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:
The Other 'Jonathan Turley,' Failing to Get It in Gear, (Dec. 12)
Bringing Defense & State Together, (Dec. 14)
An Apple for Miss Jenna? Bush Eyes Washington Teaching Job, (Dec. 15)
It's the F-Time Show With Chevy Chase, (Dec. 16)
Richard Leiby: Okay: We've got Chevy Chase calling the President a "dumb [expletive]" and Jenna Bush heading to the classroom to prevent future dumbness. Let's just get it on.
So Jenna or non-Jenna, whatever, is going to be a teacher? Are teachers so scarce that they let people without teaching certificates teach in D.C.?
Richard Leiby: It's a charter school, which I understand has different standards for teachers. I did hear from a well-credentialed teacher who was furious about this point, and the fact that the headline on my story referred to Jenna as a "schoolmarm."
But I'm not an expert on charter schools, or schoolmarms. I was home-schooled--by wolves.
Mt. Pleasant, Washington, D.C.:
If my child was going to be taught by Jenna Bush, I would switch him to another class. Maybe another school.
I didn't think there was a way to drag the D.C. public education system down any further... but they figured out a way. And you have to be impressed by that.
Richard Leiby: Why the Jenna-bashing? I've only heard negative things following my scoop that Ms. Bush will take a teaching job at a District charter school. Shouldn't we be glad that she's reaching out to minority, low-income kids and "giving back" to America? Or would you prefer she and her sister join the National Guard and go serve in Iraq? Just askin'...
I saw you on TV last night talking about the Jenna-as-charter-school-teacher thing. You sounded nothing like I'd thought you'd sound like. No offense, but I imagined you as having a rich basso voice.
Richard Leiby: I shall endeavor next time to sound more like Rush Limbaugh, if that pleases you, Fairfax. Did I sound whiny and nasal? Did I look fat? Please tell me.
Memo to D.C. residents: See, this is why we don't trust you guys with statehood. Can you imagine how much worse the country would be if Chairwoman Cropp actually had any real power? If we were talking about Senator Cropp? Governor Cropp? I shudder to even think about it. Have fun with no baseball and no voting rights, and know that on the other side of the Potomac, we're looking upon you with a combination of amusement, horror, and condescension.
Your Betters in Virginia
Richard Leiby: You're just jealous because you want a baseball stadium!
On this topic, by the way, I'm conflicted. As you know, I work in DC, where the roads remind me of the Baghdad Green Zone's perimeter, a pot-holed mess. The schools aren't in great shape either. Earlier this year officials discovered an alarming level of lead in the drinking water. Shouldn't tax dollars go toward essential services first?
Any gossip/rumor/speculation regarding the Plame leaker/leakers inquiry? Several reporters will be going to jail but the damage to Ms. Plame's covert contacts may be much more severe. Do the reporters, the journalistic community, truly know the extent of harm that they are protecting? Do you have an opinion on this issue?
Richard Leiby: I think the leak was egregious and vindictive. And as is typical in such investigations, the feds seem to be pettifogging around with peripheral issues. One question I've heard raised in several circles is this: Where is BOB NOVAK in all of this? He clearly knows the leakers: He published the column that outed Valerie Plame! Yet there's been no reporting that I've seen so far to indicate that he's even been called to the grand jury.
A Parallel Universe Closer than You Think:
Is it true that the Bush administration has closed a deal with McDonalds to include a Medal of Freedom in every Happy Meal?
I hope so, because next to George W. Bush there is nothing more patriotic than a Happy Meal!
Richard Leiby: Dear Zippy: I'm assuming you are the Bill Griffith comic strip character who once famously observed: "All life is a blur of Republicans and meat." (I base that on your interest in McDonalds cuisine and the slant of your question...)
Anyway, in terms of the vaunted Medal of Freedom, I can't say anything better than my colleague Dick Cohen, who opines on the issue today. He suggests that Bernie Kerik qualifies for the medal too, at this rate.
washingtonpost.com: Presidential Medals of Failure, (Post, Dec. 16)
Dupon Circle, Washington, D.C.:
Now that the year's almost over, is there a story that never took place that you wished would have? Something like Dick Cheney being spotted at a local McDonald's scarfing down six Big Macs after being released from the hospital for his latest heart problems?
Richard Leiby: That would have been a fun one, but I'd prefer something slightly more salacious. I deeply, truly regret that Bernie Kerik did not get the Homeland Security gig. Based on what I've read in the NY tabloids, he's such a randy dude, I could have filled my column with reports of Mr. Kerik's lady-chasing.
My son is visiting his girlfriend in Washington after Christmas. Can they get a drink at Smith Point if they are registered Democrats, or will they have to display (feign) significant enthusiasm for "four more years" first?
Richard Leiby: Smith Point operates on a velvet-rope and guest list system. You can't just saunter in; you need to be in the Evite inner circle. That means you either went to Yale or U of Texas with the twins, or you work in the administration, or you're a hanger-on.
I actually have an invite to go there tonight, but I'm too busy. (See, he said nonchalantly, we simply must attend the White House Christmas Party and two other events.)
The Washington Post, sitting 3 centimeters away from Richard Leiby:
I would like to take this time to point out that Rich is not conflicted about baseball in D.C. He doesn't even watch sports! -- Anne
Richard Leiby: You're fired, Anne.
PS: I DO watch sports sometime: Cricket and fencing.
I was wondering what your colleague Tom Shales, or as Geraldo calls him, "the fat guy," whose book on SNL is quite critical of Chevy Chase makes of CC's invective at the Kennedy Center? Par for the course?
Richard Leiby: Hey, no cheap shots at Tom Shales on my chat, mister! We love Tom, we've even been Tom's editor, and we hope to see his take on the Chevy Chase rant real soon. As for Chevy, when you say "par for the course," perhaps you're referring to his work in "Caddyshack"? He plays the wealthy, zen-like golfer, if case you've forgotten...
Richard Leiby: This just in by email, from an esteemed reader:
"Just for the record, I was there at the ceremony with a few others but no one remembers being "stunned" by Chevy Chase's rant or explicatives on the "prez." I do remember, however, much laughter and clapping.
"Is this what The Washington Post calls "unbiased" and fact-based reporting? Have a good day."
Hmm. Perhaps this person wasn't listening at the right oment. But I assure you, we are indeed biased. When a major star starts cursing and ranting at the Kennedy Center, we're inclined to consider it newsworthy.
Regarding your mention of President Clinton's purchase of a Dog Bagel at Einstein's, are you sure it was not the dog bagels, the bagel for dogs that they sell? Was it definately a bagel dog that the recovering president purchased? My dog happens to love the hard dog bagels they sell for pooches.
Richard Leiby: There was no dog accompanying the former president. It was a HOT DOG bagel that Bubba purchased. We have a very authoritative source on that.
Rich -- any interest in The Post's Baghdad Bureau opening? We could use a "reliable source" over there...
Richard Leiby: Yes, I am interested. I promise to bring my hard-hitting reporting skills to the task: The Post's Iraq team definitely needs more fearless dispatches on hot dog bagel purchases.
When Jenna's school has a discussion on underage drinking, she can handle the "how to" portion. She can also help the students design posters saying "Say no to drugs! Booze is cheaper!" She can borrow her dad's copy of "My Pet Goat" to read to the students.
Richard Leiby: Clever, Crawford. We'll pass along that suggestion tonight when we're at the White House.
Hey, I can't think of anything negative to say about Jenna Bush's career choice, and I'd love to be able to.
I taught at a charter school for a year and it was tough -- I applaud anyone who is willing to put in the effort and hard work to teach disadvantaged kids.
It's neat that she can look beyond her own little Smith Point world to see the reality of Washington life for so many of its residents.
Of course, it's much easier to be generous with your time and subsist on a school teacher's salary when your parents will be paying the rent on your Georgetown townhouse.
Richard Leiby: Thank you for that nonpartisan observation. And as far as Jenna's townhouse, the good news is that we hear it's in Georgetown, and therefore close to Smith Point. Nothing like having your favorite local pub nearby after a hard day's work.
When a major star starts cursing and ranting at the Kennedy Center, we're inclined to consider it newsworthy.:
But what happens when Chevy Chase starts cursing and ranting?
Richard Leiby: HAHAHA. What: You didn't like Chevy in those National Lampoon movies?
Why don't you tell Richard to take his job and to do something constructive with it? Come to Clifton and my 25 acre horse farm. I will cook and clean for you and keep you in style to which you easy become accustomed. We can laugh when see Richard on his heat crate when we go in town for dinner. And throw a dollar for some cheap hooch.
Richard Leiby: Now that's some great wooing, Clifton. But I assure you, Anne is not the kind of gal you can keep "down on the farm." Just today the Bill O'Reilly show was calling to book her: She was at the Kennedy Center and took all the notes on the Chevy Chase incident.
(I send Anne to parties when I'm passed out, drunk, on steam grates around town...)
Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.:
I'm sure I could actually research this myself, but I thought I would give you something to do today... did Chevy Chase name himself after the town? And if so, what does that say about him?
Richard Leiby: I'm sure I could research that, too, but I'm busy typing here. Anne: Is this true?
What qualification does she (Jenna Bush) have to be a teacher? what subject will she be teaching? LOL
Richard Leiby: Jenna has a degree in English. She also has had some student teaching experience, in my recollection. We don't yet know the subject she'll teach. But I promise I'll report those details as soon as I get them. (For I am Quidnunc, the Magnificent.)
You said "pettifogging". That's so hot!;
Richard Leiby: And last week I said "taxonomy." Nothing gets chicks hot like a great vocabulary.
Yo Quiddly, I take exception at the remark you made last week about the Ramones songs on Rolling Stone's top 500 songs of all time being the same song. "Blitzkrieg Bop," "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker," and "I Wanna Be Sedated" are not the same song. Two of them share the same same chord progression in different keys, but that's it. Don't get your tighty-whities all scrunched up just 'cause Scritti Politti didn't make the list.
Richard Leiby: Alright, already. I concede your chord progression point. But THREE Ramones songs on the list? And only one by The Jam?
Silver Spring, Md.:
Chevy was actually a childhood nickname, possibly based on the Maryland suburb 00 bestowed by his grandmother. Chase family was affluent and distinguished and Chevy was listed in Social Register at early age. His paternal grandfather was painter/teacher Frank Swift Chase, his father, Ned Chase, was a prominent Manhattan book editor and magazine writer. Mother was descended from the Crane plumbing-fixture family.
Richard Leiby: Ah. So there you have it: Chevy's a man of the people. And clearly not a "dumb[expletive]."
By the way, I did agree with one thing Chase said: That this administration started a jihad in Iraq. The best was to start a jihad is to invade an Arab country. Everybody knows that.
Re: RS's 500 greatest songs:
Does Rolling Stone really have the credibility to make such a list anymore? Referring to their 100 greatest guitarists of all time, they have Kurt Cobain at 12 (just ahead of Jerry, incidentally), and Jack White at 17! (I'd put Jack Black ahead of him). While both are good song writers (great in the case of Cobain) neither has any real guitar prowess beyond power chords (and White only has one album of recognition). Their prescence on that list makes take any declarations thy make with a grain of salt.
Richard Leiby: I don't know if Rolling Stone has any cred, but I do know that people love lists. (They also love mag cover lines that say, "847 ways to find his SECRET sex spot.")
I'm just glad the Clash was well-represented.
Serious question: My office just moved to downtown D.C. Would you recommend calling in sick to work on inauguration day? I haven't experienced one but imagine the traffic/detours/roadblocks are a nightmare. (I have no desire to see any of the actual ceremony/spectacle.)
Richard Leiby: Yes, you might think about a sick day. Security is bound to be very tight and there will be protests. I was grazing on Michael Moore's site this morning and noticed a link to organizations planning big demos. He's promoting them.
What do you make of all the Republican criticism of Rumsfeld? Hegel, McCain, Kristal and some others whose names I don't recall. Are they just being opportunistic, or is the tide really starting to turn against Rummy?
Richard Leiby: Rummy has had a good run, but I think the ground is slipping beneath him. He's perceived by some within the Administration (read: State Department) as extremely arrogant. That's not new, but the armor issue is a hot one.
I've been in "soft-skinned" Humvees -- which is to say, unarmored ones. You're a sitting duck. Who can truly argue anymore that all of what has gone wrong in Iraq was unforeseen? Willful blindness is more like it. (But that's just a gossip columnist talking...)
Re: The Jam:
Remember, they wore button suits and they thought it was funny, turning rebellion into money. At least that's what Joe said....
Richard Leiby: Excellent gratuitous Clash lyrical reference -- we need one every chat. Thanks!
More of Moore?:
Great. Just tell me where. I have some old eggs that need to find a home....
Richard Leiby: Take a look here for protest stuff:
Richard Leiby: PS: Not that I'm endorsing protests, people. But it is still a Constitutional right to peaceably assemble.
I absolutely agree with what Chevy Chase was saying. I just think it's really funny that our most accurate political commentary comes from... Chevy Chase.
I mean, it's Fletch. It's Ty Webb. It's Clark Griswold who is on the mark with his political analysis?
What have we become?
Richard Leiby: We have become a mirror of our true selves, a reflection of the cultural divide, a whiff of Zeitgeist, a hard act to follow, and rebels with no cause. Is that clear?
I'm off to Iraq (the party town of Fallujah) for six months this Saturday. Any good party spots there? Seriously though, I'll miss the chats and keep up via the archives when I can. Think of me as your eye on the gossip in Fallujah.
See you in six!
Richard Leiby: I never made it to Fallujah, thanks be to God. But my friend Rajiv, our former bureau chief, says the best kebab place was destroyed. Sigh...
Send any good sightings of extremist Sunni sheiks or dead-enders. Shukran and masalaama.
3rd and Constitution:
We have inauguration day off, and have been told it will be very hard to get down here. On the other hand, at least one private office building on Constitution is having a huge party.
Richard Leiby: Lots of parties in town that day (and night) but many are selling out and many are only for the extremely well-heeled. See Style section today for a report on lower-priced Inaugural events for the People. Official web address is Inaugural05.com
The incredible edible egg...:
Perhaps you misunderstood. The eggs are not to be used by Moore. They are to used on Moore. It's win/win. I get to take a bombastic demagogue down a peg and he gets more TV time from the coverage of the egging. What's not to love?
Richard Leiby: Oh, sorry. Sure, egg him on!
Richard Leiby: Well, we're done for the day. See you all next year.
I'm off for two weeks. But I will be thinking about all of you as I prepare to cover the Inaugural festivities from the nearest steam grate. Love, Quid.
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