Broder on Politics

David S. Broder
Washington Post Columnist
Friday, September 15, 2006; 11:00 AM

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and Washington Post columnist David S. Broder was online Friday, Sept. 15, at 11 a.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."

The transcript follows.


New Hampshire: Good morning David and thank you for taking my question.

Do you believe that the Valerie Wilson investigation is over now that Richard Armitage has come forward and admitted to being a leaker? I wonder if there is more to the story myself. I can't help thinking that Mr. Armitage has been thrown under the proverbial bus and that Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation into the crime continues.

David S. Broder: The only person who can declare the investigation over is Mr. Fitzgerald. I have no idea what he is investigating at this time, but that's up to him to disclose.

And, by the way, good morning to everyone who is in on this chat. Dave Broder


New York, N.Y.: Mr. Broder:

Through reading, I discovered that you personally knew (to some degree) the late Hunter S. Thompson.

My question is this: Do you think in contemporary America there is still an audience for that kind of writer-injects-self-into-story, first-person journalism as it applies to covering politics?

Personally, I miss it.

David S. Broder: Yes,I think there's plenty of room for personal journalism, especially if we could find someone as talented as Hunter. I miss that kind of voice too.


Washington, D.C.: Mr Broder, if you feel Karl Rove is owed an apology from the pundits and writers over Valerie Plame, did you also call for an apology to the Clintons after Ken Starr, the Whitewater investigation and the failed attempt to impeach President Clinton? If not, why not?

David S. Broder: As best, I can recall,I did not call for such an apology. My view, for whatever it is worth long after the dust has settled on Monica, was that when President Clinton admitted he had lied to his Cabinet and his closest assoc, to say nothing of the public, that the honorable thing was for him to have resigned and turned over the office to Vice President Gore. I think history would have been very different had he done that.


Detroit, Mich.: What do you think about Tony Snow calling Colin Powell "confused" because of the former Sec. of State's opposition to Bush's war tribunals? It doesn't seem like the sort of comment that just goes away with a "maybe I shouldn't have used the word 'confused'" clarification that Snow offered later.

David S. Broder: Given a choice between General Powell and Mr. Snow, I think most people would be inclined to take Powell's word.


New York, N.Y.: I'm already so disheartened by the tone of this election season. I can't see how the country, which has real and serious problems, is helped by another round of "Traitor, traitor, traitor." In fact, the name-calling in general is just loathsome. I've written Washington off; they don't care about the rest of us, they care about their little games, but, in your view, are there at the state level some politicians with the potential to become national figures (say, in 08) with the stature to bridge the partisan hatred and actually govern and govern well?

David S. Broder: Like you, I find much more reason for optimism in looking at the states than in contemplating contemporary Washington. Among the most effective governors are Mike Huckabee, Tim Palwenty and Mitt Romney on the Republican side, Tom Vilsack, Janet Napolitano and Kathleen Sebeliius on the Democratic side. Which if any of them has the potential to lead the country is an unproven proposition. But I expect some of them to give it a try.


Springfield, Mo.: After reading about James Baker's renewed involvement with the White House I'm wondering if the POTUS is finally ready to consider throwing Rumsfeld under the bus.

David S. Broder: I see no evidence that the President is about to throw Secretary Rumsfeld under a bus--or anywhere else.


Ontario, Calif.: David,

You recently took the position that the media owe Karl Rove an apology for buying into left-wing conspiracy theories instead of sticking to the facts in their reporting on the outing of Valerie Plame? Is this a view commonly held by other Post reporters? Do you think the media in general shares your opinion on this?

Thanks for the discussion.

Thanks again.

David S. Broder: I don't know the answer to either question. I have not canvassed my Post colleagues and I certainly can't guess about the broader population of Washington reporters. I can tell you that most of the e-mails I received were critical of my position./


Newark, N.J.: Hi,

I like these chats a lot, but they have begun to overshadow actual news you feel like blogs, youtube and all sorts of other Internet and TV news features are a double edged sword?

David S. Broder: I enjoy these chats and the window they give me into the thinking and the concerns of some very smart people. But I am not a reader of other blogs; I'd rather be out reporting than sitting in front of my computer.


Grand Terrace, Calif.: Here in California it appears that Governor Schwarzenegger has repositioned himself away from the national GOP and is probably cruising to victory. My own 19 year old daughter that is voting for the first time and is an avowed progressive is voting for him. Do you think that many Republicans in other states will do the same?

David S. Broder: It's not hard to find other Republicans repositioning on the war in Iraq, counter-terrorism measures, the economy, minimum wage and other issues. But few have done it as dramatically--and apparently successfully--as your governor.


Kingston, Ontario: I'm rather surprised by your and your correspondents' calm tone of voice this morning. Unless the New York Times editorial page is wildly off-track, the U.S. is in the grip of a major constitutional crisis, with the government trying to set aside long established guarantees of legal behavior, both internally and in relation to international law. Where's the sense of urgency?

David S. Broder: Far be it from me to question the New York Times, but I'd like to assure you that Washington is calm and quiet this morning, and democracy still lives here. Editorial writers sometimes get carried away by their own rhetoric.


Valley Stream, N.Y.: Is there any reason, other than morality, that the Israeli investigation into its attack on the UN post feels and Bush's request to Congress to legalize the Gitmo and CIA prisoner situations might seem linked?

David S. Broder: I give up. What's the link?


Burke, Va.: Mr. Broder,

Your thoughts on yesterday's article on the Allen campaign using an old Washingtonian article as a weapon against James Webb? I have to think that any adult over 50 has made some sort of pronouncement that they would repudiate or at least waver on 25+ years later! (My mother has been teasing my father about his 1972 election pronouncements for years)

David S. Broder: I find I often disagree with what I wrote yesterday, let alone five years ago.


Astoria, N.Y.: Hi,

I'm not from Connecticut, but I thought it was a mistake for people to vote for Ned Lamont; I think Lieberman was too close to bush, and he put himself there for political purposes, but I also think there is a shortage of moderate democrats with his level of experience, and to have him sitting on the bench during this point in our history doesn't strike me as a good solution.

What will his level of support be from the senate and established political institutions, and assuming he wins how will his influence be affected?

David S. Broder: If Senator Lieberman wins, he will be welcomed back into the Democratic caucus and his influence in the Senate will be undiminished. Most of the formal organization support--party and labor--now goes to Mr. Lamont, but Mr. Lieberman still has many well-wishers on the Democratic side.


Princeton, N.J.: Since one can lie by omission, do you believe the President and Vice President (at least) should resign because of the lies about Iraq's atomic program and their link with Al Qaeda? As phase II of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report appears and leaks pop up about the rest of it, it becomes clearer and clearer that we were lied to.

David S. Broder: I think if you want to disqualify as lying everyone in government who believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, you would empty not only the White House but most of Capitol Hill. I think the way to do that is through election, not mass resignation. Resignations seem appropriate to me when individual responsibility is clear and unique.


Arlington, Va.: I realize this may not be a typical political question, but I hope you can share some thought on the matter of the Pope and his statement about Islam.

His statement (and I may not have the whole story) was insulting to Islam and unnecessarily so. I realize he was making a historical quote, but that sort of statement does not seem to be appropriate especially considering his stated goal of increasing dialogue with Muslims.

As a Catholic American Republican, I am increasingly disturbed by gratuitous insults to Islam (and Arabs) delivered by my fellow Republicans, my fellow Americans, and now, my fellow Catholics.

David S. Broder: I don't know exactly what the Pope said, so I'm not going to comment.


Helena, Mont.: What still bothers me is how Congress so willingly rolled over in the rush to war. I don't proclaim to have any great insight, but I do remember being confused as to how invading Iraq was the best answer to combating answer. Invading Cuba would have made as much sense, as Bush could have claimed that Castro was fomenting terrorism in this hemisphere.

David S. Broder: I would be careful about putting Cuba into play, even as a hypothetical. Somebody in power might think invading the island was a great idea/


Alexandria, Va.: Can a cabinet secretary be impeached and removed from office by the Congress? Or does impeachment affect only the President, Vice President, and Judges?

I ask because it is a common saying that a Secretary "Serves at the Pleasure of the President". If the Democrats retake control of the Congress, would they have the power to force the removal of Rumsfeld?

David S. Broder: A Cabinet secretary can be impeached,.but I think it doubtful that weapon would be used by a Democratic Congress.


Fountain Valley, Calif.: Hi David,

A few days ago you wrote a column basically saying that an apology was owed to Karl Rove because of the disclosure that Richard Armitage was Bob Novak's source. I don't quite get it. Why is a man owed an apology when the only change in the facts were that another man was also leaking information?

David S. Broder: I don't want to go through the whole sequence again, but the point was that the charge--or assumption--by some parts of the press that Rove had masterminded a plot to expose Plame and discredit her husband has fallen apart with the disclosure that Mr. Armitage, no tool of the White House, is the man who set the whole thing in motion. Get it?


Rochester, N.Y.: I'll be impressed if you take this one...

Mr. Broder, you recently argued that many in the media owed Karl Rove an apology, because we now know that the worst Mr. Rove might have done in the Valerie Plame case was to have misled prosecutors about a deed that was not itself a crime. If you feel this way now, then why were you so critical of Bill Clinton for misleading lawyers about a deed that was not itself a crime? Or do you now feel you owe Bill Clinton an apology? If not, then why not?

David S. Broder: We return a second time to President Clinton. What bothered me greatly about his actions was not what he said to his lawyers but what he told the Cabinet, his White House staff--You can go out and defend me because this did not happen. And he told the same,e lie to the American people. When a president loses his credibility, he loses an important tool for governing--and that is why I thought he should step down.


Huntington Beach, Calif.: David,

I've heard a few pundits talking about a slight GOP bounce from the 9/11 anniversary. Do you think it is real? Is it permanent or temporary?

David S. Broder: I would tend to disregard any particular shift in the p;olls. Be patient, and watch to see if there is a trend. There may be, but we don't know that yet.


Washington, D.C.: Did you hear Fred Barnes on CNN say that the President didn't consider catching ObL to be a big deal? I was appalled. Is this the scandalous comment I think it is (especially after all the 9/11 "we should be scared" speeches of the past couple weeks), or am I seeing this through an overly-partisan lens?

David S. Broder: I did not hear Fred Barnes' comment. I think we should judge the President by what he says himself--and what he does.


Ann Arbor, Mich.: "by some parts of the press that Rove had masterminded a plot to expose Plame and discredit her husband has fallen apart with the disclosure that Mr. Armitage, no tool of the White House, is the man who set the whole thing in motion. "

You are wrong. What about Cheney's little annotated column? What about the comments to Chris Matthews that the Wilson's were 'fair game' and 'they were trying to screw the WH so we're going to screw them right back." What about the reporting that the OVP was pushing this info to six different reporters?

David S. Broder: Conspiracy theories die hard, don't they? If it comforts you to believe this was all masterminded by the White House, be my guest. Anyone who knows Dick Armitage would think otherwise.


Ottawa, Canada: I am curious about your statement regarding Mr. Clinton:"..that the honorable thing was for him to have resigned..." This resignation would have been because of private misconduct that he lied about. How sir, would you judge a president that overstated the facts and got the country into a war?

David S. Broder: I would judge that president harshly, as the majority of the voters in this country and in many other parts of the world has done. But I make a distinction between a terrible misjudgment and a deliberate lie. Do you?


Reston, Va.: We return a second time to President Clinton. What bothered me greatly about his actions was not what he said to his lawyers but what he told the Cabinet, his White House staff--You can go out and defend me because this did not happen. And he told the same lie to the American people. When a president loses his credibility, he loses an important tool for governing--and that is why I thought he should step down.

And so, in your opinion, the current president, vice president, secretary of defense, etc., have never lied to other government officials or the public and have lost no credibility?

David S. Broder: A classic have you stopped beating your wife question. How do I know whether they have ever lied to other government officials? The people in this administration are responsible for the decision that have led to the current miserable situation in Iraq, and Afghanistan and the worldwide damage to the standing of the United States. I think the American people know that and will hold them accountable--in this election and the next.

That is what should happen. What else do you want to see?


Speaking of credibility: Brian Williams recently asked the President if it would have been better to ask the country for greater sacrifice in response to 9/11. Mr. Bush said, "Americans are sacrificing" and went on to say that they pay a lot of taxes, that they sacrificed when the economy went in the tank and air traffic was disrupted. He concluded by repeating that Americans have paid a lot of taxes since 9/11. As the wife of an Army officer who served in Iraq, I was disgusted that the president defines sacrifice as paying taxes and going through extra security at the airport. How would you rate Mr. Bush's credibility at this time? Thank you as always for taking time to do these chats.

David S. Broder: Like you, I found that answer appalling. And the unwillingness of this president to ask the country for any real sacrifice in a time of war is historically unprecedented and one more serious mark against his record, in my book.


Baltimore, Md.: I am surprised at you calling the Bush administrations manipulation of facts and lying "misjudgment" --- this administration has lied and lied to the people time after time. In front of the UN, in front of congress, in front of the public --- they ignored voices of reason and moved ahead with war the way they wanted to. Cheney intertwined Hussein and Bin Laden. This administration has lied more than any I can remember. It is disgusting and for you to give them a free pass is a bit disgusting too.

David S. Broder: If you think I am giving them a free pass, you have not been reading my answers to the earlier questions. I repeat: This administration is responsible for the mess in Iraq and Afghanistan and the worldwide damage to the standing of the United States. It should be and will be held accountable in this year's election and in 2008.


Vienna, Va.: When Arianna was promoting her new book on O'Reilly's show, he surprised her by playing an advertisement that he said was prepared by the Kurds to thank the US. I couldn't believe my ears! Now some of the facts are coming to light and it appears the ad was prepared in California as a propaganda piece. Wondering if you have heard anything on this.

David S. Broder: No, I have heard nothing of that.


Burke, Va.: I've been trying to figure out this question for a while. If the warrantless wiretapping can continue as it is right now what stands between a president looking for information on their political opponents?

David S. Broder: The warrantless wiretapping--which I oppose--is supposed to be confined to international calls. But there are few outside safeguards right now.


Washington, D.C.: I can't imagine that reporters enjoy doing these chats. Is it something that The Post strongly encourages?

David S. Broder: This reporter really enjoys these chats--including the messages from people who have strongly critical views. And yes, the Post does encourage us to do them. But they don't have to twist arms.

I'm afraid I'm out of time for this one. See you again.


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