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Washington Sketch

Vice President Cheney speaks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce about a topic very dear to him: oil.Video by Akira Hakuta/washingtonpost.comWashington Sketch

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Dana Milbank
Washington Post Columnist
Thursday, June 12, 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, June 12 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.

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The transcript follows.


Dana Milbank: Hello from Room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building, where we've entered hour four of a House Commerce hearing into the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

Speaking of which, Vice President Cheney lobbed a tomato at conservationists in a speech before the Chamber of Commerce yesterday, and Dennis Kucinich tossed one at the president on the House floor yesterday when he forced a vote on his impeachment articles. These were the subject of today's Sketch.



Concord, N.H.: Hi Dana -- enjoyed your column as usual. I have to say, no one ever has produced the clear-cut argument that impeaching Bush would be a bad, bad thing quite like you did today. Perhaps even more remarkably, Cheney provided you with everything needed to make the argument in a single speech. He is jaw-droppingly inhumane. What kind of president do you think Bush would have made with a different veep? Bush really does seem like a compassionate conservative in comparison with the Dark Overlord.

Dana Milbank: It's of course impossible to know whether Bush was pulled from uniter to divider by Cheney, or whether Bush chose Cheney with the intention of moving to divider. Complicating things further, Cheney is not the same Cheney he was in the Ford administration, or even in the first Bush administration. Possibly he bit a Killer Tomato.


Edinburg, N.Y.: Damn, I thought this was Sex and Senility. It isn't, is it? Of course, you did write about Cheney.

washingtonpost.com: Discussion Transcript: Sex and Senility (washingtonpost.com, June 12)

Dana Milbank: Sorry, this chat is titled Senility and -- well, I can't remember.


Baltimore: Your point about Dick Cheney made me think. Who could Obama nominate as his vice presidential candidate who would be anywhere near the impeachment insurance Dick Cheney has been for Bush, in a strange future universe where the Democrats lose control of the House? (I know, it sounds difficult, but I never underestimate the Democrats' ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.)

Dana Milbank: How about Dennis Kucinich?


Arlington, Va.: Is it true that the Clinton campaign sent Obama a congratulatory case of tomatoes?

Dana Milbank: Mexican red rounds, as a matter of fact.


Washington: Where've you been for the past 10 years, Krispy Kreme? Saying Cheney's pitch for drilling in ANWR would do nothing in the short-term ignores that if the Democrats hadn't blocked drilling for at least a decade, the short term would be over and ANWR oil would be having some downward influence on prices.

Dana Milbank: And if my grandmother had wheels she'd be a wagon.


Yonkers, N.Y.: Your colleague George Will today seems to be reading the last rites over McCain already. I guess he wants to be first in line. Is this how a lot of Big Time Washington Insiders like yourself look at this?

washingtonpost.com: November's Magic Numbers (Post, June 12)

Dana Milbank: No way -- George Will is very late to this party. We all wrote McCain off for dead this past summer.

That's just a way of saying there's no way to know what November will bring. As noted in Wednesday's Sketch, never underestimate the Democrats' ability to screw things up.


Re: Baltimore: Now who could McCain pick as insurance? I would say against normal male life expectancy, but that ship already has sailed.

Dana Milbank: Larry Craig might be available -- the GOP convention is, after all, in Minneapolis.


Impeach them both?: Why can't Dennis get rid of them both at the same time?

Dana Milbank: He actually already tried to impeach Cheney. At the time, he said he wasn't going after Bush because that only would elevate Cheney, and then he'd have to do the whole impeachment thing over again. Apparently he changed his mind.


Washington: Dana -- saw you in the press corral at Clinton's speech last weekend. Just one thing: Did you leave the house with a suit that wrinkled, or was it the oppressive heat that made you look like you just rolled out of bed?

Dana Milbank: As part of my mourning process for Hillary's departure from the race, I went through a ritualistic rending of garments that morning.


Madison, Wis.: Okay, maybe I'm suffering from dementia, but didn't the Republicans control Congress for a decade? And they still couldn't pass a bill to drill in ANWR? And they still blame Democrats, whom they ignored this whole time? What am I forgetting?

Dana Milbank: You are forgetting that Clinton vetoed it.

More relevant, I think, is that the whole ANWR effort is all about finding another source of the drug (and not a very large one at that) rather than ending what a wise president once called our addiction to oil.


Ocala, Fla.: Cheney also said that the Chinese were drilling for oil off the coast of Cuba, which is apparently another statement substantiated by "Curveball."

Dana Milbank: Who knew? I heard him say that, but immediately assumed it was true, because the vice president had said it. Surely the Defense Intelligence Agency has the intelligence to prove that this is true, even if the CIA dissents.

Maybe they just drilled so deep in China it came out the other end?


Washington: Dana, can you stand a serious question, please? Before your current incarnation, you were a very fine reporter for this newspaper (and the Wall Street Journal too, I think). Do you think that the people at The Post and Wall Street Journal who reported on the James-Johnson-low-interest-rate non scandal did their profession any favors?

I'm not a fan of Obama's -- or Johnson's, for that matter. I just don't like people to be treated unfairly or hysterically. So he's a rich guy who got a few loans at lower-than-market interest rates -- that's not unusual. And yes, he's very rich. As Dick Cheney would say: So? (Okay, bad example.)

And yes, Johnson also sat on the Compensation Committee for United Health (as repeatedly is pointed out), but today's Los Angeles Times also points out (which neither The Post nor the Wall Street Journal has bothered to do) that when Johnson learned of the compensation problems at United Health, he moved very quickly to fix them (this according to a shareholder activist). I'm very disappointed in the poor reporting and hysteria-mongering on this. It's not like there aren't a few other things of concern right now (Iraq, Afghanistan, the economy, etc.).

Dana Milbank: Seems to me the only reason this is a story -- and the only reason Johnson was ousted -- was because the Obama campaign had taken a holier-than-thou attitude about lobbyists and influence. This, sadly, sets off a witch hunt for the class of person I identified as the Washington "Big Man" in my book, "Homo Politicus." I believe we must preserve the way of life for Jim Johnson and the other Big Men.


Maryland: Hey Dana. What's the buzz on the Hill today about the Supremes dealing strike three to the Bush administration on Guantanamo? (Loved the Milbank-in-Milbank piece, but you needed to mention "Milbank" a little more often.)

Dana Milbank: Well, I'm in here with the Killer Tomatoes, but I'm guessing the Republicans really think they got Milbanked by the court on that one.


Los Angeles: Does McCain's "not too important" response about US troop withdrawals from Iraq confirm he shoots from the hip but doesn't always shoot straight? He says in his new campaign ad "only a fool or a fraud talks tough or romantically about war." Was he aiming at "bring them on," "dead or alive," "I'm a war president" George Bush?

McCain also says in the ad that he "hates war." Considering his statements 100 years in Iraq "would be fine with me," "my friends I hate to tell you there will be more wars" and singing "Bomb Bomb Iran" as initial response to a serious question about Iran -- at a town hall meeting no less -- one wonders if McCain fits the image of Gen. Buck Turgidson (played by George C. Scott) in the movie "Dr. Strangelove," rather than someone ready to be the next U.S. president. Perhaps McCain should say he did not mean to say or imply that withdrawing troops from Iraq is not too important and try improving his aim in the future.

washingtonpost.com: Parties Do Battle Over U.S. Forces' Future in Iraq; McCain Comments on 'Today' Stir Fire (Post, June 12)

Dana Milbank: Hmmm. I also got a question today suggesting the best film to capture McCain is "Weekend at Bernie's."

I don't interpret what he said yesterday, or in his 100 years remark, as warmongering as much as clumsy talk. In each case it's the same point: The irritant is not the assignment of troops to Iraq but the casualties. That's roughly true, as evidenced by the absence of protest about troops in South Korea. But he keeps finding awfully dumb ways to say it.


Re: Chinese drilling: Nah it's an American company, post office box in the Caymans, but they invested in subprime-backed bonds and got bought out by the Chinese for pennies on the dollar. Not that I am cynical or anything...

Dana Milbank: Ah, yes. I believe Jim Johnson is involved, and Eric Holder is chief counsel.


Richmond, Va.: Just checking: Does the Washington Post vet its reporter/commentary people?

Dana Milbank: Apparently not -- but we do have a drug test before somebody is hired, so as a reader you can have confidence that, for at least one week in their lives, Washington Post reporters have been drug-free.


St. Paul, Minn.: Dana, do you reporters do a lot of fist bumping at The Washington Post when you break a really good story, or is it not allowed? Also, can we expect to see John and Cindy getting on the bump bandwagon?

Dana Milbank: We don't bump -- just grind.

I'm recommending something much more intimate than a fist bump for the McCain PDA. This, and getting rid of the teleprompters, would help with the whole "Weekend at Bernie's" thing.


Boxer: Is that Sen. Barbara Boxer I hear on my radio mixing things up over there?

Dana Milbank: Wrong side of the Capitol. Here in the House, the FDA food czar is covered head to toe in tomato paste.


To the guy who mocked your wrinkled "look": There is an advantage to seersucker suits, but then you would need to start wearing straw boaters, and I believe they went out of style with Taft.

Dana Milbank: Appreciate the defense, but it was actually a cotton poplin suit. I wore the seersucker on Monday, for the save-the-tigers Sketch at the zoo, but it was so hot that the calamine lotion on my arms (poison ivy) got all over my shirt and trousers -- just before my interview of Bo Derek.


Providence, R.I.: Now that you've experienced the charms of Milbank, S.D., can you ever be fully reconciled to life in the nation's capital?

Dana Milbank: I suppose not. But while it is not Milbank, Washington allows me a front row seat to the great issues of our time. Now, back to the Killer Tomatoes...


Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

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