Post Politics Hour

Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post White House Reporter
Tuesday, September 9, 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 White House reporter Michael Abramowitz was online live Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest news in politics.

The transcript follows.

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Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts


Scotia, N.Y.: Vladimir Putin charges that the U.S. induced the Georgians to attack, and that we trained and armed their army. The Financial Times -- hardly a radical news source -- backs him up. Putin is an authoritarian and an anti-democratic leader, not at all a nice guy (as Bush once witlessly claimed), but I believe Putin more than I believe our own government. Every time Cheney opens his mouth, I believe Putin more. This was a U.S.-orchestrated "crisis." Who do you believe?

Michael Abramowitz: Good morning everybody: Thanks for all the questions that are already coming in.

I certainly don't believe this was a U.S.-orchestrated crisis, though I think the general point you make is also correct -- that the story is more complex than many have made it out to be. Georgia was the country that instigated this crisis by trying to regain South Ossetia, and the Russians overreacted and used it as a pretext to hammer Georgia militarily. I think it will take some time and distance before we know the whole story.


Richmond, Va.: Thank you very much for you work and taking our questions. If you had to pick one or two "up for grabs" states that McCain/Palin must win, what would they be?

Michael Abramowitz: How about three -- Ohio, Colorado and Missouri. These are all states the GOP won last time, and it's hard to see McCain winning this time without winning these states.


Reston, Va.: On "Meet the Press," Joe Biden said that the reason we are seeing success in Iraq is because we finally are implementing the Biden Plan (obviously not the "split Iraq into three areas" plan). When the vice presidential debates take place in October, will there be enough room on the stage for Biden, his ego and Sarah Palin? On a more serious note, any idea why the McCain camp picked Charles Gibson for the first Palin interview, and how do you think he'll do?

Michael Abramowitz: I did not see Biden on "Meet the Press," but I am not sure what the basis for that statement is. The Biden plan was basically to partition Iraq, and that's not happening.

As for Palin, I think she is a very skilled politician from everything I have seen. She is helped by the fact that the collective media judgment is she is in over her head, so my guess is she will outperform low expectations every time she is out there.


To Scotia, N.Y.: Just because two people say different things, it doesn't mean either is telling the whole truth. There's no need to trust Putin just because you utterly distrust Cheney.

Michael Abramowitz: Agreed.


Williamsburg, Va.:"How about three -- Ohio, Colorado and Missouri. These are all states the GOP won last time, and it's hard to see McCain winning this time without winning these states." How about adding Virginia to the list? It is polling much closer than Ohio and Missouri. It seems that of Ohio, Colorado, Missouri, Florida and Virginia, McCain must win all of them.

Michael Abramowitz: Good point. If McCain doesn't win Virginia, it probably won't be a good year for Republicans.


Rockville, Md.: What is your theory for the Teflon suit that Gov. Palin appears blessed to wear? None of the various charges against her seem to be sticking.

Michael Abramowitz: I am getting a lot of questions about Palin today, for obvious reasons.

I am not sure that some of this stuff won't stick. It's very early in the cycle since she was first picked, and there has been a blizzard of information that's starting to come out. So I think the public is right now trying to sort it all out.

Without delving into the substance, I would offer one political point: I think that in the past few presidential campaigns, we have seen the emergence of governors on the national scene like Bush and Clinton. Governors often come from states (like Arkansas) where the politics are messy and dirty and charges fly around. So perhaps Americans are conditioned to take some of this stuff with a grain of salt.


Arlington, Va.: Whose injury is likely to prove more consequential, Tom Brady's or Kim Jong-Il's? Kim Jong Il's Absence Raises Question on Health (Post, Sept. 9)

Michael Abramowitz: Ha!

Well, I predict the Patriots won't win the Super Bowl without Brady! And the North Koreans never had a chance to begin with.


Crystal City, Va.: Sometime during the next administration, Social Security no longer will run a surplus and will need to start cashing some of the IOUs that the treasury has been writing for the past 50 years. Besides not addressing the long-term stability of Social Security, are both candidates ignoring the budget train wreck that will occur on the next watch? Have you asked them for their plans to deal with this?

Michael Abramowitz: You are right that neither candidate has offered a plausible long-term plan on Social Security. I suspect it will come up in the debates, and it's something reporters ought to be pressing the campaigns on.


Sewickley, Pa.: The excerpt from Woodward's book indicates retired Gen. Jack Keane pulled an end-around on the Joint Chiefs with respect to formulating the surge policy. Earlier work by Woodward and other authors indicates this isn't the first time the national security apparatus was shoved aside in favor of a secret, ad hoc process. Do you expect either a McCain or Obama administration to reinstate the normal foreign policy structure? Thank you for taking questions. 'You're Not Accountable, Jack': How a Retired Officer Gained Influence at the White House and in Baghdad (Post, Sept. 8)

Michael Abramowitz: I am not sure that the big issue here is a process issue. The Iraq review, as Woodward reports, was run out of the National Security Council, which seems to me the appropriate place to conduct such a review. What's interesting is that Bush basically didn't like the advice he was getting from the uniformed military and he looked elsewhere for advice.

To me, the big question ought to be: Was Bush's ultimate judgment right? The success of the war falls on his shoulders, and it seems to me a president, any president, ought to be encouraged to look as widely as possible for advice. I suspect Obama and McCain will find they want to do this when they are elected.


Mansfield, Ohio: As a Republican, I don't necessarily think the press is being unfair in most of the questions it is asking of Sarah Palin, but I do think there is a perception that the media has more "passion" for their investigative duties when it comes to digging into the past of a conservative candidate, whereas they appear more hesitant and lukewarm to going after the past lives of liberal candidates. (After all, how long did it take for most press outlets to report on John Edwards's long-rumored affair than it did to report on Gov. Palin's husband's 20-year-old DUI?) Any thoughts?

Michael Abramowitz: As someone who was around when Clinton was president, I am not sure I agree with your comparison here. The press certainly had a "passion" for investigating that politician.


Edgartown, Mass.: I know that Rep. Don Young and Sen. Ted Stevens have a few things on their minds these days -- but inasmuch as Sarah Palin is running, in part, on her record of beating those guys down, and given that they are all Republicans, what do you think is their opinion about her selection as the vice presidential nominee? Do you expect to hear any comments from them?

Michael Abramowitz: I am not sure they would be too happy about it, but they are loyal Republicans, so I doubt you will be hearing that sentiment expressed.


Washington: With four rent-stabilized apartments plus a zero-interest mortgage and his failure to pay taxes on rental income, how much trouble is Rangel in with the ethics committee? Rangel Says He Didn't Know of Loan Terms (Post, Sept. 6)

Michael Abramowitz: I would suspect he might be having a difficult fall!


Arlington, Va.: I saw both McCain and Obama ads on TV this morning in the gym. Right now, in a nutshell the McCain strategy seems to be "Obama is inexperienced and will raise your taxes" while Obama's is apparently "McCain will continue Bush's policies and do nothing to help you." I am a little surprised that Sen. Obama hasn't countered McCain's charge that he will raise everyone's taxes. If my understanding of his proposal is correct, taxes will be raised only on people making more than $250,000 a year. I wonder why Obama is taking it on the chin and not responding?

Michael Abramowitz: My colleagues covering Obama on the trail say that he is, in fact, responding to McCain, saying he is lying about Obama's proposals. As you say, Obama's stated plans would raise taxes only on those making more than $250,000 a year.


Floris, Va.: In this morning's polling article your paper reports significant gains by McCain among white women. Assuming that this subset excludes Asian women, Hispanic women and black women, what percent of the voting electorate are white women? Also, what is the margin of error among this subset -- which I assume is higher than for the total universe of voters? In Poll, McCain Closes the Gap With Obama (Post, Sept. 9)

Michael Abramowitz: Our poll suggests that white women make up 40 percent of the electorate, with a margin of error of five points in either direction for white women surveyed.


College Park, Md.: Do you find it strange that after sounding so supportive of Obama at the Democratic convention, Hillary Clinton hasn't come forward with any reaction to the recent negative attacks from McCain's camp? Especially given McCain's choice for vice president, and his not-so-subtle attempt to woo disgruntled Hillary supporters? True, some of those supporters already have expressed their disgust with McCain's cheap tactic, but given the latest polls one could assume that some may be jumping ship. If Hillary truly is committed to "working her heart out" for Obama's campaign, isn't it time that she speak up, and loud, to prevent another flagrant case of "Swift-Boating"?

Michael Abramowitz: I agree with you that Sen. Clinton seems to be having a relatively low-key, polite reaction to Palin, but so are Obama and Biden. I don't think the Democratic leaders see it in their interest right now to be overtly bashing Palin; they would rather leave it to the media or other surrogates.


Cambridge, Mass.: We would hope she would out perform low expectations, after it's been lowered so she can. But you didn't answer the other question -- why Gibson?

Michael Abramowitz: I don't truly know the answer to this question. I suspect it may have to do with his courtly style, which perhaps suggests to the McCain camp that he will be softer on Palin. I don't know that this is the correct assessment -- he can be pretty tough.


Madison, Wis.: Wanting to get this in before the hour's up -- is it just me, or is Obama low-energy these days? He seems off his A game. He has seemed this way for a while, but frankly I thought it would have gotten better by now. If the person who wins the presidency is the person who wants it most, Obama doesn't look these days like he wants to win it the most. Or am I expecting too much of the man?

Michael Abramowitz: I am not sure you are right here. I thought Obama was on his "A" game at the convention, but lately the news has been swallowed up by McCain and Palin. And there's no doubt McCain has had a good run in recent weeks. I think this is the normal cycle of politics. I suspect you will see Obama making a very strong run over the next two months.

That's all the time I have -- sorry I wasn't able to get to all of your good questions.


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