Post Politics Hour

Lois Romano
Washington Post National Political Reporter
Thursday, March 1, 2007; 11:00 AM

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Washington Post national political reporter Lois Romano was online Thursday, March 1, at 11:00 a.m. ET to discuss the latest in political news.

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The transcript follows.


Lois Romano: Good morning everyone! Thank you for joining me this morning. I'll do my best to answer your questions. Lets get started.


Los Angeles, Calif.: Chris Dodd announces for President on Imus. John McCain announces for President on Letterman. Maybe the real primary contest should be held between who really matters to voters: Imus versus Letterman? McCain Says He'll Seek Presidency, Plans to Make It Official in April (Post, March 1

Lois Romano: At last count there were more than 20 potential candidates for president -- and every one searching to distinguish himself or herself. Obama and Clinton announced in podcasts. In the case of McCain, he really needed a forum to lighten up. He's in a awkward position on the war, the right doesn't trust him and Rudy is polling ahead of him. He needed a boost.


St. Paul: Hi Lois -- thanks for taking my question. There seems to be a lot of frustration building over the Democrats' timidity in taking some sort of decisive action on Iraq ... the resolution passed by the House seems like it was ages ago, and didn't seem to really do much to rally the "cause." Is there a strategy behind what they're doing (or not doing), or are they truly unable to figure out what path to take? Is it better politically for them to just sit back and let things continue to deteriorate so the Republicans get saddled with it come 2008?

Lois Romano: I think what you are seeing is the confusion in trying to deal with something over which they have limited power. The president at this point unilaterally can send troops without Congress -- which he is doing. Now the Senate is considering rescinding its war authorization -- unclear whether that will work. Politically, the Democratic Congress has to be careful not to do anything that would appear to hurt the troops. They've got the public behind them, but are dealing with a president who is not facing reelection and so cares less about the political ramifications of his decisions.


Philadelphia: Do you find it bizarre that Cheney wants the press pool that is following his Middle East trip to refer to him in their reports as "senior administration official"?

Lois Romano: Yes, it is odd that sitting a VP would demand those ground rules, particularly because it eventually was going to be revealed. But it is not odd as a practice -- there often are briefings at the White House by senior officials who demand not to be named.


Falls Church, Va.: Would Pelosi make a good VP candidate? Who would she best complement? I am guessing Edwards or Obama probably wouldn't pick HRC.

Lois Romano: Nancy Pelosi is a good politician but I doubt she will be picked. Two reasons: Her state is California and the Democrats don't need someone to help with California -- they need the south or the middle of the country. Secondly, she is a strong Speaker of the House and of great use to the Dems there.


Annapolis, Md.: Selectively quoting anonymous posters from any political blog is shoddy "journalism" at its worst. What does Mr. Kurtz have to say to defend himself on this? Will he post examples of death wishes against many Democratic politicians if provided to him? Is The Washington Post "fair and balanced." I think these are questions to be posed to your ombudsman as well. Death Wish (Post, March 1)

Lois Romano: We are watching the blogs, and just this month The Post assigned a young reporter to cover Internet campaigning. There certainly is a new viciousness in the process often generated by the blogs. You need to know that we as reporters are not spared -- if we write an article the liberals blogs do not like we will be inundated with nasty, vulgar e-mail -- which has no impact on our coverage.


Fort Worth, Texas: Why do we not hear about all the other '08 candidates besides the supposed frontrunners? And do not tell me that is what the people want! If I were a paper I would be talking about the underdog just for spite if for no other reason. Thanks.

Lois Romano: I couldn't agree more. To a certain extent the public drives the coverage and right now it's the frontrunners who we hear about and who are doing well in polls. In time, as some of the "underdogs" travel around the country and make themselves known, some catch fire -- and this is reflected in polls and local coverage. John Edwards is a good example of this in 2004: his message resonated and his appearances were attracting more and more people -- and the media paid attention.


Washington: Memo to McCain and everyone else: If you announce that you're going to announce in the future that you're running for President, you've already announced that you're running for President.

Lois Romano: No kidding. I think that they think if they pre-announce they will get attention one more time -- and they do.


Princeton, N.J.: McCain's "official" announcement last night (on Letterman) felt a little desperate ... as though Giuliani really was breathing down his neck. It appears to me there is little prospect of McCain picking up his former momentum, given his all-out commitment to the war and the contrived feel of his campaign (a Letterman appearance, snuggling with Jerry Falwell and other religious right folk). The straight-talking, authentic John McCain is fading. Any thoughts?

Lois Romano: I think he faces significant challenges because of all the factors you mention. The McCain I see now is not the McCain I traveled with on the straight-talk express in 2000. Interestingly, despite all his "snuggling with Jerry Falwell and other religious right folk" many still do not trust him to be one of them.


Toronto: Old politicians make me nervous. How old is Cheney anyway? His increasing bizarre public statements about Iraq -- which bear no resemblance to reality but which he seems to really believe are true -- and this "senior White House official" thing the other day make me wonder if he is suffering from the beginnings of dementia.

Lois Romano: That question is way out of my expertise arena -- but I will tell you that many many people who knew Cheney in the '70s and '80s, when he worked for Ford and then as a congressman, say this is not the man they knew. While he always was conservative, some have observed that as a younger man he was more practical and open to other ideas.


Washington: Watching Secretary Jim Nicholson last night on the NewsHour, I could not help but think, "Your days are numbered." All that's left is for the president to say, "Jimmy, you're doin a heck of a job."

Lois Romano: I'm sensing not too many Bush fans writing today.


New York: I understand that reporters are increasingly getting questioned by bloggers and those who read blogs, but I find it interesting that what you and other journalists continually mention is the foul language, rather than the substantive criticism that obviously also comes from these sources. Why do reporters seem so Church Lady all of a sudden when it comes to foul language? I thought newsrooms were an epicenter for that kind of hard-boiled lingo. When did reporters ears get so sensitive to words with four letters?

Lois Romano: Well, we are a tough bunch who have been known to utter some profanity, but what I'm talking about here are personally directed attacks -- and comments that are way out of bounds. I'll probably generate some mail for saying this, but in my experience, the left-wing bloggers have been the most offensive. And I just don't understand what they think they are accomplishing. Their actions are destructive to say the least.


Salinas, Calif.: Hi Lois. In reference to Bob Novak's column in The Post this morning, he posits a "conservative void" in the GOP for the '08 presidential race. Is it possible that the vast majority of voters (the fat center of the bell curve?) are a little gun-shy of how Rovian polarizing, slash-and-burn tactics in the past 7 years have tainted the conservative movement (especially "compassionate" conservatives)? I'm interested in your take on this. For GOP, A Void on The Right (Post, March 1)

Lois Romano: Its a very good question and I don't know the answer. Most interesting is that Giuliani -- who is far from a social conservative -- is leading the field. I suspect the war is making an impact, in that today it may be more important to Americans than someone's position on abortion. If you look at it as a "pro" question rather than "anti-conservative," perhaps people are seeing in Rudy Giuliani someone who showed leadership during 9/11 and that is appealing to them.


Florissant, Mo.: Hey, Lois -- two queries on the veep stakes. Don't you think Evan Bayh would make a good impression in the Dems race -- solid, moderate, articulate, attractive, good political family? And on a less-likely note, any chance any Republican would want Condi Rice on his ticket? Her stock's not nearly as high after Lebanon.

Lois Romano: No I don't think Condi would be on anyone's radar screen given our position in the world today. Evan Bayh is attractive for the the reason you state, but it's really going to depend on who gets the nomination and the calculations on how to win


Pittsburgh: Reading Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr's., obituary this morning, I was struck by the fact that after supporting the noble Adlai Stevenson through two presidential election cycles -- in vain -- AMS switched in 1960 to JFK, whom he found perhaps a bit less palatable philosophically but oh-so-much-more electable. Based on this model, who do you think comes closest to being the 2008 JFK? Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Dies at 89 (Post, March 1)

Lois Romano: I'm not sure there is anyone comparable. In addition to JFK's electability -- which was questionablye because he was a Catholic -- he brought youth and glamour at a time when the country was looking for that. I think today the nation longs for leadership, competence and stability.


Plano, Texas: What happened on Iran? For years the administration told us "no way" on negotiations (at least, as long as Iran didn't suspend its nukes program) -- now Condi is trying to sell us that opening talks was her plan all along? U.S. Will Join Talks With Iran And Syria (Post, Feb. 28)

Lois Romano: Call it simple desperation.


Podcasts, Letterman, etc: I'm getting a big kick out of all these pols using the "new media" to announce -- a media whose demographic is remarkably young and doesn't vote in vast numbers. What's the point? Are they all convinced that they are the ones who will get them to the polls ?

Lois Romano: They certainly are convinced every vote helps. We know younger voters read the Internet and watch late night TV -- everything in between is fuzzy, so why not go for it.


Bowie, Md.: Why does everyone care that Hillary didn't report her family charity? Doesn't she have nothing to gain by not reporting it? I think it's just a fluff story. Clintons' Charity Not Listed On Senate Disclosure Forms (Post, Feb. 27)

Lois Romano: We heard from many people suggesting we overplayed the story. I think it is news that she didn't report the foundation on her financial forms -- it is her obligation to do so and she hires professionals to guide her. Whether it deserved the space and display we gave it is a decision made above my pay grade.


Fort Worth, Texas: In reference to St Paul, I've often wondered myself ... perhaps they are concerned that if they make drastic, forceful decisions the Republicans then could destroy their credibility and blame everything on them if things do not go perfectly? After all there is no pretty way out of this Iraq quagmire.

Lois Romano: It's all very delicate when we have brave service people in Iraq whose lives are at risk. If you read my column today, you see comments from the only Iraq veteran in Congress, who suggests we are not doing enough to train Iraqis to step up to the plate so that we can withdraw.


Abingdon, Md.: You write: "In time, as some of the "underdogs" travel around the country and make themselves known, some catch fire and this is reflected in polls and local coverage."

Sometimes though, because of the lack of coverage by the press, the not-so-frontrunners get passed by and drop in poll numbers, which in some cases causes them to be excluded from debates that use poll numbers as a criteria of entrance. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Lois Romano: That's true. Money also is a huge factor -- some of the underdogs don't have enough to get attention.


Los Angeles: In an article in today's Wall Street Journal on Ken Mehlman I read -- "Mr. Mehlman has a longstanding relationship with his Harvard Law classmate Sen. Barack Obama (D., Ill.)" What is this about?

Lois Romano: I have no idea, but I'll look into it. Very interesting.

I want to thank you all for writing. See you in two weeks!


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