Post Politics Hour
washingtonpost.com's Daily Politics Discussion

Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post National Political Reporter
Wednesday, September 3, 2008 12:00 PM

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

Washington Post national political reporter Anne E. Kornblut, on the trail with the Obama campaign as it moves on from the Democratic National Convention, was online Wednesday, Sept. 3 to discuss the latest political news.

A transcript follows.

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Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts


Anne E. Kornblut: Hello everyone! Thanks for joining in today. There's so much going on -- and I'm sure everyone has tons to talk about. So...fire away.


Arlington, Va.: I have two questions. First, why are we not hearing more about the hypocrisy inherent in Gov. Palin's stance on her daughter's pregnancy juxtaposed against the Republicans' (and Palin's own) relentless cuts of any program that might possibly provide the slightest help to unwed teenage mothers? Second, what's your take on a potential vice-presidential debate? I hardly watch any broadcast TV, but if there is going to be a vice presidential debate I'll be glued to the set just to see what Joe Biden does to Palin. My sense is it won't be a pretty sight.

washingtonpost.com: The Trail: Palin Slashed Funding for Teen Moms (washingtonpost.com, Sept. 2)

Anne E. Kornblut: Good questions, both. I think the point you raise about Palin's approach to programs for teen funding is one we addressed in today's paper-- Paul Kane, my colleague, has a good story on it. I'll see if I can find the link. Obviously that's the kind of policy issue that is now relevant, and on the table, in a way that she will have to answer. And on the VP debate. You and me both. It'll be a real sight to behold.


Longmeadow, Mass.: Hi. Has Sen. Clinton made a public comment about the choice of Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate? Thanks.

Anne E. Kornblut: Yes, Sen. Clinton early on said she congratulated Palin, that her policies would take the country in the wrong direction -- and that was about it. She has otherwise been relatively quiet, with her people saying that she is not on the ballot.


Denver: What does it mean for Sarah Palin to have a view that is so different from her running mate regarding human-generated global warming? With Obama and McCain we seemed to be on the trajectory of addressing global warming. What is the ramification of McCain's running mate not accepting the concept of human-generated global warming?

Anne E. Kornblut: This is a great example of the kind of question that Palin will start to have to address -- I just don't think we know all her views yet. Will she talk about them tonight? In interviews? I don't think we know. But believe me, reporters will ask...


Baltimore: Hi Anne -- thanks for the chats. The recent anti-Obama book by Jerome Corsi led me to wonder about "Swift Boating." Do you think -- or is there any informed opinion on this topic that you are aware of -- that Kerry was harmed more by the actual attack, or by the perception that his response was slow and tepid?

Anne E. Kornblut: That's a really interesting question. Looking back on what happened, I do think Kerry was hurt by the substance of the allegations -- at a minimum they undermined his case that he was strong on national security and had a war record to back that up. In hindsight, Democrats have criticized him as weak for not stepping up to the plate sooner. But I don't think that perceived weakness is what did him in, as much as his failure to address the charges, which he felt were so ridiculous they did not warrant a rebuttal.


Daughter's pregnancy...: As a preface, I voted for W twice and once identified with the evangelical movement. White evangelicals and Republicans in general have for years bashed minority teenagers and their parents for unplanned pregnancies. I have heard right-wing radio talkshow hosts rail that both teens and parents are unfit human beings and ought to be rounded up and put into camps. Now that it happens to one of their own, we get the "oh well, stuff happens," and discussion about Bristol and her mother's parenting is off-limits. If this were Obama or Biden's daughter, one can imagine the din and righteous indignation coming from the Republicans and their mouthpieces.

Anne E. Kornblut: As one who covered impeachment in the 1990s -- and no, I am not equating the two, just saying I've been through one big sex kerfuffel as a political reporter before -- I've been wondering this myself. What if Chelsea had been unmarried and pregnant at age 17? Would Bill Clinton (or his wife) not have been asked about his role as a parent? I don't know the answer, of course; I'm just wondering, like you, but it seems like a fair question.


Reston, Va.: Hi Anne. I have to say that some of the things people have said and have written about Sarah Palin have made me feel like I need a shower! Do you think this initial frenzy will die down, or do you think she will continue to be a distraction for the campaign? Also, what odds are you placing that she'll drop out of the race?

Anne E. Kornblut: It's very hard to say. While there could be something to the idea that this is just a frenzy, it also seems that there are a lot of unanswered questions about Gov. Palin, and that they'll keep being asked until they're answered. It would be no different if she had been tapped as a cabinet secretary, or run for president herself. The biggest difference is that she is entirely new -- and so every new revelation brings with it new questions, as people process what each new piece of information means.


Colton, N.Y.: Hi Anne -- thanks for chatting today. Sarah Palin seems like a real risk going forward -- there may be another shoe to drop at some point. For those of us here in New York, our former governor had a trooper-gate of his own that turned out to be an indicator of other things to come. At the least, it makes me uneasy that there may have been a use of political power for personal reasons.

Anne E. Kornblut: And another Palin question -- see, I'm really glad it's not just "the media" wondering, as the McCain campaign is now arguing. The answer is: there are a lot of people working to get to know her better, and we'll find out. I am doubtful, though, that McCain will take her off the ticket anytime soon, at least based on what we know now.


Anonymous: Hi Anne, loved seeing you during the Democratic National Convention. Am curious as to what the reactions are to the Obama/Biden convention last week. I thought it went well, and the closing on Thursday was awesome. A veritable cross-section of Americans of both genders, all races etc. This 58-year-old hasn't been so up in years and, hint, I used to be a Republican. Thanks, and safe travels!

Anne E. Kornblut: It was quite a convention, wasn't it? I missed most of it because I was on the road with Obama on the way in, but the bit I caught at the end was impressive to watch -- in part because so many attendees were "up," as you put it. I have no doubt that the Republican convention will be the same way by Thursday night, as the conventioneers embrace the ticket.


Rocky River, Ohio: What can you tell me about McCain's children? I hear people say they don't know Obama well enough, but I know nothing about McCain's children and don't ever see them with him.

Anne E. Kornblut: According to the fact sheet from the McCain campaign, he has 7 children: Doug, an American Airlines pilot; Andrew, who works for Hensley @ Co.; Sidney, who lives in Toronto; Meghan, 23, who just graduated from Columbia; Jack, 22, who is at the US Naval Academy; Jim, 20, who is in the Marine Corps; and Bridget, 17, who is still in high school and was adopted from an orphanage in Bangladesh. If you watch the convention tonight, I think you will see a lot more of them; there was an interesting speech by the father of another Bangladeshi orphan last night that offered a window onto the youngest.


Falls Church, Va.: Is it too early to start talking about the Eagleton scenario? If Palin starts polling good numbers among independent women, doesn't it become increasingly likely that Joe Biden will develop an unexpected health problem and have to step down, at which point he's replaced by Hillary Clinton?

Anne E. Kornblut: THAT is not a scenario I had heard floated. So thank you for doing so. I will ask, but something tells me this is unlikely.


Red state: So, what's the deal with Lieberman and Obama. There really seems to be some personal animosity from Lieberman toward Obama. What exactly is your take on the rift or why Lieberman is comfortable being such the attack dog? It doesn't seem like it is just a policy difference on Iraq.

Anne E. Kornblut: Oh, Lieberman is such a good story right now -- and has been for some time. He definitely has some hard feelings, not just toward Obama but also toward the Democratic party in general, from which he feels he was wrongly expelled during his primary run for Senate in 2006. Obama was among those who still campaigned for him afterward; since then, Lieberman has been sharply critical of him anyway, and Obama called him out on it several months ago. So it looks -- from a great distance -- like a political and policy rift that grew personal over time (and is probably, at least for now, irreparable).


Claverack, N.Y.: Can we agree that we shouldn't be surprised if Gov. Palin gives anything other than a stellar speech tonight? It's a prepared speech in a totally controlled environment in front of rabid supporters, and everyone concedes she's smart and compelling. The only question is whether she can read a teleprompter, and I'm guessing they have those in Alaska.

Anne E. Kornblut: No question. And the bar has been set pretty low for her, hasn't it? More interesting will be her first hard-hitting interviews (will she go on CNN and be questioned?) and how she does on the campaign trail, unscripted, not to mention the Oct. 2 debate.


Franconia, Va.: Will we see Biden and Obama campaigning together again, or will they each be on the road separately to cover as much ground as possible? I like seeing them together, but Biden certainly seems to be doing a bang-up job on his solo ventures so far as well. Perfect answer about Palin yesterday, noting that becoming a governor is "no mean feat."

Anne E. Kornblut: I haven't seen their schedules, but my understanding is that Obama and Biden will keep pretty separate tours, in order to go as many places as possible. And that is pretty par for the course in these campaigns -- with so little time left.


Austin, Texas: Sidney lives in Toronto? Why does he hate America? Is he a draft dodger?

Anne E. Kornblut: Well, you live in Austin, so you're one to talk.



Bethesda, Md.: Why doesn't Obama set an example by telling the media to stop torturing these teenagers in the Palin family? The media is behaving with an elitist and sexist attitude that Obama should address. This would say a great deal about his character and leadership.

Anne E. Kornblut: In fact, he did on the first day this news broke. His words were for the media to "back off" on this story. I can try to find the exact quote.

Of course, that isn't going to stop reporters from trying to find out as much as Gov. Palin as possible -- that's our job. And she knew as much going into this process; that's what running on a national ticket entails, and has for many decades.


Independent voters?: Hi Anne. Do you think McCain has lost some of the white male independent voters with Palin as his vice presidential choice? I thought some journalists believed this election may come down to these voters. Thanks.

Anne E. Kornblut: Honest answer? I have absolutely no idea. It would stun me if a sizable margin of white independent men wouldn't vote for him simply because Gov. Palin is female -- there were plenty of these guys who liked Sen. Clinton. What I don't know is whether they will now feel uncertain about the ticket because it has someone without foreign policy experience on it, or whether her force of personality will overcome that.


Naperville, Ill.: How was Lieberman "expelled" from the Democratic Party? As I remember it, he was challenged in the primary, lost, and left on his own to run as an independent. Not only that, the Democrats gave him a committee chairmanship. Doesn't sound "expelled" to me.

Anne E. Kornblut: I meant that he felt expelled -- not that he was. You are correct in how it went down.


New York: I like how Joe Lieberman praised President Clinton before the Republican National Convention. Overall, the winning person from all these conventions might turn out to be Bill Clinton.

Anne E. Kornblut: Pretty amazing, wasn't it? And he got good applause, too.


Silver Spring, Md.: Chelsea Clinton largely has been left alone by the media, both as a teenager living in the White House and now as an adult who actively campaigned for her mother this year. My question is, why was the media so observant of respecting Chelsea's privacy, but has no such issue with prying open Bristol Palin's life?

Anne E. Kornblut: Actually, the media has covered Chelsea quite extensively -- her boyfriends, her jobs, her life in college and abroad -- to the point where she has had her own press team and a PR agent. At the same time, Chelsea was regularly ridiculed by Republicans, including McCain, who once joked about her being ugly because she was really Janet Reno's child. I'm not defending it -- I'm just saying, it really may not be as disparate as you think.


Fairfax, Va.: Much was made of the hiring of a sort of prefab vice presidential nominee staff that would serve whoever was chosen, but surely Joe Biden already has people whom he trusts and likes to work with -- and my guess is that the Obama people are businesslike enough to expect that. Who's working directly with Biden now -- the preassembled team, some of his long-time staff, or a combination of the two? And how's it going? If their bosses get along, my guess is that the staff members will as well.

Anne E. Kornblut: I haven't been out with Biden and Obama together yet, but my understanding is that Biden has a blend of his own people and the preassembled team, and that so far it's working just fine. For the most part, their people already knew each other in the Senate and from Democratic politics. I am sure, though, that if there are rifts, we will hear about it immediately...


Charlottesville, Va.: Why don't I hear any advice about adoption? The McCains adopted a needy baby from Bangladesh. Surely some infertile couple would love to adopt Bristol's baby. The young parents are not enthused about settling down right now. Seems to me adoption is the natural answer, especially if you rule out abortion and birth control.

Anne E. Kornblut: Obviously this is one of those questions that falls under the "it's the family's choice" rubric. Also, I'm not sure we know enough about the teenagers to say what their choices will be. The McCain campaign has said that it was their decision to keep the baby and to get married, and we have no evidence (or if we do, I haven't seen it) that they would want otherwise.


Washington: Lieberman's speech last night was effective, I thought. I think it will prove to have done a lot to attract independent voters.

Anne E. Kornblut: Thanks for the observation -- I have been very curious to see what the reaction to it would be. It was understandable, watching it, why McCain had wanted him on the ticket so badly.


Boulder, Colo.: Palin's pastor: "The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government. And I won't be buried under their damn flag. I'll be buried in Dawson. And when Alaska is an independent nation they can bring my bones home." It doesn't really see like we're seeing the same reaction from the media to this as we did Rev. Wright's sermons. Why is that?

Anne E. Kornblut: OK, I missed this. Where is it from?


Minneapolis: If you could ask Gov. Palin one question, what would it be?

Anne E. Kornblut: Wonderful question! I have to put my thinking cap on. In the meantime, I would like to solicit suggestions here.


Albany, N.Y.: Judging from the tenor of the Alaska based commentary -- which is considerably less apocalyptic than those elsewhere -- is it possible than Palin may have the same kinds of rookie problems that Jimmy Carter had, i.e. that being governor in a small state simply doesn't expose you to the scrutiny that running for national office does?

Anne E. Kornblut: I think that is not only possible, but probable. But the truth is, we don't know yet. Her "problems" have been biographical so far; she hasn't even begun answering questions herself or talking about policy, which is where the real questions will come in.


Fairfax County, Va.: Anne, I have to be honest, although it is embarrassing. Four years ago I genuinely believed that the Kerry and Edwards families liked each other, because that's what the feature stories said. This time I tried to prepare by mockingly telling myself that Sen. Obama would soon be announcing his new "BFF" (best friend forever). And yet here I am again, absolutely convinced he and Sen. Biden are a great fit and really get along. Is it true this time? Please tell me it's true!

Anne E. Kornblut: Lol. My sense is that Obama and Biden do, in fact, get along far better than Kerry and Edwards did. They both have fairly transparent personalities -- most anyone who has covered Biden in the Senate can tell you what he's like -- and they did spend some time together before the decision was made. What was interesting to me was that Kerry actually advised Obama to pick someone he could trust -- putting trust as the most important trait, after what he had learned in 2004.


Kensington, Md.: So far, all the stories I've seen regarding Palin's pregnant teenage child have centered around the supposed "scandal" of it, with the McCain camp naturally fighting back that this just makes them more of a "real" American family. But this strawman pillow-fight misses the real issue: Gov. Palin has been a staunch proponent of abstinence-only sex education, which has been discredited by every study of the approach. Why isn't anyone asking her how the method would work on the rest of America's kids if it didn't for her own daughter?

Anne E. Kornblut: This is sure to be one of the first questions Palin receives when she starts doing interviews. The question then will be: is it fair game?


Florissant Valley, Mo.: Morning, Anne. I see from Howard Kurtz that Obama had a sit-down with Ailes and Murdoch. Ailes promised civility, but do you think he'll follow through? And what's your prediction on how Billy-O will treat Obama in his appearance this Thursday, the night of McCain's acceptance? Thanks.

Anne E. Kornblut: I am not going to make ANY predictions on this one. But believe me, I'll be watching.


Annapolis, Md.: So if Obama wins and the Democrats take more Senate seats, does Lieberman start playing nice again? If, not doesn't he lose his seniority and his committee chairs?

Anne E. Kornblut: It's unclear at this point. It may be that Lieberman is happy being where he is -- a swing man in the middle -- and will feel more at home with the Republicans in the minority than the Democrats in the majority. Far be it from me to predict his behavior.


Silver Spring, Md.: I've read in several places that when Gov. Palin was mayor of her small town she inquired how she might have the library ban books. Do we know yet which books she wanted to ban? Has anyone asked her what she thinks the First Amendment was all about?

Anne E. Kornblut: I will add this to my list of questions I'd like to ask her about, when we get the chance.


"Pastor" quote: The Boulder poster got 2 different threads mixed up. The quote posted is from the founder of the Alaska Independence Party. There is also a controversy about the founder of Jews for Jesus saying something about (I paraphrase) Israelis getting why they deserve in violence against them because they have accepted Jesus, while speaking at Palin's church two weeks ago, while she was in attendance.

Anne E. Kornblut: Ah. Ok. I think I'll have to do some independent reporting here to figure out what is what. Please feel free -- all -- to keep sending in interesting material as you come across it.


Arlington, Va.: Hi Anne, have you heard anything from the Hillary people on how Palin is being treated by the media? Do they see any similarities? Do they identify with what she is going through?

Anne E. Kornblut: They're of mixed opinions. They are obviously very sensitive to any sexism -- real or imagined -- and are watching this very closely. I think their instinct is to feel protective over any woman candidate at this point. But they are staying out of it, at least for now.


Bethesda, Md.: Anne, one of the golden rules of politics is to not get in the way of your opponent if he or she is making a mess of things. So far, Obama has said nothing about the Palin controversy except to say families should be off-limits. But does the Obama campaign really believe McCain has made a mess of things, or is there a sense/fear that in a strange way, Gov. Palin could connect with Clinton-supporting women and independent voters of either gender? What's the early line from what you're hearing??

Anne E. Kornblut: My sense is that they feel both things -- like they should stay out of the way, but also that they cannot lose sight of the Clinton women they want to attract. But there is a consensus that going after Palin hard is not the way to attract those women anyway, making their silence good politics on two fronts.


Silver Spring, Md.: Is it too late to schedule a Obama-Palin debate? Both will be involved in American politics for a lot longer than either McCain or Biden. Seriously, it would be really interesting to hear them lay out their visions of America for the next 20 years.

Anne E. Kornblut: No plans that I know of -- it would be unprecedented to have a presidential nominee debate a VP nominee, as far as I know. But I'll keep my ears open...


Anne E. Kornblut: OK, guys, great to talk to you here today. Please keep sending all your questions and thoughts our way, and have a wonderful GOP convention week.


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