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Washington Sketch

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Dana Milbank
Washington Post Columnist
Thursday, June 26, 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 26 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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Dana Milbank: Hello from the Rayburn House Office Building, where the id of the Bush administration, Cheney chief of staff David Addington, is displaying his abundant contempt for the legislative branch.

Fortunately, it's being transcribed, so I'm breaking away from the action to field your questions. Fire away.

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Re: Supreme Court Decision on Guns: Dana, have you still got that Orange hunting vest and cap?

Dana Milbank: Yes indeed, but I think the better attire now would be camouflage. I have not yet read the fine print of the ruling, but I'm hoping this will allow me to own the sawed-off shotgun I have always wanted.

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Baltimore: Are you solar-powered today, or do you have any plans in the works to make your chat wind-powered?

Dana Milbank: I'm, uh, methane powered today. But I was struck earlier in the week by the tour through town by Jim Hanson, the father of the modern global warming debate, who made the case that we should be focusing our energy on coal, because there's no way to stop all the oil in the world from being burned. I have therefore decided to buy a Hummer but also put solar panels on my home.

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Corner of Yoo and Addington: Dana, love your work. I'm watching the Addington-Yoo hearings right now. Best line -- a congressman thought Yoo was extending his answer to waste time, and he told him he was great at "beat the clock." "I don't know basketball," Yoo said. "That's a game show," the congressman said.

washingtonpost.com: Upcoming Discussion: Author of 'The Unitary Executive' on Yoo/Addington Hearing (washingtonpost.com, Friday at 10 a.m. ET)

Dana Milbank: In that same exchange, Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee likened the vice president to a "barnacle."

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Chicago: Hey Dana, if Obama starts to pull ahead, how will the media rein him in? I mean, an uncompetitive race is horrible for the media because no one will be interested. So, if that happens, how will the media make it a race?

Dana Milbank: No worries -- the Rev. Wright will never tolerate it.

An Obama adviser told me recently that, by November, the other side will have turned Obama into a "gay Muslim." Even if Obama wins easily (and I'm not predicting that) the race will almost certainly follow the historical pattern of narrowing after the summer.

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Important Question: Whose picture is that on your Facebook page?

Dana Milbank: That is none other than Tom Edsall of Columbia Journalism School and Huffington Post.

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Washington: Dana, Dana, Dana. Who was your ghostwriter for yesterday's puff piece on Sen. Clinton? Or -- gulp -- were you the author? Did you feel guilty about the Campaign Death Watch columns, and was yesterday's column your way of atoning for it? If so, I beg you, please don't do it again. The Dana Milbank we know, love and are addicted to writes with an unsparing eye and a razor-sharp wit. He does not toss off marshmallows.

Dana Milbank: Hey, at least I got in the part about Philippe Reines being forced to carry Clinton's handbag.

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Washington: Hi Dana. Yours is my favorite weekly hour of the washingtonpost.com discussions. If you had to summarize the Bush years in one sentence (you could use semicolons, but it'd have to be one sentence), what would you write?

Dana Milbank: I only need two words: Great material.

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Office decor: Can you tell us if there were any dead parrots for sale in Sen. Clinton's office when she returned to the Senate?

Dana Milbank: Only if you count Wesley Clark.

I thought the ping-pong table they put in her office was a pretty good gag.

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Deep thoughts: I greatly appreciate the level of snarkitude in your columns, but I have been curious about something: Are there any political figures (past or present) for whom you feel some grudging sense of respect? (I'm sorry to say that the last politician I truly respected was Robert Kennedy, and that was a generation ago.)

Dana Milbank: It has been difficult to find one since Katherine Harris left town.

But it is a matter of public record that I voted for Chuck Hagel in 2004.

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Pittsburgh: Dana, why not put solar panels on your Hummer? Imagine all cars running on the power collected on their roofs, er, rooves, er...

Dana Milbank: I am actually hoping to power my vehicle entirely by going to meetings of the Senate Judiciary Committee and bottling Chuck Schumer's wind.

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Cleveland: I have a pundit/columnist question. Why do they think they know what "ordinary folk" and "regular people" want or are interested in? I'm a middle-income female in Ohio, and I'm amazed at how completely out of touch Chris Matthews, David Broder, David Brooks and others like them are. If David Brooks ever actually had set foot in an Applebee's, he would know that there's no salad bar, and that their food only tastes good when you're drunk.

Dana Milbank: Well, what you say about Brooks may be true, but I'm confident Broder has the Applebee's menu memorized, along with those of Olive Garden and Red Lobster.

And now, thanks to the Supreme Court and Jim Hanson, I can own a gun and buy a Hummer, so I, too have finally reached vaunted "ordinary folk" status.

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Washington: Dana, I'm not sure what this new gun policy means for Mr. Cheney. Does this mean he now legally can shoot someone in the vice president's residence, without first declaring that person an enemy combatant?

Dana Milbank: You haven't read far enough down into the ruling. Cheney remains free to shoot anybody he wants, as long as he reports the shooting within 48 hours to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

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Oviedo, Fla.: Good cop, bad cop? Is the "change we can believe in" candidate stocking his back room with sharp elbows and forked-tongue lackeys? That lady who called my gal Hillary a "monster" was no fluke, it seems. I do not believe in the change -- it was more like a hot flash in time that is now congealing into something less appealing. Can we swap this guy out for Clinton? Or Sen. Barbara Mikulski, that lovely bowling-ball-shaped lady from my hometown?

Dana Milbank: Now, now, I will not have any remarks about Mikulski's physique. Though I should make sure you have all seen that terrific photo in the New York Daily News of Hillary's return to Congress. Schumer leans over Mikulski to hug Clinton, pushing Mikulski's face right into Clinton's sternum.

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Boston: If drilling for more oil is the solution (supply and demand), couldn't we solve the health care issue by lowering licensing requirements and allowing more people to be doctors or start hospitals? Let's put the "home" back into home health care -- I got a 19-year-old who's doing nothing, and there's a room in our basement. Plus, my wife is pretty good at neutering. Let's open the gates to medical care!

Dana Milbank: Some of the best policy ideas originate in the weekly Sketch Web chat.

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Anonymous: I'm watching the C-SPAN feed of the hearing. Why is Jaime Lynn Spears sitting behind Steve King?

Dana Milbank: Another great moment in legislative history just occurred. Steve King (R-Iowa) objected to Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) being allowed to ask questions because he's not on the subcommittee. But now King is out of the room, and the chairman, Jerrold Nadler, has given the floor to Delahunt under "unanimous consent" because nobody is here to object.

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Iowa: Drat. Back in January politicians were thick on the ground here, offering us snow shovels and campaign buttons. Now when we could really use those gasbags to help dry up all the slowly receding floodwaters, they're nowhere to be found.

Dana Milbank: Well, John Mica, a Florida Republican, showed up at a press conference yesterday with a pinwheel. I think he'd be happy to lend you that.

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Bottled Gas: The people of the great state of New York have priority on Sen. Schumer's wind, sir.

Dana Milbank: Schumer's wind is a plentiful and renewable resource. There is enough to power all of our homes and cars.

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Ex-Californian: Dana, you do know that Chuck Schumer, Bill Delahunt and Dick Durbin all live at George Miller's house while in Washington, don't you?

Dana Milbank: And you better not light a match within three blocks of the place.

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Concord, N.H.: "I am actually hoping to power my vehicle entirely by going to meetings of the Senate Judiciary Committee and bottling Chuck Schumer's wind." It's answers like this that me wish you sat next to me in my cubicle land. It would be far more tolerable. So, how goes the Addington/Yoo hearings? Are the congressional panel members acquitting themselves any better than they did against Haynes? I can't imagine Addington and Yoo actually answering any questions, but hopefully the senatorial barbs are more sharply honed this week.

Dana Milbank: Well, these are uncertain times in the news business. what do you folks do in your cubicles up there in New Hampshire?

The hearing has just ended, with Addington daring the committee to send him another subpoena.

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Washington: Did we learn anything new from Addington or Yoo today except that Yoo thinks he was Ashcroft's attorney?

Dana Milbank: Addington still thinks the vice president isn't part of the executive branch.

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Arlington, Va.: There ain't no one named "Dana" who can consider themselves "ordinary folk."

Dana Milbank: Tell that to my sawed-off shotgun, buddy.

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Sympathy Vote: Gov. Ed Rendell is now telling Bill Clinton to "get over it." What can we ordinary folks do to let Bill know we feel his pain at being denied the title of First Laddie?

Dana Milbank: Send him interns.

Well, they're packing up here in the Rayburn building. It's been a great thrill to chat with you while in the presence of the elusive Addington. Until next week.  

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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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