Post Politics Hour

Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Congressional Reporter
Friday, February 23, 2007; 11:00 AM

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Washington Post congressional reporter Lyndsey Layton was online Friday, Feb. 23, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest political news and The Post's coverage of politics.

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The transcript follows.


Lyndsey Layton: Good morning everyone! Congress was on a break this week but the debate among Democrats about war resolutions continued to rage, the Libby jury is still out and a movie mogul sparked the first nasty skirmish between Obama and HRC. What's on your minds?


Wellesley, Mass.: Now that the Democrats are in control of Congress, do you have any insight on the in-depth investigations on which the various committees are going to focus? Are they going to happen? Do you know when they might get started?

Lyndsey Layton: Good morning Wellesley! While it seems that Congress has been obsessed with Iraq -- which it has -- those investigations already are well under way. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chaired by Henry Waxman, the California Democrat, probably has begun the most muscular efforts, looking into questions of war profiteering and the reconstruction money in Iraq. In the Senate, the Committee on Environment and Public Works is knee-deep in climate change


Raleigh, N.C.: Good morning! How long is your average congressional Republican willing to give the surge before bailing? Is the situation substantially different in the House compared to the Senate? If so, which side is more patient?

Lyndsey Layton: Hi Raleigh. That's an interesting question. Many Republicans will say privately that they don't believe the President's surge plan has much chance of success but it's unclear at what point they would abandon it. The House generally is less patient than the Senate, for the very pragmatic reason that re-election is just around the corner for House members and so they tend to respond more quickly to public opinion. The exceptions in the Senate, of course, are all those Presidential hopefuls.


Alabama: How surprised are you by the earlier departure of Vilsack from the race?

Lyndsey Layton: I was a bit surprised. Anyone else?


St. Paul, Minn.: What does Vilsack's impending announcement that he will step down mean for the rest of the pack? Also, what chance is there that a Gore win at the Oscars will turn into an entry into the gaggle? Vilsack Expected to Drop Out of 2008 Race (, Feb. 23)

Lyndsey Layton: As for Vilsack, I don't think it'll have much impact on the others -- he wasn't exactly vacuuming up all the campaign dollars or closing in on Rudy or McCain. As for Gore, I'm more interested in whether he'll wear a bow tie or a straight tie on his red carpet debut


Former Walter Reed Patient -- Washington: Because everyone in Congress will be on the bandwagon, my two cents: As one who has been an active-duty patient in Walter Reed for several months, I've never had any complaints about the treatment. It's an older facility and while it may not have all the modern conveniences or layout, etc., the facility is scheduled to close because of the BRAC recommendation. It would be a shame and a waste to invest further money into renovation only to have it close before a modern upgrade can be completed. Better for Congress to decide to keep the facility open and make improvements or simply accept that it's a grand old lady, with illnesses and limitations of age, and live with its limitations until it's closed in the next several years. What should be of primary concern until its closing is patient treatment and care, not the minutia of the building and environment -- and apparently the complaints aren't about the treatment. (Bureaucracy is a different matter.) Patient care in an older facility, even a facility with many major faults, can be lived with. Money should be spent for a grand reopening or a grand continuation, not spent to renovate the facility for a grand closing. Special Report:The Other Walter Reed

Lyndsey Layton: Thanks for writing. Other thoughts?


Roseland, N.J.: Seems like years ago the new Democratic house passed a bill reducing student loan rates. I've heard squadoosh about it since. Is it dead in the Senate? Why?

Lyndsey Layton: Hi Roseland. No, it's not dead in the Senate, it's just caught in the painfully slow-turning wheels in that august body. And there's no indication of when it might appear for a vote but it's likely to be after some of the more pressing Iraq business.


Arlington, Va.: I was stunned the comment in Dana Milbank's column on page 2, that since C-SPAN wasn't on the approved list, they couldn't cover the press conference touting the improvements in Building 18. Do Army PR officers know that reporters like to write down comments like that? And while it's nice that their living conditions are now slumlike, rather than sub-slumlike, our recovering vets are still being treated like garbage. And Salon and other newspapers covered this story nearly two years ago, and while it's good that The Post is finally on the ball, keep it up until the war is over and all vets get the disability pay they need and deserve. Painting Over the Problems at Walter Reed's Building 18 (Post, Feb. 23)

Lyndsey Layton: Thanks, Arlington.


Walter Reed: Grand old lady? There was mold growing on walls, holes between floors. Mold is a health hazard, probably especially for those with compromised health.

Lyndsey Layton: Another view...


New Boston, N.H.: In spite of Bush's efforts to make Iraq his vanity/legacy war, it looks as though John Kerry and the Congress will be perceived by history as being more of wartime patriots than Bush. Just how do you understand that their efforts toward war curtailment will play out? Will they just throw every thing against the wall, as the defense did in the Scooter Libby trial, and hope that something sticks?

Lyndsey Layton: Before this week's recess, Democratic leaders in both the House and the Senate went to great lengths to focus the debate on a very narrowly worded resolution disapproving of the surge. Now, in the House, it seems that every other member is coming up with his or her own plan to get out of Iraq. Over in the Senate, it looks as though the leaders are trying to craft one bill that will get buy-in from Senators holding a range of positions (see the description of a de facto "war council" in a story in today's Post by my colleagues Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray), which may be impossible to do.

_______________________ Democrats Seek to Repeal 2002 War Authorization (Post, Feb. 23)


Anonymous: Good cop, bad cop. I gather that President Bush is perfectly happy to let VP Cheney make comments such as the one saying that if the anti-Iraq war resolutions were to pass,it would prove al-Qaeda's strategy has worked. He certainly will not criticize such comments. Interestingly, Cheney made his comments to an overseas audience, not to a partisan political audience. Does he gain or lose by making such comments?

Lyndsey Layton: I think Cheney has been playing that role in this administration for so long that it's almost expected from him, and that -- despite howls of protests from Pelosi -- it doesn't resonate any more. It's a tired shtick.


Ontario, Calif.: Lyndsey, I keep hearing that David Geffen's remarks disparaging the Clintons are the result of his disgust over the questionable last-minute pardons granted by Bill at the end of his second term, but his comments seemed so personal and vindictive that I can't help wondering if there isn't something more personal behind them. What are you hearing? Thanks!

Lyndsey Layton: David and I were talking about this just a few weeks ago between hydromassages at the Beverly Hills Hotel. He said something about how Clinton had promised to pardon Leonard Peltier but ended up freeing Marc Rich but then it was time for my caviar firming facial, so I missed the rest of the story.


Rockville, Md.: I am guilty of being an optimist, but from my experience in Vietnam, the surge is the sort of operation that should show immediate good results. Long-term prospects are still not so good -- in Iraq the opposition is hiding. Leaders have left town and the people are tired enough of the killing to turn in terrorist and bomb factories. Is the negative feelings of the legislators from their knowledge, or have they just given it up?

Lyndsey Layton: Hi Rockville. Some of these lawmakers are responding to public opinion, which clearly is against this war, but many of those writing these bills have visited Iraq multiple times to see conditions first-hand. Rep. John Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who last week pitched his plan to tie the President's supplemental war funding to certain levels of troop readiness and equipment, is a regular visitor to Army hospitals and is often on the phone with Pentagon officials.


Boston: Would The Washington Post consider doing an update on the Senate status of the 100 Hours legislation passed in the House? I know that I for one would be immensely grateful to learn if the 100 Hours agenda, like the Contract with America back in 1995, largely will disappear in the Senate.

Lyndsey Layton: Excellent idea, thank you.


Washington: More frequently now, and especially as the Democrats edge closer to actually doing something to begin to end the occupation of Iraq, there is talk about Lieberman going Republican. What steps if any could be taken to prevent his changing sides from flipping Senate control to the Republicans? Could Lieberman be impeached in Connecticut, etc.?

Lyndsey Layton: Impeachment? Lieberman? I think that's a stretch, don't you? I don't know what the Democrats could offer Lieberman to keep him in the party, but I also believe he's got better leverage with both parties if he stays the aloof Independent.


Oxford, Miss.: One effect the Vilsack withdrawal could have is that he's from Iowa and could throw his support behind someone for the first Caucus of the season. And forgive me if someone else has already corrected you here but Vilsack is a Democrat, not a Republican. Thus, he wasn't trying to close in on Rudy or McCain.

Lyndsey Layton: Well, Oxford, there you go -- one of Vilsack's problems was such a lack of impact that the goddamned Congressional writer for The Post forgot he was a Democrat. And that also proves he wasn't closing in on Rudy or McCain.


Bethesda, Md.: The request for post-its and poster board make it sound like the Libby jury may be out for a while. What do you think?

Lyndsey Layton: Well it depends. What are they doing in there? Origami? Paper airplane contests? Flip-it animation of Tim Russert?


Claverack, N.Y.: Who's your favorite figure in Statuary Hall?

Lyndsey Layton: Oh my gosh, I am so glad you asked. It's in the Hall of Columns and it's this squat, square figure that looks like the Quaker Oats man but in cubist form. I walk by him all the time and wave. Can you name him?


Dryden, N.Y.: I have been a bit bemused by how the press had covered the Obama-Clinton dustup as a contest between rapid response teams. I think it was a disaster for Clinton, reminding me of all the yucky stuff I had suppressed, e.g. the bed for bucks, the vindictiveness and, quite frankly, what a dog her husband was. Also, when our country is in such peril I don't want a campaign that is all about the people and not about the issues. Can this possibly be good for her? Comments. Clinton, Obama Camps' Feud Is Out in the Open (Post, Feb. 23)

Lyndsey Layton: I don't think HRC benefited from that dust-up, except to demonstrate her campaign's aggressiveness.


Squadoosh?: I think we have a new word. Will it become part of the political lexicon? (I'm thinking "don't hold your breath.") Definition of "squadoosh" (

Lyndsey Layton: I vow to work "squadoosh" into the lede of my next story, but you all have to casually drop it into conversation sometime in the next 48 hours. Okay?


Anonymous: "Hall of Columns and it's this squat, square figure that looks like the Quaker Oats man but in cubist form. I walk by him all the time and wave. Can you name him?" Barbara Bush?

Lyndsey Layton: Yeow! With that folks, I'm signing off. Thanks so much for wasting an hour with me. See you in two weeks.


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