Washington Sketch

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank sketches the Senate's passing of the $700 billion bailout legislation.
Dana Milbank
Washington Post Columnist
Thursday, October 2, 2008; 1:00 PM

Post columnist Dana Milbank serves as the capital's foremost critic of political theater in his Washington Sketch columns and videos. He was online live Thursday, Oct. 2 at 1 p.m. ET-- posting from St. Louis, site of tonight's vice presidential debate -- to take your questions and comments about the things politicians say, and the absurd ways they find to say them.

The transcript follows.

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Dana Milbank: Hello, Sketch readers. I'm coming to you from the St. Louis airport, where Southwest Airlines has just deposited me for tonight's vice presidential debate. While many of you have mocked (yes, mocked, Katie, I guess, that's the word, yes) my geographic credentials because I am a member of the Eastern Media Elite, I feel my arrival here has enhanced my domestic policy experience.

It certainly does, because our next door neighbors here are other states. They're next to the state that I am in. Missouri has a very narrow maritime border between another state, Illinois, and on our other side, the land boundary that we have with Kansas. We have trade missions back and forth. We do. It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Illinois as Governor Blagojevich rears his head and comes into the airspace of Missouri. Where-- where do they go? It's Missouri. It's just right over the border. It is from Missouri that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful state, Illinois, because they are right there. They are right next to-- to our state.

My arrival in the heartland has also given me a better sense of the harm that my fellow Eastern Elites have done to the Joe Six Packs of America on many, many issues. While I cannot identify any of these issues at the moment, there's, of course in the great history of America there have been issues, that's never going to be absolute consensus by every Missourian, and there are those issues. Going through the history of America, there would be others, but, well, I could think of, any again, that could be best dealt with on the local level here in Missouri.

While I have only been in Missouri for about 10 minutes, I feel the local newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and the Southwest Airlines Spirit Magazine, have already helped me to stay informed and to understand this part of the world. I've read this newspaper and magazine with a great appreciation for the press, the media - all of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these minutes. I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news. Missouri isn't a foreign country where it's kind of suggested it seems like, wow, how could you keep in touch with the rest of Washington, D.C. may be thinking and doing when you live over there in Missouri. Believe me, Missouri is like a microcosm of America.

More than anything, my arrival in Missouri, where Obama and McCain are running neck and neck, has left me with a renewed belief in the importance of spreading democracy to other states. Specifically, I believe we can achieve this by making every effort possible to help spread democracy.

Any questions? I'll get back to you.


Washington: Is it true Sarah Plain knows about Italy because she ate a slice of pizza?

Dana Milbank: That is terribly unfair to Gov.. Palin. At that same meal, she also had a glass of Chianti.


Evanston, Ill.: Hey Dana, The other day Palin claimed her appeal is that she is no different than Joe Six-Pack. Do Americans or anybody anywhere, really want a Joe Six-Pack vice president? I don't hear anyone ever say they want a doctor who is a Joe Six-Pack. It is like she is saying that her greatest qualification is her lack of qualifications.

Dana Milbank: Oh, I thought she said she has six-pack abs. This would be an excellent qualification and would refute the notion that the photo of her in the patriotic bikini was not the work of Photoshop.

Still, I suppose this was the inevitable end-of-the-road for identity politics -- every ethnic, religious and cultural group has its own protected political status now, so why not special consideration for the average bloke?


Washington: A Republican reading this chat. ... It's funny, all the lefties in the media are saying they don't get enough of Gov. Palin, that she is hiding, scared, stupid, etc., but what about Obama? Every time someone brings up the fact he is hiding his past in a racist black separatist church, with criminal organizations like ACORN, with terrorists like Bill Ayers, the people who ask these questions are called racists and fascists. So I ask you ... are people going after Palin sexist because she isn't good in front of a camera?

Dana Milbank: As my answer to the previous question suggests, I think Palin has no problem in front of the camera. It is the microphone that's the problem.


Yonkers, N.Y.: I'm not breaking any news here, but aren't some of these senators, like Byrd and Stevens, incredibly old? I'm not, and I'm in bed by 10 p.m. most nights. How do these guys stay awake when these executive sessions go until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., or do they just not bother?

Dana Milbank: Well, Stevens at least has plenty of time to rest in the courtroom during the day. And all of these poor fellows will now have a month or three off from the rigors of legislating.


Tuckahoe, N.Y.: They were going to let you moderate the debate tonight, but then it came out that you secretly have a book in the works entitled "Moose Trimming and Mounting; Challenges for the New Millennium." Only a few close friends knew.

Dana Milbank: Thanks, Tuckahoe, now it's all over the world -- or at least it's known to the seven of us participating in this chat. Still, since the book is not yet written, you don't know whether I am in favor of the moose or opposed. Therefore, I am still perfectly well-qualified to proceed with this chat without risk of appearing biased.


Baltimore: I predict the ratings for tonight's vice presidential debate will be way, way higher than the first presidential debate. Please suggest a catchphrase of Sarah Palin's (ya know?) that we can use for a drinking game during the debate.

Dana Milbank: It depends on how much you want to drink. I'd go with "uh" if you're hosting a kegger, but if you have work tomorrow you might consider "ordinary American."

I think you're right about the viewership. The numbers last week were pretty disappointing, and tonight's debate will be like watching two children play with a loaded gun.


Northern New England: I have never been to St Louis. Do the locals talk with an accent, like Sarah Palin? Also, someone recently commented that my eyeglasses are "very Sarah Palin." Is this a compliment? Should I get new glasses?

Dana Milbank: Very strange, these people in St. Louis. They all walk around with luggage and seem to be in a hurry. Or maybe that's because I'm still in the airport.

I am certain people are flattering you with the Palin comparison. Of course, if you really want to impress them, you could go around in one of those patriotic bikinis. But since you're in northern New England, you better not wait much later in the fall.


Chattanooga, Tenn.: You failed to mention in today's column how God voted yesterday on the financial rescue plan in the Senate. Did God speak from the Senate floor? If so, were his comments any more coherent than those of his chosen vice-presidential candidate?

Dana Milbank: God made a late decision to vote aye on the bailout, but He reserved the right to revise and extend His remarks.

I actually asked the guy in today's Sketch who was praying for the economy whether God specifically supported the bailout or not, and he said only that God would make His wishes known to the senators. Except for guys like Jeff Sessions, I guess.


Palin Bingo: You can print out Palin Bingo cards (4 different ones) from this site.

Dana Milbank: Excellent contribution, thanks. I note that their "um" is spelled with three mmms, but I think one- and two-m umms should count too.


Chicago: How to blend in when you're in St. Louis -- just wear jean shorts and you'll be fine.

Dana Milbank: I bought my lunch at the Starbucks in the terminal. I fear it's a dead giveaway and everybody is thinking "elitist" when they walk by.


Cubeland: Dana, in meeting yesterday someone described my ability to field queries as "very Sarah Palin-like." Am I right to treat this as a compliment?

Dana Milbank: Yes, I think they were trying to say you are "adorable" but were concerned about the sexual harassment thing. You too could find out for sure by wearing the flag bikini to a meeting.


"Like watching two children play with a loaded gun.": Oh god, that is so accurate. Why isn't your column above the fold on page one every day?

Dana Milbank: Please send to:

Marcus Brauchli
Executive Editor
Washington Post
1150 15th St. NW
Washington, DC 20071


Washington: Best. Chat. Intro. Ever. Watch out, Weingarten!

Dana Milbank: Also please include this in the letter to Brauchli.


Minnesota: Do you feel safe? Missouri, with Kansas and Nebraska, is at least two states away from any international border or coastline. We're manning the borders, to ensure your safety and security in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

Dana Milbank: I do not feel safe because when Stephen Harper in Canada rears his head, he probably will get a submarine into the Mississippi that will get right past you there in Minnesota and surface right near the arch here in St. Louis. This is why it is so important to spread democracy to every corner of the earth, including Canada.


Pearlstein: Hey Dana, no offense but Steven Pearlstein is the best The Washington Post has to offer. Have you seen him on his media tour lately? He is so smart, sarcastic, ornery, and sharp that no one even tries to challenge him on TV. Not even George Will. Given the rapid collapse of conservative economic ideology, we should all proclaim that "we are all Pearlsteins now".

washingtonpost.com: Steven Pearlstein columns

Dana Milbank: I always have considered myself a swine before Pearlstein.


Cubeland Again: "You, too, could find out for sure by wearing the flag bikini to a meeting." Thanks for this, but given that I am a 46-year-old man, I'm not sure this will clarify it for me.

Dana Milbank: That is sexist.

Men can wear patriotic bikinis too if they have Joe Six-Pack Abs.


Reston, Va.: Milbank, you are a neoliberal hack operative. How much do Soros and MoveOn pay you to right untrue hit pieces? If Hussein wins, you'll be out of a job...

Dana Milbank: Ummm.


Chicago: Hey Dana, did you see the article on MarketWatch that said you were poised to overtake Maureen Dowd as the pundit class's best quipster? It was fawning.

washingtonpost.com: Maureen Dowd is losing her fastball (MarketWatch, Aug. 18)

Dana Milbank: I hadn't seen that, Chicago.

Honored to be even mentioned in the same breath as Maureen, who has no equal in this bidness. The best I hope for is to be recognized for having more hair than Steve Pearlstein.


Drinking game: We are going with "whenever Joe puts his foot in his mouth" and "whenever Sarah says something stupid." We anticipate passing out before 9:30 p.m.

Dana Milbank: Yeah, I'd water down the punch pretty well before that game.


Virginia Beach, Va.: After your insightful and brilliant intro I now totally understand the concept of "nearness" as it relates to foreign (or domestic) policy. Do you think universities will add this concept to the curriculum for foreign policy students? (Possible class title: "The Nearness Factor: How Your Proximity to a Land Mass is Crucial to Advancing Your Career in three Easy Steps" -- 3 credits.)

Dana Milbank: Fine, fine, you go ahead and mock me and my fellow Missourians. But we are a cosmopolitan people. From where I am seated at Gate E16, I can see California Pizza Kitchen. So whenever Gov. Schwarzenegger rears his head, I will see that.


Green Bay, Wis.: I should be the next vice president, because I have worked in Denmark, Wis., and Peru, Ind.

Dana Milbank: Don't be Wasilla. Come back and talk to me when you've tried on a patriotic bikini.


Washington: How does it feel to know that, with the Eastern Media Elite video, you've reached your peak? You'll never do better than that.

Dana Milbank: It's true, Washington. I've had enough living among the Six Packs here in the heartland. Possibly I can skip the debate and catch a Southwest flight back to BWI. After I get another latte at Starbucks, that is.

Okay, heading to Washington University for the big drinking game. Thanks for tuning in.


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