Post Politics Hour

Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Congressional Reporter
Monday, October 2, 2006; 11:00 AM

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Washington Post Congressional reporter Shailagh Murray was online Monday, Oct. 2, at 11 a.m. ET .

The transcript follows.

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Shailagh Murray: What else could possibly go wrong for the GOP? I'd be interested in hearing your even-worst-case scenarios. In the meantime, I look forward to your questions/comments.


Washington, D.C.: What will the political impact be if the stories of Speaker Hastert's knowledge of the Foley emails from 2005 are true and he seemingly did nothing about it?

Shailagh Murray: This is the central question in the Foley mess. If Republican leaders did have an inkling he had an inappropriate relationship with a page or pages, and didn't adequately respond to it, there presumably are serious, possibly career-ending implications. This is exactly why people are so mad at the Catholic Church.


Washington, D.C.: George Allen's "direct" address being shown on WRC-4 just before 8:00pm tonight...inspiration or desperation?

Thanks for the chats!

Shailagh Murray: Apparently he's announcing some Redskins endorsements today. And it's intriguing to note that the infomercial is after sundown.


Washington, D.C.: Do you think the Foley matter will become a major scandal?

Shailagh Murray: A simple but important question. We need a few more news cycles before we know for sure. It's conceivable that this will reverberate across districts, especially if Dems use it in ads. Or it could be contained to isolated races, i.e. the Tom Reynold race, already a surprisingly close battle in upstate NY.


Philadelphia, Pa.: Shailagh...Does this Foley scandal make Hastert, Boehner, Reynolds, etc. vulnerable to a Democratic pick-up of their house seats?

Shailagh Murray: Reynolds is the only guy with a tough race this cycle, so of the GOP leaders who have been drawn into this, he's the only one would could pay at the polls.


Avon Park, Fla.: Is it common for Senators with safe reelections to give money to candidates in tight races? For example, Hillary Clinton has $22 million in the bank. I know that she's probably preparing for a presidential campaign. But she doesn't need to save all of that money. So would it be unprecedented for her to give that money to Harold Ford in Tennessee, for example?

Shailagh Murray: Members from safe districts are expected to cough up for their embattled brethren. One indicator of presidential ambitions (or Senate ambitions, for a House member) is an incumbent with a big bankroll who is not writing any checks.


Cannon Falls, Minn.: Lost in the multitude of scandals...have you had a chance to look through the Abramoff/Ralston emails? With Rove mentioned directly over and over how valid is the WH talking point that they barely knew Abramoff? Will there be lots of questions from the press corp on this issue, or will it get buried under the weight of the other scandals hitting the news this week?


Shailagh Murray: The one silver lining for Republicans with the Foley scandal is that it's totally buried the Abramoff story. That's not my issue, but we have outstanding reporters who are following those developments closely. If there is news on Abramoff we will certainly find a way to publish it.


Boca Raton, Fla.: Good morning Shailagh,

I come from notorious Palm Beach County. I also come from the school that says if you don't have anything good to say about someone, don't say anything.

So I will skip Foley and instead ask you what impact will Foley's demise have on Congressman Clay Shaw's reelection. Shaw generally gets good marks but his district adjoins Foley's. Do you think the Foley fall out will affect Shaw?

Shailagh Murray: Hmmm, hard to tell. As I said in a previous response, it could take a few days to figure out where this is heading politically. But the two big threats are that it could reduce conservative turnout while further souring independent voters on the GOP. Either could hurt a candidate like Clay Shaw.


Falls Church, Va.: The FBI is supposedly now investigating the Foley matter to see if a federal crime has been committed. I know that, this morning, we just don't know who knew what and when. But in a worst-case scenario, if other house members (whatever their party or leadership position) knew everything and kept silent, or even made an institutional decision to cover this up, are they worried about being prosecuted as accessories or conspirators themselves?

Shailagh Murray: Yes, this apparently is a even-worst-case scenario.


New York, N.Y.: I just read that Gingrich replying to a query on Foley said he thought the GOP didn't bounce him because it would have seemed like gay bashing. How divorced from reality are these people??? Isn't Gingrich acquainted with the let's beat up on the gays ballot initiatives that the GOP has used and is using again as voting incentives to their base? Must be that in denial stuff everyone is talking about.

Shailagh Murray: Thanks for the update. Foley's sexual orientation is not the central issue here. He's an adult, the pages are minors. The mystery is whether the response would have been different had the pages been young women.


Arlington, Va.: Do you think Nancy Pelosi will ever understand that investigating House members for "crimes" must come equally hard upon all Democrats as well? Has she done anything to investigate William Jefferson in Lousiana or blocked him from being on the ballot? Did Nancy Pelosi have as much anger in the 1980's when a Republican and a Democrat in Congress treated pages inappropriately? How does Nancy Pelosi feel about Mel Watts, who served time in prison for sex crimes with a minor? Why is he a member of Congress?

Sounds like Pelosi is a hypocrite, or do you think that term is too harsh?

Shailagh Murray: I must rise in rare defense of the House Democratic Leader: she went on a tirade against Bill Jefferson. She was genuinely disgusted by the allegations, and was willing to endure pretty intense heat from the Congressional Black Caucus when she led his humiliating public removal from Ways and Means. I don't think it's fair, in this case, to extrapolate how Pelosi or anyone else would have handled the Foley situation. It's unique.


Austin, Tex.: I notice Foley has checked himself into a program for alcoholism.

That made me wonder. I had assumed that the days of hard-drinking Congresspeople were pretty much in the past.

Are there a lot of serious drinkers in the Congress?

Shailagh Murray: Oh yes, tons. That's the reason Congress can't get anything done. They're either drunk or hung over. It's just wild up here! Check out the mechanical bull on the House floor!


Arlington, Va.: You missed my point, why is William Jefferson still running for Congress on the ballot of 2006? If Pelosi was so upset, she would have kicked him off the ballot.

Shailagh Murray: She can't stop anyone from running!


Arlington, Va.: If the victims of Foley's advances had been women, he would have been gone back in 2001, when he started e-mailing the male pages.

Shailagh Murray: Conjecture from Arlington.


Burlington, Vt.: Regarding Foley going to detox -- do you expect him to try the Mel Gibson, "It didn't really count because I was drunk defense?" How well do you think that would play with the Moral Majority?

Shailagh Murray: Umm, yeah, it sure looks like that trajectory. The question is, who gets the confessional interview, Larry King or Barbara Walters?


Pasco, Wash.: Hi, thanks for taking my question. Is the Foley scandal likely be the equivalent of the House Banking Scandal of 94 where we just throw all the bums out who let it happen?

Shailagh Murray: It sure appears to have that whiff. The difference with 1994 is that there are so many other big stories crowding the airwaves -- like the war -- so it makes the extent of the impact harder to gauge.


Glen Ellyn, Ill.: Arlington VA wrote ..."How does Nancy Pelosi feel about Mel Watts, who served time in prison for sex crimes with a minor?"

Um, assuming they mean Mel Watt, there's no record of him being in prison.

Shailagh Murray: Yes, I forget to point that out, thanks for catching it.


Annandale, Va.: I really don't understand the Democratic fuss over Foley. After all, Gerry Studds, way back in the 80s, actually had sex with a 17 year old page. Sure, he was censured (and he did turn his back to his colleagues) since he believed what he did was consensual. He brazened it out, was reelected and all was forgotten.

Shailagh Murray: Remember, this started with a page complaining about Foley. That's a pretty fundamental difference.


Tulsa, Oklahoma: What strikes me as strange about this whole Foley mess is the over reaction of the press and everyone else I guess. I realize it is a sleazy act and should be followed up in Ethics Committee. But, here's the problem I see with the reaction. In the past 2-3 years there have been lies, misinformation etc. from the administration which brought a collective yawn from congress and most of the press. The Dems. tried to hold hearings on some of the most egregious questions and were limited to small hearing rooms in the basement and, to my amazement, even their microphones cut off after the one, worthless Republican chairman left the room. Does it really get down to sex as the most serious breach of conduct a congressman (or president) can do? Perhaps the 10 Commandments could be altered to show SEX #1, and killing somewhere way down the list. What do you think?

Shailagh Murray: A great closing post. True, one must always distinguish between what's important and what's interesting. I think what captivates people about this story is how the political wheels turned behind the scenes. Basically you had a bunch of older white men fumbling a sexual hot potato. Sound familiar?

This was a record turnout day, so thanks to everyone for participating, and sorry I couldn't begin to get to everyone. Cheers, Shailagh


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