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Washington Post White House Reporter Anne E. Kornblut.
Washington Post White House Reporter Anne E. Kornblut. (washingtonpost.com - washingtonpost.com)

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Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post National Political Reporter
Wednesday, June 25, 2008; 11:00 AM

Don't want to miss out on the latest in politics? Start each day with The Post Politics Hour. Join in each weekday morning at 11 a.m. as a member of The Washington Post's team of White House and Congressional reporters answers questions about the latest in buzz in Washington and The Post's coverage of political news.

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Washington Post national political reporter Anne E. Kornblut was online Wednesday, June 25 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest in political news.

The transcript follows.

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Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts

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Anne E. Kornblut: Hello, everyone, and thanks for joining today! As always, looking forward to your questions ... and there's no shortage of political news. Apologies in advance: I have to leave a few minutes early. So please send them on in now.

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Richmond, Va.: I am an Obama supporter, and I can tell you I really dislike the idea that he is asking his supporters to help pay off Hillary's debt. The Fix (on washingtonpost.com) has a column about it this morning, and reading the many comments, very few Obama supporters want to help with the debt, either. Does Obama think he can capture Hillary's supporters by paying off her debt? Did Hillary make that one of her demands for campaigning with him?

washingtonpost.com: The Trail: Obama Asks Donors to Help Pay Clinton Debt (washingtonpost.com, June 24)

Anne E. Kornblut: Great question. We haven't been privy to the one-on-one conversations Clinton had with Obama about debt and their joint campaigning. (Robert Gibbs: Do you want to get us that transcript?) Certainly Clinton has emphasized the need to pay of her debt, in calls with her own supporters and in public appeals, and the faster her debt is paid off the more quickly she can turn to help Obama raise more for himself. All that said, it's no secret that Obama supporters, having won, are none too pleased to be helping pay off millions and millions on a campaign they did not support and wished would have ended far earlier.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I see McCain's lobbyist-to-dictators adviser Charlie Black has declared that a terrorist attack on the U.S. would be good for John McCain. Leaving aside the sheer ugliness of the statement, is it clear that voters agree? Polls I have seen in the past couple of years say that the public trusts Democrats more on terrorism and Iraq now. The last time we were attacked, Sen. McCain urged us on into invading the wrong place while Obama advised against it. Several years in, McCain still is confused about the players there (Shiites vs al-Qaeda in Iraq). The man drank his way to 894th of 899 in his Annapolis class. What am I missing that Charlie Black "knows"?

Anne E. Kornblut: It's a very interesting debate, isn't it? So many years have passed since Sept. 11, it seems to me that we have no real way of knowing how the country would react politically, God forbid, especially given that Osama bin Laden is still at large nearly seven years after the Bush administration promised to capture him. So I think it's really a live debate -- one that hopefully we' never will know the answer to.

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Toronto: When it comes to the Internets, are McCain and his campaign staff a series of rubes?

Anne E. Kornblut: Very punny.

I actually don't know how connected or not the rest of the staff is, but McCain reportedly does not use the Interwebs all that much. Then again, I am not sure I want my president spending all day on Facebook.

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Rockville, Md.: Do you think people are well-enough educated enough to appreciate the value of a better battery, or will they see McCain as a "wonk?" Most of the replies seem to think we have a good battery already. Sigh. I am a retired science librarian and I can assure you that we have needed a better battery for years. It could help solve the energy problem by letting us collect energy where it is available and save it for future for use where we need it. That is the key -- we have plenty of energy, just not where and when we want it. Cars are only a tiny portion of the use we would have for this battery -- think homes, computers, phones, even aircraft.

Anne E. Kornblut: You definitely know more about this subject than I do (despite my desire to quit my job and win $300 million in prize money). Thoughts elsewhere?

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Urbana, Ill.: Everyone seems to think that a terrorist attack on the U.S. will replicate the rally round the flag response after Sept. 11. Has anyone considered the possibility that such an attack might produce a backlash against the administration and the Republicans in general for their inability to protect the country?

Anne E. Kornblut: This is a very good point -- and precisely the question we've been asking around here. Again, with the hope that we never find out.

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Ex-Washingtonian: Do you think John McCain will use the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision against the death penalty for the rape of a child as a campaign issue, in that he would be more likely than Obama to nominate justices who would overturn it?

washingtonpost.com: Court Rejects Death Penalty for Raping Children (AP, June 25)

Anne E. Kornblut: It does seem like a ripe political issue, doesn't it?

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Washington: Milbank reports that Hillary returned after her 14 day vacation to staffers playing ping-pong in her private office. As a former House staffer, I know there's always work to do, even during recess, but the Senate was in session! I bet donuts to campaign dollars that Schumer's staff wasn't in on the fun. Is she going to discipline these staffers, or is this the kind of service the people of New York are just going to have to accept?

washingtonpost.com: To the Loser Go the Spoils (Post, June 25)

Anne E. Kornblut: I believe that the staffers were playing ping-pong as a joke -- they were mid-ping as Clinton arrived in her office for a highly publicized return to work, if I am not mistaken -- in an attempt to lighten her first day back. But I appreciate your guardianship of taxpayer dollars!

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Raleigh, N.C.: In the Fox poll done last week, Congress of course had terrible approval ratings -- but counterintuitively, Republican respondents gave Congress a better score than Democratic ones. Is that a rather scathing indictment of Pelosi and Reid and the lack of movement on the Democrats' agenda from 2006? Or is the Democrats' discontent caused by something else?

Anne E. Kornblut: I didn't see that poll, but my gut tells me the answer is the war, the war, the war. Anyone else have thoughts??

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Oviedo, Fla.: Please tell me that Obama will not choose a man as vice president? I was for Clinton, but there are certainly other viable female options. Enough already with the Boyz Klub duos. And how 'bout all those anti-Hillary types who insisted -- insisted-- that they would vote for a woman, just not that woman. So -- who have they got teed up?

Anne E. Kornblut: That's a really interesting point. I actually have heard from numerous Clinton supporters that they'd be furious if he picked a woman other than Clinton -- that it would be a token pick, and that if he's going to pick a woman anyway, Clinton is the one who earned it. No doubt about it, this is going to be a difficult -- and possibly treacherous -- moment for Obama.

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Veepstakes: I'm intrigued by two veep possibilities on the Democratic side: Dick Gephardt and Colin Powell. Any idea if either is interested? Would either make a strong veep candidate for Obama?

Anne E. Kornblut: I've heard the Gephardt rumor recently, and it makes some sense -- he's a Midwesterner, he's very reliable and predictable, i.e. no surprises or distractions. The downsides would be that he voted for the war, that he is a consummate Washington insider, and that his own political career dwindled there at the end. I do not know whether he'd be interested -- and the same is true of Powell, whom I doubt seriously would be on the short list for a number of reasons, starting with the war.

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Avon Park, Fla.: This maybe a dumb question. but I've heard pundits say that Barack Obama has a cool demeanor. Why is that such a negative thing? When I was in school, being cool meant being popular. It was a good thing. Why is it bad for a presidential candidate?

Anne E. Kornblut: That's interesting; I'm not sure it necessarily is a negative, though I've heard him similarly described as "aloof." In my (albeit limited) experience so far, Sen. Obama does keep his distance some, relative to other politicians -- which is to say he isn't as gushing or obsequious as some of his colleagues. But neither is he remote or self-absorbed. If anything I've found him to be pretty normal to interact with -- or maybe I'm just cool enough to appreciate his style.

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Montgomery Village, Md.: Anne, is it a good career move to be on a chat opposite the boss?

washingtonpost.com: Discussion: Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. on Retirement, His Memories, Post's Future (washingtonpost.com, Live NOW)

Anne E. Kornblut: LOL. Hysterical. I had no idea. I would encourage everyone on this chat to please sign off and go ask questions of Len Downie, immediately.

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Baltimore: You say that you don't want the president spending all day on Facebook, but when it comes down to it, how does someone stay current in today's world without the Internet? Think about it. McCain has admitted that he doesn't know how to operate his own e-mail or how to do a basic Google search. He always has relied on others to do that sort of thing for him, so it colors what sort of information he gets about the world around him. When Eisenhower was about to leave office he tried to make a phone call and was baffled about what to do when he received a dial tone -- he never had had to do what most people do every day, someone else always found the number for him.

Anne E. Kornblut: I was of course kidding somewhat -- I don't expect even an Internet-savvy candidate to spend all day on Facebook -- but you make a good point, and this is an issue that seems to have really bothered some voters, judging from the e-mails I've gotten.

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Alexandria, Va.: I hate to sound snitty, but I'd like McCain and Obama to choose the most-qualified person for veep, regardless of gender. In discussion with a friend, I mentioned that Kathleen Sebelius may not get picked if Obama's concerned about annoying Clinton-philes despite great credentials (popular governor in a red state, works well with Republicans) ... all because of her gender.

Anne E. Kornblut: Another good point on this...

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Gephardt voted for war:: Yes, but two years later he was calling Bush a "miserable failure." The Democratic base has forgiving to those who voted for the war, but came to realize their mistake and admitted it. Hillary's problem was that it took her very, very, very long to get there, and she didn't look comfortable doing it.

Anne E. Kornblut: And another good point on this. Of course, let's not forget that to this very day Clinton has not literally apologized for the war vote, though of course she is against it now.

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Washington: Senator Clinton mismanaged her campaign to the tune of $22 million, lost the nomination battle, and now her supporters are being asked to help pay off the debt. Please help me understand the logic behind this. It looks to me as though Sen. Obama tacitly (or even overtly) is condoning her bad management and dysfunctional campaign. How does this foster party so-called unity? I'm disgusted.

Anne E. Kornblut: You're not the first person I've heard say this. The flip side is that Obama wants to reach out to Clinton supporters, who of course weren't directly responsible for how she ran her campaign -- and not to do so could look punitive. But no question, a very sensitive subject.

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Baltimore: Hi Anne -- thanks for your fine work. This may be a bit out of your bailiwick, but here goes. The title of an article in yesterday's Post stated that "laws were broken" with respect to the hiring practices in the Justice Department. The text of the article implied that no one faced "sanction" because those involved no longer worked at the Justice Department. How can "laws be broken" without anyone being held accountable? Why should anyone believe such hiring practices won't continue, albeit in perhaps a less-overt manner?

washingtonpost.com: Ideology-Based Hiring at Justice Broke Laws, Investigation Finds (Post, June 25)

Anne E. Kornblut: Thanks for the question -- though you're right, it's totally outside my arena. Let me pass it on to one of my colleagues and see if it can get answered in another chat (or does anyone here know?).

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Princeton, N.J.: Re: McCain's prize, do you think it would have been a good idea if we had utilized the power of the private sector to develop the A-Bomb or go to the moon by offering prizes instead of starting big government projects?

Anne E. Kornblut: Hmm, I hadn't thought of that. Opinions, anyone? I am not sure I have one on this subject.

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Bethesda, Md.: Sure, we need a better battery, but what's the point of offering a government prize for it? The market (very) richly will reward whomever comes up with one anyway. It's not like potential inventors have been sitting back waiting for an incentive.

Anne E. Kornblut: Unless, of course, the potential inventor has a day job and can't spend time on it.

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Rochester, N.Y.: I read yesterday that Karl Rove believes Republicans should characterize Obama as "the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by." That sounds pretty devastating, given that most Americans do know someone like that at their country club. How does the Obama campaign plan to counter this potent attack?

Anne E. Kornblut: Do most Americans actually belong to a country club? I know I don't. The Obama campaign already has launched a biographical ad focusing on his background and upbringing; I would expect to see a lot more of that heading forward, especially at the convention. At every step of the way, it sounds like they will reintroduce him, so that people feel like they are getting to know him -- and so they'll he's not a character, either from a country club or Karl Rove's imagination.

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Southwest Nebraska: I don't have a problem with Obama talking about Christianity and the Bible -- after all he sat in a pew, evidently, every Sunday for 20 years and listened to preaching -- but I have a big problem with Dobson teaching the Constitution. Is there anything in Dobson's background to suggest that he is a Constitutional expert? Does his criticism of Obama actually help Obama?

washingtonpost.com: Dobson Hits Obama for "Distorting" Bible (washingtonpost.com, June 24)

Anne E. Kornblut: That's a really good point, and I'm not sure we know the answer yet. Another question I would pose: How influential will the Christian right be, generally, in this general-election race?

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Re: Your Response to Rockville, Md.: Given that the U.S. has a significant budgetary deficit financed through foreign borrowing and presumably McCain's first budget would be devoid of pork, where would McCain get the $300 million prize money? Would foreigners (e.g. the Japanese) be eligible to enter McCain's battery contest? Why not assign this challenge to an agency such as NASA, the expenses for which taxpayers already are paying? Likely, $1 million to 5 million in incentive payments to NASA employees or contractors would be sufficient to get enough responses.

Anne E. Kornblut: And this has been one of the criticisms -- that instead of offering a prize, McCain should be talking about increasing research and development money.

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Washington: Just how real is the Obama vice president talk regarding Florida's Bob Graham?

Anne E. Kornblut: It's hard to say how real any of the talk is about the potential candidates. He is vetting a large number of people -- so that no one knows what his real list is, I suspect -- and the campaign hasn't yet floated any serious trial balloons. A plus with Bob Graham would be his state; a potential negative would be his age and insiderness (he was in the Senate for years), plus he's a little eccentric (though that could also be a plus).

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Bowie, Md.: Thanks for taking my question. Most people who do not support Obama usually claim his inexperience as one of the reasons they will not vote for him. Has the point ever been made that, other than previous presidents, no one else has experience for this unique position? Essentially, no candidate possesses the presidential experience that they are expected to have. It is truly experience gained only after on-the-job training.

Anne E. Kornblut: That's a great point, and in fact, it's one you heard Sen. Clinton make a fair amount during the primary -- her point being that at least she had been close to it, even if she never had done it directly.

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Re: McCain battery: I have seen some economists estimate that the atomic bomb could have been built years earlier and at much less cost had there been an incentive plan like McCain's in place. Ditto for the moon landing.

Anne E. Kornblut: Another interesting point -- thank you!

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Central Massachusetts: Hi Anne. More on Obama's campaign retiring Hillary's debt: if I understand correctly, the debt in question is the money that Hillary loaned herself -- in other words, it came from her very considerable bank account. If this is the case, I really don't blame Obama's supporters for balking. It's one thing to make a generous gesture to a vanquished opponent, but writing a check to help refill the Clintons' personal coffers is something else entirely.

Anne E. Kornblut: I don't think we know exactly which money he is helping her with yet -- but her personal loans must be repaid before the Democratic convention, whereas the other money can be repaid later on. We should know more later today, or at the latest by the end of this week, about how exactly this will work.

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Arlington, Va.: Why does McCain need to use Google? If the president needs to use Wikipedia on a daily basis, we're all in a lot of trouble. Clinton sent one e-mail while in the White House. Eisenhower couldn't operate a phone, but masterminded the Normandy invasion and made prescient comments on the military-industrial complex. This issue is overblown.

Anne E. Kornblut: And another point ... thank you!

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Maryland: I thought helping pay off another campaign's debt was a common thing. What's the big fuss?

Anne E. Kornblut: Very true, but usually not in such large amounts (some entire campaigns, after all, cost $22 million, the amount in question here) and not usually so soon after a contentious primary.

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Glittering Prizes: Why should the government offer a prize for developing something they're developing anyway because it's obscenely profitable? Prizes only have an effect when they're awarded for things that seem on first glance like business nonstarters -- like that "X" prize for space exploration.

Anne E. Kornblut: Everyone likes this topic! Points to McCain for getting the conversation going.

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New York: I read that Obama is planning to vote yes to the FISA amendment while his prominent supporters in the Senate, Dodd and Feingold, plan to filibuster. Why isn't this getting more review in the mainstream press? It does not square with Obama's change message or lack of Washington insider influence, e.g. the telecoms.

Anne E. Kornblut: You are correct -- and this is an issue that has definitely riled some of Obama's more liberal backers. Expect more attention to be drawn to it as the actual vote happens.

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Seattle: Thanks for having these chats, Anne. Are there any retired generals being vetted for vice president? I've heard Wesley Clark, but how about Anthony Zinni, who was critical of the way the Iraq War was conducted?

Anne E. Kornblut: You know, I'm not sure about Zinni, but you are correct about Clark, who is serving on a military panel for Obama's campaign. Somewhere on the site I believe we posted a list of that entire working group, if you wanted to peruse it.

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San Diego: I am seeing Colin Powell's name mentioned as a potential running mate for Barack Obama. While Powell has the military experience that Sen. Obama is lacking, do you really think the country is ready for such a double whammy, if you will? Polls are showing that some -- particularly working-class whites -- are having a hard enough time with just one on the ticket. Wouldn't Sen. Obama be shooting himself in both feet if he did not select a white, male running mate?

Anne E. Kornblut: A fair question -- though I do think the bigger question for any Democrat would be Powell's advocacy of the war on President Bush's behalf.

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Cleveland: I know there's a lot of hand-wringing about Obama's opting to take private financing, but if he's going to have a big financial advantage by doing so, I think he'd be a moron to do otherwise. And if he had done otherwise, he would have been painted as a patsy in some corners. There's no way for him to win on this.

Anne E. Kornblut: And that is exactly why he's doing it -- his campaign made that precise calculation.

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Rockville, Md.: The prize is an expression of national interest and may get some into the mix who otherwise would not work on it. Remember our inventions that came from "outsiders" -- Borden was one.

Anne E. Kornblut: And another view...

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Bethesda, Md.: I am a Clinton supporter conflicted by Obama's decision to back out of the campaign finance pledge he had done very early in the campaign. I realize that a lot of people are saying that Obama has the ability to raise much more money, but has winning an election come down to the ability to raise tons of money? Or should we as voters make our decisions based on the candidate's ability to discuss and communicate issues/beliefs/promises to the voters through more direct contact, such as town hall meetings or debates? Voting would feel so much more meaningful if money were not such a key part of the equation.

Anne E. Kornblut: How true! And this is why the Obama campaign struggled with this question (at least for a little while).

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Washington: For retiring the debt, would Obama backers be limited in their ability to donate (I think it's around $2,300 for campaigns), or does that not apply because it is for paying bills?

Anne E. Kornblut: No, you are correct, the limit is $2,300 for the primary, $2,300 for the general.

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Wokingham, U.K.: Does either candidate have ideas about the oil price crisis that will gain support? We foreigners too could badly do with some leadership on this matter. Or is it leaving them both looking a bit baffled?

Anne E. Kornblut: And you have it worse over there, don't you? There are a lot of ideas floating around now -- a gas tax holiday from McCain; a more sustainable energy policy overall from Obama -- and I bet if you tune into the debates in the next four months this will be one of the issues you will hear a lot about. Thanks for joining us from across the pond.

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Just a thought: Some of the Obama supporters who consistently show up on chats --complaining bitterly about Hillary and the nerve she had in continuing a campaign where she won just about half of the vote, and the nerve she has in asking Obama to relieve her debt (which is fairly common in campaigning) -- might want to remember that Obama does in fact need the votes of her supporters. Try being gracious in victory and turn your attentions toward the general election, when Obama may well be glad for the millions of dollars Hillary's big bundlers can bring him.

Anne E. Kornblut: And another good point on this.

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Helena, Mont.: Matt Mosk had an article about the FEC confirmees, but neglected to tell us about their political affiliation. Can you help us out?

washingtonpost.com: Vacancies on FEC Filled As Five Win Senate Approval (Post, June 25)

Anne E. Kornblut: You know, I don't know the answer -- but now I'm curious. I will ask Mosk and see if he can't put the information up somewhere.

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Clifton, Va.: Didn't Hillary Clinton say the same thing as Charlie Black regarding a terrorist attack and Republicans back about a year ago? Why didn't Obama's zealots say anything then? Obama's problem is that his body language and word choice do not project a strong image to our adversaries and friends. He fails to project confidence and the force to act. Hillary Clinton does, as does Gov. Richardson. Edwards and Obama come off as more Barney Fife than Sheriff Taylor.

Obama and Edwards come off as effete metro sexuals. Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama come off as strong and don't-mess-me as does Cindy McCain! Professor Obama needs to work on his image, although not much can be done. If elected president, our adversaries will test him to max, and I fear thousands of Americans will pay with their lives in terrorist attacks on this country.

Anne E. Kornblut: Here is another view on this...

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Vancouver, Wash.: Can you settle a dispute, Anne? Who was the last nominee for president from either major party who was not a multimillionaire? My guess was either George McGovern or Harry Truman, but I'm not sure. Thanks.

Anne E. Kornblut: I may be mistaken here, but I don't think Clinton was when he was first elected in the 1990s. Anyone care to correct me?

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Seattle: What makes news personnel more knowing than the rest of the citizenry when it comes to understanding the American political climate? Why would anyone vote for a person who spends hundreds of millions of dollars to get elected to a job that doesn't even pay tens of millions after eight years of employment? Is that something we should be worrying about, as you see it? Why or why not?

Anne E. Kornblut: Interesting questions. I think, to your first question, that it's not that news reporters are more knowledgeable -- it's just that we have the luxury of spending all day reporting on and learning about politics, whereas most people have other jobs to do. In essence, we get to represent everyone else in going to ask elected officials questions. As to the motivations of politicians -- you are right, they're not in it for the money exclusively, but there are plenty of jobs that aren't just about the paycheck (think of a professional musician who pays hundreds of thousands of dollars for a violin, and doesn't make that much in a year) and I think there are plenty of politicians who really do want to do the job at least in part out of a sense of service, not just for personal gain.

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Reston, Va.: Value of a better battery: Lots of people have been working on a better battery for decades. It would be very important to develop one, the writer is correct, but there are two problems with it -- it's hard to do, and it requires a lot of money to be pumped into research. Paying a prize instead of funding research is a device to avoid funding research, and $300 million is nothing in the current world where one F-22 costs $350 million. So, this really has nothing to do with McCain being wonky and everything to do with producing yet another fake energy plan to avoid producing a real one.

Anne E. Kornblut: And another ... thank you all for being so thoughtful on a subject I am just still learning about.

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Re: The President and the Intertubes: I don't think a lot of people understand how important the use of the Internet and Internet technology could be to managing an efficient government. There is a lot of wasteful government spending that could be eliminated by an administration that understands this technology. That is what is worrisome about McCain's lack of knowledge (or even interest) in this subject.

Anne E. Kornblut: Another great point.

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Reading, Pa.: Anne, as the veepstakes is getting a lot of talk lately, let me say Obama-Bayh is the winning ticket. McCain-Graham is a close second.

Anne E. Kornblut: Here's another view. But what about your governor, Ed Rendell?

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More Re: McCain battery: It likely would have taken the U.S. government a year or two to perfect the incentive atomic bomb contest rules and control against proliferation (an obvious problem given the time constraints). Those economist referred often assume away real-life challenges when they theorize.

Anne E. Kornblut: And more...

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Southwest Nebraska: If Obama asks a military man to be his veep, isn't that admitting that his inexperience is a problem?

Anne E. Kornblut: Certainly it would be an acknowledgment that it isn't his area of expertise, but I'm not sure he can hide that, can he?

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Washington: Re: Campaign debt, I heard this morning that the goal of Obama's fundraising is to help pay for $10 million of the $22 million debt. The extra $11 million that will not be raised is supposedly from Hillary's personal bank account. I don't really agree with Obama helping out Hillary like this, as I see it as her forcing him to pander to her, but very few discussions of the campaign debt address the fact I mentioned above.

Anne E. Kornblut: Thank you for this.

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Anne E. Kornblut: I apologize again for having to depart early today, but I'll make it up in the weeks ahead. Thanks again so much for joining, and for all the terrific questions. Talk to you soon!

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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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