, who showed me around the Post‘s newsroom. The Post recently moved offices a couple blocks away from its historic building.

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I worked in the Washington Post newsroom throughout the morning.
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From the Post newsroom, I walked over to the White House, the Washington Monument, and along Pennsylvania Avenue.
white house

When Lester and Kang arrived, the MPD/CCLP delegation kicked off five days of high-level meetings with a visit to USC’s DC office. We met with Adam Clayton Powell III, Senior Fellow at CCLP, University Fellow at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, and president of the Public Diplomacy Council.

Justin Chapman, Daniel Whitman, Jung-hwa "Judy" Kang, Dr. Abdin Noboa-Rios, and Amanda Lester at USC's DC office
Justin Chapman, Daniel Whitman, Jung-hwa “Judy” Kang, Dr. Abdin Noboa-Rios, and Amanda Lester at USC’s DC office

Powell said public diplomacy is growing in popularity, thanks in large part to USC and the Center on Public Diplomacy (CPD).

“Everybody says the USC CPD website is the gold standard globally for public diplomacy,” Powell said. “These are people who teach at other major universities and use the website shamelessly. People come from around the U.S. and abroad to see what resources there are. It’s interesting to see how PD and the study of it is viewed with such interest.”

Last year Google approached Powell and CCLP and asked them to study the Internet of Things (IOT).

“Ten to twenty years from now there could be billions of things connected to the internet,” said Powell. “Vint Cerf [father of the Internet] likes to say that all kitchen appliances will be connected to Internet and you will be able to run them by your cell phone. Things can go wrong, and spectacularly. You can imagine if someone’s hacking into an airplane, or stopping all cars in the city; it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Google wants us to acquaint policymakers here in Washington, the federal government, international agencies, NGOs, etc., with how they should be thinking about connecting and responding to these kinds of problems, be it a bad actor like North Korea or a ten year old in her pajamas who accidentally launches some code. Pieces of software could interact in ways not predicated and create havoc. How should governments be thinking about this? Google says it’s an international problem.”

After offering even more cogent insights into the changing media and technology landscapes, Powell introduced a special guest – who had in fact brought his own special guest.

Daniel Whitman, former Program Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, brought his new book Outsmarting Apartheid: An Oral History of South Africa’s Cultural and Educational Exchange with the United States, 1960-1999, a wealth of stories from his career in public diplomacy, and a friend and colleague, Dr. Abdin Noboa-Rios. A native of Puerto Rico, Dr. Noboa-Rios is writing a book on the growing Latino education crisis in America. Discussion topics included: the distinction between public diplomacy and development; lessons from Mr. Whitman’s experiences in post-apartheid South Africa; arguments for continued funding of international exchange programs; transferring lessons from the international to the domestic sphere; and ideas for future research.

“Culture is politics,” said Whitman. “We understood that for a brief time but then we lost sight of it. It’s during the relaxation of tensions that you need to increase outreach to other cultures, not decrease.”

Whitman pointed out that there is a thin line between legitimate public diplomacy and propaganda.

“In public diplomacy, we converse, we share ideas, and we listen,” he said. “We do not ‘assist’ other countries. To the exten that PD has turned into a megaphone for social messaging to convince people that  ‘we’re not bad;’ that is a failure. If there’s any element of ‘we will show you something; we’re not bad,’ it absolutely crosses the line into propaganda. As soon as you’re doing one way communication, even if you’re telling the truth 100%, you’re not furthering any goal, and the audience will not trust you.”

Later that afternoon, the MPD/CCLP delegation visited Voice of America (VOA), the U.S. Government’s broadcast institution whose programming is directed at foreign audiences, especially in places where U.S. news is otherwise not readily available. USC Annenberg has a special connection to VOA: CCLP director and former Annenberg Dean Geoffrey Cowan served as the 22nd Director of VOA from 1994-1996, and Professor Cowan’s father Louis served as the 2nd Director of VOA from 1943-1945.

Justin Chapman, Ms. Kelu Chao, Jung-hwa "Judy" Kang, and Amanda Lester at VOA
Justin Chapman, Ms. Kelu Chao, Jung-hwa “Judy” Kang, and Amanda Lester at VOA

During the visit to VOA, the MPD/CCLP delegation was privileged to meet with the institution’s Acting Director, Kelu Chao, who talked to us about how VOA is adapting to the changing media environment, maintaining its objectivity while still serving as a diplomatic tool, and working to engage its audiences by generating in-depth discussions.

“As a news person, I know objectivity is in the eye of the beholder,” said Chao. “It would be very difficult when someone writes a story to not be influenced by their background. It’s part of the challenge. But for a trained journalist, credibility is everything. And our audience knows; they can smell propaganda right away, because they’re subjected to propaganda all the time [in their home countries]. We’re very sensitive about this. We really look at ourselves and every story hopefully is balanced.”

The MPD/CCLP delegation began day two by visiting the Brookings Institution, a non-profit, nonpartisan think tank celebrating its centenary.

Ryan McElveen, assistant director of the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center, gave us an overview of both the Institution and its China Center, which is among the most respected in the world. Asked about whether the relationship between the U.S. and China will remain amicable or will eventually result in conflict, McElveen said, “Brookings is optimistic about our relations…. I do believe China will continue to be a partner on major issues, such as climate change.”

Following a tour of the Brookings Institution’s facilities, the MPD/CCLP delegation sat in on a well attended forum with keynote speaker Filippo Grandi, the newly appointed United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR).

“On the 5th anniversary of the crisis in Syria, we should reflect on the collective abysmal political failure that Syria represents for the international community,” said Grandi. “The human cost of this failure is quickly becoming incalculable. Never forget, behind all those numbers are individuals experiencing unthinkable suffering.”

United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees Filippo Grandi at the Brookings Institution
United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees Filippo Grandi at the Brookings Institution

From the Brookings Institution, the MPD/CCLP delegation traveled to Capitol Hill, where we were led on a tour of the Capitol building by the staff of Congressman Adam Schiff (D-28th District, CA). President Barack Obama happened to be hosting a St. Patrick’s Day luncheon with House Speaker Paul Ryan at the Capitol during the MPD delegation’s tour.

Justin Chapman, Jung-hwa "Judy" Kang, and Amanda Lester in front of the Capitol building
Justin Chapman, Jung-hwa “Judy” Kang, and Amanda Lester in front of the Capitol building
The old Senate chamber, where in 1856 Congressman Preston Brooks brutally beat Senator Charles Sumner with a cane over a speech given two days earlier on the subject of slavery , an early sign of the coming Civil War
The old Senate chamber, where in 1856 Congressman Preston Brooks brutally beat Senator Charles Sumner with a cane over a speech given two days earlier on the subject of slavery , an early sign of the coming Civil War
The old Supreme Court chamber
The old Supreme Court chamber
Amanda Lester, Jung-hwa "Judy" Kang, and Justin Chapman in the Capitol building
Amanda Lester, Jung-hwa “Judy” Kang, and Justin Chapman in the Capitol building

Following the Capitol tour, the MPD/CCLP delegation met with Congressman Schiff in his office in the Rayburn House Office Building. They discussed his role on the House Select Committee on the Benghazi Attacks, the importance of diplomacy in strengthening the U.S.’s national security, the controversial issue of “comfort women” between Japan and South Korea, and Schiff’s Freedom of Speech Caucus.

“We don’t have much to show for the $6 million we spent [on this latest Benghazi investigative committee],” said Schiff. “It was largely a fishing expedition [with political goals].”

Schiff also noted that diplomacy is “absolutely essential” to strengthening the U.S.’s national security. “For some years there was some level of disdain for diplomacy efforts, but people have recognized that there are real limits to even the most powerful military in the world. So some of the steam has gone out of the school of thought that diminished the value of diplomacy.”

Jung-hwa "Judy" Kang, Congressman Adam Schiff, Justin Chapman, and Amanda Lester
Jung-hwa “Judy” Kang, Congressman Adam Schiff, Justin Chapman, and Amanda Lester

As soon as the meeting with Congressman Schiff was over, a large buzzer in his office indicated that it was time for him to rush through the underground tunnels to the House floor to cast his vote on an energy bill. Meanwhile, the MPD delegation traveled to the other side of the city to meet with representatives of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing ArtsMadeleine McGill and Sarah Kyrouac. They discussed their role in working with foreign embassies to develop international programming.

Justin Chapman, Amanda Lester, Jung-hwa "Judy" Kang, Madeleine McGill, and Sarah Kyrouac
Justin Chapman, Amanda Lester, Jung-hwa “Judy” Kang, Madeleine McGill, and Sarah Kyrouac

The next day, the MPD/CCLP delegation had several meetings at the State Department.

Amanda Lester, Jung-hwa "Judy" Kang, and Justin Chapman in the Press Briefing room at the State Department
Amanda Lester, Jung-hwa “Judy” Kang, and Justin Chapman in the Press Briefing room at the State Department

At the State Department, we met first with Judith Snyderman and Lindsey Spector from the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP), as well as a student group from Syracuse University, with whom we discussed the increasing use of social media and other digital tools for global engagement.

Jung-hwa "Judy" Kang, Judith Snyderman, Amanda Lester, and Justin Chapman discussed digital diplomacy
Jung-hwa “Judy” Kang, Judith Snyderman, Amanda Lester, and Justin Chapman discussed digital diplomacy

Next, we met with Mark Taplin, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), and Alyson Grunder, Director of the Office of Policy and Evaluation at ECA. Taplin and Grunder talked with the MPD/CCLP delegation about what has and has not changed in ECA over the past twenty years and answered questions on evaluation, alumni management, and the relationship between ECA programs and foreign policy objectives.

Alyson Grunder, Jung-hwa "Judy" Kang, Mark Taplin, Amanda Lester, and Justin Chapman discussed educational and cultural affairs
Alyson Grunder, Jung-hwa “Judy” Kang, Mark Taplin, Amanda Lester, and Justin Chapman discussed educational and cultural affairs

Afterwards, we met with Robert Hilton, Director of Press and Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), and Caroline Nohr, an MPD alumna and Country Coordinator for Australia, New Zealand, & the Pacific Islands in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP). Discussion focused on programming strategies and sensitivities in these regions, the Obama administration’s “rebalance” towards the Asia Pacific region and its effect on public diplomacy, and the importance of giving public diplomacy specialists input into policymaking and policy implementation.

Caroline Nohr, Jung-hwa "Judy" Kang, Robert Hilton, Amanda Lester, and Justin Chapman meet on public diplomacy in regional bureaus
Caroline Nohr, Jung-hwa “Judy” Kang, Robert Hilton, Amanda Lester, and Justin Chapman meet on public diplomacy in regional bureaus

For lunch we met with a few MPD alumni who work at the State Department. Melanie Ciolek is a Policy Officer with IBB. Martha Adams is a Public Affairs Specialist in the Office of Strategic Planning in the Bureau of Public Affairs (PA). Henrietta Levin is a Presidential Management Fellow with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, currently detailed to the State Department. These alumni shared work experiences and helpful advice on careers and internships.

Melanie Ciolek, Justin Chapman, Amanda Lester, Jung-hwa "Judy" Kang, Elena Kovalchuk, and Martha Adams met over lunch
Melanie Ciolek, Justin Chapman, Amanda Lester, Jung-hwa “Judy” Kang, Elena Kovalchuk, and Martha Adams met over lunch

In the afternoon, we attended a Press Briefing at the State Department. After a preliminary statement about the Obama administration missing a congressional deadline on responding to ISIS atrocities; condemning the bombing of a mosque in Nigeria by Boko Haram; and strongly suggesting Americans restrict all travel to North Korea after that island nation sentenced 21-year-old U.S. citizen Otto Warmbier to 15 years hard labor for stealing a banner from a hotel, Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner fielded questions from the press on the possibility of the U.S. recognizing the violence against religious and ethnic minorities in Syria by the Islamic State as genocide, the Russian exit from Syria, press freedom in Turkey, and other current issues.

Amanda Lester, Justin Chapman, Mark Toner, and Jung-hwa "Judy" Kang after the Press Briefing
Amanda Lester, Justin Chapman, Mark Toner, and Jung-hwa “Judy” Kang after the Press Briefing

After the Press Briefing, we met with Xander Vagg, Foreign Affairs Officer at the U.S. Diplomacy Center, which is a museum and educational center for American diplomacy scheduled to open in late 2017 or early 2018 that will include several interactive exhibits.

James Dewey, Amanda Lester, Justin Chapman, Jung-hwa "Judy" Kang, and Xander Vagg discussed the U.S. Diplomacy Center
James Dewey, Amanda Lester, Justin Chapman, Jung-hwa “Judy” Kang, and Xander Vagg discussed the U.S. Diplomacy Center

The meetings at the State Department were made possible by Elena KovalchukSanaa Anwar, and James Dewey.

Following the State Department visit, we met with Capricia Marshall, Ambassador-in-Residence with the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council, a think tank that brings together leaders in international politics, business, and academia to study security and economic issues. Previously, she was Chief of Protocol of the United States, Special Assistant to Hillary Rodham Clinton during Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992, Special Assistant to the First Lady, and White House Social Secretary during the Clinton administration.

Amanda Lester, Justin Chapman, Jung-hwa "Judy" Kang, and Capricia Marshall at the Atlantic Council
Amanda Lester, Justin Chapman, Jung-hwa “Judy” Kang, and Capricia Marshall at the Atlantic Council

Ambassador Marshall and the MPD/CCLP delegation discussed her career in public service, programs she started involving ambassadors and gastrodiplomacy, careers at think tanks, the economic and security benefits of investing in programs that promote mutual understanding, and maintaining a work-life balance.

The last meeting I attended was at the United Nations Information Center. We met with the deputy director of the Center, Andi Gitow. After discussing the Center’s role, which is to serve as a focal point and resource for UN news and information so as to advance understanding about the UN and its work, Gitow answered our questions about harnessing the power of videos and storytelling for advocacy and the UN’s current efforts to engage with young people.

Justin Chapman, Amanda Lester, Jung-hwa “Judy” Kang, and Andi Gitow at the UN Information Center
Justin Chapman, Amanda Lester, Jung-hwa “Judy” Kang, and Andi Gitow at the UN Information Center

Following the meeting at the UN, Lester and Kang took a tour of the White House while I visited Ford’s Theater, where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

The balcony where President Lincoln was shot
The balcony where President Lincoln was shot

After I left for the airport (where I ran into House Speaker Paul Ryan), Lester and Kang met with Arman Sapargaliyev, Second Secretary (Energy) in Economic Affairs at the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Their discussion centered on Sapargaliyev’s role in attracting American corporate sponsors for the 2017 Astana Expo, whose theme is “Future Energy.” This three-month long international mega-event will bring together millions of people to raise awareness of and encourage sharing and collaboration on global energy issues. Next, they visited the Korean Cultural Center in DC, where they met with Adam Wojciechowicz, staff member at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea. Currently under renovation, the Korean Cultural Center offers art exhibits, language classes, and events for the American public to learn about South Korea. Then they met with Global Ties US president Jennifer Clinton and Franziska Rook, Program Manager of Membership. This organization is a non-profit partner of the U.S. Department of State, managing a domestic network which supports international exchange programs, including the International Visitor Leadership Program, of which more than 335 current or former heads of state are alumni. Clinton and Rook also talked about some new programs that Global Ties US actually runs and the importance of building evaluation tools into programs from the very beginning. On their last day, Lester and Kang met with Paul Smith of the British Council and Roger Launius of the National Air and Space Museum.