Broder on Politics

David S. Broder
Washington Post Columnist
Friday, April 7, 2006; 1:30 PM

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and Washington Post columnist David S. Broder will be online Friday, April 7, at 1:30 p.m. ET to answer your questions about the world of politics, from the latest maneuverings on Capitol Hill to developments in the White House.

Broder has written extensively about primaries, elections, special interests and the business of politics. His books include "Democracy Derailed: The Initiative Movement & the Power of Money," "Behind the Front Page: A Candid Look at How the News Is Made" and "The System: The American Way of Politics at the Breaking Point."

Submit your questions and comments before or during today's discussion.

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Fort Myers, Fla.: Hello Mr. Broder:

As the guy who's generally regarded as "The Dean" of Capitol Reporters, I've got to ask you what you think the fallout will be from the revelation that George Bush privately authorized the leaks he has publicly deplored.

A brief list (from Think Progress) of his public statements about Valerie Plame:

Sept. 30, 2003: "There's just too many leaks, and if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is." Oct. 8, 2003: "I want to know the truth ... I have no idea whether we'll find out who the leaker is, partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers."

Oct. 28, 2003: "I'd like to know if somebody in my White House did leak sensitive information."

Are you personally offended when you hear a president condemn the media for doing its job while at the same time he's playing the media for his own purposes?

David S. Broder: As you can tell from the current White House briefing by Scott McClellan, the administration is having a hard time squaring the disclosure of the president's role in leaking information adverse to Ambassadfor Wilson with Mr. Bush's prior statements decrying the leaks of any intelligence information. The contradictions are glaring--and so is the damage to his credibility.

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Washington, D.C. (Shepherd Park): I don't know if you've commented on this but how do you think Howard Dean is doing as Chairman of the DNC?

David S. Broder: Chairman Dean gets mixed grades. Most of the state Democratic Party chairmen are big supporters, because he has kept his promise to them to raise ,money for the states and use it to put staff people into every state. The congressional Democrats are much more critical, because they think the money should be targeted to races the Democrats have a chance of winning this year. They also think he has been prone to gaffes in some of his public statements.

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Washington, D.C.: Why did Andrew Card really leave his position?

David S. Broder: I am not privy to the private conversations between Mr. Card and the president. I do know that he has been working extraordinarily long hours, under a lot of pressure, so it is plausible to me that he just wanted a breather.

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Los Gatos: To what extent is this whole Valerie Plame situation just "inside Washington" controversy?

David S. Broder: Until now, the story has resonated much more inside the Beltway than outside. It may be that with the president's direct involvement, more people will become interested in following it.

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Cassopolis, Mich.: Please explain declassification.

David S. Broder: I cannot give you a step by step walk through the process, but I have read this morning that presidents have wide discretion when it comes to changing the classification of information or declassifying it.

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Goleta, Calif.: Any word on how Scott McClellan's blood pressure (or general health) is hold up these days?

David S. Broder: To the best of my knowledge, the senator has not made public the results of any very recent medical exams. But I have seen him at work on Capitol Hill and he appears to be healthy and vigorous.

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Chapel Hill, N.C.: Good afternoon. I read stories about Katherine Harris's campaign is in free-fall, but I don't recall if there was a specific incident that got it all started. Or is it just carryover from her controversial role in the 2000 presidential elections? Thanks for doing these chats.

David S. Broder: Ms. Harris has had a huge amount of turnover on her campaign staff, with several campaign managers, media advisers and fund raisers walking out and complaining that the campaign is without a clear direction. She seems to be struggling to hold it together.

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Eugene, Ore.: Hello Mr. Broder -- What do you think America would look like today if the Republican Congress had prevented George Bush from invading Iraq?

David S. Broder: That is a hard question to answer. Obviously, the cost of the war is one of the major drivers of the budget and its deficits, and the news from Iraq--of continued violence--is a major reason for the president's low ratings. We don't know what Saddam Hussein would have done in the last few years had he remained in power, so it's difficult to speculate.

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Silver Spring, Md.: In the interest of having a reasonable discussion of the issues at hand, don't you think that it is important for the press to keep the public aware that there is a big difference between "declassification" and "selective leaking"? If you disagree, please explain.

David S. Broder: There certainly is a difference in the two terms. The latter implies secrecy--and that seems to be the case here.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Mr. Broder ... on immigration. How can an illegal "prove" how long he/she has been in the U.S.? Wouldn't this just lead to lots of counterfeiting of proof? Those illegals who work for American businesses will probably have the most help from American business owners in falsifying proof, don't you think, because American businesses have the most to gain from cheap labor? Or rather the most to lose if they lose their illegals?

David S. Broder: Clearly there will have to be safeguards and requirements for proof of residency if anything like the bill being discussed in the Senate were to become law. I take a less cynical view of the employers' actions than you do; I think we should not assume bad faith, provided there are reasonable requirements for documenting the years of residency the bill would require.

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Potomac, Md.: Is Bill Richardson any closer to candidacy?

David S. Broder: Governor Richardson clearly was to run for president and is doing the things necessary to prepare for such a campaign. But he also faces a campaign for reelection this year in New Mexico, so first things first. You should not look for a formal announcement until he has the governorship safely in his hands again.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I see the likelihood of a regional conflict emerging in the Iraq/Turkey/Iran/Syria area. How do you think the administration would respond to any escalation over there? I guess throwing up their hands is not really an option, but I don't see what other options they would have.

David S. Broder: I don't know the answer to your question. I think the administration is doing everything it can think of to prevent the conflict in Iraq from spreading and becoming a regional war. But for the short term, everything depends on getting some kind of inclusive and representative government up and running in Baghdad.

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Conway, Mass.: With regard to John Kerry, I often notice in reporters' comments and writing a certain negative attitude toward him -- sometimes in what they omit -- and I often wonder whether his rapport with the press is so poor that reporters, even those inclined to vote for him, tend to issue payback. (I don't work for Kerry)

David S. Broder: I can't speak for any constituency of reporters. I found Senator Kerry reasonably responsive to questions during the campaign and have no complaints on that score. Candidates are not required to become buddies of reporters, and he did not. But if there is a negative tone to the coverage he receives, I would guess it come from skepticism that almost always attaches to someone who has lost a big race; reporters wonder if such a candidate can pull off a comeback.

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Clearwater, Fla.: What is your opinion about Bob Woodward's comments last year about the Valerie Plame case ... When "all of the facts come out in this case, it's going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great."

David S. Broder: Subsequent events do not appear to be supporting that forecast.

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Scotts Valley, Calif.: How is Bush doing in the red states?

With all of the built-in advantages that incumbents have, isn't it highly unlikely that the Democrats could regain control of the House? The Senate?

David S. Broder: The president's polls are down in almost every state I have seen--red or blue--but obviously he has a better cushion of support in Idaho than in Ohio. Whether incumbency will save the Republican majorities in the House and Senate is not something we can begin to gauge, in my opinion, until after Labor Day. House races really don't take shape until later than that, and even Senate contests usually remain fluid until more people begin focusing on the choices on the November ballot.

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Seattle, Wash.: By definition, wouldn't an attack on Iran cause a spreading from Iraq into a regional war?

Or am I incorrect that Iran and Iraq are major nations in the region?

And if Iran attacks, as is likely, Bahrain or another Gulf nation that has U.S. assets, how will this further destablize the region?

David S. Broder: Again, speculation is not really my business. But an attack by Iran on any of its neighbors would certainly cause a crisis for the U.S. and our allies. That's why American diplomacy has to be aimed at preventing such an event.

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Atlanta, Ga.: People in the media make it seem like Hillary Clinton's nomination is inevitable. Sure, polls show her with a huge advantage over any other prospective nominee, but that's largely because of her name ID. In my personal experience, few Hillary supporters I have personally encountered know that she supports the Iraq war. Most of them just have a favorable opinion of her broadly and think, "It would be cool to have a female president." But, their feelings aren't as intense as say the supporters of Mark Warner, Evan Bayh, or Russ Feingold.

David S. Broder: I agree that any judgment about the inevitability of any candidate's being nominated is ridiculously premature. I try to avoid the term front-runner at least until after New Hampshire has voted. The woods are full of the battered political bodies of so-called "front-runners" who never made it past New Hampshire.

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Anonymous: I have a feeling that McKinney got a severe scolding by the Black Congressional leadership, and was told she was on her own if she wanted to play the afro hairstyle race card routine. Your opinion?

David S. Broder: I think a number of her colleagues of both races suggested to Rep. McKinney that she was in an untenable position and needed to move.

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Ottawa, Canada: Is it true that the Congress is looking at legislation that would see a fence built on the Canadian border? I thought it was a joke but was told it's still being talked about. The Great Lakes could present a problem.

David S. Broder: I have heard that possibility mentioned, but even in the present hysteria, it seems a far-fetched notion.

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Glenside, Pa.: What is Senator Russ Feingold's relationship with the media like? One L.A. Times article nicknamed him "McDean" essentially saying that he shows some similarities to Howard Dean and John McCain.

Both of them had reasonably good relationships with the media.

David S. Broder: I think Sen. Feingold's personal relationship with reporters is fine. There are differing views in the press corps about his politics, of course, but a willingness to cover his actions and speeches as someone who is a different voice in the debate.

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Richmond, Va.: Are the Republicans generally glad that DeLay will not be a candidate for reelection ?

David S. Broder: I think the feeling among Republicans I've interviewed is one of relief--not gladness. They are too fond of Tom DeLay and too aware of his important role in their success to be rejoicing. But they also know that he had become a target for the Democrats and they are relieved to have him off the scene--to the extent that he actually is.

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Hermosa Beach, Calif.: What is the probability that Bush and Cheney will be called by Fitzgerald, Libby's prosecutor, as witnesses for Libby's trial?

What other recourse is available to the Democratic leadership to force Bush and Cheney to answer questions about the leaks?

David S. Broder: It would be quite a stretch for the special prosecutor to put the president or vice president on the stand; I would think he'd hesitate to do that.

The Democrats cannot compel testimony since the Republicans control the congressional committees. But they can put a lot of public pressure on the White House to answer questions.

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Yelm, Wash.: In terms of the USA dealing with some very difficult foreign policy problems, is this not the absolute worst time for Bush to have basically "kneecapped himself" in terms of credibility?

David S. Broder: Yes, it is. Whenever we have a weakened president with many years left to serve, you have to worry that other countries will decide to make trouble.

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Austin, Tex.: Secretary Rice acknowledged recently that mistakes have been made in Iraq. In response, Secretary Rumsfeld came close to calling her an idiot.

What do you make of this public feud in this disciplined administration? Will it have consequences? Are they both going to be able to remain in the cabinet over the long-term?

David S. Broder: I think Secretary Rice will serve the remainder of the Bush term. I am less certain about Secretary Rumsfeld. The pressures of a difficult job in a difficult time may be beginning to tell on him.

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Wilmington, N.C.: You wrote, "I think the administration is doing everything it can think of to prevent the conflict in Iraq from spreading and becoming a regional war." Why do you think that? I understand one might assume that is the case, but, really, what evidence supports that idea? I'm not saying the opposite is true, I just wonder, given the actions and results to date, how one can support that judgment.

David S. Broder: I would point, among other things, to the effort to engage Iran in talks about the political situation inside Iraq, and the continuing effort to work through the United Nations on the issue of nuclear arms for Iran. You can also see that concern in the president's reaction to the Dubai Ports deal.

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Maplewood, N.J.: Hi Mr. Broder,

Why do you think there was a huge blow-up over the Dubai ports controversy (which really didn't threaten our liberties per se), but not much negative public reaction to the revelation that the government may be listening to our private conversations (which definitely threatens our liberties)? Seems backwards to me ...

David S. Broder: I don't want to point fingers, but talking to members of Congress, it is clear that talk radio jumped on the ports story--often distorting the facts--and helped to whip up a public storm before the administration effectively told its side of the story. Nothing like that happened on the warrantless wiretapping, where the president's actions were defended by many of the same broadcasters.

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Columbia, S.C.: The Condi people purchased radio ads here in Columbia, S.C., on Glen Beck and Rush, so they seem to be getting donations to finance this effort to draft Condi as president. Since this is just before our Lincoln Day dinner tonight and the start of the Republican state convention tomorrow, do you think their message will part of the discussion for the 2008 race?

Compared to the effort to draft Wesley Clark in 2003, do you think she would be wise to come out to run later in 2007 or would she have to announce as soon as Rudy, McCain, Frist, Allen, or Romney do so?

David S. Broder: I get e-mails from people who hope to see Secretary Rice in the presidential race, so I know they are out there. As far as I can tell, she is sincere in saying that is not something she wants to do. People who are genuinely reluctant don't get drafted--in my experience.

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Durango, Colo.: David -- Regarding now-languishing ethics reform:

Of the many active congressional watchdog groups, do you know which were invited to testify regarding needed reforms?

Also -- what, in your opinion, is the likelihood that Congress will EVER apply undelying No Child Left Behind approach to ethics reform?

(i.e. Specific goals and objectives, timelines,regularly applied metrics, outside evaluation, and serious penalties for non-compliance ...)

David S. Broder: I do not know which groups were invited to testify on ethics reforms. I like your idea of applying No Child Left Behind-type measures of standards and progress to the ethics process. But there is no will to do that among many of the members of Congress--and particularly no willingness to break the tie between lobbyists and fund-raising. Without that, most of the ethics reforms are window dressing.

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Far North, West: Anybody who is thinking about building a fence on the Canadian Border should take a flight from Minneapolis to Anchorage, as I do quite often. We'll build a fence there right after we finish the subway to the moon!

David S. Broder: I think that's right. And I believe both proposals are probably part of the budget that the House just refused to bring up for a vote.

On that happy note, I have to sign off for today. I'll see you in a couple weeks.

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