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Dana Milbank
Washington Post National Political Reporter/Washington Sketch Columnist
Friday, February 24, 2006; 11:00 AM

Don't want to miss out on the latest buzz in politics? Start each day at wonk central: The Post Politics Hour. Join in each weekday morning at 11 a.m. as a member of The Washington Post's team of White House and Congressional reporters answers questions about the latest in buzz in Washington and The Post's coverage of political news.

Washington Post national political reporter/Washington Sketch columnist Dana Milbank was online Friday, Feb. 24, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest in political news.

The transcript follows.


Dana Milbank:

Good morning. As readers of the ombudsman column know, I've been in the woodshed recently, and it's still a bit sore when I sit down. Also the woodshed does not yet have a broadband Internet connection, so I'm beginning this chat a few minutes early in case the session is prematurely terminated.


Groton, Conn.: Dana, was frustrated at first with all the controversy over the ports issue (imho it makes us look like ignorant xenophobes), but now I'm starting to dig in and really enjoy the brouhaha - absolutely LOVED the picture of Frist conducting a Long Beach "fact-finding mission" in full helicopter regalia that adorned my local newspaper's front page Wednesday.

My question is this: Do you think that the administration will be able to turn this issue around, bring their own party hacks onboard and stick it to the Dems (yet again) on the issue of national security? Or is the public's current mass hysteria just too overwhelming? How long will this remain the PR disaster that it currently is?

P.S. I watched some of the Senate hearing antics yesterday and would enjoy hearing your comedic take on the matter.

Dana Milbank:

First to your postscript. I've asked the web wizards to post a link to my Sketch from today so you can see my take on the Senate "hearing" yesterday.

On the ports issue, I think it should be seen as a political issue rather than a national-security issue. You can make a strong case that the Democrats are being irresponsible and reckless and capitalizing on Americans' prejudices and fears. On the other hand, they're perhaps entitled to a bit of rough justice, because they've frequently been on the receiving end of this kind of treatment. I'm thinking of the 2002 battle over work rules at DHS, when the president said his opponents don't care about the security of the American people.

From a journalistic point of view, there are few things more amusing than hearing Ted Kennedy lecture the administration about not being tough on terrorism, and hearing administration officials talk about the need to cultivate and reward allies.

_______________________ Ports and a Storm , ( Post, Feb. 24, 2006 )


Atlanta, Ga.: Dana,

I suspect you will get in trouble if you even post this, but I think you got screwed by The Post for the hunting gear scene on "Countdown." I was laughing my butt off.

You have such a wonderful and different take on the political scene, often written in a tongue-in-cheek manner. You seem to have a lot of fun in your column, your cable appearances and these chats. You don't take yourself or the political scene seriously and your outlook is refreshing.

So, I thank you, keep up the excellent work and don't let them get you down!!

Dana Milbank:

I appreciate your kind words, Atlanta, but it was all a big misunderstanding. The orange attire was not hunting gear but rather a tribute to Her Majesty Queen Beatrice of the Netherlands and the entire House of Orange on the occasion of the Dutch participation in the winter games in Turin.


Bethesda, Md.: Good morning Dana,

Why do K Street insiders tout Sen. Allen for President when he has introduced no legislation that became law, or led in a dire situation or served with real distinction in his various jobs? We need leaders of character and experience now, not talking point pretty boys.

Dana Milbank:

On the positive side, he has a larger arsenal of football metaphors than any man living.


Germantown, Md.: I finally figured it out. What the Bush administration is doing is preventing any in depth consideration of its ... missteps... by ensuring another one comes along before the press has had time to fully investigate the previous one. I mean consider: We find out Libby was "authorized" to leak and then the VP shoots someone. As we start getting details on that we find out about the Dubai ports deal. And as that spins up we get the various Katrina reports. Any thoughts on the next big thing?

Dana Milbank:

I admire the paranoia in the question, Germantown, and I frequently share it. But there's a flaw in the logic. If this were deliberate, the administration would be trying to get some good news out there.

I'm afraid the next big thing really is a big thing: Iraq. It has the potential to drown everything else, and quickly.


College Park, Md.: Dana, I love your columns and how you say all the things that need to be said. Your Olberman stuff was justified. Old news though, let's get off it. But a related question is...what are you wearing now? Please tell us that you occasionally dress up in all the different Village People costumes to criticize how music has gotten progressively worse since those timeless wonders?

Dana Milbank: Many thanks to all the readers who are praising my orange wardrobe and inviting me to criticize the ombudsman. But I have learned my lesson: No more costumes. Just this morning, I contemplated putting on my Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan outfit to honor the United Arab Emirates, but I immediately reconsidered.


Boston, Mass.: If you had to take a guess, what do you think Bush's approval ratings are going to be in the next round of polls?

Is The Post going to finally start asking the impeachment question? The question was asked for Clinton...

Dana Milbank: There's never a 'next round' of polls. One round continues into the next.

Yesterday's Diageo/Hotline poll gets at your question a bit. Bush's approval rating was 45, disapproval 52. But 41 percent said they "strongly" disapprove. And just 14 percent said that there was a time when they did approve of Bush in recent months.

What this suggests is Bush's core of supporters who will support him even if he shoots Cheney is in the 35-40 percent area, so I wouldn't expect his numbers could go much lower than that. On the other hand, events don't suggest they'll be going a lot higher soon.


Washington, D.C.: Do you buy all the talk going on around you saying Dana Milbank doesn't have an "opinion column" or offer an ideology?

Dana Milbank: I have no opinion on that.


Tallahassee, Fla.: Could the comments get anymore complementary? I feel like I am at a Bush meeting discussing political strategy.

Dana Milbank: This is indeed quite a rare phenomenon. Usually 95% of the questions are nasty. Come on folks, take your best shot.


McLean, Va.: Milbank! I think you are sooooo cute, albeit a tad too old for me :(I think your hunting outfit was HILARIOUS and in no more poor taste than the Style section's buckshot layout. I definitely think it's important to acknowledge the "Jon Stewart" school of thought on political reporting. Sometimes Beltway hijinks are just too ridiculous NOT to comment upon and drawing attention to the humorous aspects of a situation oftentimes sets in relief the true importance of an issue. You are definitely one of the first things I turn to in the paper, right after the Family Circus cartoons, that strip is HYSTERICAL! J/K :) Keep it up, cutie!

Dana Milbank: Ok I couldn't resist posting this one, from a loyal reader of KidsPost. I have never been called cute before. Even by my wife.


Boston, Mass.: In a speech earlier this week in Texas, Bob Woordward mentioned, among other things, the danger of government secrecy and turning America into a police state. Any thoughts on that?

Dana Milbank: I think his worries about secrecy are shared by just about everybody in this business.

His view that Cheney will get the 2008 GOP nomination does not command quite as broad a consensus.


Milbank, North Dakota: I had a nasty question. You didn't pick it, you Marxist jerk.

Dana Milbank: Well, that's a start. But I am suspicious because the town of Milbank is in South Dakota. Please try a new question.


Boston, Mass.: Interestingly, I read that Queen Beatrix issued the following statement in your support:

Ik stel erg op prijs de steun dat Dana Milbank voor onze olympisch ploeg toonde door het dragen van onze nationale kleuren. Samen met miljoenen Nederlanders, neem ik kwallig de kleinzieligheid van Deborah Howell, die vaker onder de schijnwerpers gekomen is wegens de inhoudelijke fouten van haar verslagen. Lang leve Dana Milbank, het rapporteren van de waarheid, en het Huis van Oranje!

Did her spokesmen clear this with you?

Dana Milbank: I could not have said it better.


RE: Woman President: Do you think it is possible for a woman to be an effective POTUS (ala Hillary Clinton)? My first thought is that foreign policy would suffer as there are countries who still suppress women and their rights. So I wonder how they would react to a woman calling the shots. But then I think about Margaret Thatcher, and she seemed effective. Or is it different because we are the U.S. and "The Superpower". Thanks for your thoughts.

Dana Milbank:

I think Geena Davis has left no doubt on this question.

As someone who is frequently underwhelmed by Hillary Clinton's public performances, I thought she was very strong yesterday in the Senate Armed Services meeting.


New York, N.Y.: Is it true that Chris Matthews puts you on to make him look skinny?

Dana Milbank: More likely because I make him look sane.

At any rate, I'm getting some interference on the phone line here in the woodshed, and the paddle comes out in a few minutes so I've got to go sit on some ice. Many thanks for the nice questions; I'm sure it will never happen again.

With that, I bid you a fond Dubai.


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