Broder on Politics

David S. Broder
Washington Post Columnist
Friday, June 29, 2007; 12:00 PM

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and Washington Post columnist David S. Broder was online Friday, June 29 at noon ET to answer your questions about the world of politics, from the latest maneuverings on Capitol Hill to developments in the White House.

Broder has written extensively about primaries, elections, special interests and the business of politics. His books include "Democracy Derailed: The Initiative Movement & the Power of Money," "Behind the Front Page: A Candid Look at How the News Is Made" and "The System: The American Way of Politics at the Breaking Point." Cheney Unbound (Post, June 28)

The transcript follows.

Archive: David Broder discussion transcripts


Reisterstown, Md.: Isn't the vice president's refusal to follow reporting procedures on the handling of sensitive information grounds for suspending his office's security clearances?

David S. Broder: Hello to everyone. I can tell this is going to be an exciting hour for me, because of all the events in Washington and the reactions they have stirred.

I don't know who would have the authority to lift the security clearance for the vice president other than the president, and I rather doubt he would be inclined to do it. I think we will have to figure out some other remedy for a troubling situation.


Wayne, Pa.: Thanks for taking my question. The evidence of Vice President Cheney's power grab and questionable judgment has finally been put together by the Washington Post's excellent series. At what point does a collection of GOP Senators and Representatives make the trek to the White House and tell the president that Cheney has to go? Do any of them have enough guts to stand up to Cheney? (If you'll recall, the last time GOP Senators went to the White House to challenge the Iraq policy was when Cheney was out of town.) Angler:The Cheney Vice Presidency

David S. Broder: I think any such delegation is unlikely at this time. Republican senators are more likely to challenge the White House on the policy in Iraq. They know that the vice president will oppose them on that, but I don't think they think they have the leverage to remove him from the scene.


Arlington, Va.: I always have believed that the president, who won a thin victory in 2000, should have governed resolutely from the middle to expand his base. He ran to the base in 2004 and won again. His initiatives always are boosted in front of friendly audiences, so he cannot respond to opposition criticism without red meat rhetoric. Now his base is fracturing. I believe the Bush presidency is a good lesson to the future as to what happens when you run a government while eliciting narrow support.

David S. Broder: I think you have drawn exactly the right lesson from the Bush presidency and I hope that those who are vying to succeed him have learned it as well as you have.


Antitrust ruling: It seems that in striking down a law that prevents price floors, the court accepted the arguments that price floors sometimes can be a good thing. Fine. But what does the efficacy of the law have to do with its constitutionality? High Court Overturns Century-Old Antitrust Rule (Post, June 29)

David S. Broder: I have not read or studied that opinion as yet, so I can't give you an intelligent answer.


Rolla, Mo.: Sorry I can't let this go, but the Libby affair was not a sideshow or "tempest in a teapot," it was symptomatic of Cheney's overall approach. Do you now agree?

David S. Broder: The Libby case may tell us something about the vice president's way of operating, but I think the incidents and pattern reported in The Post series were much more revealing and significant. What Libby did was ultimately Libby's responsibility, but what Cheney has done is the responsibility of the vice president and the president.


Daly City, Calif.: Is America ready for a black president?

David S. Broder: I don't speak for anyone but myself, but my answer would be unequivocally yes.


Washington: Since Cheney's prints are on everything, I'm wondering about his impact on the immigration bill. I'd think he'd favor amnesty because big business needs cheap labor. Or is this one of the few issues he might actually have stood back on?

David S. Broder: I don't have any idea what his personal view may be, but publicly he supported the president's position of wanting a comprehensive immigration bill.


Olney, Md.: Mr. Broder, this question is written with the utmost respect for you and, in general, the work of The Post, especially the excellent Cheney series. I am a former Washington reporter for NPR and many TV stations around the country. It seems to me that the very existence of the details in the Cheney story reveals a very, very deep failure of the national media. We, as citizens, need to know this stuff far sooner than the eighth inning of the Bush ball game. As each administration comes to town, we need to learn -- as soon and as clearly as possible -- who is pulling the strings and how. I realize that people reveal themselves as they go along, but the Bush/Cheney presidency is very near its end. There is far too much "business as usual" reporting. The Post could throw away a hundred stories during the Bush years and they wouldn't be worth one of the Cheney series. Why, with all the money, people and dedication, are the media generally failing us in this way?

David S. Broder: I take your letter and its criticism very seriously. Without question it would be valuable to be able to do a roadmap of the internal workings of any White House early in its tenure; but as you would appreciate from your own experience in reporting, this is the most difficult ground to penetrate, except perhaps for the Supreme Court.

It took a year of digging by Bart Gellman and Jo Becker to begin to crack the cone of secrecy around Cheney, and it was possible only because so many people who had worked inside that closed system have now left and are freer to share their experiences. They could not have reached these sources before the first re-election campaign, nor would those sources have been cooperative and candid at that point. I know from a similar effort Bob Woodward and I made with the Dan Quayle vice presidency how hard a slog that reporting is, and I marvel at what Gellman and Becker were able to do.


Baltimore: Mr. Broder: Thanks for participating in the chat. You've covered many presidents, which I think gives you standing to answer a broad question: Do you think President Bush has good judgment?

David S. Broder: As I said in my last column, when you survey the wreckage of national security policy, foreign policy, budgetary policy, energy policy and environmental policy (and I might add now, much of social policy as well) it is hard to be generous about the policy judgments of the administration.


Pocatello, Idaho: Do you think Cheney ever had any intention of recommending someone else to be bush's vice presidential candidate, or was he always intending to submit his own name?

David S. Broder: I have no idea whether he tried to manipulate the selection process. Only George Bush could answer that question.


New York: Brad DeLong (an economist who was in the Clinton administration) argues that much of what Becker and Gellman report could have been reported as long ago as July 2001. You obviously have a lot of connections in Washington. Was the overall content of this report about Cheney's role really a surprise to you? (Of course some particulars are new, e.g. that Cheney apparently tried to fool Bush by getting Gonzales's name on a memo written by Addington.)

According to DeLong: "For it was back in July of 2001 that Bush subcabinet officials told me that:

"1. Cheney had overruled Treasury Secretary O'Neill and Federal Reserve Chair Greenspan on budget policy

"2. Cheney had overruled EPA Administrator Whitman and Treasury Secretary O'Neill on global-warming policy

"3. Cheney had overruled Secretary of State Colin Powell on North Korea policy

"4. George W. Bush had neither the patience nor the intelligence to master the issues

"5. It looked as though Bush had decided to rely on Cheney's opinion on pretty much everything."

David S. Broder: I do not know Brad DeLong and I have no wish to quarrel with him. But as I just said in answer to another question, I think it would have been nearly impossible to duplicate the Cheney series reporting until after the re-election of the Bush-Cheney ticket.


Downtown Washington: In response to the earlier post on the antitrust case, the court was not ruling on the constitutionality of the minimum price rule but was interpreting the (very broadly worded) antitrust laws as passed by Congress decades ago.

David S. Broder: Thanks for clarifying that.


Montgomery Village, Md.: Mr. Broder, I know your penchant for not engaging in speculation, but if-- and that's a big if-- the scenario that Sally Quinn laid out for a "resignation" by the vice president for "health reasons" were to come about, would someone who is not a presidential candidate have a better chance of being selected than a declared candidate? Perhaps someone like John Warner rather than Brownback? Please, speculate just this time -- it's a holiday weekend, no one's really watching. A GOP Plan To Oust Cheney (Post, June 26)

David S. Broder: I have no idea what President Bush would do in the highly implausible event of the vice president resigning. He would be under heavy pressure not to name one of the contenders as vice president, giving him a huge boost, so I think he likely would look for a safe and broadly acceptable placeholder who would serve only until January 20, 2009. But it's not going to happen.


Atlanta: An AP story came out about Obama and widely varying performances among class and education. Do you think Barack Obama really has the problem of reaching white, blue-collar Democrats, or is this about not being very well-known in that group?

David S. Broder: I think Sen. Obama's personality allows him to reach across traditional barriers of race, gender and class. But his message is quite intellectual and sophisticated, and he may not be reaching voters who are more interested in hearing very down-to-earth proposals about the war, health care and other problems.


Ottawa, Canada: Is the Office of the Vice President well defined by the U.S. Constitution? Do you feel, given the actions of the current VP, that his office never again (well, not for a long time anyway) will achieve the level of power that it has had in the past six years?

David S. Broder: Thank you for your questions. The office is not at all well-defined in the Constitution and it has grown only through the willingness of the chief executive to share his power with the vice president. Whether Cheney's successors will have that power will depend entirely on the wishes of the next president -- and your guess is as good as mine about how that person will feel.


Annandale, Va.:"The Security Council voted today to immediately close the U.N. inspection program that monitored Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs under Saddam Hussein's regime." What is the reasoning behind this? U.N. Closes Down Iraq Weapons Monitors (AP, June 29)

David S. Broder: I have not followed that story, and I cannot help you with an answer.


Rockville, Md,: Hi David -- we are fortunate to chat with you. What strategy would you suggest to the Democrats to make sure that the next anti-support bill for the Iraq war is passed by a big congressional majority?

David S. Broder: I am not in the business of recommending strategy to Democrats or Republicans. My sense is that the concern about Iraq strategy is growing on the Republican side of the aisle, and I am sure Democrats and Republicans will be talking to each other about the best way to communicate that concern to the White House. At this point, there is no agreement on the vehicle to be used.


New York: Mr. Broder, although it is quite possible (if not likely) that Bush will eventually pardon Scooter Libby (and we need not debate the wisdom or morality of doing so here), do you think it also is possible that before he leaves office he will also pardon Cheney and Alberto Gonzales from future prosecution for crimes they may have committed while in office?

David S. Broder: I have heard no discussion of any such moves by the president, nor do I expect them.


Arlington, Va.: Two questions/observations concerning the outstanding work done by Gellman and Becker: Do you believe that the revelations concerning the extent of authority delegated to Cheney by Bush is an indictment of the business management model of governance? Also, if I recall correctly, Halliburton was mentioned only once in the series; do you believe that Cheney's ties to Halliburton and Halliburton's ubiquitous presence throughout this administration (e.g. Iraq reconstruction, Katrina relief, Walter Reed management) indicate that there may be an even greater scandal that has yet to be revealed?

David S. Broder: I would hate to think that this administration's shortcomings can be laid to the Harvard Business School or business administration training in general. Obviously some of their graduates do better -- and as one of my sons is a business school product, I hope the disease is not catching. As for the Halliburton ties, I agree that subject remains to be explored, and I have no doubt it will be.


Bowie, Md.: What kind of third-party candidacy do you see most likely to emerge next year?

David S. Broder: The kind who possibly could attract significant support is someone who can run down the middle, promising to work on the problems and ignore the politics. The subject is explored in depth in a Post survey of independents and two articles by Dan Balz and I in this Sunday's paper. (End of commercial.)


Kingston, Pa.: Mr. Broder: Can we have your movie review of "Sicko?"

David S. Broder: I haven't seen it, but you should know that my past experiences make me no fan of Michael Moore.


Prescott, Ariz.: Why is that attempted car bombing in England a big deal? It is dominating the TV news right now. I ask that only because someone did the exact same thing here in the U.S., on 9/11 of last year no less, and there has been absolutely nothing but local coverage of the incident. In fact, the terrorist in that case isn't even getting charged with anything but arson. Clinic crash moves to federal court (Quad City Times, Sept. 26, 2006)

David S. Broder: I certainly think an apparent car bombing effort in the heart of London is big news. I am not aware of the incident you're referring to, so I hardly can comment on it.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: Has Bush ever commented on his not-so-prescient observation into Putin's soul? We had the president's assurances that he vetted Putin for any evil and declared his soul pure, and Putin is one of the few major world leaders to turn back the clock on his country's advances more than Bush has.

David S. Broder: To the best of my knowledge, the president has not publicly revised his early estimate of Mr. Putin. As you know, they are meeting at Kennebunkport this weekend.


Brookline, Mass.: Can you explain why articles on Cheney's grasp for power generally fail to note Mr. Bush's supine acquiescence in it? That seems to be the genuinely unique feature. I'm sure we've had many vice presidents who wanted to run the government; what we've never had is a president who permitted it. Why the free pass?

David S. Broder: I think Gellman and Becker explicitly said that Bush granted Cheney exceptional latitude in all the operations they were describing. And I made the point explicitly in my column about the series that responsibility for what had occurred rested ultimately with the president.


Anonymous:"Why is that attempted car bombing in England a big deal? It is dominating the TV news right now." This is what's wrong with this country -- you need to actually have death and carnage for people to care. That a glitch was the only thing keeping this from being the biggest attack since WWII in England seems to be lost on whomever wrote that comment.

David S. Broder: It is clearly important news, whether it was a glitch or smart police work that uncovered the plot.


New York: Mr. Broder, can you discuss the impact of yesterday's Supreme Court decision(s) regarding race-based integration of schools. Is is really a reversal of Brown, or do you think it is much narrower than that?

David S. Broder: With Justice Kennedy's concurrence making the fifth vote, the decision itself appears to be narrowly drawn. But the plurality opinion will signal to many school districts that they simply can ignore race in assigning students, and the likely effect will be to discourage any schemes using race in any way for assigning students.


Orlando, Fla.: In speaking of the immigration legislation yesterday, the president spoke of "the failure of Congress." Did you hear him say anything about his own base and conservative talk radio being vehemently opposed to it?

David S. Broder: The president said nothing about that yesterday, but earlier in the debate he had criticized those voices sharply -- and in turn had been castigated by them. At this point, he probably considered himself well out of the fight.


Bealeton, Va.: I don't see many Cheney defenders in this arena, which is no surprise as the Web site doesn't particularly consider many opposing view points. But comment on a couple things: If a strong vice president in a Democratic administration pushed those views forcefully in a behind-the-scenes manner, would there be as much criticism of that role? For instance, if Al Gore was as equally as forceful in the Clinton administration, would they have done real work to head of global warming such as passing stronger CAFE standards? Also, isn't a lot of this story meant to spread fear of Republican policies and promote the overturning of the previous election results?

David S. Broder: I think you would find that there was a good deal of reporting in The Post and elsewhere about Al Gore's active role in the Clinton administration; I did some of it myself. But Gore had less power in budgetary and regulatory matters than Cheney has been allowed to exert by Bush. And I do not agree with your assumptions about an ulterior motive in the reporting. I know these reporters and I have no sense that they were carrying water for any ideology.

This has to be my last question for today. I've enjoyed chatting with all of you. Many thanks.


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