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Washington Sketch

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The Washington Post's Dana Milbank updates the employment status of Senators Joe Lieberman and Ted Stevens. Video by Akira Hakuta/washingtonpost.comOne of These Senators Is Not Like the Others

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Dana Milbank
Washington Post Columnist
Thursday, November 20, 2008; 1:00 PM

Post columnist Dana Milbank, who serves as the capital's foremost critic of political theater in his Washington Sketch columns and videos, was online Thursday, Nov. 20 to take your questions and comments about the things politicians say -- and the absurd ways they find to say them.

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A transcript follows.

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Dana Milbank: Good afternoon from the Senate press gallery, where I am watching the slaying of the Old Bulls.

The Senate just finished two hours of tributes to Ted Stevens, who found out he had lost his reelection fight two days ago, on his 85th birthday. Among those toasting Stevens was Robert Byrd, 91 years old today, who gave a moving tribute but was later wheeled out by an aide after the senator kept interrupting others' speeches with shouts of Yes! and You bet! and Amen!

Over on the House side, Henry Waxman just ousted John Dingell, the 82-year-old Dean of the House, as chairman of the Commerce Committee. My colleague Paul Kane points out that on Valentine's Day Dingell will be the longest serving member of the House in history -- but he'll apparently mark that occasion as a backbencher.

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Puzzled: Why is David Plouffe still sending me all these emails?

Dana Milbank: Excellent question! I like the one yesterday from Plouffe (Obama's campaign manager) that claims to be a survey, seeking your input on just how the president-elect should be setting up his government, then when you get to the end it asks you for anywhere from $5 to $5,000.

That's a chunk of change we can believe in.

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Rebranding?: I read that President-elect Obama has an opportunity to "re-brand" America for the international community, according to some Harvard Business School guy. Does this mean we get a new logo, mission statement, vision statement and strategic plan?

washingtonpost.com: Obama poised to rebrand America, experts say (CNN.com)

Dana Milbank: I hope we get that decorative "o" in Hope that was in the Obama campaign logo.

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ssmd: Dana, Your sketch today about the car execs was like shooting fish in a barrel.

any comment on the Waxman v. Dingell fight?

washingtonpost.com: Capitol Briefing: Waxman Defeats Dingell (washingtonpost.com, Nov. 20)

Dana Milbank:

An interesting Waxman footnote. Had he stayed at the Oversight committee, he would have been overseeing the Obama White House, and one of the key figures in the Obama White House is likely to be Phil Schiliro, Waxman's former chief of staff on the committee. This would raise the prospect that Waxman would be sending letters and subpoenas to his former sidekick -- which helps to explain why Waxman needed a different chairmanship.

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Washington, DC: Does anyone know how Gettelfinger (UAW Prez) traveled to town? Seriously, it looks as though Big 3 management and the union leadership have been joined at the hip, riding their horses (jets?) to the ground together...

Dana Milbank:

Nobody asked him -- and the quartet slipped out a back door yesterday before the press could have at 'em. It was indeed hard to distinguish the union boss from management yesterday. I suppose that's understandable since they all need the government help, but their performance yesterday certainly didn't inspire sympathy for the cause.

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Great Falls, VA: So Dana,

Do you think they will ship that Brookstone Barca-Lounger over to Ted Stevens' new home, also paid for by the taxpayer... Cellblock B?

Dana Milbank:

I'd be stunned if Uncle Ted winds up in the cooler. And I think the massage chair should go to the Smithsonian.

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Boston: Every time I see that picture of Joe Lieberman here at your site I wonder if he is the least popular guy in the Senate. Democrats don't like him, Republicans don't like him and the one other "Independent" voted to toss him from his chairmanship. Will Joe make a comeback or just slowly fade away?

Dana Milbank:

I have done some in-depth research on this question. (I turned around in my Aeron desk chair and asked Shailagh Murray.) Apparently with Larry Craig's departure from the chamber, Joe Lieberman will be officially the least popular person in the entire chamber. But this makes him an automatic favorite of the Washington Sketch.

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Bloomington, Ind: Good Afternoon Dana. I need a place to stay for the inauguration. Can I rent one of your spare rooms?

Dana Milbank: Spare rooms? I have five people coming to stay in my house, and I don't even know two of them. I'm also wondering what the commute will be like on the 20th, with an extra 4 million people. Perhaps I'll follow the example of a new member of Congress, Jason Chaffetz, who plans to live out of his House office, sleep on a cot, shower at the House gym and take his dirty underwear home on weekends.

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Famous chairs in US history: So Uncle Ted's Barcalounger would be placed alongside Archie Bunker's rocking chair and Franklin Roosevelt's wheelchair at the Smithsonian?

Dana Milbank: Unless the curators would prefer the Stevens fish statue. The deck on the house in Girdwood probably wouldn't fit, even in the newly renovated American History museum.

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AARGH. Avast, me hearties!: With the great upsurge in pirate attacks in the Middle East, I see this is a place for VP Cheney to have a gratifying second career. Think about it, he can plunder oil tankers and make people walk the plank for fun. And he'd look hot in an eye patch.

Dana Milbank:

Blow me down! He'll make those pirates walk the plank.

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Washington, DC: It was recently reported that Obama gave Biden a dozen cupcakes for his birthday. However, it was reported a couple weeks ago that Biden had been spotted in a gym, trying to work off some weight he'd gained during the campaign. Is our president-elect really this insensitive? What does this say about his leadership capabilities?

washingtonpost.com: Boss gives Biden cupcakes for his 66th birthday (Associated Press)

Dana Milbank: Another problem with this whole thing. Presenting the cupcakes, Obama told Biden this means he's 12 years old, and Biden said he's only 12 in dog years. But wouldn't that make him 84? This is the sort of fuzzy math that worries me about the new administration.

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Iowa: David Yepsen, longtime political reporter at the Des Moines Register, has announced that he is a finalist for another job. If he should leave the Register, we would be thrilled beyond belief if you would consider becoming the Register's chief political guru. You only have to work really hard once every four years, though in the interim there are the occasional (very) early trolling candidates (see Jindal, Bobby and Huckabee, Mike) to be acknowledged . We could really use your more erudite brand of snarkiness here.

Dana Milbank:

Ah, but there's a problem with this, Iowa. I wrote an entire column making fun of the editor of the Des Moines Register for her disastrous moderating of a debate.

But I do wonder what Yepsen is up to. Probably Hollywood.

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Virginia Beach, VA: What does President-elect Obama gain from having Ms. Clinton as his Secretary of State? Certainly, she is smart and capable, but the millions given to the Clinton Foundation would certainly lead to some rather delicate diplomatic dancing. Would not Senator Lugar (R-IN) bring many of the same qualities, but without the baggage? With a Republican governor of Indiana, his appointment would not change the Senate's balance.

Dana Milbank: I think you're looking at this the wrong way. The real question we should be asking is, what does the press gain from having Clinton as Secretary of State. And the answer is she, and her husband, will be an endless source of tension and palace intrigue. This is why her nomination and prompt confirmation are crucial.

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Laramie, WY: A friend of mine predicted an Obama blowout before the election and that in its wake the GOP would have to rename itself The Donner Party. They are now eating themselves, it appears. Who do you think will win control; the low- or highbrow Republicans?

Dana Milbank:

Bet you didn't know, Laramie, that I am a descendant of the Donners, on my paternal grandmother's side. We guard our heritage of cannibalism jealously and do not wish to share it with the likes of John Boehner and Eric Cantor.

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Presidential pardons?: Whom do you foresee W pardoning before he leaves office?

Dana Milbank: Apparently he's got 2,300 people begging his pardon at the moment -- the highest number of applicants in more than 100 years. Uncle Ted and Scooter haven't put in applications, but Duke Cunningham is on the list.

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New York : So when a good friend like Ted Stevens gets into trouble, and could have used just a little help from his friends in the press, what happens? You abandoned him, that's what happened. After all he has done for you. You should be ashamed, sir. Hundreds of stories, millions of memorable moments, billions of temper tantrums, and you don't lift a finger to help. Well, I hope you sleep well tonight.

Dana Milbank: I admit I was getting a bit misty eyed in the chamber this morning. And Shailagh was crying like a baby.

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Bowie, MD: Dana, You seem to be upset that the Dems didn't punish Lieberman enough (at all). My question is why should they punish him? What did he do? He supported his friend. Is it your contention that Washington should be a place where people can't differ on opinions about who should lead? Kerry thought about McCain in his administration and Biden also regarded McCain highly too. So I ask again what is the big deal? I say, let's move past this and deal with the really big issues - there are more than enough to go around (health care reform, Iraq War withdrawl, terrorism, global financial crisis, etc.)

Dana Milbank:

I'm only upset because it would have been a better Sketch if they had to carry him out of the Old Senate Chamber on a stretcher.

It probably was politically smart of the Democrats to patch things up with Lieberman -- no need for a big and ugly distraction now, and they may actually be within reach of 60 votes. On the other hand, it makes the leadership look fairly weak to give him virtually no punishment even though, Democrats claim, Lieberman helped Republican Senate candidates. As my best source on Capitol Hill, Shailagh Murray, says, it wasn't the backing of McCain that bothers them as much as his talking down Obama.

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DC: I have a confession. I've developed something of a crush on you. Possibly for the same reason I have a crush on Jon Stewart - it's the snarky yet intelligent political commentary. Apparently, it's a turn-on for a 30-something woman. I have to read your section first (well, second after Reliable Source) every morning. Sigh. In the tradition of Gene Weingarten, I throw my panties at you.

Dana Milbank: Gene Weingarten throws his panties?

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Seattle: I heard on whitehouse.gov you can vote on what "turkey" President Bush will pardon... I predict Stevens will get one.

I hear about Congress making some sort of deal for the big three. If they want to do it right it doesn't line the pockets of the big three but is used as a contract with one or a few banks to gurantee financing (reasonable) on auto purchases.

washingtonpost.com: I think we are actually voting on the names given to the pardoned turkeys: Thanksgiving at the White House 2008 -- Elizabeth

Dana Milbank: I followed the !)$#%)*$&% turkeys to Dulles airport after their pardon last year and watched them board a United flight. No more of that. In fact, I think I'm not going to write next week at all to recover from the loss of Ted Stevens and John Dingell.

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Donners: Wow, that explains a lot. No, really! I took an English class on satire in college, and all I remember about it was that true satire was compared (favorably -- OK, you had to be there) to cannibalism. There was much more of an explanation to that, but I took the class almost 20 years ago. Anyway, your prowess as a satirist obviously derives from your heritage!

washingtonpost.com: "A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift

Dana Milbank:

Possibly it is a variant of mad cow disease from eating those prions found in human flesh.

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The Donner Pardons: If offered a pardon, would you accept one? I checked, and they are fungible. By the way, as a Donner descendent, do you have any recipes for the holidays?

Dana Milbank: I am offended by the question! You assume there is something wrong with cannibalism when in fact it is a perfectly acceptable lifestyle choice that my ancestors made.

Our blood pudding is to die for.

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Garfield, NJ : "Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker has told Barack Obama's team she does not want to serve as Commerce Secretary, said a senior Obama official.

"Penny Pritzker ultimately has decided she does not want to do the Commerce thing," the senior official said."

What exactly is the Commerce Thing? Is it something like the Dirty Deed, or the Backstreet Slide? Why do billionaires feel like they have to talk this way?

Dana Milbank:

That is a misprint. It should have said she does not want "to do the Commerce thang."

_______________________

Yepsen: Dana, this is about as far from Hollywood as you can get.

washingtonpost.com: "Longtime Des Moines Register political columnist David Yepsen is a finalist for a job at the University of Southern Illinois at Carbondale. Yepsen, a native of Jefferson, said he's one of three finalists to run the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois." -- according to KCCI in Des Moines

Dana Milbank:

Yes, I suppose that's not Hollywood, but I do have a bit of envy whenever I hear that a journalist has found honest employment.

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Wasilla, AK: Hey Dana, I thought you promised that me and Todd could stay at your place for the inauguration? Your wife and I could do girl things, while Todd and you could do guys things. Then you could do one of those Sketchy things about me. Come on, it would be fun.

Dana Milbank:

We could probably find space, if you don't bring the kids.

Speaking of Wasilla, here's a Ted Stevens footnote, courtesy of the great Paul Kane. Ted Stevens won 1,450 votes in Wasilla to Mark Begich's 837. So say what you will about Uncle Ted -- he's still a killa in Wasilla.

Ok, Judd Gregg is giving a eulogy on the Senate floor now for the political career of John Sununu. Got to get my hankie. Thanks for chatting.

_______________________

Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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