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Washington Sketch: Dana Milbank on the Bush-Cheney Legacy

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Dana Milbank
Washington Post Columnist
Friday, January 16, 2009; 12:00 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 Friday, January 16 taking your questions and comments about the things politicians say -- and the absurd ways they find to say them. Plus, as George W. Bush's second term in office comes to a close, Milbank weighs in on the Bush/Cheney legacy as only he can.

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A transcript follows.

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Dana Milbank:

Good afternoon, chatters. With heavy heart, I realize this is the last chat we will ever have during the Bush presidency. Luckily, he is leaving us with some excellent material, including yesterday's ceremony in which Condi Rice celebrated his foreign policy triumphs by giving him two commemorative plaques, a boxed flag set, and a certificate of appreciation for Laura. There's also the new booklet, "100 Things You May Not Know About Bush Administration Accomplishments."

Some of my favorites:

"Laid the foundation for a future Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement."

"Worked to build international consensus on practical actions to address climate change as a global issue."

"Proposed initiatives to fix Social Security and address the greatest threat to America's fiscal future-the uncontrolled growth of Federal entitlements."

"Laid out a comprehensive plan to reform and fix our broken immigration system."

"Warned of the risk that government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac posed to America's financial security beginning in 2001."

Ah, yes, it is a record to be proud of. If you have any thoughts of your own about the Bush Administration's accomplishments, please send them in. We can add them to the "100 Things" list put out by the White House.

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Chattanooga, Tenn.: Is there any truth to the rumor that the 50-page "Highlights of Accomplishments and Results of the Administration of George W. Bush" was comprised of nothing but half-burnt blank pages and 'My Pet Goat' excerpted in its entirety?

Dana Milbank:

Not quite, but it is roughly 75 percent photographs of Bush at Ground Zero, with the bullhorn. In fact I believe 99 of the 100 Accomplishments occurred on September 14, 2001.

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Inauguration: Since Obama will be a new executive branch employee, does he or somebody on his behalf fill out a W4, direct deposit and other forms? Given the frenzy surrounding the inauguration, that would be great television. The POTUS increases his exemptions! He declines the vision plan!

Dana Milbank:

I believed he has assigned Tim Geithner to fill out all of his tax forms.

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McLean, Va.: Any estimates yet on how much this inauguration will cost the taxpayers? I'm betting the highest bill ever. What happened to Obama and his tone about fiscal responsibility? How are things getting toned down, if at all, based on the economy?

Dana Milbank: This Inauguration is a shovel-ready project and I believe it is just the sort of thing we should be doing to stimulate our economy.

Better not complain too loudly about all the spending excess, McLean. Have you noticed that we in the Washington area have not felt much of an economic pinch? We can thank our shovel-ready federal government for that.

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Blacksburg, Va.: Thanks a lot, Dana. Your excerpt of the White House's 100 accomplishments made my eyes bleed.

I'd type some more but everything's turning red.

Dana Milbank: Bush Accomplishment 101: Red eyes in Blacksburg.

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Boston: I have a prediction for you. Twenty years after you're dead, people will appreciate your columns and you will win a Pulitzer prize. Your great-grandchildren will think you were really cool.

Dana Milbank:

That's what Condi tells me. I'd feel better if she gave me a boxed flag set, though.

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100 things: 99) Was able to breathe in and out normally and consistently throughout the presidency after January 15, 2002.

Dana Milbank: Very clever integration of the pretzel episode. Though I suspect the breath stopped for just a moment when he got last month's jobs report.

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Arlington, Va.: Showed his commitment to equal rights for women by nominating Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

Dana Milbank:

102!

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"100 Things You May Not Know About Bush Administration Accomplishments.": According to Jon Stewart, this booklet is not... numbered. Please, someone count it up and make sure it is 100.

Dana Milbank:

Okay, how about we get some good open-source journalism going on this one? Here's the URL.

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Alexandria, Va.: I'm not sure exactly how to phrase this part of his legacy but let me ask a question.

Did President Bush ever appear in public before a group that was not a group of his supporters or at least a carefully selected set of Republicans?

Dana Milbank:

Well, there was the White House Correspondents Dinner. And that didn't go to well.

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Northern New England: The guy who landed that plane on the river yesterday is just the kind of miracle worker America needs in these troubled times. Can you suggest a Cabinet post appropriate to his skills?

Dana Milbank:

Bush Accomplishment 103: Implemented policies that made it possible for a successful landing of a US Airways jet in the Hudson River.

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West Village: Is there any chance Cheney might be available to join my bowling team? We could use a tough competitor like him in the church league.

Dana Milbank:

Accomplishment 104. Or is it 105? Enacted healthcare policies that kept Vice President Cheney alive for 96 uninterrupted months.

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Riverdale, N.Y.: Until this moment I had no idea what terrible trouble guys like you were in. Not only are you losing the entire Bushie freak show, you've even lost Bill Richardson without ever really having him. And Franken's gotten oh-so-freakin'-serious all of a sudden. Hillary and the hubby are the best you got, although there always will be the Senate. You poor baby.

Dana Milbank: No worries: Senator Burris will get us through.

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New York: What were your five greatest achievements that helped to make the Bush Era what it was? I got this left-over plaque here and need to know what to put on it. Perfect Attendance? Excellent Dental Hygiene?

Dana Milbank:

The Bush era made it possible for me to lower my cholesterol. My doctor attributes this to the Lipitor but I believe it was a direct result of the president's unfaltering effort to widen the circle of democracy.

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Louisville, Ky.: At what time later this afternoon will Bush announce his blanket pardons?

Dana Milbank:

I'm expecting mine at 6:45 pm Eastern.

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Anonymous: Do you think W honestly feels he has been a uniter and not a divider, as he promised he would be when running in 2000? Cheney clearly has never given a damn what others think.

Dana Milbank:

In fairness, that is a very real and legitimate accomplishment. He has united the country. Accomplishment 106: Rallied nation to an unprecedented 76% presidential disapproval rate.

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Mt. Shasta, Calif.: Do you believe that if Nixon was investigated and possibly indicted that it would have prevented many of the questionable actions of Bush?

Dana Milbank:

Okay so I googled it and there really is a Mt. Shasta. Welcome to the Sketch chat -- an excellent addition.

I am certain that a Nixon prosecution would have done no such thing. Nor will anything Bush has done prevent some future president, still in diapers now, from thinking up some new abuse in 30 years. This is why we have a Blago even though 2 of his predecessors went to the pokey. This is why I am in business.

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Your Canadian Cousins: Bush helped rid the planet of many out of date and unwanted species by allowing them to die out.

Dana Milbank:

You get Accomplishment 107, Canada.

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Tallahassee, Fla.: O great one who towers over the pygmy Bloomberg -- when can we expect a sketch on Al Franken? And do we think he will beat you up?

Dana Milbank: 1. ASAP

2. I hope so.

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Washington State: Is there a reason most of the questions you take are from EAST coast cities? Is this some kind of elitist bias or just where most of your fan base resides?

Dana Milbank: That is completely uncalled for after the Mt. Shasta question. Clearly you missed the earlier chat in which I described my pioneer ancestry and my lineage to the Donner Party.

_______________________

Bush Administration Accomplishments: Generated more shoe-throwing video games than Super Mario ever thought possible.

Dana Milbank:

That's Accomplishment 107.

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Bush Accomplishment: During his eight years in office, the Earth did not suddenly spin off its axis and plunge directly into the sun.

Dana Milbank: 108!

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Bushcomplishments: Under the Bush Administration, the EPA pursued the Clear Skies Initiative, which, of course, was meant to clear the skies of birds.

Dana Milbank: 109! Except it didn't work at LaGuardia yesterday.

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Charlottesville: Accomplishment: Rescued Middle East shoe industry from recession.

Dana Milbank: 110!

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Alexandria, Va.: I was kind of half listening to Bush's speech while giving my son his asthma medication. Did I mishear it, or did he say something to the effect of "Some of you may disagree with some of my decisions, but I think we can all agree that I made them?"

Dana Milbank:

Almost, Alexandria. He said "I think we can all agree that Dick made them."

Actually, here is the real version:

"There is legitimate debate about many of these decisions, but there can be little debate about the results."

I just pulled this off the transcript wire, and while there I discovered, to my horror, that I missed Ken Salazar's farewell speech on the Senate floor. As expected, he uttered those immortal parting words:

"So, Mr. President, I would ask unanimous consent that the genealogy of my family and the work of my wonderful staff in putting together our Colorado regional plans and priorities becomes a part of the record."

Sounds like he's got a legacy booklet, too.

_______________________

Winnipeg: Not to be too harsh but you already gave me accomplishment 107.

Dana Milbank: Accomplishment 111: Boosted Americans' Math Abilities!

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Tempe, Ariz.: I just now realized if I hit the F5 button this chat updates! All this time I just thought you were a man of few words or a really slow typist.

Dana Milbank: And I just discovered that by hitting f5 my laptop answers the questions for me!

Accomplishment 112: Presided over massive expansion of computer performance.

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Anonymous: Mt. Shasta is both a town (a few miles down I-5 from the city of Weed) and a dormant volcano. We should note that during the Bush Administration, the volcano has not erupted. In fact, as far as I know, no volcano in the U.S. has erupted except for in Hawaii, where you-know-who is from.

Dana Milbank: Accomplishment 113: Kept Mt. Shasta from being covered by Hot Lava.

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Evanston, Ill.: Accomplishment: Greatly enhanced the careers and power of Keith Olbermann, Dana Milbank and Iran.

Dana Milbank: Well, he made Olbermann rich, and he made Iran powerful. But all he did for me was lower my cholesterol. Still, we'll give him that one, too.

It has been a wonderful eight years. 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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