Post Politics Hour

In the Loop: On the Hill by Lois Romano
Lois Romano (Julia Ewan - The Washington Post)
Lois Romano
Washington Post National Political Reporter
Thursday, November 29, 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 White House reporter Lois Romano was online Thursday, Nov. 29 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest in political news.

The transcript follows.

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Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts


Lois Romano: Good morning everyone. Thanks for joining me today. The presidential race is heating up and there are many things to talk about. Lets get after it!


Huckabee and Jesus: Lois: I know it was a great punch line, but Huckabee's answer on "what would Jesus do on capital punishment" was fundamentally dishonest. You can't base your entire campaign on the moral foundation you have as a Christian and then say "Jesus was too smart to get into politics." You can't say religion is important when considering a candidate and then put it aside when things get sticky.

Lois Romano: I totally understand your point. But my guess is that Huckabee made a quick judgment that it was not a question for a 90-second sound bite. Both religion and the death penalty are very complicated topics. I suspect if a voter asked him the same questions, or a reporter in a one-on-one setting, he may have given a longer direct answer.


Kensington Heights, Md.: Lois, in responding last night to evidence that Mayor Giuliani tried to hide his security detail's expenses during the trysts with his mistress, his aide Tony Carbonetti said that he "has ordered an investigation" into why the costs were not charged to the police department. This valiant attempt to get ahead of the story sounds take-charge and official ... except that the mayor is no longer in office. Who will carry out this investigation, and would it be in cooperation with the current (Bloomberg) administration? Thanks.

Lois Romano: In a situation like this, the campaign would use private attorneys to both find the documents and then determine what, if anything, inappropriate occurred. I don't know that the Bloomberg administration could take any action on this, but it could make it easier for the campaign to get access to the documents.


Greenville, S.C.: Lois -- In an article posted Nov. 18 by Deborah Howell, The Washington Post's ombudsman, the following sentence appeared: "Journalists must give up supporting a political candidate or a cause that might be controversial and newsworthy." Do you adhere to that principal? The Toll of an Intemperate E-Mail (Post, Nov. 18)

Lois Romano: Yes


Boston: I think the most interesting part of last night's debate was the question and answer session with voters afterwards. One of the GOP voters said after the debate that she was leaning towards John Edwards(!), because at least he was speaking up for something. As a political junkie 35 minutes from New Hampshire, I've had a chance to see most of the candidates, and I came away with the same impression: Only Edwards and Dodd seem to have any strong belief of "I think this is what's right for America." Everyone else, Democrat and Republican, just vacillates or -- in the case of some of the GOPers -- tries to be more outlandish than the next. Can these "here is what I believe we need to do" candidacies overcome the media bias for Clinton and Giuliani?

Lois Romano: First of all, I'd like to dispute your assertion about a media bias. The media gives Clinton and Giuliani attention because they lead national polls. That attention also has a down side for them, as we have seen in recent weeks with regard to Clinton. Her profile got so high that her opponents went after her and her polls numbers have slipped.

On your first point: The first votes haven't even be cast yet. anything can happened. In earlier cycles it was hard for someone to break out -- but today several are well-funded an organized, and prepared to take advantage of voter movement toward them.

So yes.


Obama and "the rumors": Lois: I object to today's story in The Post talking about the "rumors" floating around that Obama is Muslim. It is simply inaccurate and poor reporting to call them rumors. They are false claims. Obama is not a Muslim; calling them rumors gives them credence. In fact, even using the phrase "Obama's Muslim ties" is debatable. Having a stepfather who did "occasionally attend services" at a mosque and having a Muslim grandfather who lived on the other side of the world are pretty slim "ties." Why is The Post perpetuating these unfair attacks? Foes Use Obama's Muslim Ties to Fuel Rumors About Him (Post, Nov. 29)

Lois Romano: We are getting many questions of our story on Obama today. I'll try to address this as best I can. These are always very difficult decisions-- how to address something that people are talking about, that has clearly become a factor in the race, without taking a position. Part of our job is to acknowledge that there is a discussion going on and to fact check and lay out the facts. The Internet has complicated this responsibility because there is so much garbage and falsehoods out there. This discussion has reached a high pitch on the Internet and our editors decided it was in the readers interest to address it. I have heard people say that they won't support Sen. Obama because they read he doesn't put is hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance. He has denied this-- so airing some of this and giving him a chance to deny its accuracy could be viewed as setting the record straight.

As far as the headline -- probably not the best.


Alexandria, Va.: Where do you see the Fred Thompson candidacy? How can he turn things around? I personally think he has to place in the top three in Iowa and New Hampshire to have any hope of winning in South Carolina, and I also believe that is the only scenario under which his campaign would gain any traction. Another quick question: If Huckabee wins in Iowa and continues to do well in debates and on the campaign, do you think the momentum will allow him to compete, or will his lack of funds and organization ultimately prove his Achilles heel? Thanks.

Lois Romano: Thompson's candidacy seems stalled. For whatever reason, he hasn't caught the attention of his party. your assessment seems accurate.

On Huckabee -- it's tricky. Romney can slip and still stay in awhile because of money and organization. One factor would be if those who drop out throw their support to Huckabee and give him some momentum.


Miami: This is a generation question, and I think we share this time period, so please take my question and solve my turmoil with the media. On the debate about a woman running for president in the United States, why not include Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, who won delegates back in 1964 -- Or Rep. Shirley Chisholm from New York, or Elizabeth Dole back in 2000 -- as laying the foundation in our society for more acceptance today of the possibility for a woman president? Why not be fair and help readers understand that Hillary is not the first woman to be taken seriously as a candidate?

Lois Romano: We should certainly mention all of these accomplished women. They were taken seriously as politicians. But I do think its fair to say that Sen. Clinton is the first viable female presidential candidate -- the first woman with a chance of winning. That was not the case with her predecessors.


Ann Arbor, Mich.: I wonder if you can explain why The Post underplayed the story about Rudy Giuliani and his girlfriend that was uncovered by the Politico. Giuliani billed obscure agencies for trips (Politico, Nov. 28)

Lois Romano: I would disagree that it was underplayed. If you're asking why we didn't put it on the front page, that is because we had nothing new to add to the Politico story at this time.


Anonymous:" to address something that people are talking about, that has clearly become a factor in the race, without taking a position..." But Lois, you should take a position. Not only has he denied it, but every legitimate report says it isn't true. I assume you take a position on the earth being round, because it is verifiable. Obama is verifiably not a Muslim ... if only because he denies that he is.

It isn't a question of fair and balanced when there isn't any serious foundation to the report. For The Post to perpetuate it without clearly stating it isn't true is a disservice to journalism, your readers and a U.S. senator. Let's not even get into the question of the fact that it isn't a crime to be a Muslim and run for office -- which isn't the Obama story at all.

Lois Romano: But we do chronicle his denials.


New York: So, what's the deal with CNN? Are they totally in the tank for Hillary? Last week, the audience clearly was stacked with her supports and post-debate commentary featured Carville. Last night, the only audience member given extended questioning time is yet another Hillary plant. If CNN wants to put to rest its Clinton News Network reputation, they had better learn to be more careful.

Lois Romano: A question best put to CNN


Re: Rudy's Hamptons Bills: Let's leave aside for the moment the fact that Giuliani was screwing around on his wife in plain sight. No one is questioning that he needed a security detail, or that he had a right to get out of town sometimes. But he traveled with four officers, who routinely racked up $1,000-a-night bills, and sometimes twice that. And if they were there to provide security, why weren't they staying with him? I'm not suggesting sharing beds with his security detail, but a hotel down the road -- in fact, one that's more than eleven miles away -- seems a little inefficient for the purposes of protecting Hizzoner. Or am I off base here?

Lois Romano: All good questions that I'm sure his opponents will raise...


Ferguson, Mo.: Here's one that has been bugging me for weeks now: The national polls consistently are out of sync with the local polls in the states where the candidates have been appearing. Doesn't it make sense that voters who see, hear and chat with those who are running would have a better sense of who has appeal and who doesn't? The national polls are more like a name-familiarity contest, and people simply repeat what the prior national polls have told them the week before they are asked. Why don't the media simply ignore national polling and just publish the New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada results, where the voters actually know something the rest of us don't!?

Lois Romano: Well, we can't ignore them but your right to say state polls are critical -- and we give great weight to state polls. Our Iowa poll showing Huckabee gaining considerable traction received a lot of attention.


Immigration and GOP Reputation: Giuliani and Romney are not single-issue yahoos, but they seem to be letting their hunger for power overwhelm their better judgment and decency. Recklessly bashing illegal immigrants may score them points with one angry segment in the GOP base in these debates, but what are they doing to their party's reputation -- and their own?

Lois Romano: But wasn't it great theatre? Admit it.


Ferguson, Mo.: Hey, Lois. It was my impression that the questions from the populace at large last night were every bit as effective as those we usually get from professional journalists. Do you agree? Interesting, too, that there were predominantly from the South -- perhaps reflecting the Republicans' new minority status, based mainly in that region. Thanks for your thoughts.

Lois Romano: I don't know how they were selected, but they were indeed effective and produced fireworks. People have much on their minds and its only by listening to them can politicians truly know what's going on.

Lois Romano: They were very effective questions, and gave candidates and viewers a sense of what is on peoples' minds.


Richmond, Va.: You know, one of the things that impressed me about the analysis of the Iowa caucusgoers was the fact that much of their support would be based not on the candidate they liked the most but on the person who would be the most electable. That notion seems to be fading now that Huckabee is surging (one poll today showing him now slightly ahead of Romney). Any thoughts? The Fix: Why (and How) Huckabee Can Win Iowa (, Nov. 28)

Lois Romano: Huckabee's limited staff has worked overtime trying to convince people he can win. That was a real issue in Iowa and likely why people were holding back. That being said, the man needs money to go the distance. Romney has a home-town advantage in New Hampshire, so in order for Huckabee to take off, he'd need to place in the top tier in New Hampshire -- and then money would likely start coming.


Washington: I hate to seem dense, but can you explain what you think Oprah Winfrey means when she says she supports Obama because of his "moral authority" ... just a couple of examples of what this might mean to ordinary, hardworking citizens. My father practiced a form of what come might call moral authority, which I was quick to understand in certain circumstances. I'm not sure it would have made him the best choice for president.

Lois Romano: Moral authority can mean many things to many people. I have no idea what Oprah means. But I can tell you that the one comment I hear repeatedly about him from voters is that he seems to speak his mind. Maybe that's what she means.


Lois Romano: Thank you all for joining me today. I appreciate your questions and your candor. Please join me again in two weeks.


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