washingtonpost.com
Potomac Confidential
Slicing and Dicing of the Issues People Are Talking About

Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, November 10, 2005 12:00 PM

Potomac Confidential fills the midday lull with discussion by Metro columnist Marc Fisher of the latest news and a rigorous slicing and dicing of the issues that define who we are and where we live.

Fisher was online Thursday, Nov. 10, at Noon ET to focus on the Virginia elections, look ahead to a whiz-bang year of politics in Maryland and the District and, of course, take your questions and comments on a world full of other topics.

In his weekly show, Fisher veers wildly from serious probing to silly prattle, and is open to topics local, national, personal and more.

Archives: Discussion Transcripts

A transcript follows.

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Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks. One set of elections is over and two other sets of campaigns are moving all too quickly into high gear: Last night, the five candidates for D.C. mayor held their first debate, a year before the vote. In Maryland, the race to succeed Sen. Paul Sarbanes is already hopping, as is the campaign for governor. But let's not leave Virginia behind quite yet: What does the election of Tim Kaine tell us about how the Washington suburbs are evolving as a political force? Is Mark Warner's popularity here translatable to the national stage? Will the Democrats have anyone capable of mounting a legitimate opposition to senators John Warner or George Allen? Are there any realistic candidates for governor on the Democratic side for, gulp, 2009?

This week's columns looked at the electoral landscape in Virginia, lingering suspicions about the impact of gentrification in the District, and in the latest in my Why I Live Where I Live series, we visited with former Fairfax board chairman Kate Hanley in her Reston apartment.

Your turn coming right up, but first, let's call the Yay and Nay of the Day:

Yay to those showboating Republicans in Congress, who, perhaps with an eye cocked toward those election returns from the Virginia suburbs, backed away from another display of gun-toting swagger. The congressfolk let the D.C. budget bill go through without fulfilling their threat to wipe away the District's restrictive gun laws. Thank goodness for small favors.

Nay to baseball commissioner Bud Selig for pulling the rug out from under the Nationals and relegating the team to a miserable 2006 season. By announcing yesterday that the Nats will not get a new owner this month, Selig assures that the team cannot compete effectively for free agents this winter and therefore cannot be competitive next season. Is it pure greed, a desire to keep the bucks coming from the Nats cash cow, or incompetence? Either way, it's bad for Washington area fans and for baseball overall.

Your turn starts right now....

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Burke, Va.: Mr. Fisher:

You said the GOP relied on "easy, emotional issues" like the death penalty, abortion and gay rights. Standing up for innocent babies and traditional family values is not easy in the face of relentless mockery from Hollywood and the liberal media (as confirmed by New York Times ombudsman Daniel Okrent). Secularists like you say spend more on education -- but without strong values and intact families, kids don't do much homework.

What is really easy, as your hero Governor Warner did, is to bribe voters with more spending. And it's also easy to call southern whites "rednecks." Had you said black-necks, Jesse Jackson would be out in front of the Washington Post right now.

Marc Fisher: I think what voters were saying by splitting their tickets Tuesday is that we live in a more complex world than many politicians and the campaign industry like to admit. I don't think Tuesday's vote had much to do with party or ideology. Rather, it's as Mark Warner said: People want to see stuff get done. This country, and this region, is composed of far more moderate people than it is of libs or conservatives. And they are tired of campaigns focusing on stuff that governors simply can't do anything about--or shouldn't do anything about: What people do in their bedrooms, what people decide about child-bearing, that sort of thing.

Governors should focus on schools, transportation and health care, and that has little to do with party. (By the way, I've never said that spending more has much to do with quality of education. I happen to live in the city that proves there is no such connection.)

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DC in VA: Honestly, and I am not speaking facetiously, I am very relieved the Virginia race is over and the lesser of two evils won. Now, moving past all the "are the tides changing" scenarios, I was curious for your personal insight. You had previously stated that you felt a politician should try to sell his ideas (i.e., Kaine's shifting moral stand/public law debate) and push for his platform. I wondered where you felt the line shifted. Are politicians elected to push their own platforms, and you should vote for the one you have the least differences from, or should a politician reflect the attitudes (albeit with a qualified perspective) of the people he is paid to represent? I don't know if this sounds antagonistic; I don't want it to, I am genuinely curious.

Marc Fisher: Great question, and for me, it's the central issue around Tim Kaine. He argues passionately that he can and must separate his faith from his work as a public servant. Congressman David Obey sent me a piece he wrote for a Catholic magazine making the same argument, with even more passion. But I come back to the same problem: We don't vote party line in our system. We deliberately don't have a parliamentary system. So what candidates believe and what they stand for is important to us. That's why I want to vote for people who are driven by ideas and principles and are willing to argue for them in public. I accept that as governor, Kaine must enforce the law, and in Virginia that means capital punishment. But if he's steadfastly opposed for principled reasons, he should use his position to sell that idea. He may not win, he may not change the law, but he has an obligation to use the bully pulpit.

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Arlington, Va.: As a lifelong Democrat, I am thrilled that Tim Kaine pulled out the election on Tuesday, but I am skeptical about all the stories I have seen about how this gives the Democrats some kind of blue print for 2006 and beyond, not unless the first plank of that blue print calls for the GOP to nominate mediocre candidates. I thought the media was much too kind in not pillorying Jerry Kilgore, who looked liked he walked out of central casting as a retrograde Redneck. To me, the much bigger sign of wider GOP woes is that Leslie Byrne, a Hilary-esque candidate with huge negatives, almost won state office.

Marc Fisher: Both parties have the problem of too many mediocre candidates. And both are trapped in the clutches of consultants and media advisors and an entire industry that's wedded to the idea that voters are simpering idiots who can be manipulated with ease. That's why Tuesday's vote was encouraging: By splitting their tickets, Virginians, and especially those in the outer suburbs, made it clear that they will not always fall for the easy emotional plays and that they, as Mark Warner said, want pols to get stuff done.

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Fairfax, Va.: In today's column you write that we are about to watch two politicians' moral values clash with the practical realities of politics. You ask "Will Kaine really sign death warrants that he believes are wrong? Shouldn't he fight for what he believes even as he enforces the law?"

Well, what about all those politicians, mostly Democrats, who say they are "personally opposed" to abortion but support abortion rights anyway? They believe abortion is murder, but they don't fight against it?

I generally vote Republican these days (because of pro-life issues), but was turned off by Kilgore's ad AND his pro-death penalty position. The spotlight on Kaine's piety is probably part of a Democratic attempt to manipulate people like me but I gave him a shot anyway. My vote had NOTHING to do with my opinion of President Bush.

Marc Fisher: I think you're a great example of what I was trying to say in today's column. The Democrats should not look at Tuesday's results as any sort of endorsement of their generally empty set of policies and proposals. And the Republicans should not see their relatively steady hold on the Richmond legislature as an endorsement of their guns, God and gays approach to campaigning and governing. Rather, voters are pragmatic and they want to endorse honesty and efficiency, wherever they find it.

On abortion, I join you in wanting to see politicians argue for what they claim they believe in, and that's true whether it's the death penalty or abortion. Kaine has to enforce the law and in Virginia that means the death penalty, but that doesn't stop him from taking his principles on the road and selling voters on why he believes as he does.

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Fairfax, Va.: You are being very generous calling Kilgore a mediocre candidate. This guy had no original ideas and didn't come across as a strong leader. And, he was nasty to boot.

I'm a Republican and withheld my vote for Kilgore. It had nothing to do with Bush.

Marc Fisher: Kilgore was simply not ready for prime time. He was so uneasy and inarticulate that he had to avoid televised debates. He spent a good chunk of the final weeks of his campaign trying to prevent Kaine from using video clips of Kilgore's miserable performance at the Fairfax Chamber debate.

Beyond all that, Kilgore had no agenda and no overarching theme. He was the anti-Kaine, yet tried not to criticize Warner, which is quite the trick if you think about it. And apparently many voters did think about it.

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Chantilly, Va.: Why do you imply that Fairfax has become less conservative b/c of the elections.

It seems to me that Craddock and Kilgore lost because they were bad candidates not because they were socially conservative. (in the case of Craddock, he gives social conservatives a bad name and should not have been a candidate.)

Marc Fisher: I don't think Fairfax is any less conservative, nor certainly are Loudoun and Prince William. Suburban voters, even in the Washington area, tend to be conservative, but they are conservative in the classic TR Republican way--they want their money spent wisely and they are intolerant of waste and corruption. They tend not to care nearly as much about the hot-button social issues as do less educated voters, so the GOP appeals on gay rights, sanctity of marriage, abortion, death penalty and evolution don't fly in this area as well as they might in other parts of Virginia. That's why Craddock and Dick Black lost.

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Chantilly, Va.: Message to Burke, Va.: The voters who resoundingly rejected the far right Del. Dick Black and Chris Craddock were not "bribed" or confused by media mockery.

We sent a very simple message: Extremists are no longer wanted here. We need grownups representing us in Richmond.

Even Del. Bob Marshall got a stiff challenge from a nobody and I suspect next time around he will be defeated as well -- that's how the Black saga ended, with a strong losing challenge and then a stronger winning one.

Marc Fisher: Like I said.

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Berryville, Va.: Whether Kaine lobbies against the death penalty or not, I would expect him, if he's as committed as he says, to at least take advantage of existing laws and practices with respect to DNA testing.

I would also expect him to allow for later DNA confirmations that previously executed prisoners were in fact guilty. Warner has been coy in such circumstances. I expect Kaine to be forthright.

Marc Fisher: Excellent point--that's probably exactly where to look to see how Kaine's principles play out in his approach to this issue. Warner wanted nothing to do with that issue--or any of those social questions. And look how high he's riding in popularity, among Ds and R's alike.

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Prince William, VA: Your analysis of Tim Kaine is way off. He is pro-life. What's going to be interesting isn't the first death penalty case that comes up, but rather the first legislation having anything to do with abortion. I don't think electing a pro-life Democrat has any lessons for national politics, because I don't think it will become a common phenomenon. What I think is interesting is not why Tim Kaine won, but why some voters split their ballot and who they were. No one at your newspaper seems interested in these issues, which is interesting in itself.

Marc Fisher: Again, Kaine is in a quandary: He is pro-life but has pledged to enforce Virginia's laws and has said that he has no intention of pressing an anti-abortion legislative agenda. So what will he do if the General Assembly passes further restrictions on abortion? I don't know, but my bet is he'll hew to the Democratic pro-choice line.

And boy are we interested in this stuff at the paper, which is why you have several stories on this in the Post this week and lots more coming.

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Seat Pleasant, Md.: I liked your analysis of the Virginia election results as not necessarily an endorsement of the Democratic party, but a repudiation of low-brow tactics of the Republicans.

I do take issue with your recent column in which you rode a crosstown bus to make the point that D.C. is still very segregated. I don't disagree with that assessment, but it struck me as odd that a white man who lives in an upscale part of the city and sends his kids to private schools takes a rather preachy stand on race relations in the District.

Marc Fisher: Thanks. Let's see--you don't disagree with me that all of us, white or black or other, tend to separate ourselves in our decisions about where to live. But you think I have no right to say this because of what I look like and where I live. I'm not sure I get this. Please explain.

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Equivoc, AL: Kaine is opposed to both abortion and the death penalty, but he promises that he will follow the law in both instances. If that's inconsistent, it's at least consistently inconsistent.

I can never reconcile those who are anti-abortion yet love the death penalty. Kilgore is one of those. And the "innocent life" dodge doesn't cut it with me. I'm not convinced that we haven't put innocent people to death in our prisons.

Marc Fisher: You know, it is indeed amazing that we've just elected a governor who essentially ran on this slogan: Tim Kaine--consistently inconsistent. Vote Kaine: The Honest Equivocator. And lots of folks said, Yeah, that's right. And I'm not making fun of him or them because I think Kaine tapped into something very real and very important: Most of us are more complex than your average bumper sticker would admit to. Most of us have contradictory views. I personally think abortion is akin to murder in some ways, yet I think it should be legal and discouraged. Where's the political party for people who believe that? It doesn't exist.

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Washington, D.C.: Am I the only person completely underwhelmed by the mayoral candidates currently in the race? Can we convince Mark Warner to come run the city for a little while?

Marc Fisher: Ha! The mayoral lineup for the District is a grim one. Put three of them together and you have many of the elements for an appealing candidate--give me Michael Brown's charisma and populist touch, Adrian Fenty's energy and commitment and basic sense of what people want from government, and Linda Cropp's political skills and you see the shape of a potential mayor. But each of them has devastating shortcomings--Brown has never run anything close to a huge bureaucracy and doesn't seem likely to engage in the close way that a mayor must, Fenty is too much flash and not enough meat (he came up embarrassingly short on a question about city finances last night), and Cropp has a royalist view of public office that would be dangerous (she seems to think that governing is a private activity.)

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Washington, D.C.: Did you see the confrontation between Rev. Willie Wilson and Marion Barry yesterday on NBC News? It was quite shocking. Wilson was pointing his fingers in people's faces (both Marion and women) while using profanity and threatening violence, while Marion was P.O.'d and threatened to revoke the tax exempt status of Wilson's church. It was pretty embarrassing.

D.C. Leaders Involved In Heated Public Argument (nbc4.com, Nov.10)

Marc Fisher: I haven't seen the video but I'll take a look. Sounds ugly. Barry and Wilson don't seem to be the fast friends they once appeared to be, and Wilson aligns himself ever more with fringe characters and charlatans like Louis Farrakhan. None of which is good for Ward 8.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Marc,

Any idea what was happening this morning around Union Station? The cops had Massachusetts Ave. and side streets blocked off at New Jersey Ave. They were even directing foot traffic away.

Marc Fisher: I don't see anything on the wire about it. Anyone know?

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Arlington, Va.: Have you heard about Senator Obama's bill to end the kind of dirty Election Day tricks that have become common, and were even said to occur a couple of days ago in Virginia, i.e., spreading misinformation about the date being changed or polling locations closed? Seems like a fantastic idea to me. Can you think of any possible spin a senator could come up with as to why this bill shouldn't be passed? (Other than that it might hurt him in his next election, of course.)

Marc Fisher: Haven't heard about the bill. Obviously it's a good concept but I'd have to see how he plans to prevent such last minute tricks from being played. Seems like it would be awfully hard to construct a way to stop such moves from happening, but easy to build a set of consequences that might discourage such behavior.

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Centreville, Va.: Marc, have you seen the maps posted here:

Redstate.org

They show what areas went to Mark Warner and how the vote changed since then. Kilgore increased the Republican vote in rural areas and Kaine increased the Democratic vote in metro and suburban areas. Kilgore seemed rural, while Kaine -- as a transplanted Yankee and former Richmond governor -- came across as metro. Perhaps people in the metro and suburban areas just didn't want to be governed by what Arlington, above, so lovingly called a 'retrograde redneck". Bigotry can flow in more than one direction, you know.

Marc Fisher: While Kaine's rhetoric consisted of trying to attach himself to Mark Warner's legacy, the reality of the Kaine campaign was a largely different approach to getting elected as a Democrat in a Republican state. Instead of trying match the GOP in appeal to rural Virginians, which Warner did so well with his investments in job creation and his NASCAR symbolism, Kaine looked in the mirror and said, No way I can pull that off. So he focused instead on the metro areas and he cleaned up in all three of the biggies: D.C., Hampton Roads and Richmond, and he did that by steering away from the social issues, emphasizing his own faith and root honesty, and pushing hard on the efficiency and good governance piece, which appeals to strong classic conservatives.

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Washington, D.C.: What's up with the chicken wire that's been put up behind the fence on the E Street side of the White House? How does this make the building more secure? All it does is impede the view and make the area around the White House look even more like a military compound than it already does.

Marc Fisher: The security apparatchiks in town know no limits, scorn aesthetics and couldn't care less about tourism or the importance of Washington as national symbol. This is actually a good issue for the Dems to latch onto--it's a great way to illustrate how this administration has lost sight of American ideals--yet no one dares to speak against the power of the security bureaucracy.

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A party of one!: You think there's no party for someone who thinks abortion is murder and should still be legal? Try me: 29-year-old graduate school-educated professional woman, fervently pro-life, anti-death penalty, gay rights supporter, pro-animal rights/vegetarian, pro-gun control, and Iraq war supporter. Where the heck do I fit in??

Marc Fisher: Wow, I was with you til the animal rights bit. But I do think there are many, many Americans in that broad middle who have similarly complex mixes of positions and who would embrace a populist candidate who acknowledges that most Americans want government to focus on the real stuff and let families and communities handle the social end.

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Anacostia, Washington, D.C.: Do you think a white person could ever be elected Mayor of D.C?

Marc Fisher: Ever is a fairly long time. Will there ever be a white mayor of a majority black city? Well, it's happened in Baltimore and in several other big cities. Washington is different in that the political establishment around town is very much dominated by black activists and organizations and this is a city that is still very much racially divided. But many neighborhoods are now far less segregated and separate than they were just a decade ago, and that will have an impact on politics. And there is a white majority on the D.C. Council, which 15 years ago would have seemed impossible. It all comes down more to personalities than to color, and right now, I don't see any whites who could win for mayor. But it's entirely possible within the next decade or two.

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Arlington, Va.: Union station street closures -- According to Lisa Baden on WTOP (heard around 9 a.m. this morning) there was an unattended package on the sidewalk near Union Station so they closed off street to investigate it.

Marc Fisher: Thanks.

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Leesburg, Va.: Can you explain what happened in Virginia's 13th House district? It covers western Prince William and a traffic-enriched part of Loudoun -- and both counties went for Kaine.

So how did Neanderthal Bob Marshall survive a challenge from a capable and charismatic candidate like Bruce Roemmelt?

Marc Fisher: That was a close one, and I think Marshall would agree that he might well have lost to a better known opponent. Many Democrats felt that if Dick Black went down, so would Marshall, as the two are often lumped together as hard-core representatives of the religious right. But Prince William and Loudoun are different places, and Loudoun has, both in its more settled population and among newcomers, a generally higher income and education level, so Dick Black stuck out more there as an anomaly for voters who have come from places that don't elect politicians based on abortion and other such emotional questions.

That said, a strong challenger could well knock off Marshall next time.

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Bethesda, Md: Marc,

Question about something you said in your chat yesterday. You said the Kansas Board of Ed. voted to back intelligent design. I thought so too, based on the headline on the Post's front page. But when I read the article, all it said was the kids will have to study the doubts about Darwinism. And the only mention of I.D. was a brief explanation and the fact that the people who voted against Darwinism believe in irreducible complexity (one of the tenets of I.D.).

So, is Kansas going to be teaching I.D. or bashing Darwinism?

Incidentally, one of the strategies of I.D. promoters, like the Discovery Institute, is to push the faults of Darwinism. This is because they know I.D. does not stand up to the rigors of scientific scrutiny.

Marc Fisher: The folks who are pushing these changes in science curricula around the country sometimes push for intelligent design to be specifically taught and sometimes shoot for a more general statement about teaching alternatives to evolution, but the bottom line is essentially the same: They want to undermine the notion that scientific method be taught in connection with the study of life's origins. They are looking to insert questions of faith into the teaching of science. I'm all for teaching about religion in schools, yes, even in public schools, but not in science class. Think about your school experience and the science teachers you had--were they folks you'd want teaching your kids about cosmology and faith and the origins and evolution of world religions?

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Manassas, Va.: Regarding the first question today, at what point did secularism become equated to not doing homework? My family does not go to church, but we emphasize hard work, integrity, and honesty to our children, who both excel at school. Enough with the ideological posturing -- we need leadership focused on practical results. That's why I voted for Kaine and why I would strongly consider Warner for president.

Marc Fisher: Yeah, I left that bit untouched, but you're good to pick up on it. I'm kind of left flat by the use of "secularism" as an insult. In most cases, it's not even accurate. Most of the purportedly secular folks I know are religious people whose kids go to Sunday school; they just don't happen to believe in mixing their faith with their politics. Jerry Kilgore, incidentally, is a rare Republican conservative who doesn't talk about faith in his public life, and maybe you could argue that that decision hurt him. I found it quite fascinating given the rest of his chosen political agenda.

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Los Angeles, Calif.: When you said, "Many Democrats felt that if Dick Black went down, so would Marshall, as the two are often lumped together as hard-core representatives of the religious right."

Are you implying that Dick Black and Marshall are a gay couple?

Marc Fisher: Hah! No, I'll leave the statements about the proclivities of politicians to folks like Dick Black.

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Fairfax, Va.: Lots of Republicans on this chat, apparently, but their optimism is unfounded: Northern Virginia is clearly becoming more liberal, as a result of inexorable demographic shifts.

The most telling fact of this election is this: Leslie Byrne won Loudon county! If the GOP can't get a majority against a liberal Democrat in Loudon, they are in big trouble, and their situation will only get worse as more minorities and liberals move to the area. Virginia is officially in play for 2008!

Marc Fisher: I think you're engaging in a bit of wishful thinking. Yes, Fairfax is becoming more Democratic in many ways, and both Loudoun and Prince William are attracting large immigrant populations and lots of former Fairfax residents and veterans of other big cities, which makes them more open to some Democratic candidates. But Kaine was the only Democrat to win in Prince William--that's hardly evidence of the county becoming more liberal. And Loudoun also remains an essentially conservative place, but as I've said earlier today, it's a different kind of conservatism from what sells in much of the rest of Virginia. And the core issue in all of these D.C. area counties is one that belongs to neither party, and that's growth and development.

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National Plan: Mark Warner for baseball commissioner!

(Well, you do have to look past the fact that he essentially kept the Expos from coming to Virginia, but it was probably for the best.)

Marc Fisher: If a local politician were to become baseball commissioner, I'd think it would be several others before Warner: Russ Potts was an executive in the White Sox organization before he became a politician. Bob Ehrlich is as sports-minded a pol as exists, and he's played a big role in Angelos stuffing the Nats. Tony Williams has been major league baseball's best friend over these past few years. But now we learn that Tony Williams may be in the running to be president of American University (as reported by Tom Sherwood in the Northwest Current.) Hmmm--does that mean he'd leave office early?

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Bethesda, Md.: Do you think the one term limitation on governor in Virginia limits the ability or desire of any incumbent to make big changes -- it just takes more than four years?

Marc Fisher: The one-term limit is insane and everyone I've ever spoken to in Virginia politics, regardless of party, agrees. A governor has so little time to get anything done. He's helpless the first year or more because he's learning the job and he's washed up for his final year because he's a lame duck. It's a stupid system and it won't change because the legislature jealously guards the advantages that the one-term governor provides them.

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Arlington, Va.: This election brought up a couple of egregious examples of stupid Virginia laws that do more harm than good:

1. The one-term governor rule: The reason we have such weak candidates is that we cycle through the good ones too quickly. The pool just ain't that deep.

2. The laughable fines for campaign violations: $100? And if they find you violated the law knowingly, a whopping $2,500? What a joke. It can't possibly deter anybody.

Any thoughts on any chances to change these silly laws?

Marc Fisher: Not a lot of incentive for politicians to pump up the potential fines that they face for stuff that both sides engage in. That sort of regulation generally improves only after a major scandal. It's the old story about how things have to get worse before they can get better.

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Mclean, Va.: Hiya Marc

Now that the Virginia governor's race is over, it seems like the parallels between Kilgore and President Bush are even more apparent: inability to articulate plans, policies, or priorities; reliance upon a core of party loyalists that is not in tune with the rest of the party; etc., etc. Why did voters reject Kilgore yet go for Bush, and what can be done about raising the "excellence level" of future candidates, both Republicans and Democrats? Thanks for your great coverage on election night, too.

Marc Fisher: Thanks very much--I know we're so deeply divided as a country that those who dislike Bush consider him to be a buffoon, but the fact is that there's an enormous difference between a Bush and a Kilgore. Even if you think Bush has done a poor job, and there's obviously evidence for that, he was nonetheless a persuasive and appealing candidate both times, and he had a clear and well communicated message, offering security and efficiency and straight talk. Now many people on both sides would conclude that he failed to deliver, but the message was clear. Whereas Kilgore didn't even have a message, let alone offer any clarity or sense that he could deliver on his promises.

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Re: Seat Pleasant: Hi Marc,

I think the point was that you seem to be kind of a hypocrite -- like the NIMBYs you often criticize. I thought that was pretty clear. S/he wasn't saying you didn't have a right to state an opinion; just questioning your integrity.

Marc Fisher: Oh, just that. How is it hypocritical to say that Americans of all races tend to choose to live apart from one another? Why would my own race or my own choice of where I live make that statement hypocritical. Seems to me that whether you live in a well-integrated community or in a rigidly-separated one, you'd have equal standing to note that that's how we tend to live and to opine that that's a limiting factor in our society.

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Arlington, Va.: A bill to end campaign dirty tricks is basically unenforceable junk. I mean, Virginia had a Stand by your Ad law that both candidates broke.

The way you end dirty tricks is for citizens to take enough interest in politics and elections to know when they are, and who is running. If they can't do those minimal things, I've got no sympathy for them if they somehow get duped into thinking an election got canceled.

Marc Fisher: Well said.

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Annapolis, Md.: Speaking of abortion and the death penalty:

In addition to examining politician's beliefs, party platforms, and the way and why people vote, I think the Post should put some serious effort into examining these two issues for facts. For example: what is abortion (medical procedures), what exactly are the laws governing these procedures across the country, why do people have abortions (medical, contraceptive ...), who has abortions (race, age, income, marital status, national origin), how many people have multiple abortions and why, and so on.

I think we have enough opinion, conjecture, and belief about these issues to sink several battleships. It would be refreshing to get some real information so that we can all update our thinking, and revise positions if necessary.

Marc Fisher: Good idea. As a newspaperman and as a reader, I love primers. I always love it when any publication says, hey, let's put the day's events aside for a few minutes and give folks a grounding in what we're all yelling about.

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Richmond, Va.: What do you think of James Webb's chances against George Allen in 2006? Webb is a war hero, thoughtful, and a former Reagan administration Secretary of the Navy.

Marc Fisher: He's a real original and an interesting thinker. Do you have any reason to believe he'd want to run?

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Fairfax, Va.: You guys are wrong about being less concerned about issues like abortion. I won't vote for a candidate that supports it.

But, before you get to abortion, I have to see that candidate is responsible. Craddock wasn't so he did not get my vote, even though he was socially conservative. (And, in the case of this idiot, he embarrassed us.)

Republicans need to put up stronger candidates and stick to conservative themes to differentiate. Some of the fiscal responsibility stuff is common sense and therefore it's hard to differentiate from other candidates.

Marc Fisher: So idiocy trumped abortion as an issue for you. And that's essentially my point from above--those basics about governing well beat the social issues.

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Arlington, Va.: I wanted to say thank you for the past few discussions regarding the Virginia election. They were informative and entertaining. Now, to my question:

Does the Washington Post ever let you sleep?

Marc Fisher: Sleep is overrated. I have a daughter who's in her first year of high school and she's discovering that there are four or five more hours in the day than she'd ever known about before. That's one of life's great revelations and it just means more chances to live to the fullest. Thanks for the kind words.

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Vienna, Va.: Hi Marc,

What can we do to stop the recorded message telephone calls from candidates? I was going insane by Monday night with all of the calls I was getting. How can we make this illegal? They should at least have to use a real person to make the calls and/or put people on do- not-call lists if so requested.

Marc Fisher: Politicians exempted themselves from the do-not-call list, the creation of which for my money was the government's best move in the past decade. They justified the move as protecting free speech, but that's hooey. Consumers should demand that the do not call legislation apply to everyone.

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Alexandria, Va.: Marc, a couple of things. First, I'm in my mid-30s, male, and personally opposed to abortion and the death penalty. I'm also a liberal Democrat, and perfectly understand Kaine's stance -- he's not pushing his personal religious beliefs on others. As a man, I'm not even sure how I feel about abortion -- I'll never have to be put in the position to make that choice, but I do know that it's not up for me or the state to legislate the issue.

Second, when the huge numbers of immigrants, mainly Latino, become citizens in NoVa, we're almost guaranteed to see a major shift towards the Democratic party -- especially after all the bashing they're getting from the right.

Marc Fisher: I think men have every right to have a strong position on abortion because in many families, men take an equal or nearly equal role in discussions about aborting pregnancies.

On immigrants, be careful not to assume that immigrants will be Democrats. As someone who lived in Miami for some years, I know that immigrants can be very conservative socially and politically. Also, the last ones in are often the toughest on those just arriving.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you think the Democrats running for president in 2008 will go soft on Hillary -- hedging their bets that she's going to win the nomination and positioning themselves for a shot at the VP slot -- or do you think it'll be as nasty a campaign as we've seen in the past?

Marc Fisher: I think they'll take her on with gusto, especially since they correctly believe that while she's the favorite to win the nomination, she cannot win the general election.

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Upper Maryland: Enough of politics -- I need paint color ideas for my bathroom.

Marc Fisher: Light peaches are hot.

Also yellow, though I don't have much patience for yellows of any sort. But gold, maybe.

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Maryland: Tony Williams for AU Prez-

Would culinary training be required for Chef Boyardee?

Marc Fisher: Given the quality of the food in the AU cafeteria, if I were a student there, I'd campaign hard for Bowtie--he's got good taste and he cooks too.

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Marc Fisher: Thanks for coming along, folks. Apologies to those I couldn't get to. Back with you again next week, and in the paper Sunday with another radio column in Sunday Arts and on Tuesday in Metro. Have a great weekend--looks like fall is finally arriving. (Which means winter could be coming next week.)

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