Post Politics Hour

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Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 21, 2007; 11:30 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 White House reporter Michael Abramowitz will be online Tuesday, Aug.21, at 11:30 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.

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Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts

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washingtonpost.com: Michael Abramowitz will be delayed today. The discussion should start by 11:30.

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St. Paul, Minn.: Hi Michael -- thanks for taking my question. Two important Iraq developments the last couple of days: Levin and Warner say Maliki has to go (well, Levin does ... Warner doesn't seem to be quite there yet), and an editorial in the New York Times from several active duty soldiers claims the surge isn't working. How are these likely to impact the upcoming report from Patreus and the White House position?

washingtonpost.com: The War as We Saw It (New York Times, Aug. )

Michael Abramowitz: Good morning everybody. I apologize for starting late today, but had an important interview that I could not reschedule -- and if I didn't take the opportunity, I was going to be unable to talk to the person for several weeks! But I will take the full hour trying to answer as many questions as I can.

I was struck by the Levin statement yesterday -- it's not often you hear from a U.S. senator saying a foreign leader has to go. But I don't think this will have a huge impact on the White House position, nor do I think the soldiers' piece will either. My view is that the White House already has a sense of what it wants to do -- keep the war going, albeit with perhaps a smaller footprint -- and they are right now trying to figure out how to sell this in Congress.

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Missouri: Hey, Michael. Since you're the White House guy, you may have your ear closer to the ground than many of your colleagues -- so what vibes are you picking up? Is this administration in full lame-duck mode? Is there relief, despair or indifference to Rove's departure? What's the mood? Thanks.

Michael Abramowitz: Well, I actually was on vacation last week so I am a little out of it on the Rove scuttlebutt. I think Rove generally has been a popular figure inside the White House, so I don't think there was relief that he was leaving (though there are obvious exceptions to this).

I would not say the administration is in full lame-duck mode, but I do have a sense that there has been a psychological shift in the administration. At the beginning of 2007, I think there was a feeling that Bush might have one major "legacy" opportunity left, perhaps immigration reform. I think Rove's departure may signal their acceptance that the rest of the term is about protecting exisiting programs like No Child Left Behind and maintaining the effort in Iraq.

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Seattle: Besides Snow and Rove, who else has indicated or is expected to abandon ship at the White House before Labor Day?

Michael Abramowitz: Good question. The White House has signaled there are a few more shoes to drop, but there don't seem to be any more really household names that would stir a lot of attention. Josh Bolten, the chief of staff, seems like he is staying for the duration, and my guess would be the same about the National Security Adviser Steve Hadley -- but maybe I will be proven wrong!

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Anonymous: Michael: Any word on President Bush's plan for his presidential library?

Michael Abramowitz: Bush's people are negotiating with SMU about having the library there -- but it has not been finalized.

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Alexandria, Va.: The U.S. ambassador today called the political progress -- or utter lack of it -- in Iraq "extremely disappointing." Along with the Levin comments are we in the process of being "softened up" for the bad news next month?

Michael Abramowitz: I have not seen those comments yet, but there definitely has been a steady drip of comments suggesting administration unhappiness with the state of political progress in Iraq. For some time, I believe, the administration has been trying to move the goalposts a little -- pointing to political reconciliation at the local level as a sign of progress, for instance, rather than some kind of accomodation at the national level. They want to be able to point to something to justify continued U.S. military engagement on some level.

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Arlington, Va.: So if Michigan moves their primary up, do other states domino into December 2007? When's the Virginia primary, and why aren't we moving it to January?

Michael Abramowitz: I was struck in the story today by my colleague Mike Shear how a spokesman for Iowa's governor insisted that the caucuses there would be the first in the nation and be held in January. So right now, it seems there would be no reason for other states to domino into 2007. We'll see.

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Richmond, Va.: Whew! I just read that Hillary Clinton said yesterday to a group of vets that the surge is working? Have you ever heard her say that before? Or is that plain pandering?

washingtonpost.com: Clinton, McCain Split on Iraq Pullout (AP, Aug. 20)

Michael Abramowitz: I was intrigued by her comments as well, but I don't think her assessment was as sweeping as your question suggests. She said some elements of the new strategy have had success, but she still thinks the troops need to be brought home from Iraq. Judging from the news accounts of the event, it was not a message that was particularly well-received by the Veterans of Foreign Wars audience.

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Fort Worth, Texas: Would it be possible immediately after the Nov 2008 election to start having primaries for the 2012 election? That way we would have four years to start thinking about presidential politics. (Tongue in cheek, yes, but is there no control at all over how early primaries are scheduled?)

Michael Abramowitz: That way we could have our nominees set and we would be so tired of the campaign by 2009 that we would have to look for other things to write about. I see your line of thinking.

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Arizona: Michael, thank you for making time to take questions. Why does Dick Cheney's office have NSA wiretap documents? Are there any assurances that the warrantless wiretaps are being used the way the administration says they are being used? On a more general level, given your experience can you think of anything beneficial or good for the nation that would require this much executive privilege and secrecy?

Michael Abramowitz: I guess I am not particularly surprised to hear that Cheney's office has these documents, because every account of this issue suggests the vice president and his office were very involved in this debate. In general, I definitely can imagine some cases where intense secrecy is necessary; its hard for me to make that assessment for this particular program because we don't know a lot about how it actually works. So if it sounds like I am punting, I am!

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Atlanta: Is it just me, or do others see comments like those made by Sen. Levin stating Prime Minister Maliki is ineffective and must go as assinine at best? The U.S. invaded,occupied and created this Iraq disaster, not Maliki. The U.S. president has approvals in the low thirties at best. The Democrat-led Congress has approvals in the high twenties at best. Record debt and deficits, negative savings rates and the widest disparity of wealth since the 1920s, crumbling infrastructure, more citizens without health insurance than any other free nation in the world, a polarized society, the Department of Justice in shambles, on and on and on. Yet our elected leaders(?) point their fingers and call other governments ineffective?

Michael Abramowitz: Because Maliki isn't going anywhere right now, I suppose the best way to interpret those comments is as just another marker by a leading Democrat that there is little that will change in a month that will make him support what the president is up to.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Posting early, as I will not be available later: I have noted the hoopla surrounding the recent Iowa Republican Straw Poll, and the coverage (in The Post and elsewhere) on what it actually does (and does not) mean for the candidates, and have compared that to the complete and total lack of coverage of the recent Alabama and New Hampshire straw polls. Given that the Iowa poll was front page/headline news for several days, shouldn't these polls rate some, albiet minimal, coverage? (Especially on washingtonpost.com's "Politics" page?) What is it about these polls that make them som much less "meaningful" than Iowa's?

washingtonpost.com: Romney Wins Iowa's GOP Poll (Post, Aug. 12)

Michael Abramowitz: Well, I am not really aware of another straw poll that draws the same kind of intense interest from the candidates and local activists -- and Iowa is obviously important because of its role as the first caucus state. So I think there are some reasons it draws extra and close attention from the media.

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Crystal City, Va.: I think this election's primary schedule has gone from absurd to chaos. Why do we need a dozen debates during the summer before election year? Can't the federal government rotate regional primaries every four years instead of allowing states to play leapfrog with important election dates? I don't see a lot of minorities in Iowa or New Hampshire -- who, besides tradition, says they get to go first? Currently any states, like both Maryland and Virginia, that don't move their primary dates to January essentially are allowing a handful of voters from other parts of the country to make their choices for them.

Michael Abramowitz: As a citizen, I have personal sympathy for your point of view, but it's not up to the news media to decide the system by which we choose our president.

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Chicago: Thanks for chatting this morning. Gravel, Kucinich, Dodd, Biden -- at what point do these guys have to show some reasonable degree of support before they get bounced off the debate stage? I know they complain about not getting equal time in the debates, but they have been included in all of the debates (Biden hasn't shown up for a few forum events), have been campaigning for months and still are only a blip in the polls.

In the meantime, they prevent the "debates" from being as meaningful as they could be by restricting everyone to such short answers. ("How would you solve all the world's problems? You have 90 seconds.") Can't the DNC at some point say, in order to be in a debate, you have to show at least 10 percent support in a legit national, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan, Florida or Nevada poll? Or have at least $10 million in the bank?

Michael Abramowitz: I doubt anyone is going to get bounced off the debate stage until after we see what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire.

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Keyport, N.J.: Michael: I'm a Democrat and I am legitimately concerned about the issue of Hilary Clinton blocking the release of her papers from her time in Arkansas and as First Lady. I think if there's a "smoking gun" there I would like to know before she is selected as nominee -- yet I can't get anyone on the Post Politics chat to take my question. Is the press giving her a free pass on this?

Michael Abramowitz: The Clinton library is run by the National Archives, which says it follows the law in processing requests to see her papers. On the other hand, I haven't heard her speak up for processing the requests faster.

I am out of time, my friends -- see you a few weeks.

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