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Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Congressional Reporter
Monday, May 1, 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 Congressional reporter Shailagh Murray was online Monday, May 1, at 11 a.m. ET .

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The transcript follows.


Austin, Tex.: Ms. Murray,

Did you attend the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday? Give us the dirt. Please!!!!!!

Thanks for the chats - we LOVE them!

Shailagh Murray: Hello everyone. Thanks for joining. Tell me what you think of the $100 gas rebate, the immigration strikes, etc.

Yes, I did attend the dinner, and as usual, when I observed the sea of prom attire, I thought to myself, who the hell are all these people? I'd never seen most of them before. But there was one table that stood out -- the one where George Clooney was seated, which had so many cameras flashing around it that it looked like a fireworks display. President Bush was very funny, by the way,


Seattle, Wash.: Any fallout from the new Dubai sellout by the Bush crew, or is the Beltway still insulated from the rest of the country?

Shailagh Murray: My theory on this issue is that most politicians are so ashamed of their naked posturing on the ports deal, that there was no chance they would intervene again.


What Would Dana Do?: Everyone's dying to know: does Milbank drive a Prius? He doesn't seem like the SUV type. Maybe he's one of those self-impressed Swedish-vehicle drivers? It's only fair to know, since he's all over the politician cars.

Shailagh Murray: Dana drives a Vespa. Just thinking about him whipping down Connecticut Avenue every morning, his scarf trailing in the breeze, makes me want to run out for an espresso and a new pair of Fendi slingbacks.


Missoula, Mont.: Did you think Colbert was funny or were you one of the press who did not laugh at his jokes?

Shailagh Murray: I thought he was both funny and harsh. I thought Bush was funnier. Colbert had a few great jokes, but the tone was definitely rougher than usual -- although I don't know why people are surprised, because that's his thing. You could tell by Bush's body language, though, that he was offended.


Pittsburgh, Pa.: I'd rather they spent the gas rebate money to either pay down the debt, or help rebuild New Orleans, or fund education, or shore up Social Security, or sponsor research for alternative energy sources.

Shailagh Murray: Republicans, take note. Swing state feedback.


Rochester, N.Y.: I just watched a clip of Stephen Colbert's routine at the press dinner this weekend and I thought it was hilarious. It looked to me as though the audience didn't like it that much. Was that because it was considered over the line -- hard to believe, given that we've seen jokes about WMD and off-color horse jokes in recent years -- or because laughing at these jokes might have been construed at laughing at (not with) the President? I'm puzzled, frankly, since I've always thought the press corps had a sense of humor (aside from Dana Milbank, of course).

Shailagh Murray: I thought the performance went over pretty well -- at least where I was sitting, he seemed to get a good response. But the dinner also dragged on and on, and he was last -- so he had an impatient audience. As for the press corps, it's a cross section like any other business -- there are losers, and there are cool people, but most are regular Joes.


Fairfax, Va.: Are there any Democrats who are calling for a presidential cap on gasoline prices that would require oil companies to reduce their profits? Wouldn't this be a strong issue for the Democrats in the 2006 elections if they spoke out for the cap and the Republicans as expected took the side of the oil companies?

Shailagh Murray: Capping gasoline prices is a non-starter. It's un-American and as short sighted as a rebate, or suspending the gasoline tax, or anything else that puts money in consumers' pockets. Now, that's not to say that Republicans haven't been in the oil industry's pocket for years. Just as Detroit holds the Democratic Party hostage. But for all you folks who are counting on the government for a quick fix -- it ain't going to happen.


Baltimore, Md.: I heard a quote on the radio this morning that if the Democrats can't win the house this year then they'll never win anything. Is that the accepted view right now? Others have said that it's a crap shoot choosing who is going to control the House.

Shailagh Murray: Was that Washington Post radio? I hope not.

Six months before any election, who has any idea what's going to happen? Remember a year or two ago, when you would have been laughed out the room for suggesting Democrats could pick up 10 House seats? There are some folks, smart ones inside the party, who think it will take two cycles to win the House -- and if you start hearing that spin later this summer, that will be a good indication that Nancy Pelosi isn't changing offices anytime soon.


Morrison, Colo.: Since we're running a huge deficit at this point, when the Republicans decide to send us all a check for $100 aren't we in effect just taking out a mortgage against the country to pay for a few tanks of gas?

Shailagh Murray: Another key battleground state! Don't you think that if they're going to follow this course, that they should give $200 to SUV drivers? I mean, they're the ones who are really suffering.


Hampton Cove, Ala.: Even my most liberal friends are starting to get anti-illegal immigrant. These rallies are getting people mad. I suspect the whole thing could backfire against John McCain. Do you agree?

Shailagh Murray: Yes, Alabama, I agree with you. As I've traveled around in the past six weeks or so, I've noticed this exact same trend. A lot of working class Democrats in particular have no patience for illegal immigration. The guest worker program plays particularly poorly -- people really do see that as a threat to good wages.


Ocala, Fla.: The energy secretary gets on TV and says gas prices are likely to be high for three more years, just about the same amount of time Bush will be president. How come nobody in the media has done the story on how the price of crude goes up with Bush presidencies and down when there is no bush in the white house? The price of crude also went way up under Bush 41.

Shailagh Murray: I may be going out on a limb here, but I don't think the price of crude oil has much to do with who occupies the White House. As a former Wall Street Journal reporter, I fall back on the simple supply and demand principle. People want to drive SUVs. A gazillion highway lanes are being built in China. Limited supplies of crude oil, whatever happens with ANWR. Of all the things to be surprised about, high gas prices should not be one of them.


Fairfax Station, Va.: Is there any chance Hillary Clinton would be happy to be the majority leader of the Senate with a democrat as president? After eight years of PR we need to get back to governing and I believe she actually reads the bills that are proposed in Congress.

Shailagh Murray: I think Hillary would be a great Senate Democratic Leader. It would play to all of her strengths...and she could be dismissive and grumpy, too, and actually be admired for it.


Ogden, Utah: As a journalist --I am a columnist, 30-plus years experience, -- I'm offended at the very idea of the correspondents dinner -- making jokes and doing nice-nice with the people you are supposed to be covering?

Come on -- it show, better than we need to see, how cozy you guys are with the politicians you allegedly cover. What happened to maintaining a distance? Avoiding conflict of interest? If I did what you guys do I'd be abandoned by my readers who expect me to speak for them, not the politicians I cover, and they'd be absolutely right.

Shailagh Murray: Yeah, you make a good point. It's crossed my mind. It's a strange event -- it should be really fun, but with the metal detectors, the endless speeches and and the crush of people, it's pretty tedious. We would indeed be compromised but for the fact that the evening is as intimate as a county fair.


Seattle, Wash.: I think the $100 tax rebate is a farce, when we could spend the same money on building American-made biofuel stations nationwide and do ten times as much good in reducing oil demand nationwide.

Other than that, I loved the pic of Speaker Hastert getting out of his demo hybrid car to get into his real gas-guzzling SUV, while Sen. Maria Cantwell was the only one to walk back the two blocks to the Capitol buildings.

Shailagh Murray: That Hastert vehicle switch is one of the best snafus sneaking a chili dog after a Weight Watcher's meeting.


Hadley, Mass.: "I may be going out on a limb here, but I don't think the price of crude oil has much to do with who occupies the White House. As a former Wall Street Journal reporter, I fall back on the simple supply and demand principle."There are plenty of things that the President could have done for the last 5 years that could have affected the "demand" part of things (CAFE standards, etc.) and he has not done them.

Shailagh Murray: Yes, you're right -- my point is that making gas cheaper only makes matters worse.


Washington, D.C.: So how come there's been so little in the press about Stephen Colbert's routine at the WH Correspondents dinner? I was frustrated when I saw the picture of Colbert and how he made "very pointed" comments, but no one has reported on them.

Shailagh Murray: I'm surprised by the number of questions I've gotten about the Stephen Colbert performance -- and I would bet it means that more will be written about it. If you all haven't seen it, check out C-Span. It was exactly the kind of satire you see on his show, albeit in a much different setting. Whether it was inappropriate or not, I'm not a good judge --I love inappropriate.

Have a good couple of weeks. Thanks to everyone for participating. Cheers, Shailagh


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