Post Politics Hour

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John Solomon
Washington Post Money and Politics Reporter
Wednesday, June 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 money and politics reporter John Solomon was online Wednesday, June 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.

Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts

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Washington: Thanks for taking my question -- it is of the dreaded "media bias" variety. So newspapers used to have reporters assigned to the "labor beat," covering stories that affected workers (not just unions) wages, working conditions, etc. Today, not so much (although there is usually an entire section devoted to business stories). So is this bias in favor of wealth and against working families in the news media the result of conscious decisions by management and publishers, or merely a systemic bias resulting from structural forces that are larger than individual decision-makers?

John Solomon: I couldn't agree more with you that reporting on workplace issues is important, interesting and enlightening -- especially as the workplace is reshaped markedly at the start of the 21st century. But I disagree with your notion that there is a bias against such reporting. While the number of reporters with the title "labor reporter" probably has declined along with coverage of some of the inside workings of unions in recent years, I regularly see important news stories and original enterprise reporting focusing on issues of the workplace.

Take this week's Post and you will see stories on the role of merit pay on workers' perceptions of their jobs, and another documenting the massive rise of bonuses being paid to senior federal supervisors. I myself am working on a story involving the outsourcing of jobs. And the AP recently had a fantastic story on the consequences of leaving security in the hands of private guards who often get paid less than $10 an hour, don't have union protections and don't get training commensurate with their responsibilities. There also is routine coverage in today's papers about worker visas, the lack of unionization in the service and computing sectors and the glass ceiling women executives still face. While there's certainly room for more coverage, it's hard to make the case that there is wholesale neglect of workplace issues in today's media.

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Scottsdale, Ariz.: I read Sen. Lugar's speech and I applaud him for his common sense. However, I doubt he will have much influence on the Bush/Cheney administration's war plans. I don't understand why Congress can't demand a more clearly defined mission. This Iraq war has been the worst case of "mission creep" that I've ever seen. I suppose now if the Maliki government continues to stall, Bush can call for regime change. Or, worse, the mission could creep into Iran.

John Solomon: Don't underestimate the impact of Sen. Lugar's statements -- he is well regarded on both sides of the political aisle and his comments echo growing sentiments creeping into the public domain from career military officers that the surge hasn't worked as expected. Each of these events increases the pressure on the administration to offer something new. I expect the administration increasingly will focus on the flaws or failure of Iraqis to meet benchmarks, temporarily changing the public discourse.

Behind the scenes, I'd keep an eye on Saudi Arabia, which may try distance itself from the Bush administration and seek to play a bigger role fashioning the next round of solutions. One option that I've begun hearing in some corners is the creation of an Arab peacekeeping force from nations with established militaries as a way of propping up the Iraqi forces without having to increase the U.S.-British presence.

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Astoria, N.Y.: How will Cheney's relationship with Bush affect the role of the Office of the Vice President in the future? Will Democrats feel obligated to nominate strong VP candidates and give them a broad portfolio, or will they retreat to more ceremonial roles?

John Solomon: The Post series has been absolutely fascinating and I applaud my colleagues for pulling together a complete portrait of Cheney's unparalleled influence. Time will tell whether Cheney's work will have reshaped the office fundamentally for years to come or be just an aberration. That said, I think the most recent two holders of the office of vice president, Al Gore and Dick Cheney, both have shown us that the increasingly complex world and global economy leaves room for a vice president to accomplish far more than just attending ceremonial events and state funerals.

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Chicago: Thanks for taking questions. The second quarter is almost over. Any buzz on what might be really interesting in the presidential candidates' second-quarter numbers?

John Solomon: We'll have a better sense by Sunday, but my reporting so far indicates that Obama and Clinton will be neck-and-neck -- probably in the $25 million to $32 million range each -- and far outpacing the rest of the candidates in both parties. I'd guess Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani to fall into the $15 million to $25 million range. The big question is how John Edwards and John McCain will fare in fundraising. Both have fallen on some more difficult times. I think their camps are aiming more in the range of $10 million to $17 million.

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Washington: Hi, Mr. Solomon! Thanks for chatting today. Has anyone done an analysis of the economic impact upon states moving their primary dates earlier? In other words, will Florida reap a windfall in TV ad dollars and campaign funds by creeping up closer to Iowa/New Hampshire/South Carolina? Will the traditional early states like Iowa lose money as it's channeled to other states? How much money is really "in play" for states moving up their dates? Do you think that's an incentive for pushing the primaries earlier?

John Solomon: I haven't seen such an analysis yet, but I bet we will next spring after the primaries have ended. I think the real motive for states moving up their primaries is to give their voters a sense that their votes matter before a clear victor emerges in each party. Outside of small states like New Hampshire and Iowa, I'm not sure the economic impact of an early primary election blitzkrieg would be that measurable. California and Florida have multibillion dollar economies, and a $50 million collective ad buy probably doesn't have that much long-term effect.

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Reston, Va.: Regarding the Clintons dissolving their trust and cashing out everything even if it means paying hefty taxes -- are they just trying to be careful or are they expecting huge media probe and accusations (perceived and real)? Thanks.

John Solomon: In talking with the Clintons' advisers for that story, they were emphatic that the decision to exit the stock market was driven by a desire to avoid even the slightest questions about conflicts between investments and their policy positions. The early campaign already has provided some examples of candidates facing questions about investments in companies that do business in places like Darfur, for instance. The complete divestiture eliminates that prospect for the Clintons for the rest of the campaign. The Clinton camp also believed making such a sacrifice sent a message to voters about their commitment to winning the White House and avoiding financial conflicts in the future.

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Alexandria, Va.: I don't understand the White House political perspective on the immigration bill. It is mostly supported by Democrats whose support he long ago has written off on Iraq and other issues. He needs the continued support of the GOP base on Iraq and other issues, yet he now is alienating that very base with his support of the immigration bill. This will make it even harder for Bush to rally these very people for any coming legislative battles on Iraq.

So, if he wins the immigration battle (doubtful at this time) he loses the very people he will need for the Iraq battle to come, and the Dems will give him zero slack for Iraq as a result of the immigration bill. So, my question is, what is the political motivation for the White House to continue this battle on immigration? It's as if Rove has been sent to a secure undisclosed location and now is exerting zero influence. Please explain. Thanks.

washingtonpost.com: Cheney Aide Explains Stance on Classified Material (Post, June 27)

John Solomon: By all accounts and my own reporting, President Bush has a very strong personal view on immigration shaped by his experience in Texas and his outreach to the Hispanic community. The other day I saw a column by Lanny Davis, an overt Democrat and Clinton supporter, praising Bush for spending political capital (at a time when he doesn't have much to spare) to take a stand on immigration in opposition to much of his own party. Davis compared Bush's actions to Bill Clinton's support of the NAFTA free trade deal in the face of strong Democratic and union opposition. If Davis is correct, sometimes a president's personal views on an issue transcend political considerations.

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Pittsburgh: Is there anything Congress can pass to restore the campaign reforms overturned by the Supreme Court this week (last-minute ads by interested groups, e.g. anti-abortion, pro-union, etc.)? How much economic impact do you think the court decision will have -- i.e. how much more can TV and radio stations, as well as newspapers and newsmagazines, expect to take in thanks to this decision?

John Solomon: I don't think Congress has the stomach to reopen this issue, especially with the campaign for 2008 already well under way. Also, the court left little legal maneuvering room to craft a new ad ban. As Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, in cases where there is a tie between the First Amendment and censorship, the speaker always wins over the censor. As for the impact, I think the biggest change will involve the strategies of third-party groups. Under the old rules, many likely would have planned their ad blitzes in the summer before the 2008 election, and then turn to get-out-the-vote drives and other traditional grassroots operations in the fall; now many of them will have the option of doing more advertising later in the election cycle. So there's likely to be some rethinking inside groups with millions to spend on influencing the election.

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John Solomon: Many thanks for all the great questions today. Have a great Fourth of July holiday and I look forward to chatting again soon.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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