D.C., Maryland and Virginia Politics

Mark Plotkin
WTOP Political Commentator
Tuesday, March 20, 2007; 2:00 PM

WTOP political commentator Mark Plotkin was online Tuesday, March 20, at 2 p.m. ET to discuss local politics.

The transcript follows.

Plotkin joined WTOP after 10 years as a political analyst for WAMU radio. He has been active in D.C. and national politics since attending George Washington University in the late '60s.


Bracket Land: Okay " Mr. Basketball" we know how your overrated and undercoached Colonials did (men not women). But tell us how your brackets are doing overall?

Mark Plotkin: Sorry for the delay, still in deep mourning over the pathetic performance of George Washington on national TV. Truly an embarrassment. Hobbs, the "coach" is not a game day coach, he made no adjustments and just gave up coaching. They need a BIG man next year and Hobbs has got to stop stomping around. They were blessed in the A-10 tourney by not playing the top 2 seeds. The cupcake schedule doesn't help them in post season play. My brackets are shot, I bet my heart not my head, but I do have three left in the Final Four, Ohio State and UCLA and North Carolina, with Ohio State winning.


Washington: Mr. Plotkin, you're a real classless act. You dress your anti-Georgetown crusade in this city-centered, helping-the-poor flag, but -- given that you only paid attention to this as of last year, when GW was making national waves -- it is obvious that your true motive is the typical Georgetown-hating by a GW alum. Go to the talk boards -- GU fans makes no mention of GW, while GW basketball fans rant about GU evil. If, as you say, Thompson Jr. is the one keeping G-town from playing in the BB&T (far from a unanimous position), why root against the hard-working student-athletes that make up the team (as you suggested last week)? Why punish the students for the sins of the teacher?

Of course the answer is obvious. You're yet another GW alum with a chip against G-town, for perceived slights and condescension. Please go back to reporting politics, instead of waving dirty underpants from a flag pole.

Mark Plotkin: I stand by my position. And if you had any integrity at all, you'd realize it is sound. I congratulate the Georgetown players and students for their success, but this has nothing to do with John Thompson Jr. ( who make over $400,000 a year as the something of Urban Affairs source NY Times ) and has decided that he doesn't want to be part of the City. ( Urban affairs responsibility ) The Georgetown administration is intimidated by Thompson Jr.. It's a shame that there aren't any Georgetown alums to speak out on this issue.


Washington: If the White House believes that the bill granting D.C. a full vote in Congress is unconstitutional, then why don't they propose a remedy -- a constitutional amendment that would do the same thing?

Mark Plotkin: The un-constitutional argument is nothing less that a cover to make sure that the issue is wrapped in some legalism. Republicans and the Bush administration do not want to give this place (which is "too urban, too liberal, too Democratic and too black") any real political power. There are courageous and principled conservatives like Mike Pence (R-Ind.) who voted for the Bill in the House Judiciary committee and wrote an article in Human Events yesterday explaining his vote.

Nobody has been better on this issue than Jack Kemp. Kemp is lobbying the White House and Republican House and Senate members. The President has not said he'll veto this Bill, he just wants it to lose in the Senate. Trent Lott, it is not well known, the number two leader in the Senate minority is for this Bill. It would help a great deal if he would publicly come out for this. I expect a threat of a filibuster in the Senate and and the threat of a presidential veto. The vote bon Thursday in the House will be watched carefully, Tom Davis (R-Va.) wants to get 30 House Republicans to vote for it. As I've said before, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Robert Bennett (R-Utah) have to get behind this Bill, which gives their state one more House seat and an additional electoral college vote. Without their help and advocacy it won't go anywhere.


Arlington, Va.: You should have paid attention to the GW women, who are led by the marvelous Kim Beck, a taller version of Shawnta Rogers. Also, politically, if the administration says that the District House vote is unconstitutional, why are some conservative law professors supporting it? I do know that each house of Congress controls its own rules, so I don't know whether constitutionality enters the discussion. For the Senate, probably, but for the House doubtful.

Mark Plotkin: You are right, I'm just a limited sports observer. The GW women are in the Sweet 16 playing Texas A&M. their coach, Joe McKeown, should be the mens coach. In terms of the constitutionality argument, such raving liberals as Ken Starr, Viet Dinh (author of the Patriot Act) are supporting and testifying for this Bill. Look for an op-ed from a former law clerk from Utah who was a clerk to both Justices Scalia and Burger arguing that this Bill is constitutional.


Washington: Did you listen to Coach Hobbs talking to John Thompson Jr. on 980 yesterday? Sounds like the person who actually is in charge of GW basketball (you know, accountable to the AD, gets paid to coach etc.) still can be civil with JT, despite G-town not playing in the BB&T.

Mark Plotkin: No I did not hear that, I wish I had. I betcha Hobbs didn't have the guts to question Thompson on his role. Look, GW shouldn't be begging Georgetown to play them. All that I'm asking is for Georgetown to play in the annual BB&T tourney. Gary Williams does and GW has beaten the Terps at least twice. Hobbs had a perfect opportunity and he chickened out, there's no other explanation. On another note, the GW women beat Texas A&M 59 to 47 last night to advance to the Sweet 16.


Washington: Why is it that R. Bobb said he had no opinion on Mayor Fenty's school takeover proposal the day before Bobb's election to the school board, but strenuously objected to it the day after his election?

Mark Plotkin: I've heard that School Board President Robert Bobb has hire political ambitions, he's gearing up to run against Kwame Brown for the At-Large DC Council seat. I have this on very good authority. After Bobb was elected and the school take-over policy was announced by Fenty, Bobb said he would resign if it went into effect. He now has retracted that statement.


Hillcrest, D.C.: The 2008 Presidential election is in full swing, with so much analysis ... so why don't you give us an early peek at 2008 in D.C.? It seems like there could be several good races. Carol Schwartz could draw some very strong competition in the form of independents. Both newly-elected Ward 4 and 7 candidates could be vulnerable. I hear Jim Graham has done a poll in which he's beating Kwame Brown. And with Marion in Ward 8, anything could happen. What seats do you see as the most likely to change hands?

Mark Plotkin: I heard that the powers that be in the Democratic party and in the labor movement are actively searching for somebody to run as an independent against Schwartz. You know, she benefits from the odd political arrangement that DC must have 2 non-majority members elected at-large. That ensures Schwartz's path to office. A strong well known well financed former Democrat, running as an Independent can beat Schwartz. And she knows it. It's just finding such a candidate.


Arlington, Va.: Good conduct is a prerequisite for voting rights, because y'all have to beg for special dispensation from Congress. Too bad it is going to be vetoed or declared unconstitutional. What other windmill are you going to tilt with after that dream is dead?

Mark Plotkin: Why is this a windmill? Don't you believe that all Americans have the right to be represented in their national legislature? And why is it that this Capital is the only capital in the world that deprives its residents of any standing or representation in their legislature? If the president vetoes this Bill or if the courts declare it not constitutional, we will be back anyway. in another way in another time. You should be offended as citizen of this country that 570,000 people are disqualified and disenfranchised from our democracy. we have a president who believes in democracy in Baghdad but not in DC.


Ward 4: Mark, I'm sick of the Ward 4 candidates' "(Name) for City Council" signs. We do not have a "city council" in Washington, because our council performs both city and state functions. The shorthand form for the Council of the District of Columbia is "D.C. Council." It's pathetic that nearly all candidates appear to have no idea what the name of the legislative body they hope to join is.

Mark Plotkin: Ok, you made your point. But that's not really a central issue. It's what they would do on the Council that's important.


Washington: Mark, back to voting rights. Wasn't White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten supposed to be a huge help, as he went to Alice Deal Jr. High (DCPS) and supposedly "gets it"?

Mark Plotkin: You are right. I have heard that Josh Bolten, the president's Chief of Staff, is for this Bill and for the principle. I had a conversation with Bolten at Former mayor Tony Williams' retirement party and he was very sympathetic and I've been told since that he's a supporter. look, this thing is being driven by Karl Rove, that's who it is, he's the villain, somebody who actually lives in DC. he just doesn't want to give Democrats another seat in the House. I'll say it again, What's Utah supposed to do? retaliate by voting Democratic. The Republican party will just wait us out until justice prevails.


Maryland Smoking Ban: Done your research yet, Mark? The indoor smoking ban legislation passed out of Senate committee this week and should pass the entire Senate. What are the bill's prospects in the House?

Mark Plotkin: Thanks for the admonition, I've been told it has a good chance of passing, but it's still has to be passed in the full Senate ( Mike Miller says he's for it ) and of course the Governor has to sign it. ( no reason to think he won't) Governor O'Malley will be my guest on the Politics Program on Washington Post Radio at Noon on Friday March 30.


Washington: Hi Mark. I read your chat every week, and while I disagree with you on many issues, I do agree that a D.C. voting rights bill should be approved by Congress and signed into law by the President. The constitutionality excuse is spurious at best, as neither the President nor Congress are positioned to decide such an issue. Further, I think that a review of the D.C. franchise by the Federal courts would do nothing but help the case because, at a minimum, it will clarify the steps required to obtain representation. Keep up the good work.

Mark Plotkin: thanks


Washington: Hi Mark. You never post my comments, but I just wanted to say good job on the continued fight for D.C. representation. My question is, why are we just settling for one vote in the House and no votes in the Senate? Wouldn't it be better if we had two representatives in the House and one in the Senate? Personally, I feel that because so many people are against D.C. residents having voting rights, perhaps we should be exempt from paying federal taxes! I don't understand why people think we should be forced to pay federal taxes but have no decision about how that tax money is spent. Anyway, Mark, always a fan...

Mark Plotkin: I'm posting them now. I used to be against this incremental approach, but I'm getting older and I wanted to see the issue raised and talked about and this was a vehicle to make that happen. The House vote on Thursday will get national attention and if the Bill is actually passed and withstands court challenges you just go back and ask for more.


Slime city: Who is the worst city council member ever?

Mark Plotkin: No doubt about it, Betty Ann Kane. As a council member she voted for special interests and against average citizens at every opportunity. Unfortunately, Mayor Fenty nominated her to be a member of the DC Public Service Commission. This was political favor for the second-worst council member ever, Sharon Ambrose who had worked for Kane. A very close third was John Ray, who still has never met a developer, landlord, or shady businessman, he wouldn't carry water for. How's that for candor? See you next week same time same place.


Arlington, Va.: You obviously have no interest in honestly discussing why GU doesn't play in the BB&T. I have written you the facts many times, yet you fail to address them, cherry-picking your arguments. In addition, JTII is receiving deferred compensation from the university, which is not an uncommon arrangement in college hoops. Please get your facts straight.

Mark Plotkin: I'm extending my time just to answer this question. there is NO justifiable defense for not playing in the BB&T. The real reason is that Georgetown doesn't want to risk losing to GW or Maryland or any other team. Attendance would be increased at this charity event if Georgetown would play. But Georgetown is more concerned with their win / loss percentage. As for Thompson's compensation, $400,000 per year for life? That's quite a deal. In the New York Times article, faculty members were not as pleased as you are about this arrangement. If it's on then up and up, then why mask the payments with the phony bogus title of "Urban Affairs" Plotkin out.


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