Post Politics Hour

Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Congressional Reporter
Tuesday, February 27, 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 congressional reporter Jonathan Weisman was online Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest news in politics.

Political analysis from Post reporters and interviews with top newsmakers. Listen live on Washington Post Radio or subscribe to a podcast of the show.

The transcript follows.

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Jonathan Weisman: Well, I log on 10 minutes early and the questions are awaitin', so let's get going. I'll be multitasking, listening in on a conference call by Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) -- a member of Jack Murtha's defense appropriations subcommittee who is just coming back from Iraq -- while I chat with you good folks. I'll keep you posted.

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Los Gatos, Calif.: Good Morning. What are the prospects for the tax breaks that are set to expire in a couple of years? Which, if any, will be allowed to expire and which are most likely to be extended or made permanent? When do yo think Congress will address this issue?

Jonathan Weisman: Well, Los Gatos, if you can afford a house in your lovely town, you probably have an interest in those tax cuts. They are not set to expire until midnight, Dec. 31, 2010, so the Democrats in Congress will do their best to avoid the issue as they try to dig in and establish their majorities. But I'd imagine that by 2010, it will be very clear that the Bush-era tax code cannot be sustained. All those tax cuts could be wiped out in a complete overhaul of the tax code that simplifies matters and (of course) raises more revenue. Just a guess.

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Cubeland at Work, Md.: What is the status of the "Tom DeLay" case? The last I remember he was indicted. I see traction with Ney and other cases but it seems his case has gone cold since indictment. What gives? Is he off the hook or is the case just moving slowly?

Jonathan Weisman: Wow, good question. DeLay's indictment in Texas was on alleged violations of state campaign finance laws -- it had nothing to do with Ney and Abramoff. I have heard nothing from Texas about that case, but with yet another guilty plea from a Ney aide, it is clear the Abramoff investigation is proceeding. DeLay is not out of the woods.

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Columbia, Md.: Do you get the sense that in our partisan political culture, more people prefer to represent their party versus the office of their government branch? For example, it often seems to me that congressmen have more loyalty to being a Democrat or Republican than actually being a member of being the Legislative Branch. Dems will "protect" a Dem President and the GOP will "protect" a GOP President. This seems to be regardless of the action.

Jonathan Weisman: I absolutely agree with you. Democrats stood by their president when he looked into the camera and lied to the American people about "that woman." Republicans are standing by their president now with remarkable discipline, even when two-thirds of the American people oppose his Iraq policy.

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Fort Bragg, N.C.:"Days after announcing that more than a dozen Maryland National Guard recruiters had been disciplined for misconduct, three more recruiters were disciplined yesterday for filing false travel receipts; two of the three were demoted, said Guard spokesman Col. Robert L. Gould, but no one was discharged. Officials confirmed that accounting staff discovered the problem in October after three noncommissioned officers submitted doctored travel receipts from a work trip; the false receipts would have netted each person about $660. 'All three actions are severely career-limiting,' a spokesman said, adding that the airmen's conduct would make it more difficult for them to be promoted in the future."

And no one, no one, is culpable for Iraq operations. Ironic, isn't it?

Jonathan Weisman: As President Bush said, Americans had their accountability moment and it was the election. He of course was talking about 2004, but there are quite a few Republicans who would say voters held them to account in 2006.

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Lights, Camera, Action...: Would you ever go on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher"? I think you would be good on it with your expertise and knowledge. Dana Priest has been on their twice that I know of and was pretty good.

washingtonpost.com: Nov. 17 episode with Dana Priest

Jonathan Weisman: If they asked, I would serve.

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Richmond, Va.: Vice President Cheney has just spent the last week saying that everything about Iraq -- from the reasons for the war to how things are going -- is just hunky-dory, blasting any critics of the administration's policy (Nancy Pelosi in particular). Given that much of what he says is verifiably untrue, what is his strategy of saying these things?

washingtonpost.com: Cheney Remark Rankles Pelosi (Post, Feb. 24)

Jonathan Weisman: Well, a suicide bomber just exploded himself a few hundred yards from the vice president in Afghanistan. Hunky-dory isn't playing too well.

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Bethesda, Md.: There's something of a Giuliani boom going on right now (who knows how long it will last). Any signs of it on Capitol Hill?

washingtonpost.com: Video: Giuliani visits Northern Virginia (washingtonpost.com, Feb. 26)

Jonathan Weisman: Interestingly, no. Giuliani is not a congressional-Republican kind of guy. Up here everyone seems to be choosing sides between McCain and Romney, giving the polls that show Giuliani way up and Romney way down an air of unreality. It's kinda weird.

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Washington: Fortunately the Vice President is safe from the attack in Afghanistan but just wondering. Is it really necessary that he (or any other U.S. politician or public figure) wear an American flag pin? Can't we just assume their patriotism?

Jonathan Weisman: Always best to wear it on your sleeve -- or lapel.

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Anonymous:"Vice President Cheney was shuttled into a bomb shelter at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan this morning after a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the main gate in an attack Taliban officials say was aimed at the vice president."

I just kind of wonder about statements like this put out by groups like the Taliban. I mean, firstly, how do we know it's true? Secondly, while they can say Cheney was a target, sending a suicide bomber to blow himself up outside the gates of the compound may be horrible and take the lives of some innocent dedicated servicemen, but it doesn't sound like it has a chance in hell of actually working. It seems their purpose was to get news coverage, not kill the vice president -- in which case, not reporting their claims of responsibility might thwart them, in a way. But would that be responsible journalism?

Jonathan Weisman: If our sworn enemy, the Taliban, take credit for such a brazen attack so close to the vice president of the United States, do you really think we should just ignore it? When was the last time a suicide bomber struck the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan? Do you really think it was just coincidental that Cheney was there?

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Birmingham, Ala.: Why is President Bush getting away with totally ignoring the comprehensive recommendations of a bipartisan commission (the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Commission)? And why are the Democrats allowing it?

Jonathan Weisman: I don't think the Democrats are ignoring it at all. In fact, the House Democrats' Iraq package is likely to include some codification of the Iraq Study Group recommendations, and they were closely tracked by the two non-binding resolutions that were first put together for Senate consideration.

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Reston, Va.:"I absolutely agree with you. Democrats stood by their president when he looked into the camera and lied to the American people about 'that woman.' "

How do you define "stood by"? The Democrats may not have voted for impeachment, but I seem to recall a host of Democrats condemning Bill Clinton's behavior and the lies covering up that behavior. How many Republicans have condemned the disinformation (to put it politely) that led to the Iraq War?

Jonathan Weisman: President Clinton's ability to survive the first impeachment of an elected president in U.S. history had everything to do with the loyalty of his party.

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Atlanta: Stepping away from partisanship for a second, are there any members of either house that command particularly high respect on both sides of the aisle -- that are really regarded as being a cut above the rest of their body? I'm thinking of the way some of the senators in the 1960s and 1970s used to be.

Jonathan Weisman: Sure. I think Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, commands bipartisan respect. I actually think House Minority Leader John Boehner and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer are respected and to some extent feared by their political opponents. Norm Dicks on military matters; Tom Petri, a Republican. But generally, 14 or so years of brutal political warfare has polarized the place.

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Alexandria, Va.: Why would Chuck Schumer agree to chair the DSCC again after chairing it last cycle and overseeing the Democrats takeover of the Senate? It seems that he is in a no-win position now unless Dems pick up even more seats in 2008. As he already had a seat on the finance committee, what other plum reward could he have gotten for his electoral accomplishments -- and why didn't he get it?

Jonathan Weisman: He is salivating at 21 Republican seats up for re-election in a political atmosphere that has gotten no better -- and above all, Chuck Schumer loves politics.

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Wellesley, Mass.: When is Congress going to start an in-depth investigation into the manner in which the U.S. is handling its prisoners? Which committee will take the lead on this? Do you expect that we are ever going have a real criminal investigation into the abuses?

Jonathan Weisman: Excellent question. Democrats last year talked a good game on treatment of prisoners, domestic wiretapping and alleged abuses under the PATRIOT Act, but now that they are in the majority they have been strangely silent. Sen. Chris Dodd recently introduced bipartisan legislation to restore habeas corpus rights to prisoners at Guantanamo. Rep. Jack Murtha hopes to use the upcoming war funding bill to close Guantanamo and bulldoze Abu Ghraib. A fight is coming, but I get the feeling that Democratic leaders would just as soon wait until their hands are forced by a court decision.

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Hagerstown, Md.: Good morning. Speaking of crooked congressmen, what's the latest on Mr. Cold Cash Jefferson? Or is this a no-no subject for The Post?

Jonathan Weisman: Jeez, we have spilled quite a bit of ink on Rep. Jefferson. I wrote a 60 inch story on his family businesses in Africa. We all are baffled by what it is taking the Justice Department so long. The facts are out there -- his former chief of staff and two of his alleged bribers already have pleaded guilty. We're just waiting for the last shoe to drop.

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Sewickley, Pa.: Hello, Jonathan. I am surprised at how pervasive the "slow-bleed" term coined by your colleagues at Politico has become in describing the prospective Democratic plan for limiting the mission in Iraq. Why haven't the Congressional Democrats aggressively pushed back on this characterization? After all, the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld effort in Iraq is nothing if not "slow-bleed" in the literal sense. What will it take for the Democrats to find their footing on this?

Jonathan Weisman: Good question. After Jack Murtha spelled out his strategy on a liberal Web site, Democrats were furious. They did nothing to defend the plan because they insisted there was no plan. I understand they would have wanted a more orderly rollout at the Brookings Institution or a nice press conference, but once the beans were spilled they quickly could have put together a conference call and defended it such as it was. Instead they ceded the field to the Republicans, who defined the plan the way they wanted then attacked and attacked and attacked. The Democrats are acting like deer in the headlights.

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Washington: Probably one of many with: Andrew Johnson was the first President to be impeached, not Clinton.

Jonathan Weisman: No, I said the first elected president to be impeached. Johnson, as you know, took office after Lincoln's assassination.

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Marin County: Good morning. The "oops" resulting from Hillary's failure to report the profit in their non-profit hits me as curious. Who or what is responsible for holding our Government participants accountable for their overt lies of omission -- not oops?

Jonathan Weisman: We in the press try to go after sins of omission and commission -- and a few "oops" as well.

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Rolla, Mo.: Would you agree that the Democrats inability to do much in the Senate so far is a good civics lesson to the electorate? Many assumed -- it was even trumpeted by the media -- that the new majority would change things dramatically, when in fact 60 is the magic number, other than for committees, investigations, etc.

Jonathan Weisman: Yes, I think the Senate's befuddlement may be catching some people by surprise. Democrats were very good at blaming Bill Frist for his inability to get anything done, but what we really need to see is whether Republicans are playing with fire by holding off a vote on Iraq.

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Princeton, N.J.: Wow!, you are really taking questions head on today. What did you have for breakfast? 1. What are the chances of the bills restoring habeas corpus? 2. Will any of the fired U.S. Attorneys be restored?

Jonathan Weisman: I don't see 60 votes on habeas corpus in the Senate -- that's the one that will take the Supreme Court to decide. I also don't see how the Congress can get those attorneys hired again, but the Judiciary Committees will try to keep the pressure on.

And bran flakes, and a little of my daughters' sugary yogurt.

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Baltimore: On the surge in Iraq, why doesn't Bush try the following: A public speech or letter delivered to Pelosi and Reid saying "please support this surge for six months, when Iraqi leaders and our military leaders say it can show results. Meanwhile, I will veto any attempt to restrict funding or operations in Iraq. However after six months pass, if you vote to begin a significant withdrawal from Iraq and get 60% of the vote, I'll sign it, even though that's less than a veto-proof majority."

Wouldn't that be a win-win for Bush? He'd get either temporary support for the surge, or get the Democrats to publicly turn down an olive branch and a chance to affect war operations. What do you think?

Jonathan Weisman: I was talking to a Republican strategist yesterday who believes the Republicans in the Senate will block any Iraq legislation until August. If by then it is clear the surge didn't work, the White House has assured Republicans there will be a genuine change in policy. Sounds right to me, but I just cannot see this president pull troops out of Iraq willingly on his watch.

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Arlington, Va.: Has there been any coverage in the U.S. (Post) regarding the story in the Times of London about the Generals and Admirals resigning if Bush orders a strike on Iran?

Jonathan Weisman: I must say I haven't heard anything of it. I also will say that after two years living in Great Britain I have developed a healthy skepticism of the British print media.

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To Columbia, Md.: Partisanship is not a 21st century invention. When I hear statements like this I can't help but think the speaker is misremembering Watergate as some high-water mark of bipartisan outrage, Dem and Pubs working together to impeach the president. The reality was that most Republicans were vocal and vigorous in defending Nixon and thought The Washington Post was on some east-coast liberal vendetta. They didn't turn against him until the tapes were released and the public saw incontrovertible evidence of his crimes.

Let's also not forget the motivation of self-interest. When senior GOP senators went to the White House to convince Nixon to resign, it wasn't solely out of the goodness of their hearts. Nixon was polling below 30 percent and electoral catastrophe loomed for their party if he didn't step down quickly. This stands in contrast to the Clinton impeachment, where the president continued to draw surprisingly high levels of support from the public throughout the process. Democrats didn't have to be afraid of standing by their president, because they didn't fear electoral repercussions.

Jonathan Weisman: All true -- but Bush's numbers aren't much better than Nixon's when his party began to turn.

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Washington: Troubling to me is the excuse for Hillary Clinton's omission of involvement in a family charity -- a press agent for the senator basically said that the omission was an error that other Washington insiders had made too, and therefore it shouldn't be a problem. The problem of course is that the Clintons can't run as an outsider like in 1992, and they can't win as insiders in 2008.

Jonathan Weisman: I agree. You would think that once USA Today ran a story that Nancy Pelosi, Rahm Emanuel and others had made the same omission, Sen. Clinton would have made sure she was kosher.

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Minnesota: Do you think Mr. Cheney's Iraq rhetoric is actually resonating with a particular group? I don't get the sense that most people buy it anymore.

Jonathan Weisman: There must be some group of people who believe it, but the vice president has not been able to move the polls or the electorate with his tough talk for quite some time. He's not doing it for political reasons -- he believes it.

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60: The Magic Number (Follow-Up): Has there ever been a Congress that didn't have a 60 vote majority that actually got things done? It just seems like with the current partisanship, unless that magic number of 60 is achieved, nothing will get done if you have a clear majority.

Jonathan Weisman: If I remember right, the Senate in the Clinton years did as much fighting with the House as the White House. There was an understanding that both parties needed accomplishments and there was more willingness to work together. But these issues holding the Senate up now are very big and not so subject to compromise.

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Anonymous: On a scale of 1 to 10, how much is this administration sweating the verdict in the Libby trial?

Jonathan Weisman: Uh, 1? Why would they care? They're just happy the trial is over.

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Bailey's Crossroads, Va.: The latest omission on the ethics forms are not just one oops but five years of oops. It appears like just another piece of baggage that Sen. Clinton will have to carry. At some point, won't all the baggage drag her down?

Jonathan Weisman: Let's just say Barack Obama was smiling even more than usual this morning.

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Birdsboro, Pa.: Why do Republicans feel they must belittle the American people? Bush insults us by claiming illegal aliens do jobs we won't and Giuliani said that all Democrats are either heartless or brainless. His speech during the Governors Winter Meeting he said, "If you are in your 20s and a liberal you are heartless, but if you are still a liberal by your 40s you are brainless". Everyone knows that liberal means Democrat.

Jonathan Weisman: I thought the aphorism was, if you're 20 and a conservative, you're heartless. If you're 40 and a liberal, you're brainless.

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Rockville, Md.:"How do you define..." seems to be the catch phrase of the Iraq debate. I expect that the next time (if ever) Woody Allen has a bank robbery scene the note will say "Give me your money!" and the teller will ask "How do you define money?" Just a comment.

Jonathan Weisman: Or "give me all your money, I have a gub."

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Washington: Dan Balz made the argument yesterday that the DNC is just as nasty as the RNC when it comes to trashing opposing candidates. Do you agree with this assessment? To me its completely ridiculous ... sure the DNC attacks Republican candidates, but they're not even in the same ballpark as the GOP attack machine.

washingtonpost.com: Post Politics Hour (washingtonpost.com, Feb. 26)

Jonathan Weisman: We see the press releases from both sides and yes, I'd say they are on par. If you're a conservative and you see a hit on conservatives, it stings. If you're a liberal and you see a hit on liberals, it stings. But the hits are the same.

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Laurel, Md.: Polls have shown a decisive difference in sociopolitical outlooks among African-Americans who are recent immigrants (or their descendants) and those who are, to put it bluntly, descended from slaves. The former consider America a land of opportunity, while the latter associate it with oppression. Is the fact that Barack Obama is a member of the former group likely to at some point break his support apart from the majority of African-Americans?

Jonathan Weisman: A very delicate question, but the issue of Obama's "blackness" is very real in the African-American community -- he doesn't have the heavy support you might think. Remember, the Clintons still are remembered very affectionately by African-American voters. There is a very real split there.

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Raleigh, NC: Does today's White House Press withhold from publishing damaging information about President Bush, similar to what occurred during the JFK Presidency? For example, if the President was using drugs, alcohol, engaging in affairs and the Press knew, would they report it? And how would the reporting agency's access to the White House be affected if they did?

Jonathan Weisman: I think the press absolutely would report it if we know that President Bush was using drugs, alcohol or having an affair. Morality and his past days of heavy drinking are so much a part of his image, any break with that image would be huge news. But you've gotta have the goods -- tapes, photos, blue dresses?

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On Cheney: "He's not doing it for political reasons. He believes it." It used to be conventional wisdom that because he wasn't going to seek higher office he would be an asset to Bush and not "cross" him for his own aspirations. However that now seems to have backfired because, to me, Cheney shows no restraint in what he says or does because he's not running for any higher office. He has nothing at stake and nothing to lose now. He could tell us all to go "Cheney" ourselves and get away with it!

Jonathan Weisman: I think you have a point. And more to the point, because Cheney isn't running in 2008, the White House is looking increasingly irrelevant as attention turns to Congress -- where any number of members are running -- and the campaign trail writ large. This is a very unusual situation.

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Nashville, Tenn.: Speaking of party unity enabling Bill Clinton to survive impeachment, what do you make of Speaker Pelosi taking a Bush impeachment off the table? Impeaching him for vindictive reasons would be poor form, but impeaching him to get a competent commander-in-chief to fight the war in Iraq would seem justified. The latest Pew poll shows that the word most commonly free associated with President Bush is incompetent.

Jonathan Weisman: Ah, a big Dick Cheney supporter in Nashville. And do you think Bush would lose two-thirds of the Senate?

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Rockville, Md.: Hi there -- right to the point, do you think Chris Dodd has a chance? Why/why not? I think his ideas are really sound and don't understand why he's being overlooked as a frontrunner.

Jonathan Weisman: Because I have to cover Sen. Dodd, I won't answer the question. As chairman of the Banking Committee, he can raise a lot of money and stay in the game, waiting for the frontrunners to stumble. But certainly he's a dark horse.

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Princeton, N.J.: Attributed falsely to Churchill: "If you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain." There is no record of anyone hearing Churchill say this.

Jonathan Weisman: Maybe Rudy attributed it to Churchill. I didn't. Groucho? Woody? Anyone?

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Re: Gub: Aren't you a little young to remember "I have a gub"?

Jonathan Weisman: I'm not as young as you think, and I've seen "Take The Money and Run" too many times.

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Clintons' charity: You people do get that the underlying "scandal" here is a $5 million donation to charity, right?

Jonathan Weisman: I disagree. Without doubt, the rich use family foundations as a nice tax dodge, but it looks like Hillary was abiding by the laws. I wrote a story about Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt's family foundation, which in the first four years of its existence never gave away 5 percent of its assets, as traditional foundations are required to do. Hillary's did.

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Anonymous: If Iran is providing weapons used to kill Americans, why hasn't Bush cowboyed-up and bombed them?

Jonathan Weisman: Give 'em time.

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Escondido, Calif.: Seems to me a lot of attention, at least comparatively so, is being paid throughout the media to the Clintons' marriage. They've had their problems to be sure, but they remain married despite the fact that the whole Lewinsky affair still gets traction by comedians and pundits alike.

When will we get to read more about the juicy details of Rudy's or Newt's marriages? Surely the same sort of moral, upstanding person who recoiled in horror at Bill Clinton's affair would do the same when confronted with news of Giuliani's tomcatting around, or Gingrich's allegedly serving divorce papers to his wife while she was in the hospital, no?

Jonathan Weisman: If Rudy becomes the certified frontrunner, his marriage(s) will certainly be fodder for news, believe me. But his opponents will have to find evidence of ongoing dirt, not dried up old mud. That's what got Clinton.

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Atlanta: One of the major trends of politics in recent years is the emergence of the marriage gap, a voting gap between single and married women that came to be in the Clinton years, and since 2002 or 2004 we've seen a significant (but less pronounced difference) among men as well. Did the marriage gap show up in The Post poll in terms of attitudes towards Iraq and Bush?

Jonathan Weisman: Absolutely, and on Iraq the good ol' gender gap is vast.

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Colorado: Isn't there some dispute as to whether Cheney's visit was public knowledge? That the whole thing was coincidence and the Taliban is claiming credit for a planned attack in order to make themselves look more powerful? I've seen conflicting reports.

Jonathan Weisman: I'm sure our intelligence agencies are scrambling to find evidence of an inside job. I can't see this as coincidence.

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Bethesda, Md.: In one of your responses you mention D's standing by Clinton during his impeachment and R's standing by Bush on the Iraq war. The question seems to imply they may be doing this to support their party, not because they believe it is right. Do you believe it is fair to equate supporting Clinton against impeachment for lying about his girlfriend with supporting a war when both go against your conscience?

Jonathan Weisman: Sure. Having covered Congress now for more than a decade I know there is a lot of emotion that drives policymaking and political decisions -- and loyalty is a powerful emotion, regardless of the issue.

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Rockville, Md.:"wear an American flag pin?" Sort of a cute retort, but in some areas these are used for ID. I know Congress people have their pins for identification. What is your take? Just vanity?

Jonathan Weisman: The Congressional lapel pin is a rather subtle little seal, not a recognizable symbol like the American flag.

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Stamford, Conn.: If the Senate Democrats can't get 60 votes on any Iraq-related resolution/legislation, why don't they call the Republican bluff and actually force them to take the floor and filibuster such resolutions/legislation? Wouldn't it help the Democratic cause for the Republicans to be seen reading from a phone book (or some other absurdity) as a means of avoiding a discussion of the most important issue of the day?

Jonathan Weisman: Possibly, but there is work to do. The reason they didn't do something like that the last time is that they had to pass the massive budget bill to fund the rest of the fiscal year. Now they have the homeland security bill to do. Work, work , work.

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Arlington, Va.: All right, I saw another front page story with an explosive headline implying corruption by a Democratic presidential candidate -- only to read the story and find there's nothing to it. Today it's Hillary Clinton filling out a form incorrectly; a few weeks ago, it was John Edwards selling his house. What is going on at The Post?

Jonathan Weisman: On this one I'm all with John Solomon. First, it wasn't a screaming headline. Second, when I wrote a story on Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt's family foundation tax dodge, did you blanch? And when John Solomon wrote his front page story on John McCain using fundraising tactics he once deplored, how angry were you? Try to see your reaction through your personal political prism.

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Raleigh, NC: Can Republicans win the White House in 2008 without the full support of the right-wing conservative religious vote? Is there a chance that the leaders of that faction will run their own candidate because they are so unhappy with all the present Republican nominees on social conservative issues?

Jonathan Weisman: This election will be the great experiment. Unless Sam Brownback somehow surges, the Christian conservatives will have to choose between candidates who obviously are not their own. Will they do that? Will they vote? We shall see.

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Washington:"We are all baffled by what it is taking the Justice Department so long..." The GOP Justice Dept is not going to drop the other shoe. Jefferson is much more valuable to the GOP in office than out. Once he's out, what've they got? I heard Reid tipped a waiter less than 20 percent last weekend. Can you pass it on to Solomon? Thanks!

Jonathan Weisman: Cute on Solomon, and I find it very difficult to believe voters care as much about Jefferson as you think.

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Burlington, Vt.: Hi Jonathan -- let me guess: The Cheney near-miss suicide bombing will be considered a sign of progress by the White House?

washingtonpost.com: U.S. Base in Afghanistan Targeted During Cheney Visit (Post, Feb. 27)

Jonathan Weisman: It's good news -- they didn't get him.

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South Orange, N.J.: Good Morning and thank you for taking my question. I guess I should have paid closer attention in civics class -- if the House passes an appropriations bill with language similar to Representative Murtha's proposal tying troop funding for the Iraq war to troop preparedness, what would be the path for this to become law?

Jonathan Weisman: Either the Senate would have to pass similar language on its war spending bill, or senators would have to accept the language during House-Senate negotiations on the final bill. Then Bush would have to decide whether he can veto a war spending bill he urgently needs. It'll be fun to watch.

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San Francisco: Hello Jonathan, thanks for chatting today. Your colleagues' article today includes what, to me, is the big story in the Post/ABC poll: 58 percent of Americans said they support new rules like those in Murtha's proposal. Do you think this is major news?

washingtonpost.com: Majority in Poll Favor Deadline For Iraq Pullout (Post, Feb. 27)

Jonathan Weisman: I will answer you and Johnstown in one swoop: yes, this is major news. The House Democrats have been petrified by Republican attacks on Murtha's proposal. Maybe public opinion will fortify their back bone.

Adios all!

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