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Ruth Marcus
Washington Post Columnist
Wednesday, October 15, 2008; 3:00 PM

Washington Post opinion columnist Ruth Marcus was online Wednesday, Oct. 15 at 3 p.m. ET to discuss her recent columns, her posts on the Post Partisan blog and the latest news.

The transcript follows.

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Ruth Marcus: Hi everybody -- sorry to be starting a bit late. The complete truth is that I was sitting here wondering what, exactly, we at the editorial board should think about writing about the debate tonight that has not yet taken place. This is a little peek behind the scenes, but our first-edition deadlines are such that we can't really reflect very much about the debate before that goes to press, so we need to write something that won't look too outdated...

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Chicago: Thanks. Is it too much to hope for that maybe we could hear some discussion of public policy re: transportation? Higher education? Global warming? Agriculture? Urban issues? Crime? Housing (apart from the meltdown)? Executive privilege? Obviously the economy is a red-hot topic, but I fear that even that only will get cursory talking points. Am I too cynical, or too hopeful?

Ruth Marcus: Well, I for one would love it if tonight's debate could touch on some of those things. Maybe we should make you the moderator!

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Sun Prairie, Wis.: Ms. Marcus: After eight years with George Bush as President, isn't it time someone asked the two candidates what they plan to continue or change about the way Bush has run his White House? Do either Obama or McCain plan to allow greater press access, use the security classification to keep embarrassing information quiet, ignore subpoenas and stonewall investigations? Will their vice president have a role similar to Dick Cheney's? Will their senior campaign operatives have policy responsibilities in the White House?

It may be hard for someone asking questions like these to show empathy with struggling middle-class voters in battleground states, but we already know the debate is likely to be boring. Why not give the candidates a chance to explain how they would conduct themselves differently than the president we have now?

Ruth Marcus: Another great question -- especially the first sentence of it, which is not as politically loaded.

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Rolla, Mo.: If Obama maintains a sizeable lead in the polls going into election day, won't this ACORN stuff be meaningless? They aren't exactly responsible for him polling 8 percentage points ahead right now, are they?

Ruth Marcus: I really think the ACORN stuff is a measure of the desperation and anger Republicans are feeling right now.

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Baltimore: Ruth, is it just my impression or is the split between the small-town, religious-type conservatives (e.g. Huckabee/Palin) and the really rich plutocrat-type conservatives (e.g. Bush/Cheney) growing? How do you see the Republican Party reconstituting itself after what looks to be another drubbing at the polls this year -- certainly in congressional races if not the presidential race? Thanks.

Ruth Marcus: I'm not sure I see the split exactly that way -- if so, where would you put McCain? -- but I do think that in the aftermath of the election, if it goes as expected, there is going to be a fight for the soul of the Republican Party that is going to be fascinating. It won't necessarily be social versus economic conservatives, but more purists vs. realists, I think -- Old Guard "accommodationists" (I'm looking for a less loaded term) vs.. younger true believers.

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Boonsboro, Md.: Love your articles and the way you respond to the moonbats that demand you conform to their party's talking points, but if you really think the next administration will act selflessly, you need to return to this planet. Not happening.

Ruth Marcus: I'm not in interplanetary travel yet, I don't think -- just making the silver-lining point that this actually might give the next president some political maneuvering space.

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Montgomery Village, Md.: Ruth, besides the many other topics mentioned by an earlier poster, why has there been so little discussion about immigration during this campaign? It seems barely a year ago that it was one of the hottest topics going. Has it become the new "third rail"?

Ruth Marcus: There's eneral agreement between the two candidates, there's no big benefit for either of them to raise it, it's not on the legislative landscape, voters are riled up about other issues...

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Minneapolis: Hi Ruth -- thanks for taking questions today, I appreciate your clear-eyed insights. Maybe it's a sad commentary on the state of politics, but part of me feels like the Republican circular firing squad (Kristol, Brooks, et al) in a knot about McCain's campaign and prospects is all a Rovian ruse to get Democrats so comfortable that they don't think they have to vote ... and voila! Republicans sneak in and squeak by. Please tell me I'm overthinking this.

Ruth Marcus: You're overthinking. I think the race is closer than some of the polls suggest, but I don't think the Republicans had a big meeting in which they secretly planned to wring their hands without meaning it so Democrats would ease up.

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Diamondhead, Miss.: What would you do with the Department of Homeland Security after all the problems since it was created?

Ruth Marcus: Live with it as-is -- for the meantime, anyway. There are bigger fish to fry. Try making it as functional as possible.

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Scarsdale, N.Y.: Not to tar all reporters with the same brush (or in homage to Paul Newman in "Hud," "don't go shootin' all the dogs because some have fleas") but I see definite signs already that some of them are doing their damndest to make this race seem closer than it is (check out David Gregory's creative use of old polls on his show yesterday for example). I'm not saying that the race is over, but if one candidate has a substantial lead with three weeks to go, and all indicators are going one way, why mislead the reader/viewer that some sort of comeback is starting when there is absolutely no proof that one exists?

It's stuff like this that makes people suspect that your industry is much more about generating profits by creating drama where there is none than it is about providing accurate information. Again, I'm not saying that it's over; I'm just saying that some of these people are just out to entertain, and don't show much responsibility to the public.

Ruth Marcus: Boy, one minute we're big cheerleaders for Obama, the next we're corporate shills just trying to make nonexistent news. Sorry, not accepting either characterization.

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Arlington, Va.: There is a big story in the New York Post about Obama responding to an Ohio Plumber's tax question. The plumber asks why he will be taxed more for achieving the American dream, and Obama responds by telling him that we will be better off if we "share the wealth." Is this the hanging curveball the GOP has been waiting for? This guy claims to be a centrist, but in reality he is an extremely liberal first-term senator.

Ruth Marcus: I saw some references to that, but not the full context. It is true that Obama's tax plan is more redistributionist than McCain's -- a word they don't like in Obamaland -- but the truth is that the concept of a progressive tax code is to "share the wealth." That's probably not what the political advisers would want him to say, however.

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Oviedo, Fla.: Thanks for your chats and insights. I loved seeing you on PBS -- please stay in place 30 more years! On the excellent PBS Frontline election show last night, Tom Daschle candidly discussed how he advised Obama to run now, early in his national career, because there was little or no record (votes and so on) that would pop up and have to be explained later. I swear he said this, at some length. No a gotcha snippet. How craven is this cynical logic? An almost-blank resume is a ... good thing? Political know-how and cunning are one thing, but suggesting that virtual newcomers are ideal in that they are an easier sell made me really uncomfortable. Really, really uncomfortable. Want a new pilot, rookie surgeon or an outta-the-box broker? Um, no.

Ruth Marcus: Well, I didn't see the show -- though I love PBS also and I really enjoy being on it -- but it is true that a long Senate record has been a problem for previous presidential candidates from the Senate. Just look at how much hay Republicans made of Obama's vote on the budget resolution (this is the spurious basis for the "voted to raise taxes on those making more than $42,00 a year" charge) and on the 94 times he allegedly voted to raise taxes. So Daschle may be cynical, but he also may be right.

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Richmond, Va.: Maybe it is too early to ask this, but do you think Palin is the new face of the Republican party? If so, what is it that the Republicans will want with someone like Palin?

Ruth Marcus: I've been thinking a lot about that. I certainly think that (as a friend of mine said) a lot of political consultants, if McCain loses, will be headed to Anchorage to explain how they could position her for 2012 -- and that she will be, at least initially, in the front tier of candidates. Part of me thinks she would be a formidable contender because of her strong communication skills; the bigger part believes that she does not have the knowledge/gravitas to survive a regular election process (in other words not parachuting into the vice presidential nomination, but slogging it out in Iowa and New Hampshire with Mitt Romney et al).

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Provo, Utah: Who would the candidates appoint to the White House staff and to the cabinet? My anger and frustration with the current excuse for a president is at least half at the self-serving, power hungry mob he has had in his staff! (Think Cheney/Halliburton, Alberto Gonzales, etc.!)

washingtonpost.com: Cabinet Maker (CQpolitics.com)

Ruth Marcus: The first place is to look at who they have around them in their campaigns. One of the strong selling points for me with Obama is the notable quality of his economic team.

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Prescott, Ariz.: I read your " When Life Hands You Deficits..." article, and I think you fall into a common (at least to Washington) trap, which is assuming that a recession is a time for the government to tighten its belt and stop thinking big. I don't think this is necessarily the case, and I think I can explain it using health care.

Is it not the case that Americans consume more of their GDP (by a large margin) on health care than the rest of the first world? Doesn't this mean that our system is incredibly inefficient? When us Americans were sold NAFTA, we were told that trade as it stood was incredibly inefficient, and while knocking down trade barriers would hurt some workers the resulting efficiency gains would be so large that the displaced workers easily could be retooled into the larger, more efficient economy.

Now I partly disagree with the validity of this argument of economic growth as applied to NAFTA, but I think it does work as a template on how reforming health care to be more efficient would unlock American potential that currently is wasted. A lot of American productivity is lost to chronic health issues that weren't treated when they were less expensive and less chronic. Further, A lot of American workers are slaves to a health care plan and can't go out on a entrepreneurial limb and start their own businesses (like myself, a childhood cancer survivor who can't realistically get insurance on the open market). I am saying that a better health care system could increase productivity and American ingenuity. In return the government would get more tax proceeds, and an initial outlay that looked expensive or not doable is actually a bargain.

Ruth Marcus: I'm sure I should have been clearer on this in the column, but I was not arguing for mid-recession belt-tightening. We're all Keynesians now, and I am open to stimulative action in the short term. What I am hoping for is that the moment could be used as a way to forge a more responsible, more productivity-enhancing budget in the longer term -- one that could fund investments in important things like health care and could free the next president from some of his more unaffordable promises.

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Ohio plumbers make more than $250,000 a year?: Yeesh, am I in the wrong line of work.

Ruth Marcus: Me too!

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Raleigh, N.C.: In the short term, I don't care if Obama (or McCain, but looking at the polls...) doesn't care about the deficit. The economy needs rescuing. But in the long term, I am concerned that Obama will look at the recent history and see that Reagan/Bush Sr. exploded the deficit and debt by being conservative on tax cuts and defense spending, then Clinton raised taxes and was cautious on spending and got control of our fiscal situation, and then Bush Jr. re-exploded the debt and deficit by being conservative.

Obama may well say: "You know what? I'm not playing that game. I'm not going to be the 'adult' and put off my liberal agenda and enable the next president to be another feckless, reckless conservative." Really, if you were Obama, and you wanted to create a health care plan and cut taxes for workers and transition to a greener economy, why in the heck would you put that off even while the economy recovers? And if Obama were to be replaced by a conservative Republican, it would be that guy who would be forced by fiscal realities to be pragmatic and not ideological.

Ruth Marcus: That would be pretty depressing, and it would suggest that Obama is unconcerned about the long-term well-being of the country. I think he is concerned, and I think he will try -- how hard is another question -- to govern responsibly if he is elected.

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Savannah, Ga.: As you pointed out, the Young Turks of the Republican Party are about as ideological as you can get. When recent events seem to show these ideals as hollow, why rally around them? For instance, how can you demand laissez faire capitalism in this environment?

Ruth Marcus: Because the party has pushed out almost everybody else?

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Santa Barbara, Calif.: So what does this election -- and to a lesser extent the 2006 congressional elections -- say about Karl Rove's grandiose "permanent Republican majority"?

Ruth Marcus: Oops. I'm not sure it ever was going to happen, given demographic trends, but the behavior of the Republican Party helped make sure of that.

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Washington: Why does it matter what McCain's domestic policy proposals are when he'll face an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress?

Ruth Marcus: Because President McCain still would have the veto pen, the Democrats won't have a monolithic or veto-proof majority, and so there would be give and take in a McCain presidency. In short, it matters what the president proposes -- and what he ultimately will accept.

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Durham, N.C.: If you think we have banking problems now, just wait for all these reverse mortgages that the banks are pushing to fail. We need to stop this now!

Ruth Marcus: I see a lot of those ads on cable TV and have been wondering about them.

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Champlain, N.Y.: Who won the Canadian Elections yesterday? Curious!

washingtonpost.com: Canada's Harper Returned to Power As Prime Minister (Post, Oct. 15)

Ruth Marcus: Here you go.

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The irony of ... timing?: I can't help thinking recently that Hillary Clinton was the economy candidate, and for many of us who supported her it was primarily for that very reason and because we believed things would be worsening over time -- although it accelerated more than many believed it would (I always thought it was underneath much worse than the pundits and people in power would acknowledge).

Obama was the anti-war candidate, McCain the security candidate. Here we are and I still think the Democrats on the primary and party level chose with their rose-colored wishes, not their brains. This cruelty of fate, timing and short-term thinking on the part of pundits and voters is truly annoying, if you ask me.

Ruth Marcus: It always has been thus (cruelty of timing). John Kerry believes he lost the election because of an Osama bin Laden videotape released the weekend before. It is an interesting question how an economic meltdown would have affected the primary race if it had happened back in January or February instead of now, but I do agree the country needs to think about who is the right president for the long-term, and for unforeseen/unforeseeable circumstances.

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New York: Reports have Hillary Clinton in the debate audience tonight. This brings up the question of whether, notwithstanding her reputation as the "divisive" Democratic nominee, the present economic environment would have sufficed to put her over the top were she the standard-bearer on Nov. 4? Any thoughts?

Ruth Marcus: Any Democrat would be doing well against any generic Republican in this environment, I think. And this would have played to a particular strength of Sen. Clinton's.

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Silver Spring, Md.: What do you see Bush and Cheney doing with their time come Jan. 21? What about Condi Rice?

Ruth Marcus: Bush: raising money for his library. Cheney: maybe writing memoirs. Rice: something back in academia, maybe.

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Arlington, Va.: Ms. Marcus, this morning you discussed -- as part of tax reform -- eliminating "hidden entitlements," including "mortgage interest or employer-sponsored health care." Why is it that "pundits" such as yourself focus on how the middle-class needs to sacrifice? Why not increased taxes on the top 5 percent of income-earners? Why not eliminate no-bid contracting? Why not ban the outbreak of dumb wars like the one in Iraq that you advocated? Why do you fail to specify acts that would impact the Washington cocktail-party circuit?

Ruth Marcus: Oh please -- those are the two biggest "tax expenditures," which is why I mentioned them, and they happen to provide a greater benefit to those in the upper brackets than to those in the middle or toward the bottom. I have spent most of this campaign -- all of it actually -- railing against McCain and other GOP candidates for not being willing to undo the top-bracket tax cuts. My point today is that we should look at the entire budget, including these tax expenditures, and figure out whether we are dividing the pie in a rational, fair and compassionate way -- like finding money to spend on children's health or for education, rather than on tax subsidies for people to buy million-dollar houses.

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Washington: Re: Immigration, Latinos are a large voting block. Why stir that pot? We're not stupid, we know anti-immigration usually means anti-Latino.

Ruth Marcus: There was a particularly disturbing Obama ad linking McCain to Rush Limbaugh and anti-immigrant froth-ers.

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New York: Two things I've read in the last couple of days that concern me are that the Obama camp may be taking the Black vote for granted, and that in a desperate situation, McCain might announce that if elected he only would serve one term, ostensibly allowing him to focus on the issues without the focus on re-election politics. Do you agree with the first? And how likely is the second scenario?

Ruth Marcus: Probably not -- I think the turnout will be huge.

As to the second thought, wouldn't that make things fun! It's probably a little late to try that, though, and dicey because of the Palin effect.

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Re: Arlington, Va.: Wait, so anyone who supports something other than a flat tax is "extremely liberal"? Having the wealthy pay more to take care of those in need does not equal Socialism.

Ruth Marcus: Hmmm, did I say that? Not sure what you're responding, to but that is not what I think.

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The Debate: Here's a pre-debate topic: How do they get the attendees at these debates to maintain silence, and how do they weed out the shouters and disrupters? Do they threaten everyone with criminal prosecution for example, as with people who run out on the field during a baseball game? I remember during the Democratic debates a few people taking issue, loudly with the dopey questions asked by George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson. Hasn't happened yet, has it? What's better, the security or the questions?

Ruth Marcus: I haven't been in person to any of those debates, but it's pretty hard to get a ticket to be in the audience. and I am sure there is a lot of "pregame" warning.

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Bellingham, Wash.: Ms Marcus- Thanks for taking my question. I am curious why Obama allows McCain to say (repeatedly) that "the surge is working" during these debates without pushing back a bit. While it is true that Iraq is a safer place for U.S. soldiers (not that they went there to be safe, just ask them), the "surge" has not yielded any of the benefits promised by both Bush and McCain.

There has been virtually no political progress, there are more troops in Iraq now than before the "surge," Iraqis still get blown up while running errands, there is no work for the unemployed, availability of water and electricity is spotty at best, and kids still are dying of cholera for gosh sake. At this point, McCain's foreign policy cred hangs on the success of the "surge." Why does Obama seem to be giving him a pass on it?

Ruth Marcus: I disagree with your analysis that the surge has not yielded any of the promised benefits.

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One viewer's debate evolution: Debate 1: I champed at the bit all day and eagerly tuned in at night. Fascinated with parallel Twitter feed on a laptop. Cheered my candidate (Obama) out loud. Debate 2 (Biden-Palin): Pretty psyched to watch. Played Palin Bingo during the debate and beat my husband, even though he had "maverick" on his card and I didn't on mine. Debate 3: We went to a bar to watch. I couldn't hear a lot of it but had a good time drinking and chatting. The candidates seemed to be doing their thing and Obama looked good, so I didn't mind not getting it all. Tonight: I have to miss the debate for a church volunteer commitment. Don't really care -- nothing new will happen.

Ruth Marcus: You'll have ample avenues to watch it later. And for my sake, let's hope something happens so there is something interesting to write about!

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Chicago: Please people, just stop it with the wistful Hillary nostalgia. Sure she had strengths, but she also had huge weaknesses. Her husband would have been out alienating people left and right, we would have been spending serious time talking about every little scandal and controversy anyone could dream up about her, Palin wouldn't have been the GOP vice president (meaning McCain's ticket might have looked a lot more attractive to voters hoping for stability in the White House), etc., etc. She lost -- it's done. Please move on. Thanks.

Ruth Marcus: Okay, posting so people will stop wallowing in what might have been. Actually, I don't think I've been hearing very much of that among Clintonistas, given that Obama seems to be doing quite nicely.

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Long Beach, Calif.: Re: The republican divide, I tend to think it will be the neocons and religious wing-nuts vs. the educated, fiscally conservative. In other words, "Statesmen vs. Ideologues." If the religio-fascist/neocon contingent wins, the Republican brand is doomed for a generation -- they are the Bush administration. If the statesmen/technocrats win the fight, our system of democracy might even be reinvigorated. Ideas and policy effecting discussion with an eye toward efficacy, vs. the current party's valuation of lock-step ideology and loyalty in the face of "rule of law," would be beneficial. Do you think the statesmen/technocrats can win, or do you think the Rovian ideologues and religio-fascist "true believers" will win the party mantle?

Ruth Marcus: I think this is not the divide I see, because there is a difference within the party between the fiscally conservative and those who would not tax anything ever, no matter what.

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Charlottesville, Va.: Do you think the personal dimensions of this race largely are behind us, and that the last three weeks mostly will be issue-focused (i.e. the economy), or will the ad hominem attacks (by both sides) escalate as the days dwindle?

Ruth Marcus: Tonight may answer some of that, but I think we definitely have not seen the last of personal attacks -- from campaigns or, more likely, from outside groups.

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Cameron, N.C.: Re: ACORN voter registration, I moved to North Carolina in January; when I filled out my voter registration card I had to supply, in addition to my name and address, my driver license or social security number. So when the elections board gets a registration card that does not match have the proper ID, it does not issue a voter's card. Where is the problem? I guess the Republicans are just looking to rile up the base for the next four to eight years instead of accepting the blame for Bush.

Ruth Marcus: The evidence of actual voter fraud -- that is, people who are voting who are not entitled to -- is pretty thin. The much bigger problem, to my mind, is people who are eligible to vote not being allowed to cast ballots.

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Atlanta: The liberal news media and the liberal popular culture really got in sync this year and delivered a certain win for Obama. Do you think we ever will see a Republican president again?

Ruth Marcus: Yes. Boy, that liberal news media and liberal popular culture haven't done very well with exercising their power in the past 40 years.

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East Lansing, Mich.: How many questions do you think the candidates will answer? I know they're going to talk continually, but how many specific questions do you think they will answer specifically, instead of just saying what they want to say?

Ruth Marcus: I think they will say what they want to say.

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Media, Pa.: So if Palin becomes the face of the New Republican Party if McCain loses, which gains more: the Libertarian Party or the Democratic Party?

Ruth Marcus: I think that in the end she does not become the face, but it will be interesting to watch. I'd love to interview her, say, in Iowa in December 2011.

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Regarding one-party government: Didn't Clinton start out with a Democratic Congress? Didn't help get us universal health care, did it? So, nice try McCain campaign, but I wouldn't buy it.

Ruth Marcus: Clinton and Carter both messed up with Democratic Congresses, but I do think it is worth spending some time worrying about excesses with one party in control of government.

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Washington: Ruth, I was reading on Politicker today about Nancy Pelosi's comments in Ohio this morning. She said that not ending the war in Iraq has been her biggest disappointment. With congressional Democrats poised to expand their margins in the House and Senate, do you think that Pelosi will be more forceful on "ending the war," or will she have to walk a fine line to keep her fractured caucus together? Will the GOP continue to use her as a punching bag for such comments?

washingtonpost.com: Pelosi: Not ending Iraq war is my biggest disappointment (Politicker, Oct. 15)

Ruth Marcus: I think she has said that before. There is going to be a lot of pent-up demand on the left for action, now -- on Iraq and other matters -- if Obama is elected.

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Debates: What is interesting to me is that on every debate day there has been very bad economic news. Now, tonight, the retail figures for September are lower than expected and the Dow is down more than 600. McCain doesn't exactly have good luck, does he?

Ruth Marcus: He has great luck (pulled the nomination rabbit out of the empty hat, after all) and terrible luck.

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Washington: As someone who is supporting Obama, I admit that I don't see the debate the same way uncommitted voters do. But I have lived and worked in small-town Iowa and Michigan as well as New York (for Giuliani no less), and we all have a lot more in common than the political ads and pundits want to admit. I am guilty of smacking my forehead when someone in a swing state talks about how Sarah Palin seems just like them. but I wish we could go further than the infuriating sound bite. Why are some people so uncomfortable with Obama? What is so reassuring about Palin? How do facts about each ticket affect people's opinions?

Ruth Marcus: Well, Obama is, as they say at Harvard Law School, sui generis. He's one of a kind -- no one else has his exact background, and I think he is harder to identify with. And there is obviously still a certain racial discomfort (if not animus) among some voters. And Palin -- well, I don't find her reassuring, but I'm a soccer mom, not a hockey mom.

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Clancy, Mont.: The press really has run with this notion of "angry" Republicans lashing out at Obama, but the press has ignored the many attacks on McCain/Palin: Obama backers showing up at Palin events with T-shirts that call her a "c---," McCain campaign offices around the country being vandalized or torched, McCain backers being verbally harassed as they march in New York, and so on. Why has the reporting on this been so one-sided?

Ruth Marcus: I don't know. I don't know if it has. There always is bad behavior from supporters on both sides. I think the important thing is that candidates call people out on stuff like that when they hear it/see it/know about it.

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Philadelphia: I must say the ACORN stuff is coming across as desperate and ridiculous -- registrations don't equal voters. Of course, I went to high school with a guy whose grandparents were still registered (Republican) voters 10 years after their deaths. ... Meanwhile, I am concerned about poll workers' behavior. In 2004, all the workers in my voting location were wearing "W" lapel pins. What are poll workers allowed to do/wear in the location while working? Where can I find the guidelines (and print them out)? I was laughed at them when I said it was inappropriate, at the very least back then.

Ruth Marcus: These are state-by-state rules, and I would search for the guidelines on your Secretary of State's office or Voter Registration office. That does not sound appropriate to me either.

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I think they will say what they want to say: Then why even go through the pretense of having a moderator?

Ruth Marcus: I was being a little too flip. Look, the moderator can ask better or worse questions, and engage in more-or-less pointed (and informed) follow-ups, but there are limits to what even the most skillful moderator can do with these rules -- and the candidates (and their debate prep teams) know it.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I'd like to hear a question about gay rights (i.e. ending "Don't Ask Don't Tell) or gay marriage. What are the chances of this happening? Thanks!

Ruth Marcus: Reasonable, I think. I'd like to see it too, and smartly phrased so that the candidate can't just wiggle out of it.

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Didn't Clinton start out with a Democratic Congress? Didn't help get us universal health care, did it?: Even if the Democrats score a massive electoral victory, won't the anti-universal-health-care lobby just revive Harry and Louise?

Ruth Marcus: It's interesting -- I think the industry is in something of a different place ideologically than it was back then. They're less reflexively opposed to health care reform because they know the current system is not sustainable.

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Excuse me?: Um Ruth ... did I just read that you favor elimination of the mortgage interest deduction as an economic/tax policy benefit to the nation? Please tell me that you were only mentioning a large area of tax deductions, and not a workable econometric strategy for turning around the economy and budget deficit! You apparently don't know it, so this former 17-year financial consultant will try and educate you.

Elimination of the mortgage interest deduction immediately would destroy anything left of the current housing market, a traditional pillar of our economy. Thus, the main engine of wealth capture and growth in American households would be eliminated. The "American Dream" would be virtually unattainable for all but the top 5 percent of income-earners in the nation. We would become a land of haves and have-nots overnight. The landed would be the landlords of the nation. Wow, and I thought Palin didn't get it!

Ruth Marcus: No, you did not read that I favor eliminating it. I do think it could be rethought and restructured to be more equitable. But I have to say, I don't think the best way to have this discussion is for you to talk down to me. I try not to do that to questioners.

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Ruth Marcus: Okay I need to go back to the not-very-productive pre-debate thinking I was doing before we got started. It was, as always, very fun chatting with you. I really enjoy the questions (most of them, anyway!) and the chance to engage.

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