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Post Politics Hour
washingtonpost.com's Daily Politics Discussion

Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post National Political Reporter
Wednesday, March 19, 2008 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 Wednesday, March 19 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest news in politics.

The transcript follows.

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Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts

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Anne E. Kornblut: Greetings from Detroit! Welcome, all of you. I'm afraid I probably will have to cut this short today because I am traveling with the Clinton campaign and we're on the move, but I'll do my best to answer all questions. Fire away.

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Atlanta: Is reaction to Obama's speech dividing by geographic areas? I was sitting in LaGuardia yesterday as the speech was running and reaction was very mixed (perhaps overall cynical); when I landed back in Georgia, there was a very positive reaction from everyone who had heard it.

Anne E. Kornblut: That's an interesting question. I do notice in our travels that people respond to the candidates differently in different places, but I don't know that anyone publicly has tracked it down to the level of a particular speech. Thanks for the anecdotal measure.

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Tolland, Conn.: Hi Anne. Thanks for taking the question. I read Obama's speech on race, and I genuinely was moved. I thought it was eloquent and heartfelt. Then I made the mistake of reading some of the reader comments that were posted, and got incredibly depressed by the number of close-minded and downright hateful comments (both pro and con). So here's the question: as someone in the trenches everyday, seeing a wide cross-section of voters, how optimistic are you about American voters and their willingness to listen with open minds and make intelligent choices?

washingtonpost.com: The Trail: Obama's Philadelphia Speech on Race and the Race (washingtonpost.com, March 18)

Anne E. Kornblut: That is such a good question, and I know what you mean. On the other hand, it's good to read everyone's views to have a real sense of what's being said and thought, and to understand the great diversity of opinion that exists. One thing I will say is that I think people are more engaged, and listening more, this year than at some times in the past. But do I wish they paid more attention, and were more open to new information? Probably.

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Falls Church, Va.: Hi! I can't read enough about Obama's speech yesterday. It was ground-breaking. What was the reaction in the Clinton camp?

Anne E. Kornblut: Quite muted, I would say. Sen. Clinton still hasn't fully responded -- when she mentioned it yesterday she said she had not read or seen it, and she has not spoke about it at length since. Stay tuned. In general, I'd say the Clinton campaign is not upset to see Sen. Obama talking about race; it gives them an opportunity to talk about the issues that they feel they dominate, and that "matter" to people in the remaining states, such as the economy. But I would say their opinion hasn't been expressed fully yet.

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Portland, Ore.: In Pennsylvania, can Republicans vote in the Democratic Party's primary? If so, seems like there would be no end to the mischief that could be caused. Thanks.

Anne E. Kornblut: My understanding is that they cannot.

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Kensington, Md.: I've been watching in utter amazement the hoopla the media has been making over the statements Obama's fiery pastor has made over the years. I am wondering what the man is supposed to do about it. Clearly it is not enough for him to disagree with, reject, renounce and rebut the statements this other man has made. It seems like Obama is obliged to go back in time, stand up in church with a revolver and put the man down in his tracks. Is that it? Please fill me in, as it seems like the mainstream media has gone off of its OCD medications.

Anne E. Kornblut: LOL. I have to say, my sense is that without the videotaped remarks, this story would not quite have taken off the way it did. The power of video...

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Anonymous: Why is Hillary in Detroit?

Anne E. Kornblut: Sen. Clinton is in Detroit because she is demanding a revote in the Michigan primary, or for the earlier vote to count. The Democratic National Committee disqualified the earlier vote because it was in violation of party rules; the only way Sen. Clinton can catch up at this point, really, is to have this vote counted or held again.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: While Pennsylvania has a "closed" primary, anyone can change their registration to "Democrat" by March 24 and vote in the Democratic primary on April 22. They are then free to change it back to "Republican" or "independent" or whatever before the general election.

Anne E. Kornblut: That is true many places. Thanks for the input.

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Tampa, Fla.: Do you get the sense from the Clinton campaign that Hillary Clinton is willing to fight on to the bitter end, i.e. to the convention, no matter what happens? Is there some point, any point, at which she would give up? Because I don't see her quitting under any circumstances based on what I read in the news.

Anne E. Kornblut: It certainly does appear that she will stay in as long as there is any reason to. Sen. Obama still needs more delegates to win the nomination, even though he is ahead, so there is reason for her to stay in. I wouldn't be surprised at all if she remains in until the convention.

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Washington: Why does Obama keep saying about his pastor that he didn't hear the phrases that have caused controversy? It's not about the sound bites, it's about a 20-year association with a man like this. His children were brought up in that church. What I got form his speech yesterday was that it was okay for blacks to be racists, but not anyone else and we just don't understand.

I am Jewish; if my temple said horrible things like that about any race of people -- blacks, Arabs, Christians, etc. -- I would walk out and certainly never take my kids there. But because he is black it's okay? The reason why Obama has such a broad appeal is that he has been the first black presidential candidate who hasn't run on race issues. If he gets associated with race-baiting, like Sharpton and Jackson, it could be over fast.

Anne E. Kornblut: Here's another point of view ... thank you for posting.

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Henly, Texas: Ooooowee! McCain is nothing if not lucky. If Obama's speech hadn't blown everything else off of the air, wouldn't McCain's huge gaffe -- in which he didn't appear to comprehend the difference between Sunnis and Shias, nor in which regimes are supporting them -- have been a watershed moment? Perhaps not quite a "macaca," but for a person whose fundamental strength is presumed to be foreign policy and security, this would seem akin to discovering the emperor to have no clothes. Does McCain get a pass because of press preoccupation with sexier subjects, or will this gaffe live on?

Anne E. Kornblut: This is a great point -- and I'm wondering the same thing. It was quite a moment, wasn't it? I am looking forward to having my colleague Mike Shear back in town so he can answer every question about the moment (he is out there covering McCain overseas, and was there for the gaffe).

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Rockville, Md.: What a great speech Obama made yesterday. After hearing it, and then reading all the analytical about it from both sides, I still think Obama came out shining. He recognizes both sides of the issues -- that blacks play the victim for too long, and that whites have grievances that are not racist. I give him credits for facing the challenge and being willing to work through it instead of running away and hiding like all other politicians did. At the very least, it showed he understood the issues of both sides. However, some my friends think he's too neutral -- as in, he didn't make any kind of stand in his speech so that might alienate any of his supporters. He shows he's still playing at being a politician. What do you think of this sentiment?

Anne E. Kornblut: I think it's a really interesting question -- I can see it both ways, and have heard from people on both sides (sorry to be so equivocal, but it's true). My internal jury is still out on what impact the speech will have -- and whether it went far enough, or hit the right note. And I'm at a disadvantage, traveling with the Clinton campaign, where it hasn't been a focus (we didn't get to our hotel until after midnight, and left again a few hours later, so I only have read the speech!). Check back with me in the next chat and I'll have a more firm opinion.

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Anonymous: Why did George Bush tear up this morning after his speech congratulating himself on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war? Is he going for a Hillary-in-New-Hampshire moment to boost his sagging poll numbers?

washingtonpost.com: Bush: We Can't Jeopardize Gains in Iraq (AP, March 19)

Anne E. Kornblut: A good question ... but no one has to vote for him again, do they?

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Response to Tolland: I often feel depressed by the comments on newspaper articles, which usually run the gamut from mean to truly hateful, but I've concluded that an enormous number of them are posted by a relatively small set of really angry people. I think they're just not representative of how many people respond, and you have to remind yourself that reasonable opinions are poorly represented on the Internet. I doubt the posters represent the general reaction to Obama's speech.

Anne E. Kornblut: Thanks for this; I often remind myself of the same thing. But on the other hand, sometimes I get the most thoughtful letters from people on stories I've written (sometimes in the actual mail!), and I do believe that newspapers and the news should be a dialogue with readers, so I try to balance reading everything with remembering that some comments do not represent the whole.

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Bow, N.H.: Are the Clinton people proposing any specific fixes to the mortgage mess? Any talk about bringing back Glass-Steagall?

Anne E. Kornblut: She has spoken about a freeze on mortgage interest rate hikes and on foreclosures, and in broader terms about balancing the budget again and restoring the economy. She and Sen. Obama both have discussed the issue, with relatively similar proposals.

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Chicago: When is she going to release the tax returns for the past eight years, as she said she would during the Cleveland debate? Is there no Kinkos nearby? What's the holdup?

Anne E. Kornblut: The Clinton campaign has said they will release the recent tax forms on April 15; I'm not sure why the old ones are taking so long. Keep an eye out: today we get the release of some of her White House schedules (though they have been vetted by her advisers).

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Williamsburg, Va.: Do political reporters pay attention to the Intrade prediction market? It seems to be a good way to judge the impact of events, like Obama's speech. Clinton recently dropped from 27 percent to 25 percent in the market, indicating that it has helped Obama.

Anne E. Kornblut: I sometimes look at them and find them very entertaining, but the actual merits are still very much up for debate. I'm not sure the "collective wisdom" theory applies in a situation that now hinges on the actions of a few hundred superdelegates and what the Democratic National Committee decides to do with Michigan and Florida. But sure, why not? I read Clinton's horoscope, too.

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Anonymous: Hillary has to win nearly 70 percent of remaining delegates to take the lead -- possible, but highly unlikely. Will she continue with her plan -- to switch voted delegates to her side and to convince superdelegates Obama is not electable -- all the way to the convention?

Anne E. Kornblut: It does appear that way; another part of her strategy is to overtake him in the popular vote, by winning in Pennsylvania and also either achieving revotes in Florida and Michigan or getting the original votes counted. Then she hopes to persuade superdelegates to change their minds or to continue to support her.

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Washington: In line with the earlier comment that McCain is skating on some dumb comments because the Democrats are making all the news, is it possible that after Pennsylvania, the superdelegates will just decide to call the race and go en masse to one candidate or the other so they can focus on the general election (i.e. Clinton if she wins commandingly there, and Obama if it is clear she cannot cut substantially into his delegate lead)?

Anne E. Kornblut: Possible, but I guess I'd say it's unlikely at this point, unless they detect a shift in the popular will that is clear and decisive. The superdelegates will face a lot of resistance to being seen as having "decided" the nomination single-handedly, even if there is a widespread desire by Democrats to hurry up and get to the general, as I think you rightly suggest there is. Thanks for the question.

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Anonymous: If Obama or Clinton mistakenly had linked Iran to al-Qaeda on three separate occasions, as McCain has, would the response have been different than the pass McCain has been given? Are McCain's comments brushed off because he is old?

Anne E. Kornblut: I'm not so sure McCain is getting a pass -- in the five minutes I had the TV on in the middle of the night between campaign stops, I heard the incident described and replayed. I can assure you it'll be revived in a general election debate if not sooner.

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Bremerton, Wash.: Anne, count me as one of the people out there who was deeply moved by Barack Obama's "A More Perfect Union" speech yesterday. He acknowledged that we all have some racism in ourselves, our friends, and our families, but we need to look to making ourselves as a nation better. ... And no, I'm not Chris Matthews!

Anne E. Kornblut: A lot of views on this ... thanks for sending them along.

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Tampa, Fla.: Anne, one of your colleagues said last week that we should look to the campaign Web sites to find out where candidates stand on the issues. Not to pile on, but I've spent a good deal of time on the Web sites, and it's a real mixed bag. If it's a position they're promoting, then there's a lot of detail. If it's an issue they don't see as their particular strength, then there's almost nothing. This is true for Democrats and Republicans alike. Please don't stop asking the candidates hard policy questions.

Anne E. Kornblut: It's a good point, thanks for mentioning it -- the sites are good resources, but obviously they have a point of view...

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Malvern, Pa.: Anne, I fear that the McCain misstep in Iraq (confusing Shia and Sunni) is going to get overlooked with all the other big news going on. How can someone who claims such deep knowledge of foreign affairs screw that up? Is he going senile? This more than reminded me of a scene in George Packer's book "The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq" where he described a meeting Bush had with some Iraqi ex-pats before the invasion. They were attempting to explain the difference between Sunni and Shia, and Bush just glazed over. He didn't have a clue. How can they be so clueless!?

washingtonpost.com: McCain Mixes Up Iraqi Groups; Senator Misstates Which Extremists Are Aided by Iran (Post, March 19)

Anne E. Kornblut: Thanks for adding another thought on this. ... I think the fact that so many of you have picked up on this moment indicates it won't get ignored.

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Reading, Pa.: Anne, surely the release of Hillary's schedules as first lady will confirm the largely ceremonial role she played in the Clinton White House. Won't this put the lie to all of her posturing about "35 years of experience," etc.?

washingtonpost.com: Library Releases Hillary Clinton's White House Schedules (Post, March 19)

Anne E. Kornblut: I can't wait to find out (and I'm a little sorry I'm out on the campaign trail with her instead of back in the office reading through them; like you, I'll have to depend on my colleagues to sift through and make sense of them). Hopefully there will be a way to post them online, so everyone can see them.

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Chapel Hill, N.C.: Could you address the impact of the Clinton Machine in these Big States? There is so much discussion of the demographics of states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, but in those states it seems like the Good Ol' Boy/Clinton network is really what's driving the momentum. The high-profile, popular governors and other party officials are campaigning hard for Hillary, and that seems to be as big a factor in her success as any demographic breakdown.

Anne E. Kornblut: This is a great point, and certainly applicable in both Ohio and, now, Pennsylvania. She has Ed Rendell, the governor, campaigning hard for her and lending her his machine; the Philadelphia mayor is also hers. It potentially can make a big difference for her. I think that's one reason we have heard such strong comments from the Obama campaign downplaying his potential there, effectively predicting that he will lose.

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Ferguson, Mo.: Morning, Anne. Did my ears deceive, me or did I hear on the news this morning that anyone who voted in the Republican primary in Michigan by law cannot revote if they do a makeup primary? Under normal circumstances I can see why it might be double-dipping, but surely this is a special case. Or doesn't the law allow for special cases? Thanks.

Anne E. Kornblut: You've got me; I have no idea. But this is the story of the day, so I will make it my mission to find out.

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San Francisco Bay Area: Morning Anne. Yesterday I heard most of Obama's speech and thought it measured high on the list of historic oratory, but I figured mainstream America must be so depleted from propaganda and a lack of statesmanship (or statewomanship) that it would be lost on the divided masses of fear-driven malcontents. Whatsayyou? One other quickie -- is Hillary being nicer to reporters now?

Anne E. Kornblut: I'm not sure it was lost on people; I think any subject, aired enough, can penetrate through to the entire electorate. But we'll find out soon, I suspect.

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Minneapolis: I'm not a member of any church, but when I hear or read things about how Obama should have taken a harder view on his minister I get frustrated. My mother is active in her Catholic church and loves everything about it; this was the same church where the priest was later arrested for pedophilia with a student. As awful as this was, my mother blames the priest, not the entire congregation. To disavow everything and anything having to do with one's place of worship (including a loving community) is at best misplaced and at worst ignorant and stupid.

Anne E. Kornblut: And here's another comment on this ... thank you for sending it. This is such an interesting topic.

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Columbus, Ga.: Do you think Sen. Obama's speech yesterday gave some insight into why some people say that 11 a.m. on Sundays is the most segregated hour in the U.S.?

Anne E. Kornblut: That's a really interesting question, and I think you have a point. In Washington, of course, we say that's a segregated hour in a different way -- between the people who attend church and those who sit home and watch the political shows.

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New York: Do you expect Lieberman to continue shadowing McCain, tapping him on the shoulder and whispering corrections in his ear? The dynamic was an interesting contrast to Bush, who often makes this type of gaffe (conflating al-Qaeda with other groups) and makes no effort at correcting himself. Even though McCain appeared absent-minded in the exchange with Lieberman, don't you think it could help him by making him appear more willing to speak truthfully?

Anne E. Kornblut: I hadn't thought of that; it certainly struck me as unique that he corrected himself quickly, and was listening to Lieberman. That said, I think it's going to be hard for McCain to get a lot of credit on this one.

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Ground-breaking?: Hardly -- Obama's speech was what Americans expected from their presidents up until the 1960s. Read Truman. Read Roosevelt. They spoke intelligently and fully to audiences they assumed to be curious and willing to take in complete and thoughtful dialogues. Congratulations to Sen. Obama for taking a step away from our "Dumb and Dumber" sound bite culture!

Anne E. Kornblut: And another view. ... I will say, those of us who make a living in words always are grateful for a carefully written, provocative speech.

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New Freedom, Pa.: In North Carolina, Obama is down to a one point lead. What if Hillary creams Obama in Pennsylvania and then he loses both North Carolina and Indiana? What do the superdelegates do?

Anne E. Kornblut: I don't think we know yet, and I wouldn't expect the superdelegates to move en masse. It still appears quite likely that Obama will retain his lead in pledged delegates and the popular vote; as long as he's close to Clinton in the remaining states, it will be hard for her to overtake him -- and yet, continuing to lose in the states ahead would undermine completely his case that he has the momentum and is winning red states.

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Boonsboro, Md.: What to you think the odds are of seeing Rev. Wright videos reappear in September and October?

Anne E. Kornblut: I guess it depends on whom the nominee is, and if it's Obama vs. McCain on whether McCain decides to play that way. There are indications he would not, but who knows.

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Southwest Nebraska: Obama spoke to the American people as if they were rational, thoughtful adults. It seems to me that how people react tells more about the person than about Obama. For one thing, whether or not a person forms an opinion about it without reading or listening to it, but just allowing the chattering class to tell that person what to think.

Anne E. Kornblut: And another thumbs-up for Obama.

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Dale City, Va.: That was an interesting comment about Clinton's horoscope. So what sign is she, and do you know what sign Obama is?

washingtonpost.com: She's a Scorpio; he's a Leo.

Anne E. Kornblut: She is a Scorpio (born Oct. 26) and I am told he is a Leo by my trusty colleagues at washingtonpost.com. So perhaps someone out there can assess their compatibility.

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Charlottesville, Va.: I know all the liberals' legs are tingling over Obama's speech, but I was left feeling that it was just a "mustard and relish speech": no meat. Obama stood by Wright by comparing Wright's nastiness to his own grandmother's racism (who throws their grandmother under a bus to score political points?!). But last year when Don Imus made his "nappy headed" comment -- far less insulting and controversial than saying that white Americans created AIDS to kill blacks -- Obama insisted that Imus should be fired. Obama went further: He claimed that Imus's remarks were damaging to his poor innocent daughters. Now we know that every Sunday Obama was subjecting those same daughters to vile racial hatred. Obama is a hypocrite. Nice speech, though.

Anne E. Kornblut: And another view ... I'm just going to keep posting them because they are so thoughtful.

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Washington: The news clip that gets repeated airplay from Rev. Wright is the God Bless America/God Damn America juxtaposition. Damning the temporal society for immoral action is a tradition in religion going back to Jeremiah and the Old Testament prophets at least. Could a politician today suggest a misfortune in society is God's wrath, the way Lincoln did in his second inaugural?

"He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether'"

Anne E. Kornblut: And another...

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Anonymous: Some of my family and friends that I care for very much make blatant racist comments and freely use the N word. I don't love them less for it. Was that part of the genius in Obama's speech -- to make us think about things like this in relation to him and the Rev. Wright?

Anne E. Kornblut: I don't have an answer for this (I'm not sure I fully understand the question) but I am going to post it anyway for further discussion...

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Anonymous: Can you provide a link to the McCain comments about Sunnis, etc. referred to in the post from Texas?

washingtonpost.com: Video: McCain's Foreign Policy Gaffe (CBS, March 18)

Anne E. Kornblut: I don't have the link here, but if you go to The Trail (our campaign diary) it should be there from Mike Shear, our reporter with McCain overseas.

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Alexandria, Va.: I just gave the article on McCain's gaffe a quick read. At least he was willing to listen to a colleague who corrected him -- that's got to be a step up from Bush, right? Right?

Anne E. Kornblut: Someone else made this point, too, so who knows? Maybe McCain will be able to make lemonade out of this lemon?

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Arlington, Va.: I need help figuring out the administration's position on the economy. I've read comments that President Bush claims that purchases of war equipment are boosting the economy and keep "people working," and I've read that he blames the housing bust on the fact that "we've built too many houses." Is this the official government position? That military spending is more vital to GDP than construction/housing spending? And more to the point, is it true? I'm no economist but I would have thought otherwise.

Anne E. Kornblut: I must confess, I'm as confused as you are. His speech last week did little to clear it up for me. Let me refer you to my colleague Peter Baker, a White House reporter, who I believe has an upcoming chat...

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Richmond, Va.: McCain may not bring up the Wright videos, but you can bet his surrogates will.

Anne E. Kornblut: A fair bet...

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Detroit: You're seeing all these "thumbs-ups" for Obama because, naturally, you're not taking any questions that probe into the speech -- like his false comparison of Wright to his grandmother, or the phony-baloney (pun intended) relish-and-mustard story, or even why he called for Imus's resignation last year based on one offensive remark, but stands by Wright. It's bias, Anne.

Anne E. Kornblut: Actually, I'm looking through all the questions and not omitting any ... I'm trying to post them all, and will do so with yours. Thank you for the point, it's a good one.

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Anonymous: Mike Smerconish, a local Philadelphia conservative radio host was all agog about Obama's speech. He said "I hope this show's as good on TV as it is in person." Do you sense any movements in the Pennsylvania polls after the speech?

Anne E. Kornblut: I don't think we'll know how the speech played for a little while ... days, at least. But I'm sure the impact of the speech will be measured by both campaigns, so keep an eye out for what they have to say about it a week from now or so.

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Anonymous: Yesterday, you wrote on The Trail Sen Clinton "did not directly mention" Pastor Wright in her campaign appearance. Does that mean she indirectly mentioned him? If so, how? If not, why does that qualification appear?

Anne E. Kornblut: Sen. Clinton's campaign has talked about Rev. Wright, and I thought it was important to specify that she, herself, did not, while her surrogates have. Also, her comments were in the context of Sen. Obama's speech, which was in the context of Rev. Wright's videotaped sermons, so to not mention the context would, I felt, have been odd. Thank you for the question.

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Pastors and Clerics: My wife moved in with me six months before we got married. We thought we would save on rent. My pastor told me that she was a "whore" and that we we're going to hell. It didn't phase me -- kept on going to the same church, and think my wife of 12 years is one of the world's great women. Having gone to church schools all my life, I knew clerics were very prone to saying stupid and intemperate things.

Anne E. Kornblut: And another view ... thanks for sharing that interesting perspective.

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Richmond, Va.: I'm seeing Obama's position regarding his pastor as being consistent with his stated position of talking with nations with whom we have disagreements. He disagrees with his pastor on issues, but he wasn't going to throw him under a bus, preferring instead to look into why there might be this anger. He has the same approach regarding unfriendly nations. He wasn't going to just not talk with them and write them off, but actually would talk to them. It seems to me you can determine who liked Obama's speech by their position on talking with unfriendly nations -- the "no talk/throw under a bus" vs. the "work it out" crowds. Thoughts?

Anne E. Kornblut: And another similar one...

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Re: Power of video: I for one am happy that we didn't have this power -- especially with YouTube -- until recently. If some of MLK's more fiery statements had been broadcast on a loop for a six-day period, I don't know if the civil rights movement ever would have succeeded. Not to mention some of the things advocated by equal rights amendment advocates and the suffragette movement...

Anne E. Kornblut: It's amazing how things take off differently when they're filmed, isn't it?

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To Detroit: Um, it is not a "false comparison" between Wright and his grandmother. Read his book -- he details the incident with her fear at the bus stop quite poignantly. Try facts before slinging around accusations, please.

Anne E. Kornblut: One last one here...

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Anne E. Kornblut: So sorry I have to end right on time today -- there were lots of really provocative and good questions, especially about Sen. Obama's speech on race. I really appreciate everyone's taking the time to write in -- as always, I learned a lot -- and keep it coming. See you soon. Cheers from the road.

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