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Talking Points Live

Terry Neal
washingtonpost.com Chief Political Correspondent
Thursday, March 3, 2005; 1:00 PM

Have questions about the latest political news?

washingtonpost.com Chief Political Correspondent Terry Neal takes your questions and comments on his latest columns and other political news.

Terry Neal (post.com)

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The 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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Terry Neal: Good afternoon everyone (and good morning to y'all out west). Thanks for joining me for my regularly weekly chat. I'm looking forward to talking politics and taking your questions.

Terry

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Milwaukee, Wis.: Hey Terry,

Thanks for your continuous, cogent analysis.

I'm wondering if you have any thoughts on Sen. Byrd's comparison of Republicans to Nazis in their attempts to get up-or-down votes for judicial nominees.

In most formal debates, you get disqualified for using "Hitler" or "Nazis" (and probably "little Eichmans") in analogies. Is this not a big deal, or should Byrd retract his comments?

Terry Neal: I think these kind of overwrought comparisons are always going to get a politician in trouble. I think it would have been possible to make his point without evoking the name of one of histories worst mass murderers.
As for whether he should retract his comments...That's not for me to say. A Byrd spokesman tried to clarify the comments yesterday, saying basically that they were a historical allusion designed to be a reminder of the past. I'm sure that's not going to satisfy everyone. We'll have to see how it plays out.

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Bellaire (Houston), Tex.: What will it take for Howard Dean to succeed as DNC Chair where Terry McCaullif failed and how has he done so far?

Terry Neal: Howard Dean has got to find away to get the activists excited about the party again, without turning off the vast swath of the political middle.
The Democrats have really caught up with the Republicans in the dash for dollars. But Republicans are now beating the Dems at their own game--the grassroots organizing.

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Athens, Greece: Good morning from Athens.
I would like to know if there really were some achievements from president Bush's travel to Europe? Or are we just in the same line -- maybe this time with some kind of french ?
Thank you.

Terry Neal: I think there were some accomplishments, even if they were mostly symbolic and rhetorical. I believe the president was able to make the case that the U.S. and Europe have common ground on too many issues to be adversaries, particularly on issues such as Iran, Lebanon and Israel.
But look, there continues to be a huge divide--something that's not going to be fixed by one trip abroad.

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Frederick, Md.: If social security reform is so crucial to the long-term health of this nation, then why didn't President Bush say anything about it during the campaign. He gave no indication that this would be the centerpeice of his second term.

My take? His advisors knew that the issue would cost him the White House in a close election year. Do you agree? And do you believe that the Democrats are savvy enough to use this issue successfully against the Republicans in next year's mid-term elections?

Terry Neal: Certainly the president did not make an issue of Social Security reform in this campaign. In fact, he talked in very little detail about what he wanted to accomplish in his second term at all.
There is no question that it would have presented him a challenge, to say the least, to use his reform plan as a campaign issue, given the hurdle he must overcome in public opinion on the subject.
This is why I always laugh when the president suggest that he doesn't look at polls. Of course he does. Every politician does. I think he believes he can change public perception on this issue in the long-run, while realizes that it would be folly to attempt to do so in the short run up to the election.
I'm not sure how this all will play out by next year's mid-term elections. It's unclear now exactly what direction this is all heading.

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Washington, D.C.:
I just wanted to make a comment concerning Senator Byrd's remarks in the Senate referring to how Adolf Hitler manipulated the law of his country to legimitize the actions of his government. I feel the comparison is a just one and that the whole point is being lost by the seemingly automatic association between that man's name and the slaughter of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and Poles. Although these were truly abhorrent events, had they not occurred the government of Adolf Hitler would still have been vile because it was a totalitarian regime bent on world domination. It is this characteristic that, in my view, justifies the comparison. The basis has nothing to do with genocide but with empire and totalitarianism. Nor is it just to take a person to task for statements or beliefs professed in one's past, as long as they have been sincerely rescinded. To point to the man's membership to the KKK as a youth without taking into account the fact he has changed is ridiculous and cheap politics. If the Republicans want to push their agenda, let them do it on the basis of the merits of that agenda, and not by using cheap sound bites that assume the American voter is stupid, ignorant, and incapable of thinking for himself. And just for the record, I myself am Jewish.

washingtonpost.com: GOP Jewish Group Critizes Byrd's Remarks (Post, March 2)

Terry Neal: Oh, OK...Until that last line, I thought you might be Sen. Byrd himself.

Just joking. Thanks for your comment. I let people come to their own conclusions on this one.

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Nicholasville, Ky.: Liberal media organizations use their power to push their political agendas. For instance, liberal organizations like the Washington Post have been running a one sided PR campaign against Social Security for the past several weeks. Then after running the PR campaign, the Post took a poll to determine if Americans were in favor of Social Sceurity reform. Surpisingly, 46 percent still favor reform. I say surprising, because considering how unbalanced and biased the Post's reporting in Social Sceurity has been, I would have expected the number to be much lower.

Doesn't the liberal media bear some responsibility to use their free press powers for the public good, and not their own political agendas?

Terry Neal: I thank your for sharing your opinion, but frankly, I think you're really off base. Please demonstrate to me where the news pages of the Washington have been running a PR campaign against Social Security reform. The editorial page may be taking a certain position that you disagree with, but it's their job to take a position. And while you may disagree with those in the editorialists media who oppose the sort of reform the president is pushing, don't they have the same rights as you to express their opinion?
Are you disgusted because you believe you see bias or just because you believe you see liberal bias? Are you equally angry at, say, the Wall Street Journal (which has a higher circulation than the Washington Post) for showing a bias and abdicating its journalistic integrity by supporting the president's agenda?
And how is it that you can assume that anyone who disagrees with your worldview is subverting his or her responsibility to the public good? If everyone in the media promoted your worldview, thus supporting your bias, would that be an example of the promotion of the public good with a non-political agenda?

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"Turning off the center"?: Howard Dean is a moderate on most issues, from fiscal policy to gun control. I think the only people he turned off were the self-appointed political gatekeepers in the media, who are used to their politicians mealy-mouthed and stuffy. One need look no further than the bizarre distortion of the "scream" incident to see my point. I think his plain spokenness and honesty resonates with most Americans, regardless of political stripe (I could be wrong).

Terry Neal: Look, I was among the first people to write in my column last year that Dean's record in Vermont was that of a moderate Democrat. I certainly don't believe the caricature that was made of him by some in the media. But I think both Republicans and some of his Democratic opponents successfully painted him in that corner during the election, primarily because of his opposition to the war.
So whether I think he's a moderate, or you think he's a moderate, he still has an obstacle to overcome with the public. And I did not say he would turn off the center, I just said this will be one of his challenges.

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Riverside, Calif.: What is going on with all these positions and recommendations and warnings coming from Alan Greenspan? It seems he's 'all over the field' and in self conflict. Most unusual!

Terry Neal: It's fascinating, isn't it. I wish I could tell you what was going on in Alan Greespan's head. I'd be a much richer man, if I could...
I thought yesterday's thing about a national sales tax was really interesting. I doubt it'll be enough to give that issue legs, but we'll see.

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Washington, D.C.: Terry, to what extent has Howard Dean's command and transition begin to change the culture at the DNC, if at all? Or too early to tell.

In the past, there's been a "shadow" cabal of powerful muckety mucks really running things at the DNC that has made decision making at the staff level fundamentally irrelevant. Do you think that will still be the case so Howard basically has no longtime DC allegiances?

Terry Neal: I discussed this is my column that ran on Monday. It appears that Dean is already having a substantive impact on the party. The impact isn't so much ideological, at least at this point. It's more strategic, I think. Democrats in at least two states, NC and Ark., have recently rebuffed the power structure in those states to install party chairman whom they believe are more receptive the activists bases. I understand similar themes may be playing out in other states.
Please check out my column from the other day, which explains in greater detail.

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washingtonpost.com: The Democrats' Mini-Deans (washingtonpost.com, Feb. 28)

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Washington, D.C.: Thanks for taking my question. In your last chat you said that the next Democratic presidential candidate could be from the ranks of the Democratic governors. So how would you handicap those governors on their likelihood of either running for or winning the nomination? Here's a list of the non-Northeast (don't think the Dems will go to that region again soon) governors.

AZ Napolitano
IA Vilsack
IL Blagojevich
KS Sebelius
LA Babineaux Blanco
MI Granholm
MT Schweitzer
NC Easley
NM Richardson
OK Henry
PA Rendell
TN Bredesen
VA Warner
WI Doyle
WV Manchin
WY Freudenthal

Terry Neal: That's a good list. I don't have time to handicap all of them. I think we can take Granholm off the list, because I believe she was born in Canada, which is too bad for the party since she's considered a rising star.
I don't know who, if anyone, is going to emerge from this list. But I have a feeling that if Sen. Clinton runs, she may receive a strong challenge from one of these outside-the-beltway types. We'll see.

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Washington, D. C.: What is your opinion of whether the President is bent on weakening the press? Is he more or less against the press than was President Clinton?

Terry Neal: Hmmm...Interesting question. You know, contrary to conventional wisdom, Bill Clinton probably had a worse relationship with the media than Bush does. While Bush obviously shows no interest in giving press conferences, and his administration has sought ways to circumvent the press core's influence, I'm not sure it's his goal to "weaken" the press.

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Great Crossing, Ky.: Terry,

In your opinion, is the fact that Rep. DeLay seems to be slipping in popularity in his home district strictly a reflection of how his constituents view him in light of his recently publicized ethics problems, or is it indicative of a larger trend of widespread dissatisfaction with incumbents nationwide?

washingtonpost.com: DeLay Moves To Protect His Political Base Back in Texas (Post, March 3)

Terry Neal: I can't claim to be an expert on what Tom Delay's constituents are thinking, but I don't think it's a stretch to assume that his ethics problems are at the root of some of this. Remember, the former Democratic House leader Jim Wright? Republicans made a major issue of his ethics problems, and he went on to lose his seat.

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Terry Neal: With that folks, I need to run a little early today. Just fyi, starting next week, we're going to move the regular weekly chat to 11 a.m. on Fridays. Hope that still works for you. If so, I'll see there and then next week.
Take care,

Terry

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