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The Reliable Source

Washington's Social and Political Scene

Richard Leiby
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 24, 2005; 12:00 PM

After a 25-year career as a distinguished editor, feature writer, investigative reporter and war correspondent, Richard Leiby has never, ever won the Pulitzer Prize. Now he's found his life's calling as a gossip columnist. He'll take your tips, chew the fat, discuss the dish and babble in cliche-ridden prose right here once a week.

This Week's Columns:


Wednesday's Sessions
World: Greece's second bailout, 11 ET
Food: Free Range on Food, 12 ET
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Style: 30 Lessons for Living, 12 ET
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Readers Are Talking About...

Name-Calling in Its Purest Form (Post, Feb. 24)

Jennie Eisenhower, Making Herself Perfectly Clear (Post, Feb. 23)

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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Richard Leiby: Greetings from the Quidnunc Igloo, where your host is snacking on hunks of raw whale meat and washing them down with iced penguin blood. Thank God I have enough sustenance to ride out the howling blizzard that has seized the National Capital in its gelid grip!

Yes, you'd think we're trapped in the arctic's formidable frozen wasteland based on the over-reaction of the general populace to 3 inches of lightly falling snow. But fear not: I, like Shackleton, will persevere! And bring you a light dusting of Mirthful Chatter today.

Now carve me another blubber steak, Anne, set the kindling ablaze AND gather me those three warming hounds. Let's get it on.

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Dupont Circle, Washington, DAW.C.: I think one of the Bush twins (the non-blond) had dinner at 15 Ria last Saturday night. She was there with a large group of young people, mainly female. No S.S. men in sight, although I think I saw a guy with an earphone in a van outside. Is security usually so invisible? I'm gay and I was there with all my gay chums, and we were all kind of disappointed that we didn't get to see a bunch of Hot Agents in trench coats. FWIW -- I have to say, we were a far more attractive and interesting crowd. And yet we never make the gossip columns. Sigh.

Richard Leiby: Too bad you didn't see Four Non-Blondes -- that would have been the first '80s musical reference for today's chat!

As for the Twins's security, in my experience, their detail tends to be unobtrusive. They linger near but tend to blend in. Even the hunky, handsome ones.

And if you want to get into my column, please establish a few gay escort Web sites and get credentials to cover the White House. That might work!

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Arlington, Va.: Bruce Springsteen is from Freehold, N.J. -- not Asbury Park as stated in today's column.

Richard Leiby: Really? Okay, fine, be that way. I'm wrong and the readers are ALWAYS right. If I've learned nothing else as a journalist over 30 years, I've learned that.

But if you persist in your folly, I will be forced to cancel your subscription. (I am a proud member of the Northeastern Media Elite, and that's how we're instructed to behave.)

Lest you think I'm a tad defensive, no, no, certainly not: I blame my editors for all mistakes. Please write to them. They're lonely people. Give them a life. Thank you.

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Upper Marlboro, Md.: I'm home sick -- on a snow day with two kids -- one of which is a TEENAGER! Anyone who doesn't feel sorry for me is being an Ashcroft!

Richard Leiby: I do feel sorry for you. I know what torture "snow days" can be, and fled the confines of Rockville today as soon as I could. And I'm not bull-Bushing you.

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Washington, D.C. : R.L.:

In light of the whole Gannon/Guckert thing, some whispers of high profile Republicans as being closeted gays started. Is this newsworthy to you? Some have pointed out that the GOP used homophobia to win in 2004? Is this sort of like knowing that a segregationist has a black daughter (Strom Thurmond)? How many sources would it take for you to print?

Richard Leiby: On "outing" politicians: That's really something for the editors (who are always wrong) to decide. The Post tends not to go there unless there's some other compelling matter of Public Interest involved. But consider this: During the Clinton impeachment proceedings, which were essentially all about sex, reporters knew that a certain House Speaker (married) was involved with one of his female aides (whom he eventually married). But nobody printed it.

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Frederick, Md.: Mighty, yet, unfulfilling One, we want more sex this week. We want pictures of a HOT guy, not a HOT girl. And, we don't want any fake TV actor pictures. I believe from last week's chat, you owe us a picture of your buns. Let's have it Leiby! Oh, by the way, I hope you're feeling better!

Richard Leiby: Today's chat appears to be Trending Gay. Nothing wrong with that, but my buns of steel are going to remain covered today. It's too chilly here in the Igloo to expose my Ashcroft, or any other nether regions.

I'll see what we can come up with in terms of "hot guy" pix. Web Studmaster Rocci is on the case.

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washingtonpost.com: John Ashcroft

John Ashcroft

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Richard Leiby: Oh, and speaking of Hot Beef (were we?), I'd like to thank my loyal reader in Pacific Grove, Calif., who sent me a Hickory Farms sausage selection in celebration of my First Anniversary as a columnist. The meat "basket" arrived in great condition, although it had to be irradiated by security.

It included the 16-ounce Garlic Beef Stick -- and what a delicious beef dose that was, kind sir!

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An Oscar Vacuum: Did you know that the ad slogan is:

"The Dyson DC11 Really Sucks!"?

Richard Leiby: Okay, this Trending Gay thing is getting a bit much. Or are you talking about a different kind of sucking?

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Washington, D.C.: Anne, what are you doing tonight?

Richard Leiby: This is true: Anne is addressing a Georgetown U "journalism" class instructed by Joel "Achenblog" Achenbach this evening. Then she's going out for a beer.

I bet you didn't know Anne was God's Gift to Journalism, as well as God's Gift to All of the Male Hetero Population.

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Richard Leiby: Speaking of Great Journalists, a small, belated tribute in memory of the good doctor, Hunter S. Thompson, who said:

"I do not advocate the use of dangerous drugs, wild amounts of alcohol and violence and weirdness -- but they've always worked for me."

"The regrets I have are so minor. You know, would I leave my Keith Richards hat, with the silver skull on it, on the stool at the coffee shop at LaGuardia? I wouldn't do that again. But overall, no, I don't have any regrets."

(Me, neither.)

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Georgetown, Washington, D.C.: How can you be part of the Northeast media elite when you -- and the W.P. -- are located south of the Mason/Dixon line? Northeasterners would never act the way we do when a few snow flakes fall!

Richard Leiby: Good point. (Proof again that my readers are ALWAYS right.)

I think we get rolled into the New York Times/Boston Globe Northeast liberal media axis because we're simply Not From Texas.

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Quiddy, N.C.: Just be glad that you were not assaulted with your delicious Hickory Farms sausages as one store clerk experienced last week (although the brand of the assault weapon in this case is much, much funnier):

Clerk assaulted with sausage (HeraldSun.com, Feb. 18)

Richard Leiby: Great story. And when I perish, I want it to be at the business end of a Big Mama Pickled Sausage, too.

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Glen Burnie, Md.: We're all straight and think the column needs to have at LEAST three pictures every week of young, beautiful WOMEN.

Except Paris Hilton, whom no one really cares about.

Richard Leiby: Glen Burnie: This week we had a cute shot of 26-year-old Jennie Eisenhower, who is Richard Nixon's granddaughter. Wasn't that enough for you?

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washingtonpost.com: Jennie Eisenhower

Jennie Eisenhower

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Potomac, Md.: Any Morgan Fairchild sitings around town since, well, Tuesday? She is awesome in "The Graduate" and, although 55, looks like she's 30.

Although, what was up with her strange Washington Post chat yesterday? She didn't say hello or goodbye, and only answered seven questions. That was weird. At least say goodbye when you're done. Odd.

Richard Leiby: She's in town performing all week so we suspect Morgan will turn up again. As for her chat, Web Studmaster Rocci informs: "Morgan was on a tight schedule yesterday and had to go. Her PR guy was pushing her."

So blame those damn PR hacks. That's what I do when I run out of editors to blame.

And I agree, Morgan Fairchild doesn't look 55, but I'm not sure I'd give her 30.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Everyone needs to know that although Smith Point is nice enough, once you actually go there, you find that it's, well, to be nice, underwhelming. Not to be negative, but it's basically just a room where people drink and smoke. And the crowd is too one-dimensional. In other words, there doesn't need to be any exclusive lists or security or "invitations" or closed-door policies -- that's really just ridiculous. Just open the doors and let people come in -- THEN it will be real. As of now, it's like a small gathering in someone's Georgetown basement.

Richard Leiby: Thanks for that reality check. I STILL haven't been to Smith Point because I hear it's basically has all the charm of a frat-house keg party, with too many Texans and preppy types in evidence. Quid prefers to drink down on U. Street at Polly's, a charming little joint with a charming owner. I'm always welcome there and I dig the Juke.

//End Polly's Plug//

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: Hello, Oh Busy One. We have already received three inches of snow and traffic is moving normally, school is in session, and there is no panic at the grocery stores. Yunz otta come back to da Burgh.

Richard Leiby: I spent some wonderful lost years in Pittsburgh. And let me tell ya, in those days the only "snow" wasn't just frosty white precipitation.

But I'm older now and nobody has tapes of me talking about that. I hope...



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Fallujah, Iraq: Quid-
Hello from Fallujah! Submitting this early because of the time difference and the fact the Internet is impossibly slow during a live chat. Just wanted to say keep up the good work. We VA/MD/DC people here love to hear about the antics of people back home. Also, reading about their "problems", compared to ours out here, makes us laugh. Finally, don't forget about us contractors out here. Insurgents don't care about uniforms, only that you're American.

Richard Leiby: Fallujah, I salute ya, and thanks for reading my drivel. I wholly agree that defense contractors are as worthy of our admiration as the war-fighters themselves. You're part of the frontlines and just as vulnerable to the dangers. Back during the first Gulf War, a lot of contractors also were exposed the same noxious chemicals (including, apparently sarin gas) as the troops, and some contracted Gulf War Syndrome.

Compared to your concerns about staying alive over there, our wee troubles here (like 3 FREAKIN' INCHES OF SNOW!)are pathetic.

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Virginia: I was on Capitol Hill last week and a certain single female senator seemed to flirt with everyone. I think her name is Cranfield something. Is there a rule against dating members of Congress?

Richard Leiby: I think you mean Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. Yes, she is something of a babe. I've met her just once and she didn't flirt with me, personally, so I feel left out.

As for dating "Members," it's fine in the District but it may well be illegal in Virginia.

Maria's site: cantwell.senate.gov

Sen. Maria Cantwell:

Sen. Maria Cantwell
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Hubba-hubbah: Morgan Fairchild may not look 30, but if she came hither, perhaps slightly tipsy with some Chardonnay splashing on her angora sweater as she tripped on her high heels ... excuse me, I have to step away.

Richard Leiby: You're a regular Benjamin Braddock! But just remember what Mr. Robinson told Ben: You are filth, or words to that effect.

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Arlington, Va.: Gee, poor Jimmy Guckert can't find a date for the White House Correspondent's Dinner! Boo fr_ _ _ ing hoo! I would think that the members of the White House Correspondents Association wouldn't want to waste a guest ticket on this guy. How about Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston? They're far more interesting than Guckert!

Richard Leiby: The big "get" at the White House Correspondents Dinner this year will be ... me. In coming weeks I'm going to disgrace myself publicly, you can bet on it.

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Re: Gannon/Guckert: What's your take on this guy? Do you think he planted in the White House press corps to make Bush look good? I think it's suspicious that he "outed" (in CIA terms) Valerie Plame with no apparent punishment, while two real journalists are headed for jail for doing the same thing. This is the same administration that had journalists on the payroll. (Richard, with as many Bush-twins notices as you've been running, I know you're not in the pay of the Bush White House.)

Richard Leiby: My take is that he's an agenda-driven wannabe journalist with no training -- and that offends me as a member of the Media Elite. Was he a planted White House claque? Well, I think they welcomed his softball questions, but I don't know much more. It's something the Dems want the GAO to investigate alone with the other paid shilling cases in the administration. As for the Plame matter, I've read that his position that he didn't get access to classified docs and was just reading the Wall Street Journal.

As for my relationship with the spinners in Bush White House: They swoon when I come near with my mighty Beef Stick.

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Cantwell: But please do not toy with your Members in public.

Richard Leiby: Good advice.

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Memphis, Tenn.: Quid -- as one who has had drinks at both Polly's and Smith Point, I can tell you -- you're not missing anything.

And in case you doubt my taste, I've even had drinks with your lovely assistant. So if you don't trust me, at least trust her. Which reminds me, she still owes me a drink.

Richard Leiby: Anne is very curious about Who You Are. Please email a photo, full-frontal preferred.

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Arlington, Va.: Not to trend too gay, but did Jeff Gannon specifiy from which gender he is soliciting dates?

Richard Leiby: You mean dates to the White House Correspondents Dinner? No, all he said was they he hoped to get an invitation. Suggest you check out Editor & Publisher online for crucial Gannon updates. Here's something new:

By Joe Strupp

Published: February 23, 2005 4:55 PM ET

NEW YORK -- Two leaders of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee want the federal prosecutor investigating the Valeria Plame case to subpoena a personal journal of controversial White House reporter James Guckert, following Editor & Publisher's disclosure yesterday that Guckert claims he kept the journal for the past two years.


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Ashcro, FT: Richard: I like the use of the word "Ashcroft" in place of expletives on film. Be sure to tell Weingarten about this. If one were to swear over the telephone, would that be replaced by "Powell" in the transcripts?

Richard Leiby: Yes, please use "Powell" or "Rumsfeld." As for Weingarten: He can go Cheney himself. That's always been my position.

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Canada: Igloos are made in the Arctic. Penguins are only found in the Southern hemisphere.

Richard Leiby: See also: READERS ARE ALWAYS RIGHT!

Canada, you're a hoser: Don't you guys in the Great White North have better things to do, like ice-fishing and Molson-swilling?

(Sorry. I'm not really defensive.)

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Fisher's chat is talking about banning sex toys in Virginia. What's up with that?

Richard Leiby: Synchronicity?

Also, when it snows, people around here think of cocaine and sex. It's only natural.

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Don't leave us out:: Anne is also a gift to the female gay population. We love her too.

Richard Leiby: Thanks. And, again, let's hear it for Trending Gay.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: The news stories this week said that one of the phone numbers in Paris Hilton's cell phone was Ashley Olsen's.

What, exactly, do you think their conversations sound like? Do you think they discuss global warming, Social Security reform, Russian-American political relations, and the latest doings by the nifty White House Council of Economic Advisers?

Richard Leiby: That and more. Their conversation probably makes this chat look high-brow. Thanks for your meaty participation. We'll be back next week with more hot talk about sex, drugs and penguins.

Quidnunc over.

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