Post Politics Hour
Friday, September 28, 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 national political reporter Anne E. Kornblut was online Friday, Sept. 28 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest news in politics.
The transcript follows.
Anne E. Kornblut: Hi all! Happy Friday. Thanks for joining today, and let's get started -- please send your questions on in.
Mount Prospect, Ill.: Anne-posting early because of a prior meeting. How do you reconcile the apparent wide gap between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (according to recent polls) and the significant reaction (both in donors and total dollars) that puts Obama at the top tier, above Clinton? Is it possible that despite those polls, this grassroots movement for Obama is something the media is missing that will show its strength at the voting/caucus settings, and that is why Obama continues to avoid any strident criticisms of Clinton?
washingtonpost.com: The Fix: A Tale of Two Nomination Fights (washingtonpost.com, Sept. 28)
Anne E. Kornblut: It's a great question,and one we spend a lot of time scratching our heads over here. Your theory is entirely possible; it is, after all, about three months until we see actual voting begin. And let's not forget who was the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination four years ago (hint: it was not John Kerry). The Clinton campaign, though, would say that Obama's support donation-wise is a reflection of his support from elites who can afford to help him (and donors overall make up a small portion of the population), whereas Clinton has broad popular support... We will find out soon enough. Thanks for the question.
Washington: How do you feel about Mitt Romney's latest assessment of Republicans, as quoted in today's Post article on the GOP and race. " 'We're not entirely brain-dead,' Romney said." Will the press follow up and ask for exactly what his assessment of the exactly how brain-dead the Republican party is? Is it 3 percent "not brain-dead"? 5 percent? 10 percent? It is the "not entirely" that keeps me towards the single digits and low teens. Your assessment please?
Anne E. Kornblut: LOL. I will be sure to ask the Romney campaign for a more precise calculation. Your guess?
Washington: I don't get the Burma/Myanmar dichotomy. The Post referred to it as Burma on the Web site this morning, and most international outlets refer to it as Burma, but Bush calls it Myanmar, and this morning's Express (a Post publication) called it Myanmar. What gives?
washingtonpost.com: From Wikipedia: "Myanmar achieved independence from the United Kingdom on Jan. 4, 1948 as the 'Union of Burma.' It became the 'Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma' on Jan. 4, 1974, before reverting to the 'Union of Burma' on Sept. 23, 1988. On June 18, 1989, the State Law and Order Restoration Council adopted the name 'Union of Myanmar.' This was recognized by the United Nations, but not by the U.S. or U.K. governments."
Anne E. Kornblut: I have absolutely no idea. I will ask.
Rolla, Mo.: So, what was the deal with Obama's low energy the other night, was he sick that day as is rumored? Otherwise, someone needs to slip him some coffee before these debates, he comes nowhere near the passion level he displays on the stump.
washingtonpost.com: Democratic Rivals Press Clinton, Courteously (Post, Sept. 27)
Anne E. Kornblut: We did hear he had a cold that night (as a lot of people have lately). In general, it's true that the debates haven't always reflected the enthusiasm he generates on the road. In part, it seems the quick format doesn't suit him as well; he also doesn't enjoy going after his opponents, which the debates favor. He has at least three more chances in the debates ahead, though, to alter his style if he wants.
Silver Spring, Md.: Can you please explain why the leading Republican candidates didn't show up for the debate last night in Baltimore? Would it really hurt these candidates that much in places like South Carolina to appear in front of a black audience? If this is the state of the Republican party I don't see how right-thinking people of any race can continue to associate with the party. This is really repulsive behavior. People who act this way shouldn't be president of a diverse country and can't be expected to understand a world made up of many different cultures and viewpoints.
washingtonpost.com: Leading GOP Candidates Skip Debate on Black Issues (Post, Sept. 28)
Anne E. Kornblut: I think the basic thinking was that there wasn't a great deal of percentage in it for these guys. It's the end of the fundraising quarter and they all had previously scheduled events (or so they said). This has been a particular bete noir for former RNC chairman Ken Mehlman (who did, by contrast, show up), who made the same case during his tenure that you have here. The current crop doesn't seem to have bought in to that thinking, quite.
Washington: Krauthammer has another piece in the Post today about how wonderful he thinks Hilary is -- too politically sophisticated to do anything except follow Bush's leadership in Iraq. I do not think that is an unfair characterization of his position. At some point does it begin to bother the democrats that the neocons' favorite candidate is Hilary?
washingtonpost.com: France Flips While Congress Shifts (Post, Sept. 28)
Anne E. Kornblut: Good question. The Clinton campaign has embraced the neoconservative/conservative praise -- from Krauthammer, from David Brooks, from William Kristol among others -- as evidence that she could have crossover appeal and also win a general election. But that is a double-edged sword for her in the primary, as you suggest. If they like her so much, who's to say she won't mirror the example of the current president? That, at least, is the argument we are beginning to hear from his other Democratic rivals.
Salinas, Calif.: Hi Anne. Is John Edwards deciding to accept public funds for his campaign an example of trying to put the best face on an increasingly difficult position for a bottom-of-the-top-tier candidate, in contrast with the money generating juggernauts of Clinton and Obama? Is he banking on his long-term fieldwork in Iowa to counteract the limitations on spending that public financing will impose? I would expect his team to spin their position as taking the high road on campaign spending, considering their circumstances. Your thoughts?
washingtonpost.com: Edwards to Accept Public Financing (Post, Sept. 28)
Anne E. Kornblut: You are exactly right. By accepting public financing, Edwards is essentially conceding that his fundraising efforts haven't been as successful as they had hoped. He is trying to put the happiest face on it -- arguing, as you suggest, that he will be the one to reject the monied interest and stick to government-imposed limits, and calling on other Democratic candidates to do the same. But it's a hard sell. And it may just be a reflection of the fact that there is only so much money out there, and only so many candidates who can vacuum it up.
Great column on Monday -- learned lots!: In your column on Monday, at first glance I thought you were being snarky and mean about how long some of Hillary Clinton's answers were during her Sunday Talk-Show Fest. Or, as you wrote: "Her ability to talk. And talk. And talk." I mean, can't have detailed, nuanced answers these days, can we? But then I realized how supportive you are actually being -- of Hillary and your readers. After all, in showing just how long the answers were, you actually got The Washington Post to print those long answers for all to read! Thank you. I realize that unless it was wrapped in a bitter poison shell, there's no way The Washington Post editors could be fooled into printing actual positions, in lieu of the usual "gotcha" and passive-aggressive personality smears we're getting this election cycle. Sadly, I wasn't able to see her appearances on Sunday, but thanks to your brilliantly underhanded column on Monday, I now know much more Hillary and her positions, however detailed her answers might have been. Congrats on tricking your editors into printing actual news from the campaign trail. Good on ya!
washingtonpost.com: Hitting All the Sunday Talk Shows, Clinton Says a Lot but Reveals Little (Post, Sept. 24)
Anne E. Kornblut: I think I detect some sarcasm here, but in fact you are onto something: I was glad to be able to reprint her answers in whole, which we rarely get to do, and I'm really glad you understood that. She did go on at length, but then, don't they all?
Arlington, Va.: Given that Clinton, a more conservative Democrat, and Giuliani, a more liberal Republican, are near or at the top of the polls, do you think the time is right for a split ticket that could capture the middle 50 percent of the nation's vote?
Anne E. Kornblut: Why not? We get this question in every election cycle (or at least, I've gotten it in the last two I have covered), and so far it hasn't gained much traction. But if the level of frustration reached a higher pitch, who knows? Great question.
Great use of bete noir:... but you might want to append the obligatory, "no pun intended" to that one, considering the topic you're discussing, non?
Anne E. Kornblut: Of course. Good point.
Re: Brain-Dead: Anne, I just have to say that the chatter from Washington up there made my morning with the question on Romney/GOP/brain-dead percentages. You replied "LOL" and I second that. I wish I had been that clever. Well done to that chatter!
Anne E. Kornblut: I toe the line at emoticons, however.
Reading, Pa.: Anne: There is some scuttlebutt about Obama not being as "intellectually curious" as he should be -- funny, because he always strikes me as being very well-informed and articulate. What's your take?
Anne E. Kornblut: I think that is a relatively hard case to make. He was editor of Harvard Law Review, and both his books, but in particular his first, take winding tours through his varied and far-reaching thoughts. He may have many flaws, but I do not know that I would put intellectually incurious on the list.
Wilmington, N.C.: Thank you for fielding these questions. Your article Monday about Sen. Clinton's Sunday appearances included two passages I am curious about. "But she used more than 225 words to say so." In context ("art of the filibuster") you clearly are reporting her answer was longer than necessary. Is 225 words a lot of words for a "Meet The Press" answer? What is the threshold number of words for her to use in this case to trigger their number being reported? Contemporaneously, I can't say her answers struck me as extraordinary in length -- in fact they seemed rather typical -- so I am curious about your standard in this case.
"Clinton illustrated her ability to talk. And talk. And talk." This sentence struck me as very informal, even opinionated. Is this sort of formulation appropriate for a news story, as opposed to a column?
Anne E. Kornblut: I've gotten a fair number of questions about this, so thanks for asking it again so I can answer. Our goal, generally, is to be informative and interesting at the same time; by saying she talked and talked, my aim was to reflect the fact that she talked for about two straight hours (by virtue of the fact that she was on all five Sunday shows in a row). Not really an opinion. And I was glad to be able to reprint some of her answers at length, without passing judgment on the content, but instead sharing it with readers.
Anonymous: What's up with Larry Craig? I get the feeling that Larry isn't going to allow his party to throw him under the bus without a fight. Is Larry holding out for a cushy high-paying job?
washingtonpost.com: Craig to Stay In the Senate 'For Now' (Post, Sept. 27)
Anne E. Kornblut: Great question. We'll find out. It is hard to imagine who would hire him at this point, but you never know. And he might hang on here in the end, depending on what happens.
Wilmington, N.C.:"She did go on at length, but then, don't they all?" Yes, they do. Which begs the question of why her doing it merited the focus of a substantial news article.
Anne E. Kornblut: We often cover the candidates on the Sunday shows -- but especially her doing the "full Ginsburg" as it's called seemed worth noting in the paper.
Fairfax, Va.: The Democratic debaters nitpick at each other; rarely trying out attack language they would be using in the presidential campaign, so how can voters assess which candidate will make the best case against the Republicans? Could this be because once again the Democratic candidate for president is going to play defense or just run and hide from the smears and deceptions that history tells us are definitely coming their way? I for one would love to hear the Democrats openly explain why they think Bush took us into Iraq and why those reasons (oil, strategic positioning, etc.) are wrong compared to the policy Democrats would carry out if elected, assuming they have a policy.
Anne E. Kornblut: I will publish this request, and we can see which of the Democrats responds first. Good question, thank you.
In the West Virginia woods: Do you see any hint that Democrats know Hillary Clinton is pro-immigration, pro-NAFTA, pro-outsourcing? In other words she is very much a free-trader, and there is no sign anyone knows. She's on a fast track to the presidency and people need to know where she stands on issue that are not on the media radar screen. Iraq is the only subject that interests the national media. Important as Iraq is, it is certainly not the only important issue. Do you think the media will broaden their interests to cover domestic issues?
washingtonpost.com: Unions Press Clinton on Outsourcing of U.S. Jobs (Post, Sept. 8)
Anne E. Kornblut: She has, actually, voiced differences with her husband over NAFTA (saying it would require revisions) and her opponents, Edwards in particular, have made sure to underscore where she has been on trade. One of his more recent lines is that the Clinton administration failed to bring us health care but brought us NAFTA instead. I would not be surprised at all to see this emerge as amore important issue in the weeks/months ahead. Great question.
Anonymous: Obama is getting grief for not taking the gloves off and bashing Hillary. We have four months until Iowa and he doesn't need four months to bash Hillary -- four minutes would suffice.
Anne E. Kornblut: Point taken.
Kensington, Md.: Is anyone buying that the strong words for Myanmar on human rights by a president who legalized torture and ignored Darfur are motivated out of real concern for freedom there? I know they have great gas and oil reserves, and the U.S. doesn't want China to have all the leverage there. Why not some in-depth reporting on the real objectives there?
washingtonpost.com: Bush Announces Sanctions Against Burma (Post, Sept. 25)
Anne E. Kornblut: I've actually seen a great deal of good reporting on Myanmar so far, but I will pass along the request for even more. Thank you...
Abingdon, Md.: Alan Keyes ... running again? When did he enter the race, and will he be participating in more debates? I'm beginning to wonder if I shouldn't consider running -- looks like there is still room on the stage.
washingtonpost.com: Keyes Makes 3rd Bid for Presidency (AP, Sept. 17)
Anne E. Kornblut: Join the fray! The more the merrier. He entered the race a few weeks ago if I am not mistaken. He will not likely be in all the debates -- most of the major ones were already settled before he got in. (But perhaps if you lobby hard enough for your cause...)
Edwards and Public Financing: Actually, that decision is a perfect metaphor for John Edwards' entire political career: He wants to do what he wants to do, and he wants taxpayers to pay for it.
Anne E. Kornblut: Interesting take...
Fairfax County, Va.: The issue of the no-shows at the GOP debate mirrors the overall dysfunctionality of the primary system for both parties, with all the pandering to party base populations and the front-loading of the calendars. The Democrats have to deal with the antiwar folks who won't be satisfied until we're out of Iraq now, whatever the consequences to the people there and whatever blowups may follow. And the GOP candidates have to deal with theocrats and barely reformed former segregationists from the South (yes, I'm being broadly generalist but it works, doesn't it?).
The "longer view" people in the GOP especially must realize that the demographics of this country rapidly are moving away from their "base" population, and if they don't realize that they've got real problems. All the general campaign will do is allow the YouTube vids to be out there longer, showing the nativist and theocon pandering they did to get the nominations and reinforcing the negative image of them among the "others" in this country.
Anne E. Kornblut: It's a good point. And it ties into another (favorite) question we will say play out in this election: Does playing to the base guarantee victory? Or is it necessary to play to swing voters? In essence, was Karl Rove right or not?
Anonymous: I want to see baring of teeth, knife fights and blood-letting in the primaries. Which match should I watch closer -- Romney, Giuliani and McCain or Clinton, Obama and Edwards?
Anne E. Kornblut: Hm. Tough call. I suggest a little WWF.
Arlington, Va.: Sometimes emoticons are essential for expressing tone! But I digress. As a follow-up to the split-ticket question, if the time is right, do you think any of the candidates could swallow their pride enough to run split, or as independents? Joe Lieberman lost his party's support but still dominated in Connecticut.
Anne E. Kornblut: Very true -- and at the time, we all looked at it as an example of events to come. To an extent, it has, insofar as we've seen Democrats remaining relatively cautious about their pledges for withdrawing troops. But to your point: I have a very hard time envisioning a split ticket right now. Unless Mayor Bloomberg gets in.
Rolla, Mo.: To Reading, Obama also taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, no small mental task. I also think the nation would benefit from someone who understands the Constitution as well.
Anne E. Kornblut: good point
Wilmington, N.C.:"By saying she talked and talked, my aim was to reflect the fact that she talked for about two straight hours (by virtue of the fact that she was on all five Sunday shows in a row)." That's a good answer and, in light of your explanation, I now see your point. I would take it as a compliment and testament to her fortitude that a candidate would willingly submit to so much adversarial questioning. I don't think I was alone in misconstruing your comment as derision toward Sen Clinton's alleged verbosity. May I humbly suggest, at least in this case, your point could have been clearer? Perhaps, we could avoid confusion by keeping news stories a little less interesting in the future.
Anne E. Kornblut: And another good point. Well taken.
GOP in Baltimore: You'll see a Republican debate hosted by Tavis Smiley when you see a Democrat debate hosted by James Dobson. Campaigns are about looking as good as you can look in front of people who are likely to consider voting for you. How many of Tavis Smiley's fans would seriously consider voting for a Republican? 1 percent? 2 percent?
Anne E. Kornblut: I don't know the percentage, but don't you think the chances would be higher if the candidates appeared in front of that audience? Perhaps the Democrats aren't talking to James Dobson, but they are reaching out to other evangelical Christians (Rick Warren comes to mind). So I think it wasn't entirely unreasonable for Smiley to invite them all to attend. (And imagine if, after hosting a Democratic forum, he hadn't?).
Morgan State Debate: Last at Morgan State University all the "Second Tier" Republican nominees debate before a minority crowd, on minority related issues. I understand one of the arguments for the big four not participating (traditionally Democrat voters). What are the possible ramifications to them for not participating? How does this skip present them as interested in minority, especially African American concerns? Thanks for taking my question.
Anne E. Kornblut: Hard to say what the ramifications will be, beyond our discussing it here. I think it does reflect a greater concern among Republicans for tending to their traditional base, rather than reaching out to potentially new voters. Thank you for the question.
Philadelphia: Sen. Cleland and Sen. Kerry were insulted and "Swift-Boated" by the Republicans during the 2002 and 2004 elections with no outrage expressed by the same people who lost their minds over the MoveOn ad calling Gen. Petraeus, "Gen. Betray Us." Now, Rush Limbaugh, a man who never served his country, has called soldiers who fight in Iraq but disagree with the war, "phony soldiers." Which lawmakers who voted to condemn MoveOn will denounce Rush?
Anne E. Kornblut: I don't know the answer, but I suspect we'll see soon enough.
Re: Obama's intellectual curiosity: Bush and his cronies are the ones trying to pin the "intellectually incurious" label on Obama -- which is bizarre coming from them. Perhaps they have done their usual level of research to come up with that wrong-headed description of Obama.
Anne E. Kornblut: Interesting observation, thank you.
Re: Joe Lieberman: He might have pulled the wool over peoples' eyes during the election, but if you look at his numbers lately, if the election were held today, it wouldn't be the same story, at all. Let's face facts: all this bipartisan/independent "middle" talk is so much hooey ... we have a two-party system for a reason. They're supposed to be oppose one another ... it's the way the system works ... or used to, when we had an actual working democracy, I should say.
Anne E. Kornblut: Thank you for the observation, it's a good point.
Dobson for Dems: I think a Dobson-moderated Democratic debate would be pretty interesting TV, if nothing else than to see how far each candidate is willing to go to pander to the evangelicals.
Anne E. Kornblut: Now that you mention it: good idea. I will pitch it.
Anonymous: After seven years of Bush/Rove polarizing political tactics I get the feeling that this country is so divided and polarized that bipartisanship isn't desired by as many voters as it once was.
Anne E. Kornblut: That may be the case; certainly there are Democrats who would agree with you. Hence we hear a lot of talk, particularly from, say, Sen. Edwards, about fighting against the Republicans and the special interests. Sen. Clinton has incorporated a new line into her stump speeches about "standing her ground" in addition to finding common ground. And I expect the lines to become even sharper as the primaries progress. Thank you for the observation.
Hard to imagine who would hire him at this point, but you never know: Because of the bathroom behavior, or the wishy-washy resigning and unresigning?
Anne E. Kornblut: Either. But this is Washington, a town of second acts, so you never know.
Re: Incurious: GOP R-F trick: Tar your opponent with your own failings. Worked for draft-dodging Bush against war-hero Kerry. To the Swift Boats! In this case, I'm not sure there is anybody on the GOP side who appears curious about any thing intellectually, beyond "doubling Guantanamo" and such-like. So of course they're starting the whispers about Obama. It's what they do... it's how they win, unfortunately, as they have nothing of their own to run on.
Anne E. Kornblut: Another perspective, and thank you for it.
Burma vs. Myanmar: Burma is the traditional name for the region/state as created by the Brits. When the current military junta took over, they renamed the country Myanmar to show some sort of "casting off colonialism" concept. Burma is the preferred term, today, of those who oppose the military dictatorship. Thank you, Model U.N.!
Anne E. Kornblut: And I thank you (as an embarrassed former Model UN representative of Sri Lanka).
Princeton, N.J.: Polls have shown that Petraeus's performance has failed to sway many people. Karen DeYoung had a great article showing how the casualty figures could be skewed any which way. Do you think the public has got to the point where they simply do not believe the administration and military? If so, what does this portend for the next election?
Anne E. Kornblut: I haven't seen any supporting data yet on this question, but I would say that while the military and its leaders still command great respect from most people, there was a pretty widespread impression by the time he testified that Petraeus was doing President Bush's bidding, at least somewhat. And Bush has without question lost credibility on how things are in Iraq. That is one reason you see the Republican candidates distancing themselves from Bush.
Chicago: So now Alan Keyes is allowed to debate with the other candidates. Why is John Cox not allowed to?
Anne E. Kornblut: Actually, while Keyes did last night, I'm not sure he will be going forward.
Arlington, Va.: The BBC has a nice article explaining the Burma/Myanmar thing on their Web site. Basically the opposition does not recognize "Myanmar" because it was imposed by the illegitimate junta.
Anne E. Kornblut: Thank you...
San Francisco: I need to take issue with that backhanded comment you attribute to the Clinton Campaign regarding Obama's fundraising. He is getting a huge number of donations from individuals who are making small contributions. I know because I am one of them. I had never been inspired to give a candidate anything before. The word "elites" sounds like something out of the Rovian Slime Machine.
Anne E. Kornblut: Not intended to be backhanded at all: I'm repeating what they say about his fundraising. Thank you for writing in to take issue with their account.
South Bend, Ind.: I've watched a lot of the Democratic debates and I've come away really liking how Joe Biden isn't willing to pander as much to the liberal base on Iraq withdrawal and actually adding something different to that discussion with his plan for a basically leaving Iraq in a loose confederation. What are the thoughts of foreign policy experts on the merits of this plan? Also, I know Biden doesn't have a chance at the nomination, but what about vice president for one of the inexperienced candidates (Obama, Edwards, heck even Clinton) or Secretary of State?
Anne E. Kornblut: Sen. Biden has done a really interesting job of shaping the debate, hasn't he? I am not a foreign policy expert, but put to a vote in the Senate this week, his plan for the confederation (not a partition, he was quick to note during the debate) won a majority. As you suggest he is, as always, worth keeping an eye on and paying attention to.
Anonymous: Did George Bush really offer advice to Obama and Clinton on how to keep troops in Iraq after his presidency?
Anne E. Kornblut: I have not been able to independently substantiate that.
A Story Idea for You: Here's the real story of the 2008 campaign: Hillary's people approached Obama to "run" against her in the primaries so she could show her ability to beat a strong competitor. His deal includes mostly playing nice so he can step in as the vice presidential nominee. Now go find the trail and earn yourself a Pulitzer!
Anne E. Kornblut: Interesting suggestion. I am skeptical, but you never know.
Prescott, Ariz.: Is there outrage in Washington over Rush Limbaugh's comments that soldier who come back from Iraq and are antiwar are "phony soldiers"? If there is outrage, does it match that directed at MoveOn?
Anne E. Kornblut: This is just starting to pick up steam. Stay tuned.
Poplar Bluff, Mo.: Hi, Anne. I watched the Republican Forum on PBS last night. I noticed that when Ron Paul was introduced he received the loudest round of applause than any other candidate, and whenever Rep. Paul gave his position he would receive loud applause. Does Ron Paul have a grassroots movement within the African American community?
Anne E. Kornblut: That is a good question, and I don't know the answer. He definitely has a grassroots movement in general, but I haven't seen a demographic breakdown.
Anonymous:"John Edwards's entire political career: He wants to do what he wants to do, and he wants taxpayers to pay for it.
"Anne E. Kornblut: interesting take..."
Interesting take? I suppose if by "interesting" one meant baseless, clueless and, frankly, nonsensical -- sure, it's interesting.
Anne E. Kornblut: And a fair point, too.
Washington: So the president, anxious to build up his legacy, is now embracing the environment? George Bush working for the environment late in his term is like Josef Stalin late in life suggesting he didn't do enough for the small businessman!
washingtonpost.com: Bush: Climate change progress must be measurable (Reuters, Sept. 28)
Anne E. Kornblut: Thank you for this...
Boston: What did Nixon say about the Vietnam War in the runup to the 1968 election? Was he in the same spot as Clinton is right now in potentially taking responsibility for an unpopular war -- started by another party's president, but yet it fell to him to do something about it?
Anne E. Kornblut: Good question. So far, I haven't heard Clinton's secret plan to end the war. But I think it is fair at this point to anticipate that this will remain George Bush's war after the next president assumes office.
Larry Craig, Act 2: "Dancing with the Stars"? "Big Brother"?
Anne E. Kornblut: Larry Craig, the Reality Show. You never know.
Rockville, Md.: Constitutional law? But Lyndon Johnson taught speech, and his speeches ruined him. Was it just the accent?
Anne E. Kornblut: A question for the historians.
Florida: I know it's late in the chat, but can I just say something about the GOP debate last night? I am a liberal democrat who watched the debate last night, going into in cynical. Once it was over, I thought "they (mostly) didn't sound so awful." Mike Huckabee has wooed some of my liberal friends at various events he has spoken at (such as one in New Orleans) even though we disagree with him. Now I'm not saying this regarding Keyes or Tancredo, but the rest came off very well to me. Will I vote for them? No, but by the end of that hour I had a more profound respect for them. That's a good start -- for them, not the GOP or the top four.
Anne E. Kornblut: I have heard this from a lot of unlikely corners, especially about Huckabee. Good for you for watching with an open mind.
Chicago: During Wednesdays debate Clinton, Obama, and Edwards all stated they wouldn't have troops home from Iraq by the end of their first terms (2013). Do you think it's a strategy designed for the general election, the reality of the situation, or knowing that pulling all troops out would lead to genocide and chaos throughout the region?
Anne E. Kornblut: I think what they said was they couldn't guarantee having troops out by 2013, not that they definitely would not. But your question is a good one. My educated guess is that their answers were a combination of the reasons you give. No candidate wants to make promises that can't be kept. And it is a good year and a half until the next president takes office, so there is merit to their argument that they don't know what situation they will inherit exactly.
Sedalia, Mo.: Do you believe that the Republicans really want to win in 2008, or are they just looking to dump their mess on the Democrats, who they know cannot possibly clean up the mess in four years? This would leave the field wide open for Jeb in 2012.
Anne E. Kornblut: Oh, I think both parties always want to win. Do Republicans think they will? They seem pessimistic, it's true, and some console themselves with the notion that they would be better off out of power for awhile. But I would not bet on their sitting this one out.
Arlington, Va.: Good morning Anne, you are definitely my favorite political reporter! (Does that help get my question picked?) Assuming Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, do you think she will have a hard time finding a vice presidential nominee? None of the potential choices would admit it, but do you think it would be tough to find a man who would want to be second fiddle to the first woman president?
Anne E. Kornblut: Thanks for the compliment! If events continue to unfold as they have so far, and if Sen. Clinton were to become the nominee, I highly doubt she would have a hard time finding a running mate. (Think about it: Would you be more powerful as, say, an ex-governor, or one of 100 senators, or as vice president, forget to whom?) In fact, I think a lot of Democratic candidates would be proud to be on an historic ticket. As long, of course, as she wins.
Warrenton, Va.: Hypothetical question...If a reputable poll were taken among troops, and a majority wanted to stay and fight/come home, what kind of impact might that have on voters?
Anne E. Kornblut: Good question. My understanding is that it is hard and expensive to poll the troops, but your point is a good one -- should we take into account their views more than we have? Certainly the families of service members and casualties are playing a serious role in the political season already.
Re: Ron Paul: I suspect Paul's applause was due to his having been against the liberation of Iraq from the beginning, which would correspond with the attendees at a Smiley-hosted forum.
Anne E. Kornblut: Good point.
Rockville, Md.: The interesting thing about casualty figures is that both sides slant them: One side says they are lower, the other says they are not lower, and that is the debate. The facts (as I see them, of course) are that casualties are lower, but they are lower every August. Too hot for anyone to fight. Call it a cyclical event. So, both sides are essentially wrong, one in fact and the other in meaning.
Anne E. Kornblut: Thank you for acknowledging that you see things from your perspective (not being sarcastic, either -- I really think it's great). It's a good point. We will, I suspect, know more about the casualty figures as the fall wears on.
Mayfield, Ky.: Ms. Kornblut:I watched the Democratic debate and thought that Tim Russert was really out of line with his hypothetical question to Sen. Clinton posted by her husband. I thought her answer ("well, he's not standing here") was great. I thought Russert was a better man than to pull such a Limbaugh stunt. If Russert had quoted something Sen. Clinton had said in the past that contradicted her answer, he would had a point, but trying to set her up like that was tacky. What is the buzz about the incident? Thanks for taking my question.
Anne E. Kornblut: I haven't heard a great deal of negative buzz about that moment; it certainly was the closest thing to a "gotcha" in the debate. But your question raises a broader one: is it fair to hold Sen. Clinton accountable for decisions her husband made when she is running in large part on his record? Can she take credit for his accomplishments and not blame for his missteps?
Anne E. Kornblut: Thank you all so much for another day of great questions -- as always. Look forward to hearing more soon. Have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and thank you again.
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