Post Politics Hour

Shailagh Murray
Shailagh Murray
Shailagh Murray
Washington Post National Political Reporter
Monday, April 28, 2008; 11:00 AM

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Washington Post national political reporter Shailagh Murray was online Monday, April 28 at 11 a.m. ET.

The transcript follows.

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Ann Arbor, Mich.: Apparently the number of Democrats registered to vote is going up sharply. Are pollsters taking this into account in their polls on the presidential race? Democrats Registering In Record Numbers (Post, April 28)

Shailagh Murray: Good morning everyone. I had breakfast with Rev. Wright so I'm running a little late ... be interested in hearing your thoughts on his big media tour.

You refer to my colleague Eli's excellent story this morning. The registration surge is just one of the many challenges pollsters face this year, and the bigger the scale, the tougher it must be. Probably explains the massive flux of the national polls -- surely people aren't changing their minds to the tune of 10 or 15 points per week.


Vienna, Va.: Is there any chance that whoever loses the Democratic nomination would think of running as an independent candidate?

Shailagh Murray: I don't think so -- I've never heard that talk from either camp. If nothing else, there isn't enough time at this point.


Fairfax, Va.: What significance do you see in the fact that a sizable minority took the time out to vote against John McCain in the Pennsylvania primary?

Shailagh Murray: Wasn't that interesting? More telling in some ways than the Democratic outcome, if you ask me.


Gas Prices: Okay, I get that everyone is upset that they have to pay more at the pump. Who could have guessed a finite resource found primarily in unstable parts of the world would increase in cost? But what exactly is the plan Democrats offer to solve this? Wouldn't a windfall profit tax just lead oil companies to increase the price at the pump to make up for lost profits? Investing in alternative energies costs a lot of money (and time) and likely would come from an increase in the gas tax, which would cause prices to go up, too. So I'm a bit confused about all this talk.

Shailagh Murray: We were just talking about this issue in our Monday morning politics meeting. No issue is more badly battered by pandering than energy, in part because of the central conflict at the heart of the debate -- lowering costs vs. fighting global warming. You can't have it both ways, and this is a conversation that none of the candidates seem interesting in having at the moment.


Richmond, Va.: Was Howard Dean setting the stage for the superdelegates to take the election away fro Obama and give it to Clinton with his comments of a "tie" this past weekend? Dean says either Clinton or Obama must drop out in June (AP, April 28)

Shailagh Murray: I'm assuming he was trying to be fair, but I think a lot of people were left with that impression. Although so many Democrats are mad at Dean right now, especially over the Florida and Michigan debacle, that I'm not sure it matters.


Arlington, Va.: How can your newspaper do a whole story on Reverend Wright's theology and whether it's controversial and without quoting from his sermons? Why aren't they asking the range of black ministers quoted whether they agree that America deserved Sept. 11, or that the government created the AIDS virus as a tool of black genocide?

Shailagh Murray: What we are experiencing right now is a category five case of culture clash. The question is where it all leads -- into the snake pit or into some form of enlightenment.


Arlington, Va.: I don't think the political dynamic in either North Carolina or Indiana favors Hillary like it did in Pennsylvania. The people she appeals to (middle-class, small town, ethnic voters) either don't exist in great numbers or are Republicans. There's no big labor union vote in North Carolina, and Indiana Democrats tend to be demographically/geographically urban. What do you think?

Shailagh Murray: I agree with that. One thing I have learned this year, bouncing from primary to primary, is how distinct each state is, in its way. Pennsylvania and Indiana, for instance, look almost identical on paper, but the Obama events feel totally different. And Obama is obviously a lot more comfortable in Indiana, probably because he is at heart a Midwesterner. And don't forget that Indiana is an open primary -- which alone sets it apart from Pennsylvania.


Why is Wright such a big deal?: I almost took time to watch Moyers, but then asked myself "why would I care?"

Shailagh Murray: Interesting. Did you care when the story broke?


Richmond, Va.: I've noticed lots of commentary out there saying Rev. Wright is hurting Obama by being out there, when the standard operating procedure is to go low and hope it blows over. It never has been Obama's style to just let something blow over, as he usually confronts it and puts it out there -- as seen by his speech in Philadelphia. It may hurt him in the short term, but in the long run, could he say that he's not hiding from controversial issues like conventional candidates?

Shailagh Murray: I expect he'll probably address this today, although the campaign folks I've spoken with aren't sure what to make of this media tour, or where it might lead.


Re: Issue Pandering: I would suggest that trade has taken a far worse battered by pandering, if only because neither of the Democrats actually is anti-trade. But, yeah, there's a lot of pandering going on, especially with the extremely misguided "gas tax holiday." I'm not sure if I agree with your premise that we can't both have lower energy costs and combat global warming. Care to explain a little more?

Shailagh Murray: You are right (I keep typing "wright") -- trade does rival energy, especially among Democrats.

My other point was that developing new energy technologies is not just a matter of time, it is extremely costly and may lead to other problems. Like this biofuels morass that we see developing. It's just not cheap to make houses and factories and jets and SUVs more energy efficient.


Rev. Wright: I have to say, I am really sick of hearing about Rev. Wright's comment that "we got what we deserved" on Sept. 11, because that is not what he said. The expression he used suggests that our country's actions have come back to haunt us. Now, I have heard a lot of people suggest and admit that we were attacked on Sept. 11 because of our foreign policy. In fact, I heard Bill Maher say it just a month ago on MSNBC. My own mother said as much on the very morning of the attacks. But all these people are white, so I gather, much less threatening. Can you please address this incredibly obvious double standard? If it was not because of our country's actions, then why were we attacked on Sept. 11?

Shailagh Murray: A lot of frustration this morning from people who think Wright's comments are being misrepresented...


Washington: Chris Rock, in his recent Washington appearance, had the most insightful comment about Rev. Wright I have ever heard: "They say he hates white people. I say, show me a 75-year-old black man who doesn't hate white people." I know Sen. Obama cringes at that, but Rev. Wright is of a generation that served in the military (he was a Marine) only to find it got him the back of the bus and no service at a Woolworth lunch counter. I would bet that the bitterness of African Americans who were adults during the era of segregation is both wide and deep -- and I'm a 60-year-old white guy.

Shailagh Murray: Leave it to Chris Rock to bring clarity to controversy, while we media types choke over ever word. But I must say I am somewhat amazed by the professed shock at what goes on inside black churches, as if it's somehow a revelation that folks still have some grievances about race in this country.


Grand Rapids, Minn.: We have become big fans of Rev. Wright -- he says it the way it is! People forget he is a veteran, and knows how the black people have been treated for years and years. Many Americans don't want to hear about it! I find it interesting that Obama is always presented as black and no longer presented as even being half white! Both Wright and Obama are very intelligent men, and I think some Americans might have a hard time with that and consider them to be uppity?

Shailagh Murray: The Rev. Wright fan club is open for business.


Richmond, Va.: From a lot of people who "think" Rev. Wright's comments are being misrepresented: Did he actually say that America got what it deserved? And why isn't John McCain getting tarred with Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who actually said those things?

Shailagh Murray: Another take on today's big speech...


Did I care?: Not really, and I'm not an Obama supporter. I go to church. I went to Catholic schools. I studied in Oklahoma and regularly went to Southern Baptist services and Wednesday night Bible reading with my friends. I've heard a lot of preachers say silly and stupid things. I also go to Temple pretty regularly, but luckily I'm there for Bat and Bar Mitzvah's so I don't get to hear the social and political condemnations!

Shailagh Murray: Thanks for writing. Lots of good comments on this, I will keep posting them.


Silver Spring, Md.: Is it possible that Rev. Wright is on this tour because he feels slighted by Sen. Obama, or because he wants to promote his new book?

Shailagh Murray: Like all successful preachers, Rev. Wright is a proud man. My take on this media tour is that he got fed up with the media coverage and decided to set the record straight, but you can tell he's frustrated with Obama for not pushing back more forcefully.


Patterson, N.Y.: I watched most of Rev. Wright's speech to the Detroit NAACP on CNN last night and was very impressed by his ability to touch on so many different areas, from musical traditions to right-brain vs. left-brain learning styles to linguistics in a extemporaneous manner while quoting scholarly research at the same time. His defense of ebonics was (for me) the weakest of his arguments, trying to create an equivalence between regional accents and a pidginization of English. His ability to model the divergent Eurocentric and Afrocentric musical styles was both impressive and humorous. Certainly we have slandered this man greatly by trying to define him by a few sound bites that do not do justice at all to the complexity of his intelligence and work.

Shailagh Murray: Another take...


Charleston, S.C.: Hi Shailagh. The Rev. Wright controversy is changing -- he has argued in the past two days that he is a victim of the media, and that they misrepresented his views with the endless playing of sound bites. Not only that, but he is arguing that they are caricaturing the black church. If this sticks, it ultimately will help Obama be seen as the insurgent force that stuck by a misrepresented man the media tried to railroad. If not, the renewed prominence of Rev. Wright will damage Obama. Which way do you see it playing out?

Shailagh Murray: I have no idea which way this is going to turn. And judging from the emails and conversations I've had with others this morning, both colleagues and campaign types, neither does anyone else. Frankly I think a lot of it depends on whether McCain and Clinton seize on Wright's recent appearances, along with the tenor of the television coverage.


St. Paul, Minn.: Hi Shailagh -- thank you for taking my question and for chatting with us. Does that fact that Sen. McCain has had access to his wife's private jet for free undercut the widely reported view that his campaign was limping along, broke and on life support, followed by his amazing rise from the ashes to where he is now -- essentially tied with both the Democrats? Will we see more scrutiny of his campaign finances and practices, or will Obama/Wright continue to suck up all the oxygen?

Shailagh Murray: This is driving Democrats crazy right now, but just wait. Once the primary battle is over, Sen. McCain will get his fair share of scrutiny.


Dryden, N.Y.: I have a quick factual question. How much did the needle actually shift after last week's Pennsylvania primary? Have there been any new superdelegate announcements? Thank you for this great source of information.

Shailagh Murray: Not clear. The latest Newsweek poll showed Obama losing ground, but I thought the 19-point spread from the previous week was crazy anyway. There's been a smattering of new superdelegate commitments, with Obama picking up more than Clinton, but it wasn't a deluge. The fact that Obama was always expected to lose PA probably reduced the impact when he actually did.

Folks, I gotta bolt, but thanks for lots of great questions and observations, and I hope to hear from you again in a couple of weeks. Cheers,.


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