Chatological Humor: Election Day Extravaganza (UPDATED 11.7.08)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 4, 2008; 12:00 PM


Gene Weingarten's humor column, Below the Beltway, appears every Sunday in The Washington Post magazine. It is syndicated nationally by the Washington Post Writers Group.

At one time or another, Below the Beltway has managed to offend persons of both sexes as well as individuals belonging to every religious, ethnic, regional, political and socioeconomic group. If you know of a group we have missed, please write in and the situation will be promptly rectified. "Rectified" is a funny word.

On Tuesdays at noon, Weingarten is online to take your questions and abuse. He will chat about anything. Although this chat is updated regularly throughout the week, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

This Week's Survey: I favor Obama-Biden | I favor McCain-Palin | Undecided

Important, secret note to readers: The management of The Washington Post apparently does not know this chat exists, or it would have been shut down long ago. Please do not tell them. Thank you.

Weingarten is also the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death" and co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca.

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ.

P.S. If composing your questions in Microsoft Word please turn off the Smart Quotes functionality. I haven't the time to edit them out. -- Liz


Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

Four years ago this week, The Washington Post magazine ran this story in which I profiled a member of the single largest voting bloc in America: The Nonvoter. Ted Prus, a 37-year-old Muskegon, Mich. concrete worker, had never voted in his life and never intended to. Ted proved to be a more complicated person, and a far more likeable person, than many readers had evidently expected him to be. He was self-reliant, self-deprecatory, articulately laconic, appealingly pig-headed, and stoic to a startling degree: Because he had no dental insurance, he once removed a bad tooth by himself, with pliers from his box of fishing tackle.

After the story ran, Ted was besieged by other media and by political types, particularly operatives of the Kerry campaign, who wanted him to stump the state of Michigan for their candidate. (Ted laughed at that. They didn't Get It.) He refused, of course. "All candidates are liars," he told them.

I caught up with Ted Prus by phone an hour ago. He was on his way to the polls, to vote.

That was the good news. There is no more of it.

Ted doesn't give a crap about McCain or Obama, and won't be voting for either. They only national issue he cares about is repealing NAFTA, and as long as neither party aims to do that, he won't have anything to do with any of their candidates. "All the work has gone away," he says, "and my friends have lost their houses and jobs."

Ted is going to be bullet-voting only for one thing: Michigan's Proposition One, which would legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Ted says he needs weed because he wants food to taste good to him, again. Two years ago, he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. He lost his job because he can't hold a hammer. He lost his house because he lost his job. The bank foreclosed, offering him $1,000 to move out quietly and surrender his keys without a fuss.

"I took it," he said, quietly.

Some mornings, his feet are so swollen he can't put on shoes. He has to hold a coffee cup in two hands.

He and Kim Miller and their son, Slate, are living with friends, and on public assistance. Kim lost her job. The whole situation is crushing him, Ted says. He hasn't been able to bring himself to tell his older son -- living elsewhere with his first wife -- about his situation.

The thing Ted Prus loved to do the most was go fishing, but that's lost to him, too. "I can't walk the banks anymore, and I can barely hold a pole."


I disagree with Ted about voting. The best way I can explain why I disagree is with this story which ran the last presidential election day.

My father is dead now. He would have voted for Obama, and there would have been no reason to ask him why. It would be for the same reason he voted for Roosevelt, Roosevelt, Roosevelt, Truman, Stevenson, Stevenson, Kennedy, Johnson, Humphrey, Carter, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton, Clinton, Gore and Kerry.


We have two CLODS today. The first one is election-related, and wonderful for this chat, because it combines the subject of poop, girl secretions, and boots-with-skirts.

The second CLOD I discovered just yesterday, while randomly noodling with youtube. This is a reel of mostly unfunny continuity problems from "Leave It To Beaver," which was ironically compiled by a guy who has probably never seen female genitalia. But there is a section of this video (advance to 1:30) that is a total pants-wetter. Basically, the scene requires an extended shot of the front of a movie theater, meaning they need a lot of extras to keep coming out. Unfortunately, they only seemed to have about 12 kids. So they simply used the same 12 over and over, walking off set and then back on in a circle. Watch. Count. The boy in the western shirt comes out at least six times.


I was having a conversation yesterday with a friend -- a fellow dog owner -- when we were suddenly struck by an Incontestable Truth, which I will now test via today's INSTAPOLL.

To be really scientific and eliminate bias, I checked this insight with Chatwoman, who may lean liberal but has owned and respects both dogs and cats. She agrees with the thesis, noting that she loves her cat, Andy, even though she recognizes that he is a word we cannot print here. We can say, though, that because of similarities in their behavior, Andy the Cat reminds her of Andy Dick.


Please take today's poll (I favor Obama-Biden | I favor McCain-Palin | Undecided). The results are self-evident, and interesting. McCain supporters seem both resigned and far less judgmental and angry.


The Comic Pick of the Week is the final Opus, because of the way Breathed drew Steve's face. Suddenly, real. Filled with emotion. A beautiful, beautiful touch, and a nice end that could not be leaked. First Runner-up: Sunday's Doonesbury. Honorables: Sunday's Pickles, Friday's Rhymes With Orange and Saturday's Zits.


Cats: Cats are not republicans -- they're independents

Gene Weingarten: Hm.


Katz 'n' Dawgs: I suggest that cat OWNERS tend to be Democrats and dog owners tend to be Republicans. Would you agree?

Gene Weingarten: Nope. This has been disproven by a poll in this chat. Equal numbers of cat and dog owners. Not an equal distribution of Dems and Reps.


voted oba, MA: Hi Gene! Hope you're talking about the election today. Voted this morning in Richmond - got to the polls at six and waited two hours. It was totally exciting; no one turned around when they saw the line. It was almost like they were so hungry to finally be DOING something, to be a part of something big, even if it just meant standing for hours while waiting to vote. I'm Lizzie's age-ish, and have never seen anything like this in my life. That's all. I don't really have a question, I just know that I am going to remember this day.

Gene Weingarten: This is the most exciting election day in my lifetime, and I am old.


Arlington, Va.: Ok, I've done a super dorky thing and tabulated the posts to your electoral vote contest (current as of 8:15 a.m.). I did this because I have heard about the "Wisdom of Crowds," a book highlighting the theory that non-experts as a group can home in on the right answer. An example given in the book is people guessing the weight of a side of beef at a county fair (closest guess gets a prize) and the mean of the guesses is right on with the actual weight.

Here are the basic results - average EV count for Obama is 334.8, Standard deviation is 37.2 EV (so for McCain to win, it would be over a 1 sigma event... according to the folks posting). In other words, less than 4 percent of the distribution has McCain winning. A couple comments: A non-trivial fraction of the posters do not know how to follow directions and just posted the tiebreak without posting an EV guess. Also, 17 people said 353, whereas no one said 350, 351, or 352. We'll see how accurate this 'crowd' is.

Gene Weingarten: This is in reference to the Gene Pool.

You are weird, but thank you.


Fairfax, Va.: "My father is dead now. He would have voted for Obama, and there would have been no reason to ask him why. It would be for the same reason he voted for Roosevelt, Roosevelt, Roosevelt, Truman, Stevenson, Stevenson, Kennedy, Johnson, Humphrey, Carter, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton, Clinton, Gore and Kerry."

Haven't you come out pretty strongly against people who vote straight party lines for no reason other than because it's "their party"? I mean, you've said that anyone voting Republican is a traitor. What if there's some decrepit old man who always votes Republican and there was "no reason to ask him why"?

Gene Weingarten: My father voted for some Republicans, just not for president. He voted for Jacob Javits and John Lindsay.
He cared very much about his votes; he felt the entire economic thesis of Republicanism was wrong, on a national level.


Arlington, Va.: Do you still believe that Hillary Clinton would have lost this election had she been the Democratic nominee?

Gene Weingarten: It might depend on whether McCain had still chosen Palin. He probably would not have.

I think Clinton would have won anyway. The economy has been a huge factor in this election.


Holdo, UT: One of your lonely McCain/Palin respondents here. I laughed out loud at your poll for the Undecideds. But I'm still mulling over your comment weeks ago that patriotism requires a vote against Palin because of her lack of qualification for the office. I'm curious. If the parties and ideological positions of the candidates were reversed but their personal qualifications and experience remained the same -- if Obama and Biden were conservative Republicans and and McCain and Palin were liberal Democrats -- would patriotism lead you to vote Republican? Or might you be, even, undecided?

Gene Weingarten: It's a good question. I've been wrestling with it longer than I thought I would.

I think that if Palin were liberal but as shamefully uninformed, incurious, and as much of a knee-jerk, superficial ideologue as she is, I would not vote in the election.

But it's hard for me to imagine that circumstance. It's hard to imagine McCain-as-Obama choosing someone like that.


Gene Weingarten: Remember last week's question about Joe the Plumber in Doonesbury? I complimented Trudeau on his speed, and defended the idea?

Well, I heard from Garry. I am an idiot. Hee drew this weeks before Joe the Plumber happened, and his point was a more subtle (if prescient) one:

"I did the plumber strip several weeks before Joe the Plumber appeared on the national scene. It was a complete coincidence. My point had nothing to do with plumbers or plumbing; it was about the insanity of placing ideology over competence. We insist on elite skills in our pilots, and we celebrate elitism in our athletes. And we don't choose a doctor based on who we'd like to have a beer with. So why on earth wouldn't we want our most capable public servants running the government?
The shame of it was that this was a favorite strip -- Joe the Plumber completely muddled the context."


Electi, ON: Your dad didn't vote for McGovern in '72?

Gene Weingarten: He didn't! He sat it out. Could not stomach voting for Nixon, but didn't trust McGovern.


Favorite Col, OR: I took the poll yesterday as an undecided. The problem is that I just don't have a reason to vote for either side.

Once upon a time there was this senator for Arizona. He did what he thought was right and even if I disagreed, I could respect him. Although he looks similar to the guy heading the Republican ticket, that guy is campaigning as standard political hack, plus he picked the most unqualified VEEP this side of the prison system.

On the other side is a guy who can excite a the masses like very few others in history. I kept waiting for his ideas unfortunately those ideas seem to include the word change and the fact that his middle initial isn't W. He then picks an old school political hack as his VEEP.

BTW, the candidate himself ain't qualified, no how, no way. The fact that the Republican VEEP is less so, simply offers me the choice of 500 foot leap or a 2000 foot leap. The corner might see some differences in my autopsy but I will still be just as dead.

In 2007 I was kind of excited at the prospect of voting for McCain but now I feel like the Gore supporters did in 2000.

I did in fact vote this morning but quite frankly I lean towards a gun, a cave, and several years worth of canned food.

Gene Weingarten: You never told us your favorite color.

I think you raise a good question. What experience does a person need to be president? If you look at the history of the Republic, you will find that some of our crappiest presidents had some of the fattest and most impressive resumes. James Buchanan was probably our single most experienced president, with impressive national and international creds and responsibilities both legislative and executive: Ten-year U.S. Senator, former chairman of the House judiciary committee, former ambassador to both Russia and England. He was by acclamation the worst president in history.

Another great resume belonged to Herbert Hoover, who had led Europe out of famine after World War I prior to leading us into The Great Depression.

One of the thinnest resumes of any president belonged to Lincoln; it was kind of similar to Obama's, actually.

Here's what I look for: Leadership, which I define as the ability to inspire confidence in others. Judgment under pressure. Wisdom, to figure out what's right.

I think Obama passes these tests, plus one other: If he is elected, much of the rest of the Western world will rejoice.


Columbia, Md.: I would agree with the thesis that dogs are Democrats and cats are Republicans except for the glaring problem of illegal immigration. My dog patrols our border with a passion matched only by the Minutemen, making sure no illegal squirrels or cats invade our yard.

Gene Weingarten: This is a good point.


Cynic, AL: Just to be clear, I would use those words (all of them) to describe only SOME of the people voting for McCain/Palin. I bet you could find Obama voters who would fit each of those descriptors as well.

But I will say this. Not all Republicans are bigots. Not all bigots are Republicans. But bigots in general feel more comfortable with the policies and positions of the Republican party, and the party knows this and exploits it. It's fear of the "other" that Palin is trying to stir with her hints about Obama not being "one of us." Her comments about "the real America" and the "pro-America parts of the country" versus "someone who doesn't feel about America the way you and I do," so much so that he "pals around with terrorists," are meant to evoke the "us versus them" feelings that are part of racism. The same goes for all the dark hints that Obama was not born in this country (he was), that he attended a madrassa (he didn't), where he was trained in terrorism (he wasn't), that he's a Muslim and/or an Arab (he's not -- not, as Colin Powell pointed out, that there's anything wrong with it). These are all veiled appeals to fear and prejudice. What other reason could there be for talking about Barack HUSSEIN Obama, or all those T-shirts saying "Vote McCain, not Hussein"?

Less veiled appeals to racism were the ads in the 2006 Tennessee senatorial campaign, with a blond woman winking and saying "Harold, call me." This was a reference to the black Democrat, Harold Ford, and a mistaken call to a sex chat line, but it evoked the old racist trope of black men being out to get white women. There was nothing veiled about the Willie Horton ads that helped take down Dukakis by suggesting he'd be releasing black rapists from jail all over the place.

And the Republican party has made no bones about the blatant appeal to anti-gay sentiments they were making when they used anti-marriage amendments to try and draw more right-wing voters to the polls, to vote down gay rights and incidentally support Republican candidates. Whether it really worked is arguable, but Republican strategists clearly stated that was their intent.

Remember Pat Buchanan's fiery culture war speech at the 92 convention, and all the camera shots of cheering (white) youths holding signs that read "Family Values Forever, Gay Rights Never"? That was such a bald display of bigotry that it backfired, and helped cost George H.W. Bush re-election. (Thanks, Pat!)

It was Lyndon Johnson who said, when he signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, that that act would cost Democrats the South for a generation. He was wrong, but only in the fact that it's been two generations.

Gene Weingarten: Well, yeah.

But did you catch this piece by Peter Beinart in The Post yesterday? He argues that we are moving on, and that Sarah Palin is not the future, but the past. Last of the Culture Warriors, (Post, Nov. 3)


Alexandria: I was thinking about the election and it occured to me that this is the first time in a long time that there was neither a sitting President or Vice President at the top of a major party ticket.

I was trying to go through it in my head and got back to 1952 where I didn't know the answer. Did I miss one? How far back does it go?

Gene Weingarten: I believe 52 is right.


Oro Valley, AZ: You weren't doing updates last week, so I have to express my gratitude this week.

Thank you.

I was feeling sorry for myself last week. My father is dead, my brother is dead, my husband is dead. My sister has stomach cancer and now my mom has ovarian cancer. I was feeling REALLY sorry for myself.

Thank you for the link to types of poop. I laughed out loud, which I was not expecting to do for some time. Thank you.

Gene Weingarten: You're welcome. And I'm sorry for your losses.

You haven't asked me to deconstruct humor, but you have presented a wonderful opportunity for it. Here, scientifically, is why you laughed at poo. It is why we all laugh at poo. We are all your sisters and brothers. We are all in this together:

1. Life is terrifying; death comes randomly and unfairly. This situation is completely absurd, and we are all trapped in it. We are no different from animals in a forest, alone in an implacable universe, at the mercy of nature.

2. We try to live with this knowledge by ignoring it, drowning ourself in day to day trivialities; we persuade ourselves that we are not hunted animals, but a higher being, more sophisticated, more in control, less a victim.

3. Poop puts the lie to all this. We have to do this silly, smelly, undignified thing. We have recognizable, quantifiable, rank-able spoor, just like the beasts in the field.

4. Irony, pretension and hypocrisy is a hoot. We have lots of anxiety to release, and we release it in a form of controlled hysteria: Laughter.

This is, basically, The Peekaboo Paradox. You're welcome.


Unintentional Hum, OR: I know this isn't a political chat, but can we take a moment to reminisce about the funny moments from this campaign? My suggestions as highlights:

--Dennis Kucinich seeing aliens

--Obama getting confused and introduing Biden as the next president of the United States

--McCain getting confused and accidentally saying he agreed with the people who say people in western PA are racists

--the Mike Gravel campaign ad where he throws a rock in the water. Get it? Gravel? Rock?

--the Fox News commentator calling an affectionate fist bump between the Obamas a "terrorist fist jab"

Maybe I'm too young to remember hijinks of old, but this campaign has been an endless source of amusement.

Gene Weingarten: This has been, without doubt, the funniest campaign. As I said last week in the Gene Pool, this was my favorite moment:

To dispel distasteful Internet rumors that her new baby was really the child of her unwed teenage daughter -- suggesting a dangerously dysfunctional trashy-family melodrama -- Sarah Palin indignantly revealed that this could not possibly be true, since her unwed teenage daughter was actually CURRENTLY pregnant by a shiftless teenage high school dropout. This caused everyone to begin counting months and consulting gestation charts to try to figure out if the first rumor might STILL be true.


But there were so many other great moments. We can't forget that Obama, apparently confused by ketchup varieties, once said he'd visited "57 states." Or that in McCain's determined effort to look young and vigorous in a town hall type debate, he todddled the stage stiff-armed and grouchy, like a wind-up 1950s-era robot doll with eyes that sparked.

The ascendancy of Joe the Plumber was great.

And reddragon2 points out an irony I had missed: "When the Rev. Wright disclosure broke and Obama was in trouble with some folks for being a Christian AND a Muslim."

Happy to take others here.


Am I a bad person?: Today I broke up with my boyfriend of over a year. I found out yesterday that he didn't bother to register to vote, and today I'm realizing this is a dealbreaker. Does that make me a petty person? This issue notwithstanding, he's amazing. But I just can't respect a 30-year-old man who HAS NEVER EVER VOTED.

Gene Weingarten: Read the story about Ted Prus.


Previously undecided: I was pretty confused about who to vote for until last night. I don't really buy the idea that either major candidate knows what to do about the economy, and that's the biggest issue for me. Neither of their health care packages appeal to me either.

But I read something last night that made my mind up for me. We already knew that the Obamas were getting their girls a dog after the election, regardless of whether they won or lost. Last night I read that Jill Biden had promised her husband a dog as well, but his dog was contingent upon winning. So if the Obama/Biden ticket lost, Joe Biden would not get a dog. Not only would he be a loser, he'd be a dogless loser. That is the worst kind of loser.

Therefore, in the interest of making sure that guy gets a dog, I'm voting for the Democrats this afternoon. I am no longer undecided.

Gene Weingarten: As good a reason as any.


Dallas, TX: You really made me panic last chat Gene. When you posted that women use 2-3 squares of toilet paper for #1, I immediately felt bad about myself. Yet another thing that makes me weird and completely different than your average female. I didn't know how many squares I normally use, but 2-3 is way too low.

Thank goodness some other chatters and Liz weighed in. I counted a few times this week and I'm averaging about 8-9 squares for toilet paper at home. I'm sure it is more for the tissue paper they use in the restrooms at work.

Where on earth did that 2-3 number come from?

Oh, and I always bunch.

Gene Weingarten: I received about two dozen posts like this one. We will concede women use more than that study showed. At least, the women of Chatological Humor do. But read the next post, which I simply disown.


TP squares: Gene, allow me an analogy. Splash your face with water. Dry your face. Did it take longer to dry your mustache than it did to dry your bare cheek? Yes, of course it did. Bare skin is easier to dry than your mustache because there were tiny droplets clinging to the hair of your mustache, right? Well, different women use differing amounts of TP (even for 'wee-wee') because of grooming habits, as skin is easier to dry than hair. Just sayin'.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, I am sneaking over a line that is going to make Ms. Chatwoman very uncomfortable, so we shall be delicate and proper here.

I am not a gynecologist, but I am also not entirely unfamiliar with female anatomy. And I have checked with three persons with uteruses, and we agree that your thesis is, well, all wet.

With proper deployment of toilet paper and proper vectors, andgles of incidence and reflection, etc., there is just no reason why hair should become moist during the aforementioned procedure.


20001: Gene, after reading last week's chat, I used the facilities in my downtown office building and, recalling the discussion of "how many squares," decided to count mine. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the TP was not perforated into squares! (No wonder I have trouble tearing it off the roll.) Does this mean I can use the entire roll and not feel regret, since I'm only using one "square"? (I'm a woman, if that matters.)

Gene Weingarten: Please, lady. You are not using one "square," you are using one highly elongated rectangle.

One day years ago, at an open-mike comedy contest that I covered (and, embarrassingly, participate in) one of the contestents had a routine I wished I'd thought of. His point was: "Did y'ever notice how when you have a fat, new roll of toilet paper, people are really wasteful with it?" (He demonstrated this by getting down on one knee extending a hand full legth to grab to the imaginary TP roll, and then whipping it backwards with a "fjjjjjjjjjjjj..." unspooling sound effect.)

Then he demonstrated how we behave when there is so thin a tissue of paper left you can see the cardboard through it. Not describable here, but very funny.


Crystal City: While I agree that Buchanan was one of our very worst, I have to ask: what could/should he have done to avert the Civil War?

Gene Weingarten: Doubtful it could have been averted, but Buchanan almost gave a license to it. His position was that secession was illegal, but that he, as president, had no constitutional power to oppose it.

He was phenomenally weak and dithering.


BBFL: I had an appointment with my plastic surgeon last Tuesday afternoon regarding the state of my right nipple, and was going to tell you what the doctor said in one of your daily updates. But since you didn't update during the week, I will now tell you what happened.


The physician is now looking at nipple reattachment in late November or early December. In the interim, I have a huge gaping open wound on my chest that must be kept clean and bacteria-free by using antibiotic-laced gauze pads covered by a dry gauze pad, and held in place with a bra I bought at WalMart. I have to change the wound dressing three times per day. Friends and family have taken to calling me Lefty.

My next doctor's visit isn't until Tuesday afternoon of this week. So unless you do updates during the week, I'll have to fill you in (keep you "abreast") weekly.

You may also be interested to know that, while all this breast reduction is happening with me, my sister is getting breast enlargement surgery this Thursday. We were genetically blessed in very different ways. Or maybe the grass just looks so very green on that other side.


Gene Weingarten: Hey, whoa. Since you are sister and everything, uh, couldn't you have worked it out so she got your extra stuff? Less likelihood of rejection?

How does this work, with the nipple? They're keeping it alive in agar, or something?


More on the TP: (I just can't let this go.) Shouldn't you have a feel that 2-3 sheets is far too low? You use toilet paper as well. Are you saying that you use only 2-3 sheets?! I'm guessing no.

Gene Weingarten: This is unfamiliar territory for men: Wiping after peeing.


This is Random: BUT...I work at Connecticut and Rhode Island NW (above Brooks Brothers). This morning, on my way to work, there was a dead deer in the middle of the intersection. By the time I walked by (8:10 or so) I think it had been moved, but it was still in the middle lane of Connecticut Ave., just now positioned behind the stop light that is in the center lane. I guess it just got me thinking about how this could possibly happening? Was there really a deer running down Connecticut ave? How fast was the car going that hit it? And did it really not see the giant deer in the downtown area of a city and think, huh, maybe I'll slow down. Did anyone else witness this or have any more insight into what happened? Isn't it so odd?

Gene Weingarten: Guess: It was already dead, and fell off a truck.


Gainesville, Va.: I recently came across a column titled "The Election in November," which probably captures the sentiments of many Obama voters today:

"We are persuaded that [his] election will do more than anything else to appease the excitement of the country. He has proved both his ability and his integrity; he has had experience enough in public affairs to make him a statesman, and not enough to make him a politician. That he has not had more will be no objection to him in the eyes of those who have seen the administration of the experienced public functionary whose term of office is just drawing to a close."

The quote, of course, is from James Russell Lowell's endorsement of Abraham Lincoln in The Atlantic in 1860. While I will be pulling the lever for McCain today, I sincerely hope that Obama will turn out to be more like his fellow Illinoisan and less like, say, Carter.

Gene Weingarten: I am not saying Obama is Lincoln, but there is a similarity between the two I find compelling. It is fact, not opinion.

If he is elected, Obama will join Lincoln and Jefferson in a three-man pantheon: Great writers who became president.

Whatever your political leanings, you owe it to yourself to read Dreams From My Father. Especially if you harbor doubts about Obama.


The Poll: I find it really telling that the majority of McCain voters think that McCain would only be an "average" president. (And 35% of McCain voters think Obama will be an "average" president!)

Obama is going to win. His supporters actually are voting FOR him, instead of against someone else.

Gene Weingarten: I think McCain's campaign has disappointed many former enthusiasts.

_______________________ Apologies folks -- we're having some issues with our servers, it seems, so Gene's running a bit slow. Stay where you are -- the show must go on.


Cell Phone Down the Toilet: I've done it. I'm a 26-year-old female. This is what happened. I was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt (zip up hooded). I was also studying for my Masters comps and thus very very sober. I peed and stood up. I pulled up my jeans and, while using my right arm to hold up my sweatshirt and using my right hand to zip up my jeans, I simultaneously turned around, bent over the toilet and reached for the handle with my left hand to flush. My cell was in my sweatshirt pocket, and when it was lifted so I could zip up, it slipped out of the pocket, into the toilet, and because the flush had already begun, went spinning down the toilet with the water. In a second it was gone. It was a real tiny phone, so there was no clogging or backup.

I learned that when I'm in the bathroom, I am very fast and try to do all the appropriate steps really quick, or overlap them. I think this stems from when my family would stop at rest stops on trips and my father would finish so much faster than either myself or my two sisters and mother. I think I made it my goal in life to be quick so I could beat him, which I can, now.

Gene Weingarten: Well, of course you can, now. His prostate is the size of a beanbag chair.


McCa, IN: Just saw him last night on "SNL," and I couldn't help but notice how much FUN he was having -- he was wearing a perpetual grin, and could barely deliver his lines without laughing. Granted, it would have been an uphill fight for any Republican to win this year, but watching that appearance, I couldn't help but wondering if he wouldn't be a lot closer in the polls if we had seen more of that McCain, as opposed to the "grumpy old man" McCain, during the debates and in his other speeches... Both McCain clips available here.

Gene Weingarten: I loved his performance on SNL. Yes, it is as though a great weight had lifted from him, and he knew it.


Lexington, Ky.: A question for people of the male gender: Is it common to have your underpants get damp after urination? This happens to my husband, and grosses me out.

Gene Weingarten: Uh.

It is not uncommon. A little.


Springfield, Va.: Gene said, "there is just no reason why hair should become moist during the aforementioned procedure."

Thanks you. Since my hair does indeed become moist, where do I go to learn how to urinate properly? Or should I consult my physician to determine if my lady parts are misshapen?

Gene Weingarten: Can any girls enlighten this person? I am laughing, though.


Arlington Gay: Gene, your dad's list is almost identical to my dad's list, though my dad has never sat out a race. So just add McGovern and Obama to the list.

Some ask why anyone always votes the party line. I have good reason to never vote for the GOP because they've made it clear to me I am not welcome. On some issues, I could vote against a Dem but not as long as the GOP continues to vilify my life.

Jay Fisette of the Arlington County Board (the first openly gay elected official in Virginia) said it best in 2004 (and every year since): "To be gay or lesbian in the year 2004 is to be political. Not by choice - but for our survival. We have been thrust into this as the whipping post, the wedge issue, and the fund raising scare tactic of political opportunists for too long."

Gene Weingarten: Good quote.


McLean: Gene,

Thank for recognizing the ending of Opus as a great moment in comics. It SO outclassed the ending of FBOFW. And it has me wondering if Steve Dallas is spending eternity in the county animal shelter. The look on Steve's face was Master Card Priceless. I think that Berkeley Breathed projected his feelings into Steve Dallas' face.

Betcha that Chatwoman got moist eyes as she read the finale.

Gene Weingarten: That face was really exquisite. You knew you were looking at something special. I bet he worked a week on that.


Indianapolis, Ind.: Thought I'd get your take on this.

I thought all three were funny and am a conservative. Of course, my question is, are all three actually funny? I'll admit, the last one isn't laugh-out-loud funny; it's more of a quick chuckle because it's just so silly.

Gene Weingarten: Boy, there's a lot going on here.

The first would be funny if it weren't so old, and if the engine of the joke (golfers love golf) weren't so hackneyed; I would argue that the fact that conservatives loved that one the most suggests conservatives don't get out as much, in the humor sphere.

The only really GOOD joke there is the third, because it is so subversive.

I think it has been established that conservatives are, in fact, jollier, but the mechanics of humor don't really work that way. Existential anxiety DRIVES humor, it doesn't muffle it.


Alexandria, Va.: Not calling anyone here stupid... but how can 4% of the people that say they are voting for McCain/Palin say that McCain would be a complete disaster as president.

How does that make any sense?

Gene Weingarten: Evidently, they think Obama would be a completer disaster.


Save the Style Invitation, AL: The Empress of the Style Invitational regretfully informed me that upon her departure on Dec. 31 there is a possibility that the Invitational could be canceled with no successor named. She also let me know that if the ombudsman/woman gets enough pleas to save it from the big newspaper in the sky they may consider keeping it due to reader demand. Can you let the SI fans among your readers (I'm guessing there are a lot) know that if they want to save the Style Invitational they should let the Ombudsman know? I have it on good word that she reads all messages. If you could get a good word in also that would be much appreciated. Thanks!

Gene Weingarten: Your central thesis is correct: A decision must be made, and to my knowledge, that decision has not yet been made. I think hearing from readers will help.

Yeah, I think the Invitational is extremely worth keeping. I have hope; the editors of The Washington Post are very smart people.


Dreams of My Father: Did you see the article yesterday (or perhaps Sunday?) questioning how much of Dreams of My Father Obama actually wrote himself? It actually reviewed some of his previous writings, discussed the original cancellation of contract, and came up with the conclusion that it was a very quality ghostwriter who did the stylistic work on the book, and not Obama.

Gene Weingarten: I don't believe there is any basis in fact for this assertion.

Re-read Obama's speech on race, which all agree that he wrote himself. This is a writer


Anonymous: I'm scared. A woman called a local radio station this morning to announce that she was on her way to vote for McCain. She proceeded to enlighten the listening masses that Obama shouldn't be on the Democratic ticket because he can't produce a birth certificate to prove that he's a U.S. citizen. She then asked the shock jock if he didn't find it peculiar that Obama's grandmother "just happened to pass away yesterday"; a conspiracy theory that still puzzles me some four hours later. One of the DJ's sidekicks quickly pulled up snopes to inform the lady that, in fact, Obama is an American citizen. The woman then remarked "Oh, I guess I was wrong about that." Gene, please tell me that this ilk is a minority in our country...PLEASE?!

Gene Weingarten: I said to Tom the Liquor Store guy, just yesterday, that by the end of today day, someone, somewhere, was going to suggest that Obama had a hand in the timing of his granny's death.


Slower Lower Delaware: Gene,

Just wanted to tell you that I love your chats. I sit in a cubicle all day long and it gets me through.

And on the TP issue..being a man who consistently changes the TP role after the females are done, they use WAY more than 2-3 sheets when wiping.

Do you think you could promote a study or survey that finds out how the sexes put a new role of TP on? Overhand or underhand?

I hate underhand, is messes me up when grabbing for some after a #2 and I find that if some of it hangs off the roll it either sits nicely in the trash can below the TP or on the floor. Now I have to waste another few sheets so I am not cleaning myself with dirty TP.

I find that most women I have know replace it in the underhand fashion. Is this your experience?

Gene Weingarten: Neither I nor the Rib can abide overhand. It seems so wrong.


Frager's Hardware -- Celebrity Site: Gene,

I'd like to report a celebrity sighting and the frenzied irrationality such things produce. My wife and I spotted YOU [we think] outside of Frager's paint store on Sunday.

She said, "Oh my Go-odness! I have to throw my panties at him."

I said, "The children!"

Fortunately, she demured.

I'll post a question on the next Reliable Source chat to talk about the Sunday finery you were wearing.

Gene Weingarten: One of the things I love about my neighborhood is that I can walk the streets looking like a homeless person. No one minds, or notices.


Worst President: Not only did Buchanan fail to prevent the War of Southern Rebellion, the traitorous members of his cabinet used their offices to: arm and supply the rebels prevent the US Army and Navy from preparing to resist the rebellion.

Gene Weingarten: As I recall, Buchanan also secretly conspired with Roger Taney of the Supreme Court (a friend of his) to help word the Dred Scott decision. The worst decision ever.


Lady parts: Three women is too small a sample size to declare that hair should not become moist. You think we don't have enough trivialities to obsess about? Now I'm obsessed that I have never learned how to pee correctly, or god forbid, I am grossly deformed and have been lied to by three serious ex-boyfriends. The level of moisture is undoubtedly related not only to grooming, but architecture and mode of deployment. Also consider that some women, myself included, practice the "quiet pee", using less force but suffering more moisture.

Gene Weingarten: The Quiet Pee????


Dear Abby had a TP poll years ago: Over won. Gives you traction for the tear.

Gene Weingarten: You don't need traction if you tear perpendicular to the flow of the roll.


The Ba, ND: I don't disagree with you about the quality of the "brown record" as a whole, but The Weight and Stage Fright are better individual songs than any on the self-titled record. Rag Mama Rag does not touch either.

Gene Weingarten: I forgot about The Weight. I agree with you. That may be the best Band song.


New York, N.Y.: "He didn't! He sat it out. Could not stomach voting for Nixon, but didn't trust McGovern."

So your article lied. You say there your father had voted every four years for President.

Gene Weingarten: No, he voted every four years. That year he didn't vote for president.


Washington, D.C.: Gene, a chat scheduled to begin immediately after yours asks: "Tell us what you love about your favorite state, whether native, adopted, swing, solid, red, blue or purple. Bonus points if it rhymes!"

What, sir, is your contribution? Celebrating the States on Election Day, (Discussion, 1 p.m. ET)

Gene Weingarten: This idea sounds dorky,
But my bias is New York-ey.


Gene Weingarten: Sigh. Sorry about the long waits and delays. We are theorizing that the elections have just really driven up traffic all over the site.

I wasn't gonna update, but now will. I feel guilty.

See y'all next week.


UPDATED 11.5.08

Gene Weingarten: Okay, Barack, the honeymoon is over.

You need to defend Michelle's dress last night. Please call me at the office ASAP. I don't want this to get any uglier than it already is.

I toggled back and forth between CNN and FOX last night, and they were equally hilarious. FOX's pain was amusingly evident; their demeanor was stoic, dutiful, conversational, but with a faint hint of professional regret and apology, the way ER doctors deliver unwelcome news to waiting relatives.

The CNN team was funny in its own way, too. They had evidently decided that they were going to be the Mature Grownup Network, withholding projected winners longer than any of the others, primly eschewing potentially tainted exit poll data, certifying a state only after real votes had been tallied, re-tallied, confirmed via abacus, etc. So, for example, they anointed Obama as winner of Ohio nearly a full hour after the Rib (watching elsewhere in another room) informed me of the fact.

This created major discomfort for the people on camera, who simply were not allowed to say what they knew when they knew it and were as jumpy and anxious to unload as people with full bladders and no porta-potty. At one point, Wolf Blitzer said, without elaboration: "Obama might be readying for a very big speech¿" Bill Bennett couched everything as "If Obama wins" at a point so late in the process that even most American household pets knew the thing was done.

So for what it's worth, CNN: You held on to your dignity, but not to my attention. By night's end, I was elsewhere, getting things first.

This election is a Big Deal, but you'll be hearing variations of that from everyone else today. I have some thoughts about how it is also a vindication for the electoral college system. I often find myself alone in defending the E.C., but I think this election makes the case for it, strongly. I'll be taking about it in The Gene Pool.


Overhand vs. underhand: I never understood the benefits of loading the roll underhand. Please explain.

Gene Weingarten: I only want to have to do this once, so listen up.

When you are tearing off the sheets, you tear up and across. This utilizes the mass of the rest of the roll, to facilitate the tear.

But that is not the main reason. The main reason is aesthetic. It looks better. I will warrant that 80 to 85 percent of artists, architects and interior decorators have it spool out from below, with the overage hanging against the wall, not flappying down from the top into the middle of the room.

I am so right. I am inarguably correct. I cannot even believe we are having this discussion. You are so wrong.


Dead deer: I think this was covered in The Post. A deer was in a courtyard off Connecticut Ave. They brought in animal control to tranquilize the deer, but the deer bounded off when hit by the dart, I think, and got hit in traffic.

It's currently the rut. Deer do all kinds of stupid things looking for love.

Gene Weingarten: Awwww.


Lancaster, Pa.: As a resident of the homestead of James Buchanan, universally considered the worst President of the United States who has brought over a century of shame to our fair city, all I can say is: thank you, President George W. Bush.

Gene Weingarten: Yep, everyone moves up a notch. The greatest beneficiary is probably Millard Fillmore, who moves out of the Bottom Five.


Peter Beinart is right, I hope: Re Sarah Palin's (lack of) prospects for 2012, consider that in the entire post-War period, not a single failed Vice Presidential candidate has ever come back to win the Presidency. In fact, only two (Mondale, who'd lost as a sitting VP, and Dole, who had extensive political experience) even garnered their party's nomination, but they both lost. I figure that political parties can't get past the failed VP candidate's loser label.

The record: 1948: Earl Warren 1952: John Sparkman 1956: Estes Kefauver 1960: Henry Cabot Lodge 1964: William Miller (hence the original American Express "Do you know me?" ad) 1968: Edmund Muskie 1972: Tom Eagleton, then Sargent Shriver 1976: Dole 1980: Mondale 1984: Geraldine Ferraro 1988: Lloyd Bentsen 1992: Dan Quayle 1996: Jack Kemp 2000: Joe Lieberman 2004: John Edwards 2008: Sarah Palin or Joe Biden

Gene Weingarten: The most illustrious case of it happening was 1920. Franklin Roosevelt (pre-polio) lost as veep.


Funny campaign: How about when McCain bragged about having support of five Secs. of State and then couldn't remember them all?

Gene Weingarten: The best part was that he remembered during the asking of the next question, and blurted: "George Schultz!"


UPDATED 11.6.08

Arlington, Va.: The Palin-"Sarkozy" thing... hysterically funny or just too stupid to be funny? I have to admit I am not a fan of this sort of "gotcha" "humor" and I find it to be unfunny and just plain mean and dumb. I never saw the Borat movie and have no interest or intention of ever doing so for example. Palin Pranked by 'Sarkozy,' (BBCNews, Nov. 2)

Gene Weingarten: I found it less that great because it was pretty clear that she really wasn't hearing him well. And also that they hadn't prepared well enough for a virtuoso "gotcha."

Nonetheless, her people were dumb to fall for this, and there were several moments that should have been dead giveaways, among them that a French person would say, in heavily accented but oddly vernacular English, "No prrrroblem."

Uh, and Palin should have had a clue when they got the name of the prime minister of Canada wrong, and when Sarkozy started talking about the joy of killing animals.


Aaarrgh...: Hi Gene. Today on our local NPR station, the longtime news host twice used the word "primer" but pronounced it "primmer" with a short "i" sound. What's up with that? There are several national correspondents and anchors on NPR who make the same error, and it grates on me every time I hear it. Would you please announce to the world the correct pronunciation of the word, please? Thank you.

Gene Weingarten: I shall indeed.

The correct pronunciation is "primmer."

Aren't you glad these chats are anonymous?


Op, US: I was betting that Opus would be sitting behind Calvin and Hobbes on the sled.

Oh, well.

Gene Weingarten: That would have been WAAAY presumptuous. Breathed never would have gone there.


Omaha, Neb.: My kindergartener came home yesterday talking about the election his class held. The results were Obama 10, McCain 9, which was a good example for the "every vote counts" lesson (we have not yet reached the "electoral college" lesson). He has asked what we will do if Obama, our favored candidate, loses, and we have told him that we'll be sad and disappointed for a few days, and then we'll go back to trying our hardest to be good people and do good work.

Then he said that another kid in his class called Obama a name. I braced myself, not wanting to hear the n-word come out of my little guy's mouth but also needing to know if he had heard it. I asked him gently what the name was. Apparently, the other boy called Obama a "bad guy," and said that everyone had to vote for McCain. We cleared that up and went on our merry way.

Polling place report from this morning: Got in line behind about 40 people at 7:40. Drank cocoa until 8:00. Voted at 8:15.

Gene Weingarten: This is my absolutely favorite personal kid story. I may have told it before. Molly was four years old in preschool, and I came to pick her up one day after a day of outside play. As we were in the bathroom, washing up, I was using this as a way to discuss the concepts of "clean" and "dirty."

Molly suddenly, improbably, volunteered: "Laurean is dirty."

Now, there were maybe 20 kids in her preschool class, and exactly one was black. I sensed that this was a Major Moment.

So I stopped all washing, and explained to Molly that Laurean wasn't dirty, she was a black person. And that she was just the same yadda yadda. And Molly looked at me blankly. So then I said, well, okay, you know how there are black dogs and white dogs, right? And Molly nodded. And I said: "Well, black dogs aren't dirtier than white dogs, right? That's just their color!"

She still wasn't really getting this! And just as I was about to launch into another self-righteous oversimplification, a teacher came in carrying Laurean, who was covered head to toe in mud.


Shock and awwwww: Gene, I have always believed you to be the king of all things bathroom related. But now I come to find out that for years you have believed that women use 2 or 3 squares of TP to pee?? Who were the women in this survey, Mennonites? I am shocked by your lack of knowledge on this matter and am now questioning your authority entirely! This morning, I counted and use exactly 11 squares, though I should point out that I use super-flimsy eco-friendly TP.

Gene Weingarten: So, Liz, you feel much more virtuous than if you used thicker paper but only six squares, right? You're like a Hummer driver who coasts in neutral to conserve on gas. Well at least my Hummer is made out of post-consumer recycled paper.


UPDATED 11.7.08

Gene Weingarten: A couple of people have asked me to weigh in on a journalistic question involving the phenomenal fact that Sarah Palin, allegedly, believed Africa to be a country. The fact apparently has been known to a few journalists for some time, but they did not reveal what they knew until after the election, because that was the deal under which they were given the information. See this clip.

The question is: Were journalists wrong to withhold this information? Weren't they obliged to reveal it, for voters to know, because of the staggering ignorance it revealed?

Simple answer: No. It's a judgment call, but my judgment would have been, no. They were not obligated, and they should not have revealed it.

You break a promise like that only under the most dire circumstances, such as if the person giving you the embargoed information had no right to embargo it, given the gravity of the information and how germane it would be to the election. In such a case, the leaker was probably coopting you, using your promise of confidentiality to keep the information from surfacing. You can't let yourself be used like that, but very few things meet that extraordinary threshold. An example would be if they were disclosing something criminal. If a McCain aide had told me, psst, Sarah has embezzled millions from Alaska, but you cannot use it, I would have to reveal it. That would be utterly germane. This is far more speculative, and your promise has to hold.

There's an interesting situation from the past, where a journalist went the other way: Milton Coleman of The Washington Post revealed that Jesse Jackson had referred to New York City as "Hymietown" in private conversations with black reporters.

Not sure how I would have gone on that one, actually. But here? I understand withholding it. It must have been hard for the journalists involved.


Dulles: Gene, I think I found a logic loggerhead in two theories you've espoused.

Many times you've stated that one shouldn't care what someone else says about them, because you should know for yourself that it's untrue. For example, you don't care if someone says you're a horrible writer, because you know you're good. You shouldn't care if someone calls your wife a whore, because you know she's not.

However, last week you repeated a previous idea of using the "you have a tiny wee-wee" hand symbol as a response to aggressive drivers to try to shame them into acting better on the roads. However, if said driver doesn't care about the insults from others, that hand symbol won't matter to them! How can you have both theories when they so obviously conflict?

Gene Weingarten: Okay, you are slightly misremembering: "Your mother's a whore," uttered by someone who doesn't know my mother, is meaningless and should have no capacity to hurt. They're just flinging words with no knowledge behind it. "You're a terrible writer" does hurt me. Presumably, this person knows my writing, and doesn't think much of it. I might disagree, but it would bother me to some extent that someone thinks I suck.

The little penis thing is interesting: I think it hurts not because it is reaching a truth (whether or not you are hung like a mosquito, the woman wouldn't know it) but because she is insinuating your behavior is like someone who is insecure about his masculinity. It is a reaction to something you have done. It can hurt.


Arlington, Va.: Gene, please explain this to me. To my eyes, Sarah Palin is not at all hott. Granted, I'm a heterosexual woman, but I can tell the difference between a babe and a not-so-babe. And I'm just not seeing anything babelicious about Palin. Her face is meh and the rest of her is no more attractive than any other woman in a suit who is in her normal weight range. So what's the big deal? What is the attraction?

Gene Weingarten: Speaking as a man who has no respect for anything about her except her ambition, which is admirable: She's trim, energetic, feisty, has excellent legs and a nice behind. She exudes self confidence, which is sexy.

If she were someone whose views and intellect and abilities I admire, I would find her unbearably hot. Okay, like, if she actually WERE Tina Fey. Tina, are you hearing this? I want you.


How much TP?: Gene, I sent in the analogy about splashing your face with water and I want to know which "three persons with uteruses" you checked with, because there are many who have hair where it cannot avoid getting wet and many who do not wax and/or shave such an area and therefore do get hair wet in such an instance. Obviously, the "three persons with uteruses" with whom you spoke are not of a Latin/Mediterranean descent, as this ethnicity have a tendency towards being more hirsute EVERYWHERE. Trust me. I know from PERSONAL experience. It is more than possible. It is a likelihood.

Gene Weingarten: I have been inundated (as it were) with posts like this, and also posts from women agreeing that hair-wetting is highly unlikely.

I am stepping out of this debate. We will agree there are anatomical differences, well within the standard deviation, that makes this question unanswerable and therefore invalidates my original pronouncement.


This reminded me of you...: It was entertainment night at the senior center, and the Amazing Claude was topping the bill. People came from miles around to see the famed hypnotist do his stuff. As Claude went to the front of the meeting room, he announced, 'Unlike most hypnotists who invite two or three people up here to be put into a trance, I intend to hypnotize each and every member of the audience.' The excitement was almost electric as Claude withdrew a beautiful antique pocket watch from his coat. 'I want you each to keep your eye on this antique watch. It's a very special watch. It's been in my family for six generations.'

He began to swing the watch gently back and forth while quietly chanting, 'Watch the watch, watch the watch, watch the watch...' The crowd was mesmerized as the watch swayed back and forth, light gleaming off its polished surface. Hundreds of pairs of eyes followed the swaying watch until suddenly, it slipped from the hypnotist's fingers and fell to the floor, breaking into a hundred pieces.... 'SH-T!' said the hypnotist...

It took three days to clean up the senior center.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Sun Prairie, Wis.: Just read your column. The economics Nobelist you talked to, Robert Solow, has a reputation as one of the funniest economists as well as one of the smartest. His most famous quip: "Everything reminds Milton Friedman of the money supply. Everything reminds me of sex, but I try to keep it out of my papers."

Gene Weingarten: Indeed. It was not a coincidence that I went to him. I had interviewed him once before.


Mishawaka, Ind.: Dear Gene,

The purpose of this note is not to discuss the election, about which I'll say only that I'm an Obama fan and I hope he takes Indiana. Instead of the election, I'd like to belatedly contribute to your chat of May, 2007(?), which concerned Googlenopes. I'll admit this is an odd day to write, when so much that is so much more important is going on, but I decided to write anyway because a little bit of spare time hit me simultaneously with a little bit of courage.

One entry that pulled up no initial hits for you in your Googlenope study was the following: "Gene Weingarten is hot." Well, if the question "is Gene Weingarten hot?" or some similar question containing '70s-appropriate slang had been put to me in the late '70s, I would have eagerly replied "yes." So, I'm here to say that, at a minimum, "Gene Weingarten WAS hot."

I was an unsophisticated, Midwestern college girl who had a crush on you in about 1977-1978. At that time, you were a reporter for the Detroit Free Press and I was working as office help. My crush on you was only made worse when I found out that you liked dogs (my favorite beings then and continuing to this day). My crush was also worsened by the fact that you were a heck of a nice guy, smart, funny, and culturally sophisticated.

Basically, I had a crush on someone who was out of my league. That person (you) responded with kindness and professionalism.

I hope that this note is not discomforting in any way. Rest assured, I'm married to a great guy, I'm happily working as a technical writer, and I'm rational. I just couldn't resist letting you know that in my memories, "Gene Weingarten is a hot gentleman!"

Sincerely, Someone from Your Past

Gene Weingarten: Well, this is my favorite post since, okay, ever.

I think I know who this is.

If I'm right, kid, you were never out of my league. You were tantalizing, but I was taken. AND shy.

Actually, even if I'm wrong, you were obviously not out of my league. Thank you for writing. You made my decade.


Gene Weingarten: Courtesy Mr. Dave Barry, we bring you this story, followed by this video.

Quiz for the day: Was liquor possibly involved?


Submit to next week's discussion.


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