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Talking Points Live

Terry Neal
washingtonpost.com Chief Political Correspondent
Friday, March 11, 2005; 11:30 AM

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)

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.


Terry Neal: Hello everyone. Thanks for joining me today for my regular weeekly chat. As you know, I recently moved the chat from Thursday to Friday. It will normally be at 11 a.m., but because of another commitment, I'm starting a bit late today.
So let's get right to it!



Washington, D.C.: Why does this bankruptcy bill matter so much?

Terry Neal: Thank you for your question. This is one of these issues that may sound arcane but does have significant real world implications. Depending on whose estimates you trust, after this bill is passed and signed--and it looks like the House will sign off next week and send to the WH--it will make it significantly more difficult for individuals to wipe out their debts through bankruptcy. One estimates says it could effect as many as 100,000 people a year.


Rockville, Md.: I saw a Clinton/Obama button the other day. Do you think there is a realistic chance that the Democrats would nominate them for president and vice-president in 2008? Do you think they could win?

Terry Neal: Hmmm...Well, generally speaking I think it's way to early to try to guess what's going to happen in 2008. Do I think it's a possibility yes. But I don't think Clinton will have a cakewalk. You're starting to hear a lot of chatter from Democrats--even those who really like the senator--that they'd rather not see her run. And you've had some high-profile people, such as Paul Krugman and Jeffrey Katzenburg saying they hope she doesn't run.
But she's also got a lot of support to, and the idea of having a woman on the top of the ticket will be appealing to a lot of Democrats, I think.
Obama is another question. He certainly is a rising star in the party and I think his political future could be very, very bright. I'm just not sure he'll be considered ready in four years. John Edwards had six years under his belt, and he struggled with that question. But obviously, a lot of it depends on how her performs over the next few years.


Virginia: How did you find Ari? What sorts of reviews are his book getting

washingtonpost.com: Video: Ari Fleischer

Terry Neal: Do you mean literally how did I find him to interview him or how did I find him in the interview?
If it's the former, easy...He's promoting a book. I had my people call his people. LOL
If it's the former, I guess I would say Ari is a loyalist to the end. I've known Ari for a long time. First met him when he was flaking on the Hilll in the mid 1990s. And I got to know him very well when served as Bush's press secretary in his first presidential campaign and I covered the Bush campaign for the Washington Post.
I haven't finished the entire book, but it's interesting in part. I think it'll be more interesting to outside-the-Beltway people who are eager for a peak inside.
You know, Ari decided to focus on criticizing the national media, rather serving up insider dish about the White House. But having a press secretary criticize the press is kind of like having a chicken criticize Col. Sanders, so I'm not sure how appealing it will ultimately be. We'll see.


Lima, Ohio: Why do news organizations bother to staff the White House any more? It is so managed that it appears to be a waste of time that any real information is available?

Terry Neal: I assume you mean why do news organizations bother to staff the WH press briefing? I think a lot of journalists are asking that same question. It's such a dog and pony show.
But whether or not news organizations send people to cover the daily briefing is one thing. Whether or not organizations should staff the White House beat at all is another. Of course, journalists have to be there. Could you imagine what the politicians and bureaucrats would do if no one were watching. I know it's popular to hate journalists now, but I really do believe in the watchdog function, even if it is imperfect, and even if some journalists don't take it as seriously as they should.


Hennepin, Ill.: 90 percent of the people filling bankrutcy do so for medical reasons, isn't that proof that we need national health care? And also if congress can force people to be financially responsible and pay their debts, than why can't congress practice what they preech with our federal budgets?

Terry Neal: Interesting questions, especially that last part. It's kind of hilarious that a Congress that preaches about personal responsibility has run up the largest deficits in history (in pure adjusted dollars terms, but not as a percentage of GDP) in history in just a few short years. How have they done this? By behaving just like consumers do...Refusing to live within its means.
As for the first part of your question, I'm not sure about your 90 percent number. I do know that most bankruptcy filings happen because of medical reasons, job loss or divorce. But I'm not sure what the percentages are. Look, I'm not going to endorse or condemn national health care. That's not my job. But I will say that I think as some of these pro-business policies--bankruptcy, class-action restrictions, and perhaps medical malpractice caps--are going to be real issues by the next presidential election as they begin to impact real people.


Indianapolis, Ind.: Exactly what is Bush playing at when he nominates John Bolton for UN Ambassador? Looks like that feather-smoothing trip to Europe was just so much window dressing. Same as it ever was for the Bush Administration.

Terry Neal: Yes, I thought it was an interesting choice. It has to be seen as a signal of what Bush thinks of the U.N. Politically speaking, this make the party's base very happen. I'm just not sure how much you gain from sending a guy who hates the U.N. to be the country's top diplomat there.


Tampa, Fla.: How much money has the credit card industry given Democrats in Congress? Given how many Democrats in the Senate voted for the bankruptcy bill, and given how the bill is so anti-individual and pro-banker, I would assume it was quite substantial. In particular, I wonder about my Senator, Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida. He voted for cloture, and also is sponsoring a bill to repeal the inheritance tax. He seems to be running to the right for his reelection campaign.

Terry Neal: Good question. I don't know how much the "credit card" industry gives per se. But I just went to the Center for Responsible Politics' website (www.opensecrets.org) and found that "commercial banks" have given $91 million to Republicans since 1990 and about $59 million to Democrats since that year.
So yes, the GOP rakes in a lot more the than the Dems from the banking folks.
I can't answer this question off the top of my head, but I'd like to look at how much the 18 Senators who voted for the bill took from the financial services/banking industry compared to those who did not. There are some Democrats who are quite popular with the industry and do well in terms of campaign contributions.


Terry Neal: Folks, I've got to run. There were lots of good question that I could not get to today, and I apologize for that. But please don't let that stop you from trying me again next week.
Have a great weekend, and let's chat again next Friday.



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