Post Politics Hour
Tuesday, November 25, 2008; 11:00 AM
Don't want to miss out on the latest in politics? Start each day with The Post Politics Hour. Join in each weekday morning at 11 a.m. as a member of The Washington Post's team of White House and congressional reporters answers questions about the latest in buzz in Washington and The Post's coverage of political news.
Washington Post national political reporter Shailagh Murray will be online Tuesday, Nov. 25 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest news from Washington including appointments and nominations for the new administration.
A transcript follows.
Seattle, Wash.: Thanks for having us. Senator-Designate Ted Kaufman from Delaware says he'll step down if Beau Biden comes back from Iraq to run for his father's Senate seat, but what happens if he arrives back in country and says, "No Thanks"? Can Ted win an election?
Shailagh Murray: Greetings everyone. I am looking forward to Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday.
The deal with Ted Kaufman is that he'll hold the seat until a special election in two years. That's how the state rules work. Beau will have to run for the seat -- which we're all assuming he plans to do; his father said as much in his statement yesterday. So Ted will get his two years of glory and then "decide" he wants to return to public life -- UNLESS he falls in love with the job, and then we have the first interesting Delaware political story in a generation.
But don't count on it.
Houston, Texas: Your colleague, Robert Barnes, had the following exchange:
"Junior vs. senior Senator: Aaaaack! Please, the difference between a state's junior and senior senator is NOT the one who has served longer. The junior senator is the one who was elected (or re-elected) more recently, regardless of total senatorial tenure.
Robert Barnes: I don't believe we are in disagreement. "
The problem is, both Robert Barnes and the commenter are WRONG. From C-SPAN.com: "The senior senator has served in the Senate longer than the junior senator."
Shailagh Murray: The best-known example of this is Fritz Hollings of South Carolina, who served nearly 40 years in the Senate but was always the junior senator to Strom Thurmond.
Here's some Hollings trivia: Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs used to work for him, and tells some great Hollings tales.
Boston, Mass.: If Hillary is appointed SoS, can she vote for herself during the confirmation vote, or would she have to resign beforehand?
Shailagh Murray: The new Senate is sworn in early in January. I presume she would not take the oath, if she accepts the job in the meantime. She could take her seat -- Biden intends to do that, and then resign immediately -- but that would be too weird. But then again, weird is the new normal, right?
Evanston, Ill.: Who do you think will be the next senators from Illinois and New York?
Shailagh Murray: Those are tough picks. I could see Danny Davis getting Obama's seat; he is the senior African American member of the congressional delegation and there's a strong case for replacing the only African American senator with another African American senator. The other leading contender is Tammy Duckworth, strongly supported by Rahm Emanuel and other prominent Illinois politicians. If she doesn't get picked, she would likely be a frontrunner for VA secretary.
New York is tough. Chris Cillizza and I addressed this yesterday. Nita Lowey would be a top contender but I'm hearing she wants to stay in the House, where she has considerable clout as a senior appropriator. I cannot believe the egos of Andrew Cuomo and Chuck Schumer could fit into one congressional delegation. And once you get passed those two, you're into anonymous House member or state lawmaker territory. My wildcard pick is Caroline Kennedy, although in the interest of full disclosure, Cillizza laughs at me for this.
St. Paul, Minn. : Hi Shailagh -- Thanks for taking questions today. I know you're a reporter and not a psychoanalyst, but what is your sense of the mood around the White House these days? How is that impacted by how gloomy the news is right now?
Shailagh Murray: Here's my sense of the mood: PPPPPHHHHEEEEEWWWWW.
Say what you will about George Bush, but who wouldn't blame him for wanting to get the heck out of town. And the smoother the transition, the better he looks in retrospect. This financial crisis has focused attention here in a way that could be valuable to Obama once he takes office. The toxicity and stupid distractions already seem to have diminished.
washingtonpost.com: Representing New York in the Senate: RFK, HRC . . . and TBA (Post, Nov. 24)
Junior vs. Senior Senator: No, no, no! Houston is wrong. Whenever Strom Thurmond had been re-elected to the Senate more recently, he was the junior senator from South Carolina again, not Fritz Hollings. That applied until Senator Hollings was re-elected.
Shailagh Murray: I don't think this is the case. I am willing to review the evidence, but think about it -- it doesn't make sense. Seniority is sacred and starts accumulating the day you take the oath for the first time.
Senator from New York: It's not going to happen, but I hope Bill gets Hillary's seat, just for what it would mean for Jon Stewart.
Shailagh Murray: You are right, it's not going to happen.
Bloomington, Ind.: Good morning Shailagh. If Thanksgiving is your favorite holiday, then you must tell us why, and also, what you are planning for the occasion? Traditional or not? Also, do you have any rooms to rent for the inauguration? Dana Milbank says he doesn't even know some of the people who are staying with him.
Shailagh Murray: I have a five-bedroom house nine blocks from the Capitol and the inn is booked with friends and family. People are getting crazy sums, you are right about that. But not I.
For Thanksgiving most of the numerous and unruly Murray clan will be congregating in Charlottesville, Va., with my parents.
The start of a Biden dynasty?: Guess Biden doesn't feel his son needs to actually work for and earn the seat. That offends me to the core. Let's hope the voters of Delaware have more sense than that.
Shailagh Murray: No, no -- Beau has to run for the seat in a special election in two years. Anyone who wants to challenge him is free to do so, from either party.
Republican in the cabinet: I know people are saying Obama will put at least a token republican in the cabinet, do we have an idea who it would be?
Related, are we assuming Gates a) is staying and b) is a Republican?
Shailagh Murray: I wonder if they are counting Jim Jones as a Republican. He's sort of a neutral. I'm not aware of any prominent Republicans, other than Gates, although Chuck Hagel's name is still out there.
Silver Spring, Md.: Why no Jesse Jackson Jr. for Obama's Senate seat?
Shailagh Murray: Well, Davis has more seniority, and if he really wants it, that's something to consider.
Clinton, N.Y.: Speaking of Kennedys, why not Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for the Senate?
Shailagh Murray: It was his dad's seat, right? His name is definitely out there. But Caroline -- she would really class up the joint.
The Source on Seniority: U.S. Senate: Seniority
"seniority -- The status given Senators according to their length of service, which entitles a Senator with greater seniority to preferential treatment in matters such as committee assignments"
It's NOT time from last election!
Shailagh Murray: Thank you very much, had I been wrong about this I would have been not only shocked but a little concerned about my mental state.
Lake Elmo, Minn.: Dana Milbank ousted you last week as "crying like a baby" during Ted Stevens' farewell to the senate speech. Can you explain this emotion connection you have with the senior senator from Alaska, or is this reaction a psychic residue from all the debate night drinking contests you and Dana had?
Shailagh Murray: That is SO NOT TRUE -- I did not cry for Ted Stevens. Money doesn't impress me so I could care less what a master he was at fleecing taxpayers.
Bethesda, Md: I predict Caroline will move to Mass. and be the next Senator from that state, when there is a vacancy.
Shailagh Murray: I'm sure Ed Markey would have something to say about that. And maybe Vicki Kennedy too, if those rumors are true.
Arlington, Va.: Good morning. Please forgive the basic nature of this question but this is the first election/transition I've paid close attention to.
Re: Hillary Clinton for secretary of state. By all accounts, Hillary has been a successful and popular senator in New York. The fact that Bill Clinton is her husband has clearly not interfered with her ability to do her job well. Why should it be different at the State Department?
Is [it] the assumption that Bill is more likely to want to be a player on the global stage?
Shailagh Murray: I agree, why should it matter? I don't think it does. Secretary of State is a job; the presidency is a state of being. He can do his thing, within the required ethical parameters, and I'm all the scrutiny will keep everyone more or less in line.
Re: NY Senate: "But Caroline -- she would really class up the joint." Thanks for the impartial and unbiased reporting -- except when you have a chance to support a candidate you believe in. How did you miss the ombudsman's columns on biased reporting and all of those subscription cancellations?
Shailagh Murray: Oh please. Take a chill pill. I was just being silly.
Re: offended to the core: Beau Biden has already served as the state's elected Attorney General. No one is going to suggest that he didn't have a leg up thanks to his name, but it's also not fair to say that he hasn't done anything to prove himself or pay his dues on the way up to a possible Senate run.
Shailagh Murray: Thanks for weighing in.
Menomonie, Wisc.: Following up to your answer to St. Paul about WH mood, do you think it is notable that President-elect Obama has held three press conferences in three days?
Despite his saying there is only one president at a time, it does seem that he is appearing to be presidential and attempting to soothe fears.
It is unfortunate but President Bush no longer has any credibility in trying to soothe fears; perhaps one reason Obama has stepped up to the plate.
Would you agree?
Shailagh Murray: Having covered Obama for so long, I found this bizarre to say the least -- he doesn't meet the press very often.
That said, they are trying to roll out these appointments quickly. Unlike when he was a candidate, he doesn't have surrogates of equal status (i.e. governors and senators) to speak on his behalf. And it's pretty clear that these economic picks have bolstered confidence among investors. I was surprised he was so low-profile for the past few weeks; maybe he's playing catch up.
Bailout Blue Christmas?: Another day, another $300 billion or so into the pockets of Wall Street multimillionaires. Early Christmas presents I guess. I am surprised, though, that the shareholders were not effectively wiped out as per Fannie, Freddie, AIG. Why is that? I wish the government would get a happy medium somewhere -- rather than one rule Citigroup and one rule for Fannie. Don't you?
Shailagh Murray: I don't profess to understand the intricacies of this crisis. But I do have a sense of what works and doesn't work in Washington, and the pattern you've identified is concerning. The perception of an ad hoc response can be dangerous because non-recipients feel jilted and may be less inclined to behave well, because the price for failure isn't all that steep.
New York, N.Y.: What about Chelsea Clinton? Is she old enough to be a senator?
Shailagh Murray: Nope. You have to be 30 when you're sworn in.
Halpern puts media "on notice"?: Do you agree with Time's Mark Halperin that the coverage of Obama during the campaign was a "disgusting failure" and an example of "extreme bias" and the "most disparate of any campaign"? Or do you think it might be that Obama ran a flawless campaign and McCain's was...well... less-so. Do you think Halperin is putting the media on notice, in hopes "the Village" will go "harder" on Obama now? I'm trying to figure out what he's going for here.
washingtonpost.com: Halperin Decries 'Disgusting' Pro-Obama Media Bias in Election Coverage (ABC News, Nov. 24)
Shailagh Murray: Here's the deal. This campaign was a frustrating experience for a lot of us old-fashioned reporter types, because we were having to contend with an information (and non-information) flow that was absolutely blinding at times, and driven by blogs (like Halperin's) and cable TV that didn't exist or didn't have as prominent a voice in previous election cycles. Did we newspapers sacrifice depth for speed? Yep. Did those blogs that so distracted us, leave much behind in terms of a public good? Debatable, although both sides had strong voices that enhanced the overall coverage (I'm thinking especially of Andrew Sullivan, Josh Marshall and the National Review blog). But hey, we are in survival mode and could not very well ignore this breaking "news" juggernaut -- even though we often should have.
Hope you all have a splendid Thanksgiving, and see you soon. Cheers, Shailagh
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