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Post Politics Hour
washingtonpost.com's Daily Politics Discussion

Shailagh Murray
Washington Post National Political Reporter
Thursday, July 24, 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.

Washington Post national political reporter Shailagh Murray was online Thursday, July 24 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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Shailagh Murray: Hi everyone. Thanks for joining today. What's on your mind?

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Baltimore: Should we really expect the crowds for Obama's Berlin speech to be very large? If I understand history correctly, Germans aren't enthusiastic about gathering in large groups in tough economic times to hear a charismatic, foreign-born politician give inspiring speeches about uniting like sticks in a fasces.

Shailagh Murray: Baltimore, it's time to move on. My sense is that Obama captivates Europeans because he represents a romanticized view of the U.S. as a nation of immigrants and minorities that actually seeks to overcome its history, as opposed to reliving it with every new generation.

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Chicago: Good morning and thanks for chatting. I've been reading a lot about McCain's "gaffe" in his interview with CBS -- saying the surge led to the Anbar awakening when the latter preceded the former by six months. However, I think the interesting question is why CBS deleted the "gaffe" when it put the story on the air. They actually substituted McCain's answer to another question instead of airing the answer than contained the "gaffe." Journalistically, what do you think of the way CBS edited the interview, substituting the answer to one question with the answer to another question? Could such a thing happen at the Post?

Shailagh Murray: I was kind of surprised by the CBS decision, although I'm not going to judge it one way or another, because I don't know the circumstances. But I would not use quotes out of context -- especially from a presidential candidate, and especially on an issue like Iraq.

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New York, N.Y.: How in the heck can the media still try to preserve the illusion of a toss-up; we keep seeing 'Obama Leads, But Voters Have Concerns' headlines (and will continue to, I bet). But when Democrats are winning blood-red congressional districts in Mississippi and Louisiana, when the Republican president is down to 28 percent, when the economy is tanking and world affairs keep breaking Obama's way, it shouldn't be heresy to recognize that McCain needs an improbable series of breaks, if he has any chance at all of winning. Analysts get paid to analyze, and cable news has airtime to fill, so pundits have an incentive to make politics seem complicated. In the end, though, it's really pretty simple. Isn't it?

Shailagh Murray: Well, you make a good point -- the race does seem a little out of balance these days. My colleague Mike Shear wrote a great story this morning about McCain's bad luck, like the oil spill that prevented him from visiting that offshore rig today.

On the other hand...this is politics! Which means anything can happen. Having covered Obama for nearly a year now, would I be surprised if he committed some game-altering gaffe? Yes I would. Whatever you think of his politics, he's an exceptionally disciplined candidate. But don't discount his vulnerabilities -- he is traveling in uncharted waters. And in that context, anything could happen.

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washingtonpost.com: McCain Still Waiting for His Turn at Good Luck (Post, July 24)

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Obama VP?: Has anyone mentioned Kent Salazar as a VP candidate for Obama? It just occurred to me he'd be perfect for several reasons--Latino, Colorado, moderate, defense-oriented, etc.

Shailagh Murray: I have heard his name, but I don't think he's a serious contender. If Obama were going to pick a freshman senator, there are several to whom he is very close -- like Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who also represent important swing states, are moderates, etc., etc.

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Alexandria, Va.: Is Sen. Lieberman scheduled to speak at the GOP convention?

Shailagh Murray: Not yet, but he's offered.

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New York, N.Y.: Hi, Shailagh. Thanks for the chat. Is there any way you can you explain to me how McCain ever developed a reputation for being a "respectful" campaigner? From my reckoning, he's always been a hothead, someone who wears his disdain for others on his sleeve. I'm glad that at least one mainstream reporter (Joe Klein) has now noticed how undeserved that reputation was. What's your take?

Shailagh Murray: I think that's more a reflection of his distaste for the "personal destruction" approach to campaigning, which Obama seems to share -- so I doubt we'll see much of it. At least from the candidates. Outside groups are another story, and as we've seen in the past, a very little bit of money can go a long way in this media age.

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Charles Town, W.V.: With the explosion of energy prices and the tanking of the economy (similar to the oil embargo during Carter's administration), is there a growing assurance that we will turn to solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources? Carter developed an energy policy with tax incentives for solar, wind, and insulation. These were promptly scrapped when Reagan came into office. Do you think this time will be different? Is there real desire in congress?

Shailagh Murray: Energy is an issue that I'm not sure Congress is prepared to fully confront.

Here's why: for decades energy has been a regional issue, another form of pork distribution similar to farm and transportation aid. That makes it very difficult to conceive and execute a national policy, for instance on developing alternative energy sources. Or look at what's happened to the offshore drilling debate -- like nuclear power, you just can't have a rational discussion about it.

Think about it, these three issues -- farm, transportation and energy policy -- are all linked to each other, but are treated by Congress as one big earmark chase, often to the great detriment of the many people who aren't benefiting directly.

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Fairfax, Va.: Interesting poll results just posted on washingtonpost.com. Obama has dropped a lot in key swing states like Minnesota, Michigan, and Colorado over the last two weeks. Reason(s) for the drop? Has McCain found an opening with drilling and the success of the surge reducing casualties (thus keeping Iraq out of the evening newscasts)?

washingtonpost.com: Battleground Soundings (Post, July 24)

Shailagh Murray: Not sure about those numbers -- especially Minnesota. That said, I do think energy is a good issue for McCain, and for Republican candidates in general. People want gas prices to come down, and Democrats saying no to offshore drilling is bound to resonate with some folks.

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Chicago: Hey Shailagh. If Obama starts to pull ahead, how will the media reign 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?

Shailagh Murray: As I said in a previous post, this election is going to be determined on Nov. 4, and not a day sooner. The environment is just too volatile. We've seen so many twists and turns this year. You have to take it one day, or one news cycle, at a time.

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Dear Fairfax...: Polling is really wacky, these days. And news organizations have had egg on their faces since Obama's Iowa blowout. We see huge shifts across the polling gamut - even from day to day. I'm not sure why news organizations don't just pool dollars and invest in a few, better, polls with larger samples and cell phones included? That would, in the long run, be more accurate. But maybe the business problem for media is that there would be fewer polls showing daily public opinion shifts that the media could then wildly exaggerate and aggressively misinterpret. After all, that's really the point of polls, anyway... or am I just being cynical?

Shailagh Murray: Polls are snapshots in time, no more or less. What's different this year is its "firstness" -- framed by the Clinton/Obama primary, and making it very difficult to use any previous election as a frame of reference. Don't kid yourself, reporters are as overwhelmed by this as anyone.

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New York, N.Y.: Shailagh, can you please explain to dumb old me how more offshore drilling (that can't commence for years) would do anything to bring down the price of gas -- even within the next decade? Just wondering.

Shailagh Murray: It takes five years to build a freeway, or develop a new drug, but that doesn't stop us, does it?

What's more, look at the way the R and D "pipeline" of a drug company affects its stock price. If company X has a couple of promising cancer treatments, that's going to influence investors now. They're not going to wait until the drug goes on the market.

The message also is important. Our domestic sources may be meager, and may reside in vulnerable places, but what would it say to OPEC if we decided to move forward anyway?

I'm not advocating drilling or not drilling, just pointing out the other side of the story.

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Helena, Mont.: Drilling -- every night when I watch news on the broadcast stations, there is an ad from T. Boone Pickens which states, "we can't drill our way out of our problems." This is not pro-Obama (Pickens funded the Swift Boaters in 2004). I have thought that this ad from an oilman would step all over McCain's theme that we have to put oil derricks on every piece of land on the North American continent. What do you think?

Shailagh Murray: To continue from previous posts...

Your question goes back to the "big picture" that has been missing from the political debate on energy -- of course there's no single answer to high gas prices, or global warming. But if you're looking for evidence of a leadership vacuum created by both parties, this is it.

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Re: Polls: I'm a mathematician and I understand polling very well. What makes anyone think the poll respondants aren't lying to pollsters? The long campaign has burdened the public. Also, there are some questions involving feelings toward the candidates that people may not respond the same as they will in a private voting booth.

Shailagh Murray: That's true, and I think it cuts both ways for Obama. I'm sure race will be a factor, but I also buy that Obama will expand the electorate. Hey, I'm just amazed they pay me to do this.

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Houston: And isn't the oil market a global market, so if we start drilling for new oil, there's no legal way to make sure it all stays here, right?

Shailagh Murray: That's right. Lots of smart comments this morning. Just as an aside, I watched Joe Biden explain at a town hall in rural Iowa in December how world oil markets work -- it lasted 30 minutes, and was absolutely mesmerizing.

Have a great weekend folks and stay in touch. Thanks for participating -- cheers, Shailagh.

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