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Post Politics Hour
washingtonpost.com's Daily Politics Discussion

Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post White House Reporter
Wednesday, December 24, 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 White House reporter Anne E. Kornblut, was online Wednesday, Dec. 24 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest transition and executive branch moves in Washington.

The transcript follows.

Get the latest transition news live on washingtonpost.com's 44: A Transition to Power, or subscribe to the daily Post Politics Podcast.

Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts

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Anne E. Kornblut: Hi everyone, and thanks so much for joining on Christmas Eve! There's only a little bit of political news, so send any and all questions, and we'll try not to get too bogged down.

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Bethesda, Md.: Hi Anne -- At face value, the "internal investigation" done by the Obama team regarding the Blagojevich affair seems to be politically unwise. Obviously they will look into what went on and who said what to whom, but to do a splashy release of the "official report" seems to just give the GOP something to ridicule. Thoughts?

washingtonpost.com: Obama Report Clears Dealings With Blagojevich (Post, Dec. 24)

Anne E. Kornblut: It's a good point -- but I could argue it the other way, which is that to NOT produce some kind of account of who-said-what-to-whom would invite much more ridicule. I think the Obama folks are hoping that this more or less puts the matter to rest, so that they can return from the holidays and talk about something new.

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Kettering, Ohio: Hi Anne, thank you giving up part of your holidays, especially after the grueling campaign.

Two questions, have you recovered from the ordeal of the campaign? Second, maybe I am too cynical, but wouldn't Rep. Waxman have been calling for a Congressional hearing if the Obama report prepared by his campaign lawyers had been created on a Republican foot?

Anne E. Kornblut: Thank you so much for the thank you! I have been feeling guilty over the holidays for taking so much time off (weekends! we now have weekends!) -- which is to say that the recovery is underway. But don't tell my editors. As for whether there'd be a congressional investigation if Republicans were involved -- it's a great point. That's one of the benefits these guys have, of controlling both the White House and Congress. And I guarantee you that if they (they being the Obama folks) seem to be unresponsive, or to overreach, the support for having a Republican counterbalance in Congress will grow, at least if history is any guide.

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Rochester, Minn: Hi Anne, Merry Christmas! Help me understand this. The gay community is upset at the inclusion of somebody whose viewpoints they strongly disagree with. Am I the only one who see the irony in this? I guess Obama's campaign promise to include a wide range of differing viewpoints is no longer "change we can believe in"? I never pegged the gay community to be so hypocritical, but I was wrong.

Anne E. Kornblut: It's a really interesting question -- and it was interesting to see how team Obama handled it, which was to point out that Rick Warren won't be making policy, but giving the invocation. (For anyone not up to speed, Obama has tapped megachurch pastor Rick Warren, not a fan of homosexuality, to put it lightly, but also a more open-minded breed of evangelical on some other matters, to speak at the Inauguration). This will be Obama's balancing act going forward: to try to be inclusive, as he promised, without alienating the Democratic base. Where it will really matter is on policy, and we'll get to see how that goes starting in...wow, less than a month.

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Fairfax, Va.: Holiday Greetings Ms. Kornblut. As reported in the Daily Kos, Republican Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has the constitutional authority to make a temporary appointment to the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Senator Norman Coleman until a winner can be declared in the Minnesota Senate race. Presumably he would appoint Mr. Coleman. Democratic challenger and former SNL comedian Al Franken now holds a 47-vote advantage over the incumbent. If no winner is declared by January 6, 2008 when the Senate is in session, might not the Democratically controlled Senate just refuse to seat Mr. Coleman if Mr. Franken maintains his current winning margin? What are the chances of a special election? Will Illinois have a replacement Senator for President-elect Obama by January 6? This is one heck of a way to run a railroad.

Anne E. Kornblut: It's quite a show, isn't it? I'm sorry to admit that I am not up on exactly what the latest is on Minnesota -- that is to say, what the inclinations of the Senate leadership are this week -- but when it comes to New York, it was intriguing to read in today's NYT that Gov. Paterson is now starting to feel annoyed at Caroline Kennedy's pressure on him to appoint her. It sounded to me like he was in no hurry, and in fact might slow down further if the pressure continued. So, while Obama may get something of a honeymoon, it won't be all gravy for his party, we're already starting to see.

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Herndon, Va.: Say hypothetically that Obama was covering up some conversations with Blago that would be embarrassing. Does he have to worry that Fitzgerald will be revealing taped conversations in the future? If so, wouldn't that cause him to come clean now if there were a skeleton in the closet?

Anne E. Kornblut: I think you're exactly right -- and furthermore, I think that most of the people around him are smart enough to know that, having lived through some previous scandals. And beyond THAT, I suspect, having watched Fitzgerald in action for awhile now, that if they were covering something up, the prosecutor would not let them get away with claiming innocence in public (nor repeat it himself).

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Re: Rochester: "The gay community is upset at the inclusion of somebody whose viewpoints they strongly disagree with. Am I the only one who see the irony in this?"

So I guess the black community shouldn't be upset if a KKK leader or vocal racist is ever invited to give a speech. The Jewish community shouldn't be upset if an anti-semitic were to be invited somewhere by a politician. After all, it is just someone who has a different viewpoint -- who cares if that viewpoint is to deny civil rights through bigotry?

Anne E. Kornblut: Another terrific point. Thank you for making it.

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Oklahoma City, Okla.: While I don't believe there was anything improper on the parts of either Obama or Emanuel re: the Blago senate seat selling frenzy, isn't it a little odd that the media is basically accepting an internal report from the Obama camp as gospel on this? Honestly, if the roles were reversed here and it was a Republican president-elect whose home state same-party governor had been involved in this mess, the howls for grand juries and special prosecutors would be shattering glass. Really, the media scrutiny of Mr. Obama, from day one through this, has been so minimal as to make a lot of people assume you all have those Chris Matthews tingles going up and down your leg every time the man burps.

Anne E. Kornblut: Another really good point. I'm with you -- I do think we should press for whatever other versions of events may be out there, and not to take anything simply at face value. At this point, though, the prosecutors seem to be suggesting that there isn't anything further to explore on the Obama end. (The howls over Blagojevich will continue, I guarantee). In any event, thank you for the observation.

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Boston: Anne; thanks for coming on today. Any chance the cable and radio talkers will give up on trying to connect Obama to Blago? You know the definition of crazy today is: "working off RNC talking points." That group has no clue what is on the minds of the American public. Why drag your programs down by tying them to that sinking lead block?

Anne E. Kornblut: Thanks for the question. I actually think it will be interesting to see how cable and radio talkers respond on both sides: will the conservatives develop their own brand of criticism? (Looks to me like some of them are already; they've largely praised Obama's cabinet, leaving it to the Democratic base to criticize him). And will the liberal talkers take on an "accountability" role, or mostly support him? Either way, we're due for some kind of realignment, and I expect to see Pres. Obama trying to redraw the lines in his own way, as he did with the Rick Warren choice.

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Florissant Valley, MO: Morning, Anne. Don't you think it likely that at some point we will see transcriptions of Rahm's chats with Blago, and won't those be a tad embarrassing? They shouldn't be, of course; politics ain't bean bag.

Anne E. Kornblut: You are probably right (and I've been wondering, will we hear the tapes, too, or are those days over?). But the good news, for Mr. Emanuel, is that everyone already knows his style -- and so a few bleeps here and there wouldn't hurt him.

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Reston, Va.: Happy Holidays, Anne!

"to try to be inclusive, as he promised, without alienating the Democratic base"

But I thought that the Democratic Party liked to paint themselves as the "big tent" party. I am glad that the president-elect didn't bow to pressures exerted by the Democratic "base". It might be an indicator that he will walk the walk, so to speak...

Anne E. Kornblut: Another good observation -- thank you.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm unaware of any federal prosecutor other than Patrick Fitzgerald who has imposed so much on so many over so little. He imposed upon the Tribune to hold a news story for weeks, which assured that everyone but average citizens knew of the wiretaps. He imposed upon Obama to hold the report that cleared the transition team for a week when all of Washington wanted to report the news. Yesterday, Fitzgerald imposed upon the Illinois legislature to refrain from impeaching until his case is completed.

Why must all our democratic processes come to a halt at the request of a federal prosecutor who hasn't been able to make his case after a half decade of investigation?

Anne E. Kornblut: You sound like some of the (very smart) defense lawyers I know! (Is this one of my sources talking?). Critics would make this point, and you make it very well. On the flip side, Fitzgerald surely has a right to ask -- presumably the Tribune and team Obama could have refused his requests, but didn't want to risk his ire.

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Curious George, Va.: Seasons Greetings, Anne. Has there been much hard reporting abut who Rick Warren is besides the megachurch and bestseller stuff? Does he live in a big ole McMansion or a humble home ? There usually is more to the story with these mega-dollar congregations and I am curious.

Anne E. Kornblut: It's a good question. I've actually met Rick Warren, and he seemed like a decent enough fellow. Down to earth, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, quite pudgy. He had a curious take on Judaism and other religions: I asked him about what he had to say to people who didn't believe in Jesus, and he said, "That's their bet, and that's fine, but I'm betting on Jesus." In any event, I couldn't tell, from that encounter, what his lifestyle was like, but my understanding is that he has given much of his book proceeds back to the church and "reverse tithes" -- giving away most of his salary. But don't take that as, well, gospel -- I haven't really reported it out much and there are no doubt much greater authorities on him out there.

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New York, N.Y.: I read where MSNBC's Flavia Colgan is discussing running for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania. Has the U.S. Senate now become the fallback career for MSNBC contract renegotiations?

Anne E. Kornblut: Somehow I missed this. Now I'm wondering: if I've done a few MSNBC hits over time, does that mean I can consider, oh, a Pennsylvania House seat?

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D.C.: I credit Obama for reaching across the ideological divide. I am an entrenched Democrat and would love to see the idealogues that dominated national politics for the past eight years tossed on their keisters. However, I recognize that President-elect Obama is the leader of our country now, not just the leader of our party. I credit him for taking the high road by not approaching the new administration with the "it's our turn to rule" attitude, but rather by trying to reach out to those who share different views.

Anne E. Kornblut: And another good point; I keep hearing from people that they like the atmospherics of his reaching across the divide. The real test will be when it comes to policy.

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Ottawa, Canada: Hi Anne:

Thanks for being there when you should be on holiday!

There's been some very interesting coverage lately about the new administration tapping the Obama campaign's e-list to consult Americans on policy. Health and Human Services is apparently convening 4,200 kitchen table meetings between December 15 and 31 to gather feedback on health reform priorities. A couple of quick questions:

-- Do you have any sense of whether this points to a new emphasis on public consultation and engagement?

-- Have you heard of any departments besides HHS moving in this direction?

-- 14 million names is fine as a starting point, but is there any indication of a strategy to reach out beyond the campaign list?

Anne E. Kornblut: This is such a fascinating part of what will become the Obama presidency. I got a "personal" email from Michelle Obama just the other day asking me to consider donating to a food pantry over the holidays, so they're obviously using the list in that way, too. And they're still holding "house parties" around the country to keep their people connected with each other. I haven't yet heard of other agencies using it, but Obama did solicit input from people on this list about what his policy priorities should be. It'll be interesting to see, during the Inauguration week, whether they're out collecting more names...

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Baltimore, Md.: The Emanuel/Blago tapes: Given what we know of the vocabularies of both gentlemen, I am wondering if those tapes could be played by any radio or TV outlet without risking a HUGE FCC fine.

Anne E. Kornblut: Lol, that's right. We'll have to save it for the archives.

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Boston, Mass.: Always love your reporting, Anne. As you hear the background buzz surrounding the appointments, who are thought to be the most vulnerable in a confirmation hearing? Eric Holder? Someone else we're not yet aware of?

Anne E. Kornblut: Such a good question -- because you're right, there's always someone (if not some two or three) whose confirmation hearings don't go as well as everyone expects. It looks, at least at this point, as though team Obama has done a good job of vetting their picks; Holder can expect some tough questions, I think, but it doesn't yet look like he's in real danger of not getting confirmed. The rest of the nominees have been practicing for their hearings, I know, so we might start getting some inkling of what they're worried about in the coming days. But we'll have to stay tuned to see if there are any real surprises...

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: How politically ambitious is Gov. Paterson? He was thrust into his position, so it's hard to tell. But I'm wondering if he might not want to pick Kennedy so he could pick Cuomo and eliminate some potential future governor race competition. What do you think?

Anne E. Kornblut: I've heard that theory, too, and it makes sense. (And I have no inside knowledge here, I'm just speculating with you). The other side of that, though, is: wouldn't that be so transparent as to be potentially harmful to Paterson? I don't know the answer.

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Snow Saturated Seattle: I just wanted to say Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah to you and all of the other staff at WaPo.com for going here, there, and everywhere for this year's Hectic and Historic Campaign.

But don't you wish you were in Hawai'i right now?

Anne E. Kornblut: Thank you! And, having spent many a holiday in Waco, as well as last New Year's in Iowa, I can say a resounding: YES. The good news is: I get to see my family this year. And the Obamas REALLY seem to like it there.

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Anonymous: One thing Obama isn't is stoopid. To believe he or Emanuel reached out to bribe Blago to name a senator of their choice makes no sense. Based on the transcripts I read, Obama wasn't thought of too highly by the governor.

Anne E. Kornblut: Right, all he was offering was appreciation -- and Blagojevich didn't appreciate that.

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Reston, Va.: Anne, if you were to peer into your crystal ball, what would you say the odds are that Blago gets off scot free? Is simply talking about selling a seat a crime? Shouldn't the feds have waited for someone to actually seal the deal?

Anne E. Kornblut: I had that exact same question, and what my sources at the Justice Department told me was that they had to employ an "interruption strategy" -- that is, to get in there and arrest Blagojevich before he did something irreversible, like appoint himself, and potentially create a constitutional crisis (i.e. if he appointed himself and were then arrested, who would appoint the replacement?). That said, the smart defense lawyers I know think there is a case to be made in defending Blagojevich, and on the very grounds you mention -- that he didn't actually do anything but simply talked about it. I believe that's why the conspiracy charge is so important.

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Washington: The Senate has indicated that if Blago tries to nominate a replacement for Obama that they will block it.

But what if he goes ahead and does that, but he picks someone well respected and liked? Will the Senate refuse a highly-qualified candidate just to punish Blago? If he really wants to screw with people (and it seems like he does) he should do something like this.

Anne E. Kornblut: For the entertainment value? I can't see into a crystal ball here, but, like you, cannot wait to find out.

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Texas: Since it seems to be a little slow today, I'll throw out a general question, do blogs, and I'm focusing on the most popular ones, worry about libel suits? I'm a reporter and of course the saying here is, "even if your mom says she loves you, check it out," but it seems blogs get away with printing a lot of rumors, especially during the campaigns, whether it was Obama's religion or about Palin. On one hand, if one of the national newspapers prints something, there's a certain amount of credibility that blogs don't have, but on the other hand, enough people do believe all the stuff they read. Have and blogs faced libel suits?

Anne E. Kornblut: You know, it's a good question, and I don't know the answer. It surely gives the mainstream media a run for its money to have so many blogs reporting so many rumors -- things we wind up chasing, even if we wouldn't want to print them ourselves. My suspicion is that, despite that competition, it adds to the credibility of some news sources -- people really want to know what information is true, and whom they can trust. But on the lawsuit front, I have no idea.

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Anonymous: I want my TARP money NOW! Call Hank for me Anne, tell him to drop my check in the mail.

Anne E. Kornblut: Hey, me first! I'm waiting for the media bailout.

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North Pole: Do you suppose little Scooter is expecting something special from the White House or is that like believing in Santa Claus?

Anne E. Kornblut: All indications thus far have been that Pres. Bush is not inclined to pardon him -- that he gave him his gift early in commuting his sentence. Now that Bush is so legacy-minded, he is probably reluctant to do anything that would tarnish his image in the final hours (having enough issues, like Iraq and the economy, already written into his everlasting biography). But we'll see.

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big tent?: I thought it was the GOP who decided to call themselves the "big tent" party in an attempt to change their image as a whites-only country club.

Anne E. Kornblut: Don't both parties want to be the big tent party these days?

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New York: So when are people going to start trying to connect Madoff to politicians? It's highly likely he contributed to someone's campaign. Granted, that doesn't mean some politician was involved in the scam, but since when did that matter when connecting names? I'm surprised it hasn't come up yet.

Anne E. Kornblut: Actually, I'm pretty sure there's been a little reporting on this -- and that he did give money to, I believe, the DSCC and some candidates. I'll try to root around for the links.

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NYC: "Couldn't that be so transparent as to be potentially harmful to Paterson?"

If Cuomo had no obvious qualifications for the job, yes. But he's certainly more qualified than Kennedy. Isn't it more transparent to pick her just because of her name?

Why aren't there two Ts in Paterson? Is it pronounced differently than Patterson?

Anne E. Kornblut: Another good point. As for the spelling, it's curious, right? I think it has no bearing on the pronunciation (either that, or I've been pronouncing it incorrectly).

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re: Rochester: Rochester has it exactly right. The Rick Warren issue is not about Obama picking someone with whom the gay community disagrees. It is about picking an unabashed bigot. And I fume every single time that the MSM media gets it wrong, which is about every single time that something is written about the controversy. Obama's failure to get it is a real, hurtful disappointment. I just hope you will quit buying into the inaccurate rhetoric.

Anne E. Kornblut: And a point well-taken. Thank you for it. It's actually a good question for one of us to ask, again, at an Obama press conference.

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employ an "interruption strategy" -- that is, to get in there and arrest Blagojevich before he did something irreversible, like appoint himself, and potentially create a constitutional crisis: Feds were waiting for Blajoevich to bribe himself? Were they waiting for a delivery of many full length mirrors?

Anne E. Kornblut: At least then he'd feel appreciated!

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Kansas City, Mo.: Hi Anne,

I'm sending a HUGE Holiday thank you to you, I enjoy your chats SO much! You are always so sweet and gracious, it's such a wonderful change from many of the other cynical chatters the WP has. I hope you have a FANTABULOUS holiday and many blessings in 2009!

My question: What are YOU looking forward to in 2009?

Anne E. Kornblut: Aw, thanks. This is a really gracious note -- and a great Christmas/Hannukah present. As for 2009, you know what I'm looking forward to? Some substance! As great as the political season was, it seemed to go on forever, and it will be nice to see what governing looks like, as opposed to just reporting on hypotheticals. So I'm eager to get to the White House. (I'm also working on a book about women in politics, so that will be enough of a political fix). Thanks for the question.

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Salinas, Calif.: RE: Rick Warren: Anne, if one is to believe Richard Cohen from his column in the Post yesterday, "the party is over" before it's even started. Like you, I'm more interested to see what policy initiatives come out of the Obama administration in the days ahead regarding equal rights (including same-sex marriage) before the law, rather than get stuck on the inaugural window dressing.

Anne E. Kornblut: And another good point...

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Washington, D.C.: I disagree with the premise of Rochester's analogy. Labeling somebody a homophobe because he or she opposes gay marriage is just ridiculous. It substitutes a personal attack for a reasoned disagreement. Many people, myself included, believe that marriage is ONLY between one man and one woman, and sorry, that's not a homophobic position. So, comparing Warren to an anti-Semite is not appropriate.

Anne E. Kornblut: Thank you for this -- and for all of you for keeping this debate smart and respectful, I really appreciate that.

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Fairfax, Va.: What is on your political "wish list" for 2009?

Anne E. Kornblut: After the last two years of political news, it's hard to dream up anything more interesting. My bet? All the good action will be on Capitol Hill.

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D.C.: "he didn't actually do anything but simply talked about it."

I'm no lawyer, but there are laws against conspiring to commit a crime, right?

Anne E. Kornblut: Exactly right -- that's why the conspiracy charge is so important. But again, I'm no lawyer either, so thank you for pointing it out.

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Baltimore, Md.: Hi Anne, thanks for being here and thanks for taking my question.

CHRIS WALLACE: Did you really tell Senator Leahy, bleep yourself?

DICK CHENEY: I did.

WALLACE: Any qualms or second thoughts or embarrassment?

CHENEY: No, I thought he merited it at the time.

Anne, has the vice president ever said, or do we otherwise know, what it was that Mr. Leahy did that was worthy of this response from Mr. Cheney?

Anne E. Kornblut: My understanding is that Leahy had had some harsh words about Halliburton (where Cheney was CEO before becoming VP). You have to love Cheney's lack of repentance -- he is so utterly consistent.

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Baltimore, Md.: Re: one T in Governor Paterson's name. Yes, it's pronounced as if there were two T's. There is a town in N.J. spelled Paterson -- it was home to the great American poet William Carlos Williams.

Anne E. Kornblut: Excellent addition! Thank you. William Carlos Williams -- author of the greatest-ever poem, "This Is Just To Say." Check it out.

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Stuttgart, Germany: Hey Anne. Wondering how your stint on the department store Santa Circuit a number of years ago -- a little elf told me! -- has impacted the way you approach political reporting and/or difficult candidates.

Happy Holidays!

Anne E. Kornblut: Obviously someone out there has seen my resume! I am proud to say that it includes -- for those of you who haven't seen it -- a stint as an elf at Macy's Santaland back during college. One of the best jobs I've ever had. And BEFORE David Sedaris did it, I might add.

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Maryland: As a lesbian, I'm unhappy with any politician saying we can disagree over "social issues." My being a lesbian isn't a "social issue." It's a civil rights issue. In defending his actions to invite Warren to the inauguration, Obama should have said, I disagree with Warren on CIVIL RIGHTS issues. But of course, Obama won't do that, because people everywhere dismiss their bigotry by saying it's just a "social issue." That phrase trivializes who I am.

Anne E. Kornblut: Thank you for this -- and for being so personal and frank.

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Washington: Obama has never said he supported the rights of gay people to get married, has he? Isn't it his official stance that he's against gay marriage? Shouldn't this bother gay people more than inviting Rick Warren to the inauguration? How many people on Obama's cabinet would publicly support gay marriage?

By the way, wouldn't it have been a hoot if he invited Jeremiah Wright instead?

Anne E. Kornblut: A hoot is one way of describing it... And you are correct, he does not support gay marriage.

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Anonymous: I've heard many pundits questioning whether Caroline Kennedy is "qualified" to be a senator. What? You have to be qualified to aid in getting this nation to its current state?

Anne E. Kornblut: It takes a very impressive pedigree! On a more serious note -- that was, in some regards, what Obama's underlying point about his experience was, i.e. that while he hadn't been in Washington forever, he'd been there long enough, and that his judgment was more important than someone else's definition of experience.

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Washington, D.C: Re: the Reston poster and Blago getting off "scot free." It's important to remember that the supposed "selling" of a Senate seat is just one element of the investigation. As the Post outlined earlier this week, Fitzgerald's probe into Blago (and Mrs. Blago) is wide and deep, with a major element of financial corruption about it. I have a friend who works in the Chicago office of the world's biggest law firm and said friend says that this latest business regarding Obama's successor is only a tiny part of the whole picture. As was said, Fitzgerald had to act once it looked like a Federal office might be for sale, but he's got a lot more tapes and he's got people flipping. (Tony Rezko, anyone?)

Anne E. Kornblut: That's exactly right. This case could conceivably go on quite awhile.

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Blogs and Libel: not that he is "news", but Perez Hilton has been sued twice, at least, for libel.

Anne E. Kornblut: I did not know that. Thank you for the update.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: The Warren issue is a big deal for gays because we're constantly being asked to put our issues on the backburner and respect the opinions of religious homophobes. I don't believe for one second that Obama would have an anti-Semite or white supremacist speaking at his inauguration, so why is it OK to invite an unabashed homophobe? It may seem like a minor political squabble to most people, but for hundreds of thousands of gays in America, this "debate" is personal. Giving this man such an important role in the inauguration is a slap in the face to gays who were hoping that this administration would be more respectful of our rights.

Anne E. Kornblut: And another good point. Thank you for taking the time to make it here.

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Salinas, Calif.: Hi, Anne. If the Republicans (especially those who served in the outgoing administration) wished to hold up any Obama confirmation, Eric Holder would probably make the most sense. Keeping a newly-purposed Justice Department in some measure of disarray for as long as possible, to my mind, would be in their best interest.

Anne E. Kornblut: I hadn't thought of that, but you're right; the question is, will they? Or will it just be a few rough questions at the hearing?

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Washington, D.C.: Can you figure out why the same people who pooh-pooh'ed the 20 years that Obama spent listening to Wright spew hatred (including anti-gay sentiments) are now exercised over Warren offering one prayer? I sure can't.

Anne E. Kornblut: Another perspective on this...

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Bremerton, Wash.: One last question for the year: What does the "E" of your middle name stand for? Evelyn? Erica? Eunice?

Anne E. Kornblut: Elise! Thank you for noticing.

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Catonsville, Md.: Re: Richard Cohen's column about his sister and Rick Warren: Here is the question I ask of people who think marriage should only be between a man and a woman, otherwise society's foundations will crumble.

Why is it that I, a 60 year-old straight, divorced man, could go to Vegas, perhaps pick up a cocktail waitress and, while blind drunk, get married to her by a man dressed like Elvis and that's okay --"traditional" marriage is protected. But Richard Cohen's sister, who has been with the same partner for 19 years and has children with her, cannot?

Incidentally, I could repeat my scenario of getting married and divorced on the spur of the moment ad infinitum and that would apparently be okay with Rick Warren, et al.

Anne E. Kornblut: On this subject, I've often wondered why marriage is defined by the state at all, rather than left to religious institutions (with the state regulating civil unions for all). Thank you for this.

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Anne E. Kornblut: Thank you guys so, so much for joining here today. Have a terrific, safe holiday -- and I'll see you back here in the new year!

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