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 Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post congressional reporter Jonathan Weisman. (Julia Ewan - Julia Ewan -- The Washington Post)

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Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post National Political Reporter
Friday, August 8, 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 Jonathan Weisman was online Friday, Aug. 8 at 11 a.m. ET.

The transcript follows.

Get the latest campaign news live on washingtonpost.com's The Trail, or subscribe to the daily Post Politics Podcast.

Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts

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Jonathan Weisman: Hello everyone. So this is the week where I was accused of grading John McCain on a curve, to Sen. Obama's detriment, and being hopelessly in love with Barack. Torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool.
So talk amongst yourselves, figure it out, or just let me be the intermediary for this partisan food fight.

Let's get going, shall we?

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Baltimore: What's your take on the two candidates taking out ads during the Olympics? Traditionally the games have been apolitical, and any nationalistic message has a chance of clashing with the globalism inherent in the Olympic message. Big risk?

Jonathan Weisman: I think they would be foolish to let two weeks go by without being on the air. Obama is going to be on vacation. He needs some way to stay visible, and McCain sees an opportunity to attack while Obama is in Hawaii. Tora, tora, tora!

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Jefferson City, Mo.: Just last week, Obama claimed that if only Americans would inflate their tires properly and get regular tuneups, "we could save all the oil that they're talking about getting off drilling." That statement is being ridiculed by Obama's critics, who quote numerous authorities disputing the statement's accuracy. Do you believe that checking tire pressure is all we have to do to replace the oil we are ignoring here at home?

Jonathan Weisman: Of course not, and you are echoing Republican talking points. I was there. Obama certainly says we should check our tire pressure. So does everyone else, but if he let slip that that action alone would equal all the eventual oil from the outer continental shelf, I didn't hear it, and he has since said that is certainly not the case. It is, however an action that would have immediate benefits. Drilling will not.

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Fairfax, Va.: Thanks for taking questions today. Republicans generally want to open up offshore drilling. Democrats typically say that there are a bunch of leases not being used, and that those should be explored before new areas are opened. Is there a reason the areas already leased aren't be explored? Too costly? Not enough oil? Something else?

Jonathan Weisman: Many of those offshore leases are deepwater, potentially lucrative but expensive. The shallower the lease, the less costly the exploration. There is another factor at work as well. Part of an oil company's worth is the reserves of oil it owns or leases. So amassing lots of leases boosts its stock value. It is always good to lease more.

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Washington: So it looks like we now have a full-scale war between Russia and Georgia. I think the McCain and Obama responses to this crisis should be telling, because this type of situation is the kind of foreign policy challenge with no easy answers. On the one hand, you have a resurgent Russia inclined to throw its military weight around what it considers its sphere of influence, and you have a number of small countries like Georgia (and the Baltic states) trying to pull toward the EU and NATO.

The U.S. has been a major supporter of Georgia, and I'd like your take on how this will effect the "foreign policy" credentials of the candidates. Seems to me that this is a much more complicated and nuanced question than Iran, North Korea, etc., and the candidates' answers will provide a good window on their foreign-policy judgment.

Jonathan Weisman: I remember in 2000, when the Palestinian conflict exploded after Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount. Al Gore canceled his campaign appearances and rushed back to the White House to show that he was the man in charge. It didn't help. I think you are overestimating the American voters' concerns for Georgia (in the Former Soviet Union.) Now, if it was the University of Georgia, that would be a different story. Go Dawgs!

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Baltimore: I see Newt Gingrich has threatened to shut down the government if Congress doesn't pass offshore drilling. Has anyone told him that he isn't a member of Congress anymore? And does he really think that tactic worked last time?

Jonathan Weisman: PTSD.

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Washington: What are the Clintons seeking? Hillary says she is supporting Obama but it is hard to see how a "catharsis" at the convention would be helpful to Obama. He also has given plenty of hints that he would prefer to choose someone else for his vice-presidential nominee. If he were to agree to select her after these hardball tactics, doesn't he look weak?

Jonathan Weisman: Breaking up is hard to do. When she gets before a crowd of enthusiastic supporters, she just can't help egging them on. She is going to get what she wants, a prime time address and lots of genuflecting. This is a strategic whine to keep the pressure on.

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Claverack, N.Y.: I thought he retired. He said he was retired, and wouldn't be back to the play in the big leagues. I guess he felt the itch and came back wanting to be a major player again, but I guess he didn't like the frosty reception he got. He started acting all petulant and moody. And now he's in New York and isn't going away any time soon. Seriously -- what's the deal with Bill Clinton anyway?

washingtonpost.com: Officials say Bill Clinton to address Democrats (AP, Aug. 8)

Jonathan Weisman: It is hardly uncustomary to have a former president speak at his party's convention, especially the only Democrat since Roosevelt to have won re-election. That said, he and Obama were not exactly pals during the primary. What's up with him? Look at Brett Favre sizing up his Jets jersey. What's the diff?

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Weare, N.H.: McCain has a concern with the media attention being unbalanced in Obama's favor. Shouldn't he look at his own political ads, which talk about Obama more than his own issues? Is my perception wrong that the Obama ads are more about Obama's issues? Will this election come down to whose ads get the highest ratings? Can we expect the debates to be more substantive?

Jonathan Weisman: His ads were in reaction to Obama getting the lion's share of the coverage, and boy did it work. Paris and Britney may have gotten panned by the cognoscenti but they did get McCain a whole lot of attention. Yes, McCain's ads are much more negative and much more about Obama. He wants this election to be a referendum on Obama, not a referendum on George Bush and the GOP. So far, he's made a good start.

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Seattle: What's your take on Obama's response to McCain's tire gauge mocking? Specifically the line "it's like these guys take pride in being ignorant."

Jonathan Weisman: I think he needs to have a good response to frame the McCain mockery, but he needs to go on offense, change the subject and stop always being seen responding. McCain grabbed the steering wheel this week. Obama needs to somehow grab it back, which will be difficult from Hawaii.

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Olympic Advertising: The Olympics aren't about globalism; if they were, all the athletes would be in matching uniforms and the medal stand would be serenaded with "Kumbaya." Watch NBC these next few long weeks (go ahead, I won't be) and see how much time they spend on athletes from outside the U.S. Plus, with the way they do the coverage (sappy profiles, not competition), it's very chick-intensive, which is a very important block for each candidate.

Jonathan Weisman: Thank you, Dick Enberg.

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Clifton, Va.: If drilling were allowed where it isn't allowed currently, the CEOs of the firms that do the drilling and supply the rigs and such claim they can have rigs drilling less than two years, maybe even a year. So the Democrats saying it won't happen for 7-10 years are wrong. If the oil companies believed there was oil or gas in the unused leases, they wouldn't be unused. When is someone going to mention the Democrats -- and especially Pelosi -- have a plan for $6 to $7 a gallon gas based on their plan to curb carbon emissions and global warming? Great plan. I would rather be warm and wading in the ocean.

Jonathan Weisman: I take issue with your economics. The oil companies have to balance the cost of additional exploration and drilling with the benefit of lower output and higher prices. There probably is oil in those old leases. I remember the oil companies lobbying hard for them a few years ago. But it may not make sense economically to go after that deep-deposit oil, plow all that money in, and have that oil just lower the price of a barrel, especially if Congress will give them cheaper oil to pull from the ocean.

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Takoma Park, Md.: Jonathan Weisman: "Many of those offshore leases are deepwater, potentially lucrative but expensive. The shallower the lease, the less costly the exploration. There is another factor at work as well. Part of an oil company's worth is the reserves of oil it owns or leases. So amassing lots of leases boosts its stock value. It is always good to lease more."

That's it, my friend, in a nutshell. The oil companies don't just want profits, they want the best profits they possibly can take. It's pure, unadulterated greed, and why the Democrats can't make them the bad guys on this issue is beyond me. Don't tell me "greed is good," that it's the capitalist way. Sure it is, but protecting our health and environment from oil spills is important, too. More drilling/exploration/transportation means more likelihood of an accident.

Jonathan Weisman: The Democrats are certainly trying, but Americans living in the far suburbs and filling up their Yukons that they can't sell for the life of them just want relief. If they think offshore drilling will give it, they'll make a deal with the devil any time.

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Department of Energy Report and Offshore Drilling: Hi, Jonathan. You're right about the drilling, by the way. But in all the talk of offshore drilling, why haven't we seen numbers attached to what drilling actually would mean for as prices? It's not because the numbers don't exist -- they do. An Energy Department report issued last year predicted that it would take two decades for drilling in restricted areas to have a noticeable effect on domestic production, and that even then -- because oil prices are determined on the international market -- the impact on fuel costs would be "insignificant." I haven't actually seen this explained in The Post (aside from you just now in this chat) ... or did I somehow miss it?

Jonathan Weisman: This is from the front page of The Washington Post on July 14, from my friend Steve Mufson.

"McCain told reporters last month that 'we have untapped oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States.' In fact, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there are 'undiscovered conventionally recoverable resources' of 17.8 billion barrels. That's not the same thing as 'reserves.' In the oil business, 'reserves' refers to oil that has been found and 'proven,' whereas 'resources' refers to promising geological structures where the presence of oil remains uncertain.

"In the eastern Gulf of Mexico, those 'resources' are likely to represent actual oil because the geology is an extension of the western Gulf of Mexico, where oil has been drilled for years. There is less certainty about what may lie off the Atlantic coast.

"If, in fact, there are 17.8 billion barrels of oil offshore, that would equal half the reserves of Nigeria or about 60 percent of proven U.S. reserves. It could substantially reduce U.S. imports for a decade or two or sustain U.S. production when other fields decline.

"But developing those resources would take time. A report last year by the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said that 'access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030. Leasing would begin no sooner than 2012, and production would not be expected to start before 2017.' It added, 'Because oil prices are determined on the international market, however, any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant.' " 

Worth a read.

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The only Democrat since Roosevelt to have won re-election: While true, this statement (which often is made in the media and others to point out Clinton's accomplishments) is misleading in that it makes it sound like Democrats always have been beaten for re-election since FDR. Truman didn't run for a second elected term, Kennedy was assassinated and Johnson dropped out early. Carter is the only one who lost.

Jonathan Weisman: True, but there was a reason why Johnson didn't run.

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Alexandria, Va.: I'm an avid Washington Post reader, but I haven't seen an article discussing what nonpartisan experts say would be the result of offshore drilling. Unless the media (and print seems like the best format for this) give us that info, we can't make an informed judgment on the issue.

Jonathan Weisman: Again, read this

"McCain told reporters last month that 'we have untapped oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States.' In fact, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there are 'undiscovered conventionally recoverable resources' of 17.8 billion barrels. That's not the same thing as 'reserves.' In the oil business, 'reserves' refers to oil that has been found and 'proven,' whereas 'resources' refers to promising geological structures where the presence of oil remains uncertain.

"In the eastern Gulf of Mexico, those 'resources' are likely to represent actual oil because the geology is an extension of the western Gulf of Mexico, where oil has been drilled for years. There is less certainty about what may lie off the Atlantic coast.

"If, in fact, there are 17.8 billion barrels of oil offshore, that would equal half the reserves of Nigeria or about 60 percent of proven U.S. reserves. It could substantially reduce U.S. imports for a decade or two or sustain U.S. production when other fields decline.

"But developing those resources would take time. A report last year by the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said that 'access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030. Leasing would begin no sooner than 2012, and production would not be expected to start before 2017.' It added, 'Because oil prices are determined on the international market, however, any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant.' " 

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The candidates' TV ads : Forget the Olympics. They're actually running ads during the Nats' games! They clearly have too much money to spend if they're going after the 9,000...

Jonathan Weisman: That they do.

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PTSD?: Maybe I'm not insider enough, but what's that stand for?

Jonathan Weisman: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I think Speaker Newt is back in the trenches.

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Arlington, Va.: Good morning. After being thoroughly impressed with her policy speech, is there any chance that Obama chooses Paris Hilton as his running mate? They would make a very photogenic ticket!

Jonathan Weisman: You were not the first to think of it. A dreamy ticket, if I've ever seen one.

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Anchorage, Alaska: Re: Oil drilling, I've read that exploration costs have soared even faster than oil price run-ups. Coupling that with returns to shareholders instead of buying down more exploration, it's easy to see why oil executives are pocketing leases (future benefits) and reaping the rewards of keeping shareholders happy. After all, it's not America that buys you your second home in the Hamptons, it's your shareholders and your compensation committee. Sometimes, folks, it really is all about the money.

Jonathan Weisman: And y'all should know in Anchorage. Remember that natural gas pipeline the oil companies magically never seem to build to the North Slope?

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True, but there was a reason why Johnson didn't run.: And it didn't have anything to do with the Republicans. He had lost his own party through waging a very costly one man war in a foreign land without domestic support. Sound familiar? I should know, I'm a Vietnam era draftee/veteran. Thanks much from Mt. Lebanon, Pa.

Jonathan Weisman: You're welcome, I guess.

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New York: Yesterday, in here, Dana Milbank claimed that both he and you believe your controversial quoting of Obama from the House Caucus fully reflected the context in which the statement was made, and that claims otherwise by aides and Congressmen in attendance are in fact lies. Does Milbank in fact speak for you on this?

Jonathan Weisman: I was waiting for this question. I'm happy to see Dana taking a firm stand. I'm a little more squishy. Here's what I can say. The source of the quotes is an unimpeachable voice of House Democrats and a strong Obama supporter. We did not cherry pick quotes. We ran them exactly how they were e-mailed to me. And the "context" that was provided was provided the next morning, after House Democratic aides met to compare notes. I can't say whether the first rendition was more accurate than the second. I can say those providing the second rendition had good reason to supply context that would nullify the first. I can also say I trust the suppliers of both renditions.

Without a tape or transcript, we will never know which was accurate. But I will tell all those who accused of us willfully cherry-picking quotes or taking them out of context, you are flat dead wrong.

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Richmond, Va.: In this highly charged election season with both campaigns going high-tech and knowing the power of the Internet, how do you differentiate between ordinary people asking questions in these forums and surrogates from the various campaigns trying to get their talking points out? Just curious. Thanks.

Jonathan Weisman: Good question, and I'm sorry I can't supply a good answer. I don't. For your question, all I see is: Richmond, Va. and a question. Nothing else.

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Rockville, Md.: "Remember that natural gas pipeline the oil companies magically never seem to build to the North Slope?" I don't. I thought it would go to Canada. What can you report?

Jonathan Weisman: Last I heard they did want to route it through Canada. Congress actually supplied all sorts of assistance to get it to Prudhoe Bay, but as far as I know, it still ain't there.

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Princeton, N.J.: Obviously, it's a tough job digging exploratory holes in the ocean. Only a few ships can do it, and these ships are booked up for five years. For the person who trusts CEOs of oil companies, I have a bridge to sell him. He probably also trusted the CEOs of tobacco companies.

Jonathan Weisman: Thank you, Dr. Krugman.

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Fairfax, Va.: Steve Mufson rocks! I've really enjoyed his energy blog on washingtonpost.com, too.

washingtonpost.com: Energy Wire (washingtonpost.com

Jonathan Weisman: I'll pass that along.

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Sewickley, Pa.: Hello and thank you for taking questions. The "B" tables compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that since Bush's inauguration the economy has produced just 3.4 million private-sector jobs. During the equivalent time frame in the previous administration, the economy produced 20.1 million new private-sector jobs. When you advise that Sen. Obama go on the offensive, I'm thinking this may be the best turf on which to fight. How do yo think the Republican candidate would be able to counter the argument that huge tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations never trickled down to the rest of us to create prosperity? Or are we ever going to get to a substantive discussion?

Jonathan Weisman: Obama is pushing that point. Lots of surrogates say letting the Bush tax cuts expire would return us to the tax code of the 1990s, which didn't seem to impede economic growth or job creation all that much. Of course, a real rapprochement with Bill Clinton would help on this front, but Obama also wants this to be a change election. Talking about the 1990s isn't exactly looking forward.

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This is a strategic whine to keep the pressure on. : Once again ratifying the decision of Americans to keep Sen. Whine and her consort, Narcissus, out of the White House. At least for the next four years. "Most of the time the American people get it." I think ,if memory serves, that's a Bill Clinton quote or thereabouts. Thanks.

Jonathan Weisman: Printed as-is. I'm stayin' out of this one.

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Washington: I see you've mentioned Obama's vacation in Hawaii twice already in the chat. Testing out the meme for next week? "Workers Face Layoffs; Obama on Vacation" -- the horror, the horror. I kid, of course!

Jonathan Weisman: No, I'm just wondering what I'm going to write about.

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New York: When is it the responsibility of the press to check and be aware of the facts on a story in real time? I am talking before publishing! It seems to me that "reporting" or rather transcribing what the campaigns say (regardless of how misleading they are) and sometimes subsequently checking the accuracy after they explode for days in the media is doing a great disservice to the nation and violating all the reasons for the protections created for the Fourth Estate.

Jonathan Weisman: It's a delicate balance, and that balance is being skewed by the 24-7 world of Internet and cable news. Faster, faster is the mantra. But we need to try our damndest to fact check on demand.

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Falls Church, Va.: "And production would not be expected to start before 2017." Reminds me of Jay Leno's recent joke: "Saying that production wouldn't begin for 10 years, Democrats oppose offshore drilling. Just like they did 10 years ago."

Jonathan Weisman: That is very true. Nothing is new under the sun. I remember this argument when President Clinton vetoed the first bill opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

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"Why the Democrats can't make [the oil companies] the bad guys on this issue is beyond me: Those of us who don't have government pensions (admittedly, a small subset of The Post's chatters -- but the majority of U.S. voters) rely on investments to fund our futures ... and any well-run 401(k) is gonna have companies in it that are trying to maximize their profits. Greed, for lack of better word, is good. Greed works.

Jonathan Weisman: It is surely true that a lot of pension funds, 401(k)s, and other institutional investors own Exxon stock, but that is a separate matter from the politics of it. Most people have no idea what their pensions and 401(k) plans own. They may be cutting their nose off to spite their face, but they can still hate the oil companies.

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Anonymous: The date that Suskind claims the White House ordered the CIA to forge documents to show a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda was after the invasion of Iraq. Why after the invasion?

Jonathan Weisman: Jeez, my mother was asking me about this last night. I don't know Ron Suskind's sources any better than I know your name, anonymous.

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Chicago: Hey Jon, what's your take on the Dana Milbank imbroglio? I believe the response from the left wing has been way over the top. Perhaps he didn't provide the perfect context, but he did not misquote. Given the time constraints on reporting and the caveats Milbank inserted in the article I think he did nothing wrong. I guess I am going to watch a lot more CNN.

Jonathan Weisman: I answered this above. I think Dana has handled this with considerable grace. I say that as the guy who actually got the quotes in question, and somehow avoided most of the harassment.

What I can say is that Obama supporters are sometimes fanatically defensive of their guy. The fact is, Dana will skewer the guy in power. If Obama wins, they'd better get thicker skins.

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Philadelphia: I just saw on Le Monde's web site (I like to keep up my French) that someone was arrested in Miami on Aug. 2 for threatening to kill Barack Obama and George Bush. Had weapons in his car and hotel room. Figured this would be big news hers, so checked you, the New York Times, Huffington Post ... nothing. Did this happen a few days ago and I missed it (which is quite possible -- been trying to cut back on campaign stuff until Labor Day) and Le Monde's just picking it up now? Are they ahead of the curve? Just curious...

washingtonpost.com: Man held in Florida for threat to kill Obama, Bush (Reuters, Aug. 8)

Jonathan Weisman: As you noted, The Post ran a bit of a story too. But Obama wasn't close to the guy. I don't think we're gonna dump a bunch of ink on every homicidal nut case, but I'm glad to see our police doing their jobs well.

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Arlington, Va.: Have either of the candidates addressed how to square the circle and resolve the ongoing dispute regarding Serbia and Kosovo? By recognizing Kosovo's independence, Bush and Rice caused U.N. paralysis because of U.S./Russian conflicts and sparked independence movements elsewhere that have erupted into open warfare in South Ossetia/Georgia.

washingtonpost.com: Georgian Troops Move to Retake South Ossetia (Post, Aug. 8)

Jonathan Weisman: In a word, no. I was in Europe this fall on a little junket and got a lot of these Balkans, Caucasian questions. You guys have a higher opinion of the American electoral process than is warranted, but I like to see such optimism.

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Rolla, Mo.: Lost in the "drill here, drill now" argument by McCain is the fact that we, the U.S., do not own the offshore oil they want to get at. Whatever eventually is pumped up goes to Exxon, Chevron, etc., who will put it on the world oil market, where its effect is extremely diluted. Unless, of course, McCain wants to nationalize the industry a la Chavez.

Jonathan Weisman: Too true, Rolla. Hey, I was in a sweltering gym in your hometown last week with Barack Obama. Were you there?

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Speaking of Richmond, Va.: "John McCain has an excellent economic policy." Now gimme my McCain points! Only six people signed up for McCain's silly astroturf trolling gimmick, but really...

Jonathan Weisman: Hmm, not catching your drift on this one. But hey, I do reside in a nation of whiners.

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Re: Getting it right: At least the print journalists have the corrections box in the paper everyday. I can't recall the cable news talking heads ever saying they were wrong about anything. Granted, I suppose if they did that would eat a huge portion of their program!

Jonathan Weisman: And it would be too boring.

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Princeton, N.J.: Hey, I just got a call from the Mall. You are missing the big demonstration against the Golf and Oil Party.

Jonathan Weisman: I've got 15 more minutes to chat, then I'm on my way.

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West Beverly High: Dude, are you going to check out the Jennie Garth/90210 chat later? So awesome!

Jonathan Weisman: I totally paused.

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Rockville, Md.: Remember the cure for the cold: Take one pill every morning and it can be over in seven days ... do nothing and it drags on for a week.

Jonathan Weisman: Boy, my questioners are heading south fast.

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Albany, N.Y.: Why would an "Obama supporter" send you quotes that obviously were prejudicial to Obama? Wouldn't that contradiction raise suspicions about that person's true motive as well?

Jonathan Weisman: I know my source. And he still does not believe the quotes put Obama in a bad light. Of course, everyone in the world disagrees with him. But I have been reporting in Washington for 12 years. I have known this source for most of them. Give me some credit here.

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Sacramento, Calif.: Good Morning. We are hearing a lot about opinion polls, but if the election were held today, who do you think would get more electoral votes?

Jonathan Weisman: If it were held today, I think Obama would win. But it isn't, and McCain -- through a whole lot of nastiness -- has done a good job of grabbing control of the news cycle. This puppy ain't over.

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Didn't impede economic growth?: Jonathan, when the Clinton economic plan passed without one Republican vote I was managing a brokerage firm for the ninth-largest bank in the country. As the administration and Congress took steps to put the country on a track to balance the budget and get its fiscal house in order, investor confidence as well as business and consumer confidence soared.

The stock market took off -- rallying from 4,000 to 10,000 -- and participation in the labor market increased. Far from impeding economic growth, the tax structure the Clinton administration put in place made the rich richer and actually helped the rest of us. In spite of this, the Club for Growth types argued that raising taxes 3 piddly percent on the highest incomes would send the country into a depression! Can you think of one substantial drawback to the economic policies President Clinton pushed?

Jonathan Weisman: Thank you, Mr. Rubin. Will you be joining the next administration? (No, really, thanks for writing. Those were heady days.)

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Boonsboro, Md.: Is it true the Obama campaign has actually made up it own salute? I don't want to trigger Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies, but does anyone else get creeped out by this?

Jonathan Weisman: Don't believe everything you hear, read or impute. There is no Obama salute.

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Crestwood, N.Y.: Maybe I'm imagining this, but does it seem to you that for McCain, Bush is not being helpful? It's not just that Condi Rice gave an interview all but throwing McCain under the bus, rejecting his key issue (that Obama is dangerous for our security) -- it's the things they actually are doing. How can he accuse Obama of wanting to lose the war and withdraw precipitously when Bush's negotiators are agreeing with the Iraqis to do just that? And what's left of McCain's hard-line Iran policy if Bush is negotiating with Iran directly, something he told the Knesset was cowardly appeasement only a few weeks ago? McCain running to the right of Bush, which he may be forced to do, sounds like a potential Goldwater event to me. What's happening here?

Jonathan Weisman: I agree that a lot of recent stuff from the administration has not been helpful, but they are driven by events, not malice. The White House, for instance, has to find a deal to keep U.S. forces in Iraq after the U.N. mandate expires. The Iraqis want a time table for withdrawal. That really hurts McCain, but it isn't Bush's fault.

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New York: Follow-up on: "It's a delicate balance, and that balance is being skewed by the 24/7 world of Internet and cable news. Faster, faster is the mantra. But we need to try our damndest to fact check on demand." I wish I could agree with this. Even in The Post much of what I read is he said/he said. The 24/7 news cycle is an opportunity for the top news sources to distinguish themselves with the accuracy, rapid fact-checking and analysis they offer. Anyone can just copy and paste.

Jonathan Weisman: Ah, I wish that was true. But like virtually every newspaper in the world, circulation of our dead tree edition is plunging, while viewers of the Web site are increasing. And what do they like? The Trail, which we must update quickly and constantly. In the Internet age, we know what readers like, and it isn't alas what you want.

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Boston: So can you explain to us why we need these special military commissions? The court system couldn't have done the same with far greater credibility?

washingtonpost.com: Bin Laden Driver Gets 5 1/2 Years; U.S. Sought 30 (Post, Aug. 8)

Jonathan Weisman: In fact, the court system has turned around bigger sentences than this one.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Appreciate your candor and thoughtful response on the Obama quote/context question.

Jonathan Weisman: Ah, nice to hear a kind word on this subject.

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Reality check: Gas and oil prices should be high; they are a limited resource. You don't like the power oil companies have over prices and our 401(k) shares? Encourage alternative energy development. Necessity is the mother of invention -- I don't want to see gas prices falsely go down as a result of political pandering to win an election, they'll just go right back up again after someone wins. Let them stay high and continue to watch Americans change their ways for the better and demand development of other options.

Jonathan Weisman: I will alert the American Wind Energy Association of your interest.

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To Richmond, Va.: I am not a plant, but I think John McCain is neat.

Jonathan Weisman: So does his mother.

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Re: Clinton Years: Isn't it true, though, that because of things like technological developments and the proliferation of the Internet, Clinton got help from outside factors that might be confounding the impact of his economic policies?

Jonathan Weisman: Yes indeed. I would argue that his tax hikes didn't do all that much to boost the economy, but they were exquisitely designed (with higher capital gains taxes and upper income tax brackets) to capture the Internet and investing boom, thus balancing the budget faster than anyone expected.

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Washington: Am I the only lonely soul at here in Voter Land who believes that we should be checking our tire pressure and doing more offshore drilling (which we should have started 30 years ago during the OPEC boycott) and building more nuclear plants (France now gets 78 percent of its energy needs from nuclear plants) and investing in alternative fuels? Why is this always presented as an either-or?

Jonathan Weisman: No, Paris Hilton also believes that.

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Rolla, Mo.: I was there, sorry I missed you. Can you rate his town hall style performance? I'm not really objective on it.

Jonathan Weisman: It was pretty par for the course. I have seen a lot of them. He does a rousing stump speech. He's darned good at reading the audience and using inflection to pump up the crowd. He doesn't take too many questions because of the time he devotes to the speech, so it is more rally than town hall. But they usually leave his audience satisfied. That one was particularly hot, as I recall.

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Speaking of "homicidal nut case": Time to analyze others in government/military who have access to deadly contagions?

Jonathan Weisman: I would say so.

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Re: McCain's astroturf trolling gimmick: McCain's Web site offers people who sign up 'credit' (presumably for free campaign stuff) for posting favorable comments about McCain on Web chats, bulletin boards, etc.

Jonathan Weisman: Oh yes, thanks for the reminder. And have you signed up for Post Points yet?

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Thanks for being such a fast typist: Of course, it does give us more chances to bust your chops, but we do appreciate it...

Jonathan Weisman: And it gives me carpal tunnel.

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New York: Funny how all the McCain supporters on this chat are from Virginia and Maryland ... should that make him worried about winning Virginia?

Jonathan Weisman: We are The Washington Post, New York. I seem to remember you have another august publication in your area.

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New York: Okay, I give up. What exactly is Obama's attack strategy?

Jonathan Weisman: Take it from Chuck. Go after the shoes.

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Chicago: My question is about how you decide when to cover an issue. I was an intern in an Illinois newsroom during Obama's Senate campaign. Everyone in the news business long had known of Jack Ryan's "extracurricular activity" but were forced to wait for someone else to do something with it to make it "news." In the current election, we've heard plenty about Sen. Obama's pastor, Illinois acquaintances (Rezko, Ayers) and even had campaign stooges inject cocaine usage. ... What is the threshold for you to cover such topics? What would be the threshold, for instance, to discuss McCain's personal issues (cheating on wife, Keating relationship, etc., etc.)?

Jonathan Weisman: An excellent question. In part we go by zeitgeist, what's in the air. In part, we drive the zeitgeist. And we have to judge the relevance. John Edwards' love child would be dominating the headlines if he was still in the campaign. He's now just an ex-senator.

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You know its been a long week for both candidates...: when Paris Hilton is getting better press on energy than they are!

Jonathan Weisman: I think we all need a vacation.

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Savannah, Ga.: I'm sort of surprised there hasn't been more coverage of the biker beauty contest from a religious right perspective. All of the talk about McCain's comments have centered on how it is disrespectful to women -- feminists won't like it, etc. The religious right is steaming over this too. We've always questioned McCain's family values, but this goes over the line. There was a time when Republicans campaigned against pornography. I never would have expected a Republican candidate to suggest his wife engage in it.

Jonathan Weisman: I don't know how to write about this. On the one hand, suggesting that Cindy McCain could be both a First Lady and miss Buffalo Chip does inject John McCain into the seedy goings on. On the other, it's not just how seedy McCain knew the events were or would be.

But this has the potential of going viral, considering how ubiquitous and salacious the YouTube clips are.

Okay guys, I'm out of time!

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