Post Politics Hour

Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Congressional Reporter
Monday, July 17, 2006; 11:00 AM

Don't want to miss out on the latest in politics? Start each day with 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 chief political reporter Shailagh Murray was online Monday, July 10, at 11 a.m. ET .

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The transcript follows.


Alexandria, Va.: Thank you for taking my question. Would I be correct in viewing Secretary of State Condi Rice as the logical "heir apparent" since Cheney is not going to run in 2008? Would I also be correct if I viewed her more as an international Vice President since she is speaking for the president on the world stage?

Shailagh Murray: Good morning everyone. Lots to talk about today, so bring on your questions. In case you were wondering, the House will vote to protect the Pledge of Allegiance on Wednesday -- so that should help quell the violence in the Middle East, create a few jobs, etc. etc.

Hi Alexandria, and thanks for your question. I find it interesting that just about anyone who appears to be competent these days in politics is considered to automatically presumed to be a presidential contender. That says something, I'm not sure what.


Syracuse, N.Y.: Shailagh

The stem cell debate is dominating Congress today with President Bush's very first veto of his presidency looming. That said, if it plays out this way, what happens after the veto? Will Congress be able to override? If not, is this merely just another political stunt for Congress to be seen as trying to do something in the eyes of the voters who are increasingly seeing this Congress with greater disapproval? Is this more fodder for the mid-term elections?

Shailagh Murray: As of this moment, the House appears not to have the numbers to override a veto. The House has a long record of passing legislation to appease their conservative supporters, but the list of what actually becomes law is quite short. Does this vote play into the Democrats' argument that conservative Republicans have to much power in Washington these days? You're all real people. You tell me.


Ellicott City, Md.: Talking with his mouth full to other dignitaries at a press event? Don't Bush's handlers try to teach him manners?

Shailagh Murray: Voters thought Bush would be more fun to have a beer with. My question is, did he take the butter from the butter plate, and put it on his bread plate, before he buttered his bread. His mother will know what I mean.


Vienna, Va.: What are your guesses on the most probable party nominees for president?

Shailagh Murray: I'm thinking Mike Crapo for the Republicans and Blanche Lincoln for Democrats. Oh, for pete's sake, I have no idea! The suspense is what makes this fun. But nobody on either side seems like a real obvious choice right now. Don't get me started on Hillary. Too hot outside.


New Hampshire: Shailagh-- thanks for taking my question

What in the world is this administration thinking? They are doing nothing to quell the violence in the Middle East and Iraq and Afghanistan are deteriorating. Feasting and yukking it up with foreign leaders is not a foreign policy. I am so ashamed.

Shailagh Murray: Yes, but Congress this week will be working hard to protect the flag -- oops I mean the pledge -- ban gay marriage, and restrict stem cell research. Those are the priorities. That's your government. Hmm. Maybe that sends a, never mind.


Boston, Mass.: Why do your colleagues insist on framing the corruption of today's politics as a bipartisan issue? The scandals on the Republican side are vast and involve every element of the GOP machine, including politicians, lobbyists, think tanks and party organizations from the local to the national level--a completely different scale and number from the Democratic side.

Shailagh Murray: That's because we're the left-wing media elite! Duh!


Richmond, Va.: I really enjoy your chats.

Several months ago, you said that Hillary Clinton lacked a certain comfort when thinking on her feet and that this kind of unease always comes back to haunt a candidate. My question is do you think Mark Warner has what it takes in this media age? I like the guy a lot and think his assets (great personal story, emphasis on bipartisanship and competence) will fit well with people's desires in 2008, but I fear that he will come across as too cold and intellectual on TV.

Shailagh Murray: Hi Richmond. I hope you don't lose the Braves -- my father taught me baseball at that park!

A lot of people I respect in Democratic politics think very highly of Mark Warner. And one of the attributes they always cite is his ability to see his own shortcomings, acknowledge what he doesn't know. That's a real good trait to have in politics. So, the question about Mark Warner in my mind, is not where is he right now, but how much will he have grown a year or 18 months from now. It'll be an interesting political evolution to watch.


Des Moines, Iowa: If President Bush vetoes the stem cell bill, what is the next step? When will the house vote on the veto override?

Shailagh Murray: Yes, if Bush vetos, then the House will attempt to override the veto, and then the next day the Democratic ads go up on TV.


Rochester, N.Y.: Do you that the current conflict in Lebanon will help or hurt the president in the long run politically? On the one hand, it will probably raise gas prices, which hurts the president. On the other, it may help pave the way for a pre-election attack on Iran, which would probably help Republicans (a lot). What do you think the net effect will be?

Shailagh Murray: A great question, and I just don't know. I conferred with my sage colleague Jim VandeHei and he agreed, it's too convoluted at this point to read politically. We are willing to assert that if it's World War Three and we lose, that's bad for Bush.


Anonymous: How about a rule - no speculating on a presidential race until the mid-terms elections are over? While I can't wait until 2008, or actually Jan. 20, 2009, I'm so tired of the Hillary, McCain and so forth talk. Why do I read these chats? To find insight on what's going on now or this year, not speculation on a race two years from now.

Shailagh Murray: Anonymous, eh? So, do you have a question about the Oman trade agreement in the House this week?


Washington, D.C.: I just finished the article about the unscripted conversation Bush had with Blair with the mikes on unknowingly. What weight do these stories really have in the long run? Are they just media hype? Microphone Captures Bush's Unscripted Comments at G-8 (Post, July 17)

Shailagh Murray: Those off-mike comments only matter when they actually say something. I don't think he reversed U.S. policy, so I doubt it'll amount to much. I mean, there is a war going on.


Rochester, N.Y.: Thanks for taking my earlier question, but I have to disagree with you when you write "We are willing to assert that if it's World War Three and we lose, that's bad for Bush." What makes you so sure of that? Won't it just be the fault of the liberal media, which refused to report any of the good news about World War III?

Shailagh Murray: Touche, Rochester. But what's fun about covering politics these days is that half the hysterics think we're liberal apologists, and the other half think we're conservative shills. If they're both mad at you, you know you're doing your job.


New Haven, Conn.: I have heard that Karl Rove is making calls to GOP Senators, saying that a veto on stem cell is not good for the party. Sounds counterintuitive to me. What do you think?

Also, duh is so passe. The new it word is 'dur' - pass it on.

Shailagh Murray: New Haven, I am so totally passe -- remember, I work for the mainstream media. But okay, dur it is.

As for Rove, I think the Wall Street Journal reported this morning that he was making calls urging Republican lawmakers to vote against the bill.


Richmond, Va.: Thanks for answering my earlier Mark Warner question.

To follow up, do you see any push among moderate Democrats to anoint Warner the anti-Hillary before she gets an insurmountable lead in money and momentum? Or is it too early yet to be talking about such things?

By the way, the Braves attendance is pitiful!

Shailagh Murray: Hello again Richmond. Yes, many Democrats -- including Democrats who in public are Hillary supporters -- regard Warner as the most promising of the alternatives.


Toronto, Canada: You know, at one time the U.S. was a scientific powerhouse - I'm thinking of World War II and the Cold War. With all this controversy about stem cell research and creationism it makes the U.S. seem really backward to the rest of the world. After all Darwinism is hardly a new concept - it's been around since the 1850's.

Shailagh Murray: That's why we need to change our immigration laws -- so we can start importing scientists.


Blue Ash, Ohio: Regarding Ellicot City and Bush's manners, we out here in suburban Cincinnati were too busy staying close to a swimming pool (95 degrees) to see any mention of this.

I was just searched for a reference in the paper, but didn't find it. What's the mini-story?

Also, in reference to those who decry meetings of leaders meeting in opulence while the world burns, do they expect President Bush to stay home? (The G7/G8 have been taking place for some years now, and for him not to attend would be a major news story.) Secondly, do you expect them to meet at the St. Petersburg Wendy's for a Frosty, fries and a double?

Shailagh Murray: Drink plenty of water today, D.C. readers!

Thanks for you comment, and I will have the link posted.


Boston, Mass.: You wrote "If they're both mad at you, you know you're doing your job."

That's a classic example of the fallacy of affirming the consequent.

It's true that if you're doing your job, both the left-wingers and right-wingers will be mad at you. The converse is not necessarily true.

For example, everyone might be mad at a reporter because he's an incompetent hack and a liar. Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass, Jack Kelley were not doing their jobs.

Shailagh Murray: I think you may be spending too much time in Harvard Yard. Or perhaps I didn't spend enough time there, because I don't understand your point.


New York, N.Y.: "If they're both mad at you, you know you're doing your job."

This is the standard reporter cop-out to any legitimate criticism. You know it's possible that one side is right and the other side is wrong.

Shailagh Murray: Oh, I'm sorry, I wasn't talking about LEGITIMATE criticism.


Bethesda, Md.: I don't say the pledge and I discourage my children from saying it because I don't want them mindlessly reciting such drivel. I do, however, encourage independent thinking, which may or may not include feeling good about 'murrica at any given moment. Am I going to be taken away by guys in dark glasses?

Shailagh Murray: Yes. I'm calling homeland security right now. Actually I'm Catholic, so I was raised under the principle that if you're mindlessly reciting something, you're not thinking about the boy in the next pew.


Boston, Mass.: Does The Washington Post plan to poll more of the critical Senate races? Although there are tons of Lieberman-Lamont and Santorum-Casey polls, there are very few for Washington, Minnesota, Missouri, or Montana, and other states upon which control of the Senate will hinge.

Shailagh Murray: Chris Cillizza, who writes the Fix for, reports most of the major state polls in his column. So scroll through that (it's a great all-around resource, btw). There's also a polls tab on our site. The most complete repository of state polls is kept by the National Journal's Hotline newsletter, published online everyday, but that's a subscriber service. All the political committees (DCCC, NRCC, NRSC, DSCC) report the polls that are good for their candidates, so you can look at the press releases on those sites and get info, too.


Boston, Mass.: Sorry for not being clear. I'm an MIT grad, not a Harvard kid.

Let me try an analogy.

The statement "If your pet is a cat, then it is a mammal" is true.

The statement "If your pet is a mammal, then it is a cat" is not necessarily true (for example, your pet could be a dog).

Your claim above falls into the second category.

Does that make more sense?

Shailagh Murray: So if I'm lazy and biased, does that mean I'm a journalist?


If they're both mad at you, you know you're doing your job: Wrong, and a perfect example of the lazy thinking that has your (the media's) level of public respect so low.

In matters of social issues, most of you folks do tend leftward. Name too many article you see which lean in favor of stem cell bans. Or laud the shutting down of gay marriage.

On the other hand, you're all (in the majors) extremely well paid professionals, and your slants on economic issues is pretty rightward. Name too many articles against free trade. Or how many times has The Post used the term "tax relief" in context of a tax cut (Weisman was caught three time so far).

We won't go into the Iraq run up, and how perhaps the fact that all you well paid professionals are at no risk of military service, never were at risk, and likely have no family or friends at risk...and how that impacted the coverage.

The biases are there, and don't cancel each other out at all.

Shailagh Murray: No, you are so hilariously wrong, and your comment is a perfect snapshot of an empty rant. Cheers!


Laramie, Wyo.: I have to disagree with your assertion that if everyone is unhappy you are doing your job. Conservatives are unhappy that the press doesn't work like Pravda. Look how much they freak out when you report our own country might be spying on us without warrants. The left just wants you to do your job and maybe fact check a little more. And I will point to the brewing controversy over the Sunday NYT hit piece on Glinton where they take one quote out of context and make an entire story out of it.

Shailagh Murray: Okay, okay, just to clarify. I didn't mean everybody. I meant the people who seem to spend a lot of their time criticizing the media, and demonizing us personally. These are tiny, tiny groups, but they're the ones who fill up our inboxes with emails, etc.


Boston, Mass.: You do know that present immigration laws are structured so that we -are- importing scientists, right?

Shailagh Murray: There's a sense that we're not importing enough of them. But I refer to you countless Senate floor speeches on the subject.


Washington, D.C.: Loving the extra-saucy chat today, but you missed about half the political committees: DLCC, DGA, RSLC, and RGA. Don't know if they publish polls.

Shailagh Murray: Sorry, I meant the committees that are directly in charge of congressional elections, which is those four.


Falls Church, Va.: What's the reaction on Capitol Hill to the war? "Stand by Israel?" "Stand by Bush?" "Bush's Middle East policy has failed?"

Shailagh Murray: The reaction is, wow, what a heap of mess the world is in at the moment.


Rockville, Md.: "These are tiny, tiny groups, but they're the ones who fill up our inboxes with emails, etc."

Take care not to miss a real gem in all that dirt. There could be a few and it will be easy to miss them.

Shailagh Murray: I totally agree, and I always read emails.


Baltimore, Md.: With the world blowing up around us, why are we wasting time discussing the alleged bias of the MSM. It's hackneyed and really boring. Let's get back to what's important... is Condi Rice's hair style going to hold her back from the nomination?

Shailagh Murray: I think her hairstyle suggests an appreciation for tradition and stability. Very old-school Republican, wouldn't you say?

Yes, yes, I agree, I got distracted today by malcontents and I apologize.


Lompoc, Calif.: What do you think the chances are that Waterboard Willy Haynes, the Torture Judge will be confirmed as a lifelong appointmented Judge ? What will it say about American values if we reward his twisted view justice ?

Shailagh Murray: We can't tell where this one is going. I think the Dems may be serious about trying to block him.


Rochester, N.Y.: On the topic of Bush's on-air profanity, I have a hypothetical question: if a network is doing live coverage of presidential remarks, and the president swears into the microphone, can the FCC levy fines agains the stations that carry the profanity? How about a presidential wardrobe malfunction?

Shailagh Murray: I've always thought we'd be much better off as a country if we had a fashion police. Think about it. If fewer men wore Dockers, if 12-year-old girls didn't dress like hookers, and 45-year-old women didn't dress like 12-year-old girls, we'd have a more interesting and creative society, from which so many fresh and positive ideas would flow.

On that cheerful note, I will sign off for two weeks. Let's hope that the world isn't still teetering on the brink. Stay cool.


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