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Washington Sketch: Dana Milbank on Joe the Plumber, Show Horses in Congress and Potential Chat Host Cage Matches

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The Washington Post's Dana Milbank found that love is in the air at the U.S. Senate as senators from both parties peppered Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton with compliments and praises. Video by: Gaby Bruna/washingtonpost.com

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Dana Milbank
Washington Post Columnist
Friday, February 6, 2009; 12:00 PM

Post columnist Dana Milbank serves as the capital's foremost critic of political theater in his Washington Sketch columns, videos and blog posts. He was online Friday, February 6 at 12 noon ET 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, chatters.

So, the unemployment rate is 7.6 percent, and 11.6 million are out of work. Approximately 10.3 million of those are journalists. And, what's more, the profession now has an interloper: Joe the Plumber, fresh from his assignment in Gaza, is now going to be a correspondent for a conservative website, writing a column, "Just Joe," about economic matters.

The invasion of the profession by Joe the Plumber, as you can imagine, has me worried. Perhaps some of you have some ideas for what profession my colleagues and I can try next after we are displaced by the likes of Joe.

Any suggestions, and questions on other matters, will now be entertained.

_______________________

Madison, Conn.: Political theater was never more prominently shown then Lindsay Graham throwing his arms in the air and making faces crying about Obama not being involved. That, of course, is an outright lie. Political theater is Mitch McConnell criticizing Obama's program while pushing for tax cuts AGAIN. It was refreshing to hear Obama take responsibility for his actions. When do we hear some pressure on the Republicans to take responsibility for their failed actions? When do they start to act like responsible adults? When will we start insisting on them talking and acting responsibly. The press has given them a megaphone and they are too self interested to use it responsibly.

washingtonpost.com: A Horse and Pony Show (The Washington Post, Feb. 6, 2009)

Dana Milbank: Speaking only for myself, I am happy to give a megaphone to anybody, particularly if he or she is going to use it irresponsibly.

I think the answer is congressional Republicans will start behaving responsibly when they return to power, which could be a very long time. Their bet -- and it's not a bad one politically, even if it's disastrous in the current economic environment -- is that Obama will own the economy in 2010 and 2012, so they have little incentive to cooperate with him to make it better.

_______________________

Crawford, Texas: Wow, a mother gave birth to octuplets. Imagine that, a baby with eight arms and legs.

Dana Milbank:

Thank you for the question, Mr. President. I am glad you are finding things to do now that you're back home on the ranch.

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Bipartisanship: Hi, Dana. One of my major concerns with the Obama Administration was that it would be the end of political comedy as we know it. I mean, really, the Bush administration was a treasure trove of material. But, from the looks of Jon Stewart, the late night talk shows and, of course, YOU, I really had nothing to fear. Nice to see bipartisanship is alive and well in the world of political satire. Thanks!

Dana Milbank:

It was touch and go there for a while, but Tom Daschle, bless his heart, got us back on track.

_______________________

Evanston, Ill.: I've got to know: How many people typically email your editor after your exhortations in these chats? Your readers seem mature, sophisticated, and intelligent. Surely they have better things to do than harass your boss, but some people take the bait, right?

Dana Milbank:

I got an email last week from my editor, Tim Curran, saying "I always know when you're doing a web chat." I think he gets email from my online Sketch audience, but not quite the deluge that I would hope for.

Perhaps we can trick him if you send emails without mentioning me in the subject line, saying, perhaps, "you are very handsome" or "bald is beautiful" and then casually mention in the text that you got the idea from my web chat.

_______________________

what profession my colleagues and I can try next after we are displaced by the likes of Joe: That's so easy: unlicensed plumber. Probably pays better than journalism, although it involves frequently raking a more literal type of muck.

Dana Milbank:

I have attempted this at home and my wife informs me that I am not qualified.

_______________________

Joe the Plumber's Misplaced Ambitions: Why try to be you, when he could be Tom Daschle's driver instead?

More job security, higher pay -- and he calls himself an economic writer.

Dana Milbank: Yes but you just possibly gave me an idea. Now that Dashle's out of public service and back into the lobbying world, perhaps I could be his driver. I have a Garmin Nuvi and I know where most of the steakhouses are.

_______________________

West Falls Church: Ok, so the Dems say that waterboarding is ineffective, illegal, and is now not an option due to the executive order. Based on yesterday's testimony, the new director will go to the Prez in cases of a "ticking time bomb" to approve extraordinary measures to get the facts out.

Pray tell what would be these "extraordinary measures" that aren't possible now, but can be later. And, don't say waterboarding.

Dana Milbank:

Extraordinary measures: David Plouffe will clog the terrorist's email inbox with fundraising appeals until he begs for mercy.

_______________________

Not to worry: Dana, maybe a bit of perspective here. Seems like JTP is trying on different journalistic garments to find the right fit. Wasn't he reporting from Iraq a few weeks ago, and now he's blogging on the economy? I figure eventually he will reach his true level of competence with an irregular column on milking problems to appear in Hoard's Dairyman magazine.

washingtonpost.com: Hoard's Dairyman Magazine

Dana Milbank: An udderly fascinating prospect.

_______________________

Extraordinary measures: That was a great solution, Dana. David Plouffe's never-ending fundraising emails certainly can break one's spirit. Like the inexorable drip, drip, drip of Chinese water torture, Plouffe employs an exorable drain, drain, drain of your wallet of good will. Brilliant.

Dana Milbank: I don't think questioning techniques have to be illegal to make them really painful. Another possibility is to force the terrorist to listen to the collected speeches of Joe Biden. The average holdout time for this is only slightly longer than waterboarding and there's less equipment involved.

_______________________

Broder Chat Stats: Your colleague has taken 22 questions while you've taken only 8. Are you being obstructionist?

Dana Milbank:

It is his youthful exuberance.

I'll let you in on a little secret: A lot of my colleagues -- and I'm not saying the Dean is one of these -- cheat on these webchats by logging in hours or even days before, answering questions and then saving them so they can dump them all out during the hour of their chat.

I, on the other hand, prefer the high-wire act of taking questions in real time and pulling the answer out of my butt.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: I follow The Fix's Twitter feed. Every now and then, Chris Cillizza asks where you are. So, where are you??

Dana Milbank:

I am trying to fix the plumbing in my house.

And, by the way where is Cillizza? The guy owes me a call.

_______________________

Horse show: Your recent column about show horses and work horses had me wondering how many there are in Congress that represent the entire horse and not just the back end?

Dana Milbank:

Yesterday gave us a pretty good indication.

I would say the ratio of horses hindquarters to good solid steeds in the Senate is about 4 to 1.

_______________________

Ocala, Fla.: As a resident of Horse Country, I thank you for not mentioning the most common horse product that Congress shovels.

In Weingarten's column a couple of weeks ago, Professor Rogoff suggested that journalists could get into organized crime, but isn't that also the domain of Congress?

Dana Milbank: I just don't think we'd be very good at organized crime; one of the main job requirements for a journalist is the inability to keep your mouth shut.

_______________________

Horse stables: Easy way to get the Congressional show horses to vacate the stage: Have a hunchback with google eyes come into the Senate chamber and shout "BLUCHER!"

Dana Milbank: Yeah, but I don't have floor credentials.

_______________________

Re: Extraordinary Measures: I'll see your Joe Biden speeches and raise you Sarah Palin's accent. I don't know why, but something about it does make me want do anything to drown it out.

Dana Milbank: No, I'm sorry, that one violates the Geneva Accords.

_______________________

Or how about making them listen to: the collected speeches of Michael Chertoff? Assuming, that is, one can pry a copy out of the hands of the DHS staffers lucky enough to be given their own copy -- otherwise, one will just have to wait for Chertoff's book. Probably cheaper than a waterboard, however. (Not that I have any idea what a waterboard costs, or if there is an actual waterboard).

Dana Milbank: Not bad.

Though the boogie board I got for my kid was only $19 so I don't think a waterboard would be that expensive.

_______________________

Palin/Joe the Plumber in 2012: If Rush Limbaugh had endorsed a head of cabbage, do you think it would have stood a decent shot at beating Michael Steele for RNC Chair?

Dana Milbank:

As a guy whose boss is named Brauchli, I think it would be just fine to have a Cabbage head the RNC.

_______________________

Anonymous: Do you see the day approaching when the Washington Post will ask reporters to fight to the death to keep their jobs?

Dana Milbank:

I'm okay with that as long as they don't match me up with Broder. As his webchats demonstrate, he's very fast.

_______________________

Boston: Broder's chat is also more interesting -- he's talking about separating sheep and other farm animals.

Dana Milbank: Don't I get any credit for having Hoard's Dairyman in this chat?

_______________________

Evanston, Ill.: If you lose your job you could become a PR flack for the government or corporate America. A cynic would say most journalists already are. Not the Washington Sketch of course.

Dana Milbank:

As long as I don't have to be the FDA flack at the next killer peanut butter hearing.

_______________________

Alternative professions:

Raccoon trapper, White House

Wardrobe stylist for Sen. Graham

PR for Mr. Madoff

Dana Milbank:

Well, a guy can dream big.

_______________________

Sarah's wardrobe: Reportedly the clothes Sarah Palin gave back are now sitting around RNC HQ in plastic trash bags, not yet given out to the needy. Can you arrange to be there to see the clothes distributed to impoverished size-2 women?

Dana Milbank:

No, though I think the RNC could retire its debt by having Michael Steele wear the clothing.

_______________________

I, on the other hand, prefer the high-wire act of taking questions in real time and pulling the answer out of my butt: In other words, you'd rather do only one hour's worth of work, instead of four or five, for your faithful readership.

Dana Milbank: Or, dear reader, you could think of it as my desire to have more live interaction with the Sketch audience. Plus I need those extra hours to train for my death match with Broder. The guy is an animal -- and not a sheep.

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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