Washington Sketch

Dana Milbank
Washington Post Columnist
Thursday, May 8, 2008; 1:00 PM

Post columnist Dana Milbank, who serves as the capital's foremost critic of political theater in his Washington Sketch columns and videos, was online Thursday, May 8 at 1 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the things politicians say -- and the absurd ways they find to say them.

The transcript follows.


Dana Milbank: Hello from the United States Capitol, where 178 House Republicans have voted against Mother's Day, and Rep. Vito Fossella, a New York Republican, has just issued a statement claiming paternity of a 3-year-old love child. Ready for your questions on these and other subjects.


Economists: Why wasn't there any exit polling on whether people like us more than they like Hillary? And was Hillary seriously attempting to make the argument that the problem with the Bush administration is that they listen too much to scientists and don't just go with their gut regardless of what people in academia say?

washingtonpost.com: The Fix: For Clinton, a Misfire on Gas Tax? (washingtonpost.com, May 8)

Dana Milbank: I can certainly see why Hillary Clinton wouldn't want to throw her lot in with the economists, as she put it. It is, after all, the "dismal science," and economists almost certainly would point out other annoying things, such as the fact that her campaign is broke. On the other hand, I believe polling is available to show that economists still rank above lawyers and journalists in public esteem.


Upper Montgomery, Md.: Seriously, even Dan Patrick (ESPN national radio talking head) is calling for Clinton to just stop it. If McGovern's slap wasn't enough, who is going to take this woman out to the back of the house and smack her? If it were me, my husband would hold me close and tell me it's time to let it go. As that won't happen with Hillary and Bill, who has to tell her? Will she listen to anyone? Just stop the madness!

Dana Milbank: I think Tim Russert already has held her close and told her it's time to let go, but it's not working. And I think the McGovern thing probably won't do it; I believe a large percentage of the populace did not know he was still alive.


Westcliffe, Colo.: How smart is it of Clinton to loan her campaign oodles of boodle when she knows that Obama is going to have to retire her debt if he wants her support and voters in the general? In other words, Obama is going to have to pay twice -- once for the insult, once for the bribe! Man, are those Clintons something or what?

washingtonpost.com: The Trail: Clinton Lends Her Campaign $6.4 Million (washingtonpost.com, May 7)

Dana Milbank: On the contrary, I think it's a great scheme. She's like a teenager running up the credit card, knowing that her parents are co-signers.


Bahama, N.C.: How would it be possible for Hillary Clinton to fill the vice presidential position on Obama's ticket after her comments about his not being prepared to be commander in chief, while acknowledging that John McCain was prepared for that job? Is it possible that the country could accept this level of cognitive dissonance, even in an election year?

Dana Milbank: There is an obvious solution here. On the hotline, that red Bat Phone we all imagine is on the president's desk in the Oval Office, all calls during the hour of 3 a.m. would be forwarded -- not to the executive residence, but to the Naval Observatory, where the Clintons would be sleeping.


Oviedo, Fla.: If you travel so much and this is tiring (as per your video) how do you ever touch base with real people (kids turned down for college loans, discouraged job hunters, working types who are underinsured and praying not to get injured)? Are the concerns of these people too prosaic for big wheels such as yourself? Could you walk the "Nickel and Dimed" walk and live to tell? I respect your success, and your big, fat brain has carried you far -- but from up that high, who is in focus?

Dana Milbank: Ah, Florida, I have my finger on the pulse of the bitter people -- indeed, I frequently am one myself. The bookkeeping department at The Post sees to that by making sure we are regularly nickel and dimed. A colleague, for example, just saved $500 by flying Southwest out of BWI instead of US Airways out of National -- but the bean-counters refused to pay for her $20 train fare to BWI because she couldn't find the receipt.


West Chester, Penn.: The campaign staffs and the press apparently don't have the stamina for a 50-state nomination process. Given the near unanimous call of the establishment (media, political leaders) to prematurely end the primaries by pushing Clinton out, is it any wonder states like Michigan and Florida fell all over themselves to move up on the primary calendar? If the Beltway crowd had their way, the upcoming Kentucky, West Virginia and Oregon voters just wouldn't matter.

washingtonpost.com: Just When You Think They Might Be Out, They Get Pulled Back In (Post, April 23)

Dana Milbank: Yes, but I don't hear anybody in the press saying we shouldn't hold the Puerto Rico primary on June 1. I already asked my editor to send me to Puerto Rico for the month, to get a good sense of the place and which way the vote may go, but he refused (more of that nickel and dime stuff mentioned above). Indeed, you can do your part to extend the Democratic nominating contest by sending an e-mail to my editor, Bill Hamilton, with the subject line "Send Dana to Puerto Rico."

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.


Unemployed, bitter white man: How come Hillary never wears a dress?

Dana Milbank: I believe this has something to do with what steelworkers chief Paul Gipson called her "testicular fortitude" when he introduced Clinton at a rally recently.

If dresses are what you are after, bitter man, I commend the orange number Michelle Obama was wearing in Raleigh Tuesday night.


Cambridge, Mass.: Hello. What do you make of the fact that Rev. Wright hasn't publicly resurfaced ever since Obama denounced him? A lot of people had expected he would reassert and try to defend himself.

washingtonpost.com: Still More Lamentations From Jeremiah (Post, April 29)

Dana Milbank: Apparently it's very, very difficult to escape from David Axelrod's basement in Chicago, particularly when your legs are chained and your mouth is duct-taped.


Seattle: So, can I get a loan from Bill Clinton too?

Dana Milbank: Depends on what kind of dress you are wearing.


Savannah, Ga.: Do you think those nuns will head to court to rechallenge Indiana's law (now that they can show actual harm)? I want to see if Scalia and Alito have the guts to smack down some sisters. The nuns should bring rulers to court and tap their palms with them occasionally, to remind our good Catholic jurists just what kind of penance they will have to do.

washingtonpost.com: Indiana nuns lacking ID denied at poll by fellow sister (AP, May 6)

Dana Milbank: I had that very thought Tuesday night when I heard about the 98-year-old nun who was turned away. Indeed, it would have been the story of the night if Gary, Ind., didn't later captivate the nation. Somehow I think that's not the demographic the Roberts court had in mind when they upheld the voter ID law.


Oxford, Ohio: The most popular sport these days is Hillary-bashing. There are a lot of us (okay, call us old ladies, but we vote), who take that garbage personally, having had to deal with one form or another of it all our lives. Can we try to have a little dignity here, and give this woman credit for giving so much to the effort -- much more than any of her critics?

Dana Milbank: Well, old lady, this is not the place for dignity in any form. But I do agree that the Clinton coverage, recently and in the past five months, has been harsh. I'm also troubled by what to tell me 4-year-old daughter. A few months ago, we were reading a book about the presidents, and she asked: "Can a girl be president?" Then, I told her that a girl just might become the next president. Now I don't know how to answer that question.


Dear elitist pundit: You fly coach?

Dana Milbank: You don't know the half of it. When flying around with the candidates or the White House, the press is on a charter plane. The charter airlines are so dodgy that they don't list on-time arrival percentages for their flights, they list safe arrival percentages.


Count me as stupid: I had no idea McGovern was still alive. You could do a great column on "Nope, Not Dead!" surprises.

Dana Milbank: Yes, but which category would we put Hillary Clinton in? (Sorry to that old lady in Ohio -- that wasn't dignified.)


George McGovern Is Still Alive?: Nice piece yesterday on Shepardstown, W.Va. ... although I think connecting Hillary with John Brown may have been a tad over the line. Is the blowup about Michigan and Florida votes pushing more of the party to adopt a real schedule for primaries and caucuses in 2012? The funniest thing I heard from one pundit was "Obama won his first contest in two months" without noting that the only contest held in those two months was Pennsylvania.

Dana Milbank: Yeah, the John Brown comparison was a bit of a stretch -- Clinton still hasn't raided an armory -- but I was feeling erudite after driving through Harper's Ferry.

To your larger point, I understand that Ed Muskie and Gene McCarthy are heading up a commission to figure out a better primary system for 2012.


Plainsboro, N.J.: I say Rev Wright should not be buried but praised. He fell on the sword deliberately so that Sen. Obama could disassociate himself from his "spiritual mentor." Now that task has been accomplished, he has faded into the sunset. What say you?

Dana Milbank: Well, it turned out that way, but I don't think that's what the reverend intended. I actually think he's hoping for Obama's defeat -- he's not ready to pass the torch just yet to a younger generation.


But are you an asset?: If you travel with a candidate, do you -- or your employer -- pay the cost of your body re: fuel consumption, champagne, foie gras? If not, do you feel guilty?

Dana Milbank: In fact, this is a loophole that the nickel-and-dimers in bookkeeping have not closed just yet. We pay an extraordinary sum to travel with the campaigns, in excess of $1,000 a day, and it subsidizes the campaign staffs to some extent. But instead of the foie gras to which we are accustomed, it's more often than not a $200 turkey sandwich.


Anonymous: Is Ed Muskie still backing Hillary, or has he jumped ship?

Dana Milbank: Yes, but I hear the Obama camp is working Humphrey hard and he might switch.


Greenbelt, Md.: Oh, I think a "girl" will become president someday. There are quite a few up-and-coming women in the House and Senate -- still not complete parity the men, of course, but certainly more than there used to be. The girl president, however, does not have to be named Clinton. (And I say this as a boomer woman who was perfectly ready to vote for Hillary until the primary season started.)

Dana Milbank: I will report to my daughter that there is still reason for optimism.

My money is on Barbara Mikulski.


Vienna, Va.: So what did you think of Karl Rove's chat yesterday? He seemed true to form even in a chat format.

washingtonpost.com: Discussion Transcript: Election 2008: Karl Rove on Campaign Strategy (washingtonpost.com, May 7)

Dana Milbank: Karl Rove is still alive?


Franconia, Va.: I love all of your writing, even (sometimes) when you nick one of my treasured candidates or causes. I enjoy reading your work for a chuckle or at times for your righteous anger that sometimes sneaks through. What do you make of Hillary Clinton's comments today that only she can appeal to "working, hard-working Americans, white Americans"?

Wow. That is right out of the George Wallace playbook. Not funny, hard to joke about. Maybe it shouldn't be joked about. Give me some perspective, please. By the way, given that all comments now must include race, gender, and class identity, according to the Clinton perspective, I am a white woman, middle income and in my mid-40s. So my comments must of course be given greater weight for those reasons, according to Clintonian logic.

Dana Milbank: I'm taking this question only because you are a white woman of a targeted income group, but I am skeptical: You're telling me George Wallace is alive?


Anonymous: Is John Edwards considering suing himself for leaving the race too soon?

Dana Milbank: Apparently so. And his discovery in the case distracted him so much that he waited too long to endorse. Now it doesn't much matter, and he will soon be lamenting his lack of clout with George McGovern.

Hope this has been sufficiently uninformative. Please read tomorrow's paper, where I intend to blow the lid off this Mother's Day scandal in the House.


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