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Post Politics Hour
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Lois Romano
Washington Post National Political Reporter
Thursday, March 29, 2007 11:00 AM

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Washington Post national political reporter Lois Romano was online Thursday, March 29, at 11:00 a.m. ET to discuss the latest in political news.

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The transcript follows.

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Lois Romano: Good morning everyone -- lots of good questions today. Lets get started.

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Crestwood, N.Y.: Good morning! I wonder how the atmosphere was at the D.C. press club affair, with this being the first one held after the Scooter Libby trial. That reinforced so many of the bloggers' criticisms of the beltway press: that they're way too cozy with the politicians they cover, and not particularly concerned with rocking the boat.

washingtonpost.comp: Video: Rove Gets Down at Broadcasters Dinner (washingtonpost.com, March 28)

Lois Romano: I hear that criticism and I don't know where it comes from. The press has been all over the Justice Department story, and they were all over the Libby trial. the media and government do have to work close, and in any business, you can't always been hostile to the guy on the side. There has to be some sort of civility. Journalists need to be somewhat cordial to those they cover because otherwise they wouldn't get the story.

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Atlanta: Lois, I can't be here live today but hope you will take my question. Although I am not a Republican, there are a number of Republican Senators I believe are honorable men and women who have tried to put issues above party politics. Despite their public votes on the Iraq spending bill, what are the Republicans saying in private? Maybe they don't want to broadcast timelines, but do they have their own mental timelines for pulling troops out of Iraq? I just can't believe that people like Richard Lugar, Susan Collins and Charles Grassley, to name but a few, aren't saying to themselves "If this surge doesn't show some positive results in X amount of time, we will need to set deadlines for troop withdrawal," and just go along blindly with an open checkbook for the President.

Lois Romano: Privately most are at the end of their rope. Although they continue to support the president, many have even said publicly that patience is running out and this war has to be resolved. However, Bush has said it will be for the next president to deal with so...

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Vernon, British Columbia: Good morning Lois, and thanks for the chat. Yesterday your colleague Jonathon Weisman said in response to a question that some of the GOP members on the Hill are very, very angry with this administration. Last December on CNN, three GOP congressmen were interviewed and stated very angrily that they continually had been treated with disrespect and contempt by the White House, that if a call was returned from the White House it would be days or weeks later, and from a low-level assistant. This clashed horribly with how they said they were treated by the Clinton administration, always getting a quick call back, and sometimes even from President Clinton himself. Today President Bush stated after his meeting with GOP leaders that they always were welcome to come to the WH. Given the mood of the GOP Congress members, and the decision by the GOP Senate members to have Bush veto the Iraq bill and not anger their constituents by drawing out the process with filibusters, etc., doesn't this latest statement by Bush about the GOP members being welcome anytime ring false and suggest a classic example of too little, too late? Thanks, Lois.

Lois Romano: For better or worse, that is how the game is played. What else could he say? These members are furious because they lost the house and the senate over this and they want to get the majority back. If this war doesn't end, there is little chance of that.

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Washington: If Dick Cheney decided to run for president and could fundraise and establish a decent organization, would he be the frontrunner? If conservatives want a "real" conservative, why not draft Cheney?

Lois Romano: I don't think so. He has so much baggage now because of his steadfast support of the war, and his health would be a major issue even for conservatives.

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Arlington, Va.: You probably won't take this question, because its not on "the list," but I'll ask anyway hoping that someone will look into it and maybe we'll see some follow-up someday. There is a press conference today by Reps. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.), between 11:30 am and 12:00 noon in HC-9 of the Capitol to discuss the release of an embargoed GAO report. The report will reveal the United States is particularly vulnerable to and unprepared to respond to severe consequences from an significant disruptions to world oil supplies from peak oil and other above-ground political and economic factors, which are viewed as an increasing risk. Some very real questions are how "severe" the consequences are and what "increasing risk" means -- and why no mainstream press will cover this.

Lois Romano: I can't tell you that the press won't cover it. It certainly sounds like story the way you have described it.

What list??

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Washington: Good morning, Ms. Romano: Think back, if you will, about seven years. You recently had published your multi-part Post series on the biography of then-candidate Bush, and were appearing on an MSNBC program. Whoever the host was asked you, "why is George W. Bush running for president?" You laughed, and said, "because he likes the attention." Could you expand on the thoughts behind that remark, and also on how your opinion of Bush has changed since your series ran in 1999?

washingtonpost.comp: Bush: The Making of a Candidate (Post, July 25-31, 1999)

Lois Romano: I sure don't remember that -- but if you say its true...

I think Bush ran for president because there was all of sudden this groundswell of republican support that he never expected. This came on the heel of Bill Clinton's troubles, and Bush benefited from people missing his dad. There is little that the President has done or said that has been inconsistent with my series. We wrote that Bush was not a wonk and preferred to delegate to experts -- some might argue that he has done a little too much of that in office.

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Prescott, Ariz.: How about Sen. McCain saying that Baghdad neighborhoods were safe enough for Americans to go walk around in, and that the Gen. Petraeus cruises around Iraq in an unarmed, convertible Hummer (okay, I made the stuff up about the convertible)? Does simply making up his own reality make John McCain a "maverick"? And if he truly believes his own made-up world, does that make him a "straight-talker"? Does that mean the toothless guy in front of the convenience store down the street who truthfully thinks the FBI put a bug in his peg leg is also a "straight-talker"?

washingtonpost.comp: McCain: Progress Is Being Made in Iraq (AP, March 27)

Lois Romano: John McCain is in a tough spot these days, as he sticks with a very unpopular war as he tries to run for president. I have never been to Iraq but my colleagues here say they wouldn't walk around the streets

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Anonymous: Fred Thompson is an appealing candidate. However, to my horror, he has the Republican male syndrome of failed marriage. What is that story? Is his new wife a trophy he dumped the mother of his children for? Geeeez. Frankly, any woman who supports a candidate who divorces his first wife for some cutie-pie is off her noodle. If he embarrassed and mistreated the first wife he sure doesn't have the stuff needed to run the country. Family values is taking a licking in the Republican party.

washingtonpost.comp: A 'Law & Order' Presidential Candidate? (Post, March 28)

Lois Romano: I don't know his personal history, but I think it will interesting to see how it plays out politically. Rudy Giuliani is certainly taking the "let it all out" approach, sharing with with people the fact that he wife have six marriages between them and how his son doesn't like him. Yet, he's still topping the polls.

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Princeton, N.J.: David Broder's column today compared Stockman and Gonzales. But you would think he could see the difference between Stockman and Gonzales -- Stockman got in trouble because he told the truth; Gonzales got in trouble because he did not lie well enough.

washingtonpost.comp: When the Woodshed Isn't Enough (Post, March 29)

Lois Romano: According to the indictment David Stockman lied to banks and investors. What's truthful about that?

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New York: In an interview yesterday, Dennis Kucinich said that if Americans knew in November that the Dems would be funding the war for an additional two years, they wouldn't have voted for them at the time. What do you think about that statement?

Lois Romano: Hard to know what would have happened. But the public was clearly tired of the Republican leadership and wanted to try something different. The next two years will be critical for the democrats, as they try to demonstrate leadership, bipartisanship and a commitment to end the war. If they can't do that, they will find themselves in the minority again.

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Atlanta: Hello Lois, Do you think any comparisons can be made between the Clinton "Travelgate" controversy and the current Gonzales controversy? "Travelgate" was a big issue at that time and the Republicans were very vocal, but it seems to pale in comparison to the current controversy.

Lois Romano: This is much more serious in many ways. We are looking at the behavior of the top law enforcement officials in the country who should be committed to the law -- not to politics.

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Washington: Have Alberto Gonzales's much-invoked "humble origins" -- and the fact that he's the first Hispanic in a major cabinet job -- given him something of a free ride with the press until recently? I'm specifically not talking about you; you're one of very few reporters who've even mentioned that he's been divorced, or that he quit the Air Force Academy after two years. It just seems to me that those and a lot of other colorful bio facts about Gonzales -- the twice-convicted cocaine-dealing sister, the brother who died violently in the early 1980s under mysterious circumstances the family won't discuss -- hardly ever appear in coverage of him.

Lois Romano: None of those issues matter-divorce, a troubled sister. What matters is if he is qualified to do his job and if he executes his responsibilities appropriately. That is what is being investigated now.

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Just an observation: People in the mainstream media wonder why the general public thinks the MSM is cozy with any administration -- after seeing David Gregory and Karl Rove up on stage together having a good ol' time like two best buddies, it doesn't help the cause.

Lois Romano: I actually haven't heard the MSM stuff--mostly you hear that about Fox. There is much tension between the media and government in Washington, and about three or four times a year people put that aside and I'm sure that's so bad. President Bush made fun of himself in front of the media last night -- something you rarely see.

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Kansas City, Mo.: Why did Bush surrender on appointing Sam Fox to be Belgium ambassador? Was Sen. Kerry effective in bringing up the Swift Boat connection, and did fellow senators rally around Kerry? I figured if Sen. McCaskill was going to support Fox he would eke it out.

Lois Romano: They simply did not have the votes. I suspect John Kerry impacted the vote. The Swift Boat folks did him much harm in 2004 -- may have cost him the race.

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Portland, Ore.: Do you have any idea what Linda Tripp is up to lately? I would be curious to hear her opinion of the Bush administration and its current troubles. Does she feel she played a role in Bush's election by turning public sentiment against Democrats and giving Republicans a never-ending talking point against Bill Clinton? Does she think the Bush Administration scandals are worse than Clinton's?

Lois Romano: Forgive me for saying this, but I can't imagine anyone would want to know her opinion on anything. She had her 15 minutes of fame.

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Salinas, Calif.: Hi Lois. Your feature on Sen. Murray and her veterans affairs oversight committee was very informative, but I'm mightily ticked off at the notion of Republican senators using any "motion to recommit," in essence a political IED, to subvert the normal course of governance. I know that it's all part of congressional gamesmanship on both sides of the aisle, but after six years of a Republican majority, do-nothing congress enabling the Bush administration to drive this country into the ditch, we now need public servants who remember what their responsibilities are. If there are any members of Congress who are under the mistaken impression that the American people still aren't paying attention (Sen. Boehner, this means you) then they are still in denial on the elections of 2006. We continue to need reporting like yours today to keep Republicans and Democrats on the Hill on-task.

washingtonpost.comp: Patty Murray, No Newcomer to Advocating for Veterans (Post, March 29)

Lois Romano: Thank you. One thing to keep in mind is that the Democrats are not letting the GOP introduce anything. Now this isn't any different from what the Republicans did -- but the Dems promised to be different.

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Seattle: I know that Fred Thompson is a former Senator, but I think most Americans know him as the guy on "Law & Order." Has it really gotten that bad for the GOP? And for all of the GOP bluster against Hollywood, doesn't drafting Thompson as some sort of latter-day Reagan smack of desperation?

Lois Romano: Poll after poll has shown that republicans aren't happy with their choices. Mr. Thompson had a a long career in republican circles before the senate. He served on the Watergate committee for one.

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Linda Tripp & Tony Snow: Six Degrees of Separation -- it was Snow who introduced her to Lucianne Goldberg. I'm sure she backs this administration to the hilt.

Lois Romano: Now that's a fact I forgot!

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For Anonymous: I've never read a more sanctimonious post re: Fred Thompson. Plenty of marriages fail for reasons other than trophy-wifeism. Judge him on his merits, not on the external appearance of the existence of a second wife. And as to his "Republican failing" of divorce, I point you to Ted Kennedy for the obvious, and Jack Kennedy for the "successful marriage on the surface." There are many other contemporary examples, among them my Democrat-leaning husband, who also previously was married.

Lois Romano: Thank you for writing. It is a different world.

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St. Paul, Minn.: Hi Lois -- believe me, I'm no fan of the president, but I have to admit he was pretty funny last night in the excerpts I saw on C-SPAN. In his press conferences and appearances, though, he consistently comes across as angry and impatient, which does not serve him very well. Do you think the White House ever has thought about trying to soften his image a bit? It seems like this petulant act just isn't working.

Lois Romano: The president is a very likeable person when left to his own devices. But he is not a policy wonk -- so he over prepares for his press conferences which may tend to make him seem stiff

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Washington: How are Democrats nationally reacting to the incident with Sen. Webb's aide being arrested for trying to bring a loaded pistol into the Capitol? Or Webb's comments that he has the right to protect himself and will do so how he sees fit? Democrats were very happy (and rightfully so) about taking over both houses last November, but will incidents like this and the media attention they receive cause a backlash among the more liberal constituents against more-conservative new members?

washingtonpost.comp: Webb Is Vague About Gun Incident (Post, March 28)

Lois Romano: I don't know what the Democrats are saying privately, but Webb's comments cannot hurt him in his home state of Virginia and the democrats want to hold that seat.

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Laurel, Md.: Lois Romano: "Mr. Thompson had a a long career in republican circles before the senate. He served on the Watergate committee for one." Actually he was the minority counsel to the committee.

Lois Romano: Yes, I knew he was a staffer but didn't recall his title. Thanks for telling us.

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Arlington, Texas: With the withdrawal of Sam Fox as Ambassador to Belgium, isn't this another example of using the personal destruction issue by the Democrats to payback Sam for his involvement in the Swift Boat campaign to derail Kerry in 2004? In other words, politics as usual?

washingtonpost.comp: Bush Withdraws Nominee Who Gave To Anti-Kerry Group (Post, March 29)

Lois Romano: Perhaps. It also send a message to both sides that if you want a job representing our country -- all of our country -- it would be wise to comport yourself as such.

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San Francisco: What do you think of comedian Bill Maher's suggestion to Hillary Clinton that she run "to restore honor and integrity to the Oval Office," just as the current occupant did in 2000?

Lois Romano: That is what Bush said when he ran against her husband.

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Parkville, Md.: Ms. Romano, did you see any of Lurita Alexis Doan's testimony before the committee investigating the politicization of the GSA? I was amazed by her claim that she couldn't remember details of a meeting that occurred a scant two months earlier, even when presented with the PowerPoint slides. Even more astonishing was her refusal to admit that a slide that read "2008 House Targets: Top 20" and listed a bunch of Democratic congressmen, concerned GOP election strategy. She obviously was lying about her memory (I mean, come on!). Is "I don't recall" a blanket defense for anything a Republican has said and done when called to testify before Congress? Are there any limits to the "I don't recall" defense/obfuscation?

Lois Romano: "I don't recall" is a way to not answer and avoid perjury.

Maybe she didn't recall -- but its been a well used response under oath.

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Boston: Thank you for taking my question. Bob Herbert of The New York Times did a column this morning on how Washington, D.C. residents are unable to vote for a Representative in Congress. I am not sure I understand why this is, or why the Bush administration not only opposes it but has threatened to veto legislation that would give D.C. residents a seat. These residents are American citizens and pay taxes. Why does Democracy not live in Washington? Can you explain this? Thank you.

Lois Romano: It's a partisan issue. Washington is a democratic jurisdiction so the Republicans will fight it.

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Washington: Do you get the sense that this Department of Justice thing is just the tip of the iceberg? I mean, it seems like with the flip of the switch we are uncovering some really interesting potential/real scandals ... or is it just me?

Lois Romano: I don't know if there is more to come -- but often one scandal leads to another because people start loosening up and revealing things.

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Colorado: Lois Romano: that is what Bush said when he ran against her husband.

George Bush ran against Bill Clinton? Actually, I think there's a lot of truth to that.

Lois Romano: Oops. I meant when he ran against Gore. He said it repeatedly to remind people about Monica Lewinsky

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Lois Romano: Thanks everyone for joining us today. It was great fun -- a lot of good thoughts. See you in two weeks.

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