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Lois Romano
Washington Post National Political Reporter
Thursday, January 4, 2007; 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 national political reporter Lois Romano was online Thursday, Jan. 4, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest in political news.

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The transcript follows.

In the Loop: On the Hill: Passed Over by Pelosi, Harman Doesn't Get Even. She Gets Mad. (Post, Jan. 4)

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Lois Romano: Good Morning Everyone! It's great to be here and to have so many informed people on line.

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Re: Harman's fuming ...: One thing that the voters were very clear about during this last election was the lack of attention to America's business by a "do-nothing" Congress, which seemed to be focused interminably on themselves. Harman's anger at being passed over is a perfect example of that. First, she seems a bit naive if she doesn't know the politics of politics by now, but more important, her "obsessive" anger just reminds us again how internal squabbling can shift the focus from caring about America to caring about congressional egos.

Lois Romano: I agree. The politics of personality is something the public seems fed up with. But it is never going to co away. Politics, like other jobs, is a career and there is always going to be power grabs and people left out.

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Chicago, Ill.: Re: Your Obama/cocaine story from yesterday. Can I suggest an appropriate level of media scrutiny of Obama's cocaine use (which seems to have suddenly come to light by reading his ten-year-old autobiography...)equal the coverage of George Bush's all-but-admitted cocaine use when he was much older -- and supposedly more responsible -- than the teen-age Obama? How about holding Obama to the Bush standard? (Don't forget Bush's former sister-in-law has claimed Bush did coke at Camp David more than once when his father was president...)

Thanks.

Lois Romano: But George Bush did not admit it-- "all but doesn't count"

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Washington, D.C.: We hear that the Dems are planning to enact the remaining 9/11 Commission recommendations. Any idea of what that actually means? Which Congressmen (or what Committees) should we watch to see them go through these steps?

Lois Romano: Nancy Pelosi has pledge to enact all the provisions of the report in the first 100 hours of session. It won't go through a committee. It will just come to the floor for a vote.

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Capitol Hill: Lois, it is so great to have you back as a columnist. The Reliable Source has been a shadow of what it once was since you left it! We loyal readers have missed your particular brand of snark!

Regarding today's reporting: the Harman-Pelosi split has been interesting, but I have yet to read anything about the origins of their falling out (other than the ideological differences). Maureen Dowd has made some references to a spat at a Ritz Carlton hair salon, but I still haven't read anything official there. Any idea? I only ask because I deal with Harman regularly in a professional capacity and find her very demanding and difficult. Her staff turnover rate is legendary.

Thanks and good luck!

Lois Romano: My understanding is that they were friends and the falling out was over the committee situation. They are two very strong and ambitious women from the same state --competition was inevitable. ...

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Flemington, N.J.: What are you hearing from Congressional Democrats off the record about a Hillary Clinton presidential candidacy? Are they wary of having her at the top of the ticket? Has anyone done some analysis on House seats where Hillary would hurt a Democrat? She will bring Republicans to the polls.

Lois Romano: Many Democrats love Hillary but there is a sense that she could be polarizing at the top of the ticket. One thing you hear a lot is the hope that she will open up more and show and more personable side--like her husband.

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Gettysburg, Pa.: Thanks for taking my questions. Are you new to The Post or just the chats?

I just caught repeat of John McCain's appearance on Hardball not too long ago. He was in Iowa and Chris Matthews asked if he was in favor of gay marriage. He initially answered that he was in favor of gays being able to marry but that he thought marriage should be between one man and one woman. This answer was met with silence from the crowd of college students and Matthews did not follow up on this nonsensical answer. But after a break McCain came out and said what he really meant is that gays should be able to have private ceremonies but legal marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman. This was greeted with enthusiastic boos by the audience.

If it is true that McCain has some problems with the religious right because they think he is soft on their hot button issues, like gay marriage, didn't this exchange really hurt him with the religious right base? Can we expect to see one or both of his answers in TV ads in Iowa or other states? And doesn't this exchange blunt any serious criticism he can level against Giuliani on this issue?

Lois Romano: Thank you for your question. I am not new to the Post-just to the chats.

The religious right is suspicious of McCain but it remains to be seen how this will play out. Right now he is positioned to lead the pack, in terms of money and organization. But he can't do too many "what I meant to say was..."

some conservatives think there is room for another candidate from the right. Frank Keating, former governor of Oklahoma is considering a run

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New York, N.Y.: Why does an 11 year old admission of cocaine use 35 years ago belong on the front page this week?

Lois Romano: Thank you for writing. Many people asked me the same question yesterday. The story was meant to be a discussion of whether the public is today on this kind of thing. He admitted extensive drug use which is very unusual. By the tone of my mail yesterday the public DOES NOT seen to care. People are far more interested in the war and where the country is headed.

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Fairfax, Va.: The latest news on Senator Johnson( not speaking, ventilator at night) sounds fairly awful on several levels. Do you hear any GOP rumblings that they are going to start making a fuss if there is not some realistic hope of meaningful recovery?

Lois Romano: Not a word. First, Sen. Johnson is well liked. Second, at least for a while, there won't been any intense partisan votes. So far, no rules changes on this.

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Vienna, Va.: Re: Obama's cocaine use -- so that's no big deal, but Mitt Romney's religion is a big deal? An odd world we live in.

Lois Romano: I didn't say it was no big deal. I said the tone of mail was not critical about it.

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Mitchell, S.D.: Do you really think the President and Congress will have this harmonious working relationship that so many of them are professing they'll have?

Lois Romano: They sure better try because the public is quite sick of the infighting. If the Democrats want to be in power more than 2 years, they had better show they are different.

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Worcester, Mass.: What do you think of John Edwards' chances?

I like him. He may not be as polarizing as Hillary Clinton or controversial as Obama. Do you think the fact that Hillary Clinton is a woman and that Obama is black will deter people from voting for them?

Lois Romano: Edwards can't be underestimated. He's smart and has personal money and has spent much time in Iowa. Its way too early to predict how things will play out. For one, Obama is not tested as a candidate yet.

With respect to whether people will vote for a woman and a black--people say they will in polls. But we won't know until they go into the voting booth.

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Bowie, Md.: Isn't Hillary Clinton's stance (or rather lack of it)on Iraq a serious issue/problem for potential Democratic voters?

Lois Romano: It is an issue for sure--and might pose a problem in the primaries where people will have a choice. Edwards has repudiated his vote for the war; Obama was always against it.

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Washington, D.C.: It never ceases to amaze me how the incurious media is so quick to turn away from questions about George Bush. You say he hasn't admitted cocaine use so "end of story". His sister-in-law says he did so why not investigate that? Why not investigate how he avoided service in Vietnam until the story is complete? But along comes Barack Obama, who ten years ago writes about cocaine use in a biography, and the media decides the story is worthy of space and discussion. How do you justify that? Or do you even have to justify the way the media frames the news at all?

Lois Romano: You need to go back and look at our coverage on George Bush and his service-- we left no stone unturned. As far as drug use, if he won't admit, and all we have is an angry sister-in-law who was left by his brother-- well, surely you wouldn't want us to be that irresponsible in our reporting.

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Sewickley, Pa.: Hello, and thank you for taking questions. Is it really appropriate to refer to a disagreement between two powerful women in Congress as a "catfight"? I came of age in the business world during the 1970s when women were routinely told during interviews for career track jobs that "we don't hire girls for those positions" the reason being that girls are temperamentally unsuited to positions of authority. Do you see a time--perhaps in my lifetime-- when a disagreement between powerful women will be characterized as something other than a "catfight"? Welcome to The Post political chats.

Lois Romano: Thank you for writing. We were just having a little fun.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi there-

Regarding the Obama article, I had no problem with it. In fact, I find the question to be a valid one. And I am a liberal Dem who is just waiting for him to announce. But the question is valid, and if the answer is the country (saving some) doesn't care, that's a good thing. I think the major factor in the lack of concern is that he has been so up front about it. Honesty goes a long way.

But what does surprise me is that people (in the media) are treating this as some recent revelation. It's not only from a 10 year old book, but he has talked about that specific disclosure in the past 2 years. Why (or how) do you think this has shot to the front page so suddenly? Is it just in anticipation of his run?

Lois Romano: It shot to the front page because he is the hottest politico on the scene right now and because the book is on the best seller list. We didn't search a storage bin for it--he chose to reissue it. which by the way, many think was quite smart.

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Vienna, Va.: With Obama and Clinton running for the President and the Johnson's health situation gradually deteriorating and their seats in all likelihood being up for grabs. How does the Senate look for Democrats for the coming year? I would think Republicans would be champing at the bit to get control of at least the Senate. Have you heard any rumblings on the Republican side of possible replacements?

Lois Romano: That's two years away and its really going to depend on the mood of the country by then. Of course the GOP is planning...

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Washington, D.C.: How will Nancy Pelosi take a male dominated Congress and transform it to become more female? In other words, after 218 years of mainly men on Capitol Hill, what can she do to make the Congress more female friendly?

Lois Romano: A record number of women serve in the U.S. Congress today--..... 13 women in the U.S. Senate and 61 in the House of Representatives. Things are already changing fast.

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Clifton, Va.: There are sources that suggest Hillary Clinton used marijuana up through at least the mid 70s if not later. It all comes down to the biases of the press.

Lois Romano: What bias? What sources? Tell them to call me if you know them.

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Washington, D.C.: The previous post form Washington DC about looking into GWB's military service raises a big problem. THE POST DID AN EXCELLENT JOB INVESTIGATING THIS during both of Bush's election victories. What amazed me, is that so many people believe what was said in Dan Rather's forged memo including Dan Rather! Do you see in your daily work people are willing to believe any rumor about Bush regardless of the proof? Seems to me a huge double standard especially when the media ignored a lot of Bill Clinton's dealings with the Chinese, his pardoning of Mark Rich, etc.

Lois Romano: You have got to be kidding with that comment. Were you out of the country when the media reported on the Rich fiasco. Reporters tracked Rich to the ski slopes. Clinton was killed on it.

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Chicago, Ill.: Ok so Bush won't admit to cocaine use but as I recall he never flatly denied it. Isn't the failure to deny something when directly asked the same as admitting it? Or is this the difference between pleading guilty and no contest, a difference I have never completely understood.

Lois Romano: Not denying is not the same as admitting. And we did use his no comments . -- people can make their own judgments on what his "no comment" means. And many did.

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Chevy Chase, Md.: Do you think Rudy Giuliani would really give up his current life of luxury for a dicey run for the presidency?

Lois Romano: What would he be giving up? He's not in office. If he flames out, nothing lost. And if he wins, he's president.

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Lois Romano: Thank you all for writing today--this was great fun. I'm going to sign off now so that I can see Nancy Pelosi sworn in. I'll see you next week.

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