» This Story:Read +|Watch +|Talk +| Comments
Bio & archive  |  Milbank Q&As  |   On Twitter   |    RSS Feed

Washington Sketch: Dana Milbank on David Plouffe, Politicians We Love, Obama's Transparency

Video
An advocate of journalistic freedom, the Sketch faced an unusual situation: David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, gave a speech at the National Press Club, but it was "off the record." Video by Gaby Bruna/washingtonpost.com

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
Dana Milbank
Washington Post Columnist
Friday, February 13, 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 13 at 12 noon ET to take your questions and comments about the things politicians say -- and the absurd ways they find to say them.

This Story
View All Items in This Story
View Only Top Items in This Story

A transcript follows.

Subscribe to this discussion

____________________

Dana Milbank:

Good afternoon, Friends of Sketch. Yesterday at this exact moment I was at the National Press Club wearing a sandwich-board sign that said "unPLOUFFEable" to protest David Plouffe's off-the-record speech to a public audience at the press club. My valentine to Plouffe from today's paper, lengthy excerpts from his "off the record" speech, and Gaby Bruna's video of the protest are all here.

Now, in honor of Valentine's Day, let us discuss the politicians we love, and consider which ones should receive next week's valentines on page a3 of the Post.

_______________________

Alexandria, Va.: Dana, just because you know so many things and I have so many questions, why was there an empty seat throughout the president's press conference on the very first row next to Helen Thomas? Is this a symbolic empty seat for someone/something? I can't imagine that a reporter wouldn't have wanted to sit there unless told that it was "reserved."

Dana Milbank:

I believe they did this in the ancient Jewish custom of leaving an extra glass of wine at the Passover table for Elijah.

_______________________

Silver Spring, Md.: Do you ever remember it being this partisan, this fast?

I mean, it has not even been a month...

Dana Milbank:

'Tis amazing, although I think it's not that it has become partisan fast but that it never stopped being partisan. Even at the inauguration there were the "Kiss Him Goodbye" taunts directed at Bush, and congressional Republicans began disparaging Obama before the first week was out. I saw that yesterday, Bob Menendez held his first DSCC press briefing for the 2010 Senate elections -- one month after the new Senate was sworn in and before all members of the Senate even have taken their seats.

_______________________

Florida chick: My 'six words' to you: Milbank smart funny, makes me think

washingtonpost.com: Your Love: In Six Words (The Washington Post, Feb. 10, 2009)

Dana Milbank: Why thank you, Katherine Harris. We all miss you up here. Now here are my six words to you:

You look great on a horse.

_______________________

Annandale, Va.: Dana, this was almost as entertaining as you in hunter orange! I appreciate that you are equally as questioning of a Democrat administration as a Republican... always a sure sign of a decent journalist. Speaking of transparency, can you please comment on the lack of posting the stimulus bill for 48 hours prior to signage. What has been your take on transparency (for the public and press) in the new administration?

Dana Milbank:

Glad you liked the sandwich board. It actually requires little effort to pick on both sides. I am opposed to secrecy and to the dominance of money in politics -- and Plouffe managed to offend on both counts yesterday.

That said, I've been impressed by Obama's accessibility so far; it's been a huge and welcome improvement. Not up to speed on why the delay in posting the stimulus bill. Possibly the Capitol servers crashed under the weight of pork.

_______________________

What the Plouffe?: Did you at least find out how much money he made for it?

Dana Milbank:

$50,000 for the group associated with the Azerbaijan dictator, but he said he was giving that back after press reports about it came out.

_______________________

The Plouffe is in the pudding: Dana, how does one pronounce Plouffe? I'm at work and can't watch your video, unfortunately. Is it Plouffe-rhymes-with-poof? Or Plouffe-rhymes-with-Ralph? What is the origin of the name?

Dana Milbank:

I'm going with "Pluff," although I did hear some yesterday calling him "Ploof." If he gets really good on the speaking circuit we can start calling him Plouffe-Daddy. Plouffe is actually of French origin, and it means, literally, "no comment."

_______________________

Nashua, N.H.: I was going to comment on how much more buff you're looking on CNN until I realized that was Wolf Blitzer. To be fair, you two could be brothers and I do need new glasses.

Dana Milbank: Speaking of:

Is it my imagination or are Ed Henry and Jake Tapper starting to look alike?

_______________________

Future employment for Plouffe?: How many politicians would still want to hire David Plouffe to run their campaign, if they thought he might pull a dumb stunt like this afterwards? Even though Plouffe no longer works for Obama, his behavior still reflects unfavorably on his former boss, unfair though it might be.

Dana Milbank:

Do not weep for Plouffe. He's getting $1.5 to $2 mil for the book, and there are many dictators in the world who have not yet heard his talk.

_______________________

Early Valentine: My SO and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but we are united in our love of your column. Wash Sketch absolutely makes my day. I heart you. (My SO would heart you too, but he is a conservative and therefore biologically incapable of gratuitous emotional expressions.)

My actual question: can you discern any possible reason for David Plouffe not letting the press into the conference? Barring the press seems to create a far more damaging talking point than anything he could have possibly said.

Happy Friday the 13th.

Dana Milbank:

Readers, please be advised that I will immediately answer any question that begins like this one.

My theory: Plouffe-Daddy's publisher does not want him to give away for free what the publisher has paid millions for.

And, truth be told, if I had to write about what Plouffe actually said in his speech yesterday, I probably would have had to switch my column to Joe the Plumber, who was also giving a talk in town yesterday.

_______________________

Pittsburgh: Your colleague Anne Kornblut is participating in a panel discussion at the History Center here on Tuesday night. Journalists and economists will be introduced by the CEO of PNC. What should I ask her when they throw it open to the great unwashed masses?

Dana Milbank:

You should ask her how she fell in love with a pollster and when the wedding will be.

_______________________

Burke, Va.: Don't cry for me, David Plouffe,

I'm out here on the sidewalk,

back in the campaign,

you kissed my tuchis,

you're making speeches,

Know where the book is?

Dana Milbank:

Burke, will you please join me picketing the next Plouffe-Daddy event?

_______________________

RE: Your Respona to Alexandria, Va.: So who among White House press folks is equivalent to Elijah?

Dana Milbank:

I have it on good information that Mark Knoller of CBS radio travels in a flaming chariot.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: I just read the "reader comments" on your column today. What have you done to create such animosity in readers? Did you torture their cats and grandmothers? Most of the truly unhinged comments appear to come from Democrats, who apparently think you're Cindy McCain in reverse drag. What gives, Dana? I would have thought that you'd be a hero to your fellow Dems.

Dana Milbank:

That's funny. I confess I don't read the comments, in order to keep my blood pressure in check. I think it's the tribal nature of politics, where the left sees their guys as all good and the other side as all bad, and vice versa on the right. Because I don't operate that way, I'm going to step into that minefield on both sides all the time.

So here we have Plouffe doing something that's really not good, but because he was Obama's campaign manager, they'll assume he's in the right and fire up the rapid-response team to go after anybody who questions him.

And, yes, I tortured their cats.

_______________________

Florida chick: I am not Katherine Harris!

"We sent her to your state."

Dana Milbank: Still, I am confident you would look good on a horse.

_______________________

Anonymous: Don't forget something special for Valentine's Day because your wife must be a saint...

Dana Milbank:

I would assume this came from my wife, except:

1) she is in the kitchen making lunch, and

2) the roses have already arrived

_______________________

Ethics in Journalism: It may be that Mr. Plouffle didn't want any of his comments to be taken out of context and spread throughout the free world's papers by the unsavory types in newsrooms. So nice job Dana; your dogged pursuit may be responsible for a deepening recession and lots of other bad stuff.

Dana Milbank:

The bigger question is whether it has emboldened Those Who Would Do Us Harm. I suspect there are some thoughts about that in the comments section of the column.

_______________________

Journalistical Student: Dana: How do you keep so consistently sharp every column? Unlike some of your peers, your stories are always funny, poignant and worth a second read. Where do your ideas come from and does it involve scented candles and a long soak in a hot bubble bath?

Dana Milbank: See? Now why don't sentiments such as these wind up in the comments section? Scented candles and long soaks are nice, but espresso and whiskey are more efficient.

_______________________

Rockville, Md.: I have not seen your comments for a while, but if you do not read them, you ought to get a summary or something to see if any of the advice is good or helpful. I see some room to improve.

Dana Milbank:

I assume the general summary would be: I suck.

But your point is true, Rockville. The problem is I could spend all day reading those and the blog chatter and then wind up not doing my job. It is a dilemma. I think the webchats are useful to that, and I try to read the emails I get if they aren't written in all capital letters.

_______________________

Ocala, Fla.: Is it true that three dogs have withdrawn their applications to be the First Dog, two of them for tax reasons?

Dana Milbank:

Yes, but the third took issue with the stimulus package and the decision to move the Census Bureau into the White House.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Dana, I need your help. I'm addicted to Morning Joe. First, why? Is it Scarborough's hair? Mika's "I'm thinking hard" face? Or something more sinister? Second, how do I break this cycle of addiction? Thanks.

Dana Milbank:

Well, Joe, like Katherine Harris, is from Florida and probably looks good on a horse.

But I think he has nothing, hair-wise, on John Roberts.

_______________________

WTP?: What the Plouffe is right! Even worse: The National Press Club and Georgetown should be raked over the coals, tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on rails.

Absolutely unconscionable. This is how the banality of evil in the unending quest for the almighty dollar and its value over all other things occurs. Totally unacceptable for either institution.

Will you do a follow up story to find out who at each level/each institution (supposedly committed to education and open information) made the decisions to move forward on this outrageous event AND what policies will be implemented to make sure nothing like this ever happens again at either institution?

Dana Milbank:

Give this questioner a sandwich board!

_______________________

Sewickley, Pa.: Dana, when will we see Harry Markopolos again? Is he hiding from the Russian mob? I say nerd up Ben Affleck and you've got Harry for the movie. Who will play you?

Dana Milbank: I haven't seen nearly enough of Dirty Harry, the man who was right about Madoff. I say we get him a job at the FDA in charge of peanut inspections.

_______________________

Bellingham, Wash.: If that peanut CEO guy sent any product to China, could he be extradited to um... face a "grilling" over there?

Dana Milbank:

I believe "dry roasted" is the technique that would best suit Stew Parnell of the Peanut Company of America, though boiling would also have merits.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Okay, so have laughed out loud 4 times while reading this live chat.

I heart Dana Milbank.

So Dana what is your take on the whole bi-partisan angle for Obama?

With the latest withdrawal it seems Dems are saying ditch the Reps. The Reps are saying you never meant to include us.

I can hear it in my head to the tune of Don't cry for me Argentina:

Don't whine for me major parties?

I am a poor little moderate,

I want cohesion, a thoughtful process?

Can we go forward?

Don't keep your distance?

Dana Milbank:

If this sort of thing were in the comments section, I would read it every day.

Thank you for your poetry. It is good to know there are still moderates like me out there, albeit in moderation.

Goodbye for now, dear readers, and, let me assure you: you all would look good on a horse.

_______________________

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.


» This Story:Read +|Watch +|Talk +| Comments
© 2009 The Washington Post Company

Discussion Archive

Viewpoint is a paid discussion. The Washington Post editorial staff was not involved in the moderation.

Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity