Washington Sketch

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank sketches the Senate Judiciary's hearing on the increasing price of oil. Video by Akira Hakuta/washingtonpost.com
Dana Milbank
Washington Post Columnist
Thursday, May 22, 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 22 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.


washingtonpost.com: Dana Milbank will be starting the discussion shortly.


Dana Milbank: Hello, dear reader. Apologies for the delay and almost-cancellation. I do these chats from the road, where I'm sketching, and today my laptop wouldn't start.

I'm on Capitol Hill for a 2 p.m. briefing by the vast right-wing conspiracy, which will "release two new explosive reports on Barack Obama's ties with extreme anti-American elements, including agents of the Moscow-controlled Communist Party USA. The reports will shed important new light on Barack Obama's mysterious past and rise to power."

The Hillary haters are nothing if not adaptable; overnight, they've become Obama haters.



Washington: What, no Hillary slamming today? Are you running out of hackneyed Monty Python references to use as metaphors for her campaign? Perhaps something from a Benny Hill sketch would suffice?

Dana Milbank: On the contrary, I am doing archival research on the "Bring Out Your Dead" skit for my next Clinton piece. If I told you when it's running, it wouldn't be a surprise -- and nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!


Venus: Dana -- your columns about Hillary Clinton for the past several weeks have been very good. Today's piece about the overpaid, underworked oil company execs was hilarious. You are a jewel in The Post's crown. Keep up the good work!

Dana Milbank: Many thanks, Venus. Most of the comments these days say I am a pathological misogynist. When I expose Obama's ties to the Hawaiian communist party tomorrow, I'll be called a pathological racist. The weird thing is that no matter how pathological I am in writing about Bush, nobody complains anymore.


Eureka!: After reading your account of the oil barons' appearance before the Senate committee, I realized that these have to be the 27 percent of voters who still think George Bush is doing a fine job.

washingtonpost.com: Pumping for Answers (Post, May 22)

Dana Milbank: Maybe that's why nobody's complaining about my Bush pathology.


Baltimore: John McCain is hosting vice presidential candidates at his seventh (or is it eighth?) house this coming weekend, and it's a long Memorial Day weekend. And, uh, his advisors are releasing his medical report to a few handpicked reporters sometime Friday afternoon. How deeply buried will the medical report be? Is there some other stunt that possibly could be pulled to bury the report deeper?

Dana Milbank: Let's just say when the words "Friday afternoon" are involved, whatever they are releasing isn't good news. Particularly before a holiday weekend. I expect the reports will show that McCain died in 2003 -- but there I am being a pathological ageist.

I fear I won't be staking out the vice presidential parade this weekend, but please, please let it be Mike Huckabee.


Tim Russert: In your opinion is it really news if Tim Russert actually did toot on the air? Does it deserve coverage? You're on TV -- stuff happens.

washingtonpost.com: The Gene Pool: Urgent Breaking (Wind) News! (washingtonpost.com, May 22)

Dana Milbank: Well, given that it was Tim Russert who declared the Democratic nomination over and Obama the winner, I think that whenever he, er, burps, we all should listen.


Washington: What do you consider would be the best alternative to oil in terms of fuel?

Dana Milbank: Tim Russert's gas.


Minneapolis: Anybody home? This chat is about as "live" as the squirrel I ran over yesterday.

Dana Milbank: I think they need some broadband out in Minnesota.


Troy, N.Y.: Is there anything as funny as Congress overriding a veto for a bill that they had not passed? It was more funny when John Boehner said a section was missing and that that was a problem. You'd think somebody would say, "uh, we can go home now then, see you tomorrow." Does the Democratic leadership know what they are doing? Did the Republican leadership ever do something this boneheaded with Clinton?

washingtonpost.com: House Overrides Veto of Farm Bill (Post, May 22)

Dana Milbank: I was on the Hill to cover that today and caught the bit when Steny Hoyer recommended that Roy Blunt engage in some "adult behavior." But then they seemed to have worked it all out and it got quiet, so I went with the Hawaiian communists and Obama. This is the second "clerk error" that I recall, the last on a rather important spending bill back in 2006. That had to do with the clerk "engrossing" the bill or some such. I'm picturing these guys in the basement, melting wax and affixing the official seal to a scroll of parchment.


Friday blues?: So why don't reporters immediately glom onto any story/information that is released on Friday afternoons, because the people releasing such things obviously are trying to blow smoke in our eyes? Does covering a Friday-afternoon data dump require reporters to miss an early happy hour or a tee time?

Dana Milbank: We do glom on, occasionally sacrificing happy hour, but the problem is nobody reads the Saturday papers or watches TV news on Saturday.


Fort Wayne, Ind.: What is the explosive new revelation about Obama's ties to a Communist group?

Dana Milbank: From the press release, I quote:

Some of the major findings in the reports to be released on May 22 include:

-- Obama has been in the middle of two international communist networks one in Hawaii and one in Chicago.

-- The Hawaii network included communists Frank Marshall Davis, who was Obama's personal mentor; actor/singer Paul Robeson; and labor leader Harry Bridges. The network was judged a security threat to the United States and the subject of a congressional hearing on the "Scope of Soviet Activity in the United States."

-- Obama covered up the true identity of Frank Marshall Davis in his book, Dreams From My Father.

-- The Hawaii communist network was organized directly by and from Moscow.

-- The Chicago network included identified communists and socialists, was committed to a communist victory in the Vietnam War, and took instructions from the communist Castro regime in Cuba.

-- In addition to communist terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, who were members of the communist terrorist Weather Underground, the Chicago network includes many veterans of the communist Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) who now proclaim themselves "Progressives for Obama."

-- Bill Ayers, who helped launch Obama's political career, has traveled to Venezuela on several occasions and is an enthusiastic backer of the brand of communism being practiced and promoted by Hugo Chavez.

-- It appears that Obama actually worked for Ayers in a Chicago educational reform program that dispensed millions of dollars of grants.

-- One of the leaders of "Progressives for Obama" is former SDS leader Tom Hayden, who wrote a letter to a communist Vietnamese official during the Vietnam War hoping for a "victory" over the U.S.

-- The SDS openly promoted communism, the regimes in Hanoi and Havana, and condemned alleged U.S. "imperialism."

-- The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), a group that included a convicted espionage agent for communist East Germany, backed and promoted Obama's political career.

-- Illinois State Senator Alice Palmer, who picked Obama as her successor, has a record of involvement in communist front activities.

-- Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod, as well as Obama himself, have not explained why Ayers, Dohrn, then-State Senator Alice Palmer, and Dr. Quentin Young came together at the Ayers/Dohrn home to launch Obama's political career.

-- Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, a client of Axelrod, issued a controversial and misleading statement defending Obama's relationship with communist terrorist Bill Ayers.


Minneapolis: Forget Puerto Rico, this communist thing definitely needs some in-depth investigation -- they'll never expect you to show up and start digging around in June in Hawaii.

Dana Milbank: You are right! Glad Minneapolis is online now. Please send your e-mails this week to my editor, Bill Hamilton, with the subject line "Milbank to Hawaii."


Pittsburgh: Do you think it wise of McCain to do a series of town hall meetings with Obama? I'm not sure the visual is going to work in his favor. You?

Dana Milbank: Pathological ageism!

The bigger problem is that McCain would repeat the same jokes at each town hall meeting, like the one about the prison where one inmate turns to another on the chow line and says, "the food was much better when you were governor." Slays 'em every time.


Chelmsford, Mass.: I really liked the use of the Dead Parrot material for your column, but may I suggest that an even better sketch for the upcoming showdown between the Democratic candidates? For me, the Fish-Slapping Dance says it all. What giant fish will Obama come up with to knock Hillary out of the picture?

Dana Milbank: Misogynist! Pathological aquatic hater!


Re: Obama: Who are the nutcases issuing this "press release." More guilt by association ... and come on -- ties to Tom Hayden, who once wrote a letter, 40 years ago? Get out of here. These people are lame.

Dana Milbank: Nutcases R Us. From the press release: "The News Briefing is being sponsored by America's Survival, Inc., an independent watchdog group that monitors the United Nations and international terrorism."


Washington: Yesterday my U.S. government class and I visited the Judiciary committee meeting on the price of oil. I do not know that much on this topic, but it seems to me that the oil companies' excuses for the rising prices of oil are legitimate. If they are indeed real, are you (based on your stance in your most recent article), or the senators who were grilling the oil executives, asking (no matter how much extra labor and or price is required to attain oil these days) that oil companies simply lower the price of oil? I think if they did that, they surely would make no profit. Thanks.

Dana Milbank: I don't think anybody was saying they should lower the price of gas. It's just that it takes a tin ear to pay your guys $30 million a year while the nation is suffering.


Duxbury, Mass.: Re: Senate hearings, Instead of summoning them to Capitol Hill, a civilized society would take these oil profiteers out and shoot them.

Dana Milbank: I believe this was the gist of Diane Feinstein's remarks.


Langhorne, Pa.: Maybe nobody should tell Hillary that it's over. I mean, ever.

Dana Milbank: This is pathologically misogynist and yet also quite clever.

The problem is my editors will keep me on the Clinton campaign death watch, and this would mean I never could do anything else. In fact, I recommend you send another e-mail, to The Post's political editor, Tim Curran, telling him that I can be safely taken off the deathwatch and sent to Hawaii to investigate the Obama-communist nexus.


Obvious Solution: Re: "We do glom on, occasionally sacrificing happy hour, but the problem is nobody reads the Saturday papers or watches TV news on Saturday." Isn't the obvious solution to hold the story and publish it on Sunday? I mean, given that the Friday news dumps usually are extremely newsworthy, what would preclude journalists from printing the story on Sunday?

Dana Milbank: See, that's the risk for the pol in the Friday evening dump. If it's really juicy -- if, say, McCain did in fact die in 2003 -- there will be a story Saturday and then a follow-up Sunday and then Tim Russert will break wind all over it on Sunday morning.


Dana Milbank: Okay, folks, thanks for paying attention to this technology-shortened chat. I'm off to expose the Obama/Hawaii/Communist story. Speak to you again when I return to planet earth.


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