Washington Sketch: Dana Milbank on Twitter, Bobby Jindal and CPAC

Dana Milbank
Washington Post Columnist
Friday, February 27, 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 27 at 12 noon ET to take your questions and comments about the things politicians say -- and the absurd ways they find to say them.

A transcript follows.

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Dana Milbank: Good afternoon, dear reader. Your Sketchwriter is recovering today from the bubonic stomach flu. The technological experts assure me you are at no risk of contracting this illness even though you are engaging with me in an interactive medium. On the other hand it is possible that I will need to take a nap at some point during our discussion. You will be able to tell when this is happening because you will see a repetition of certain keys, probably gfgfgfgfgfgfgfgfgf but possibly hjhjhjhjhjhjhjhjh, based on where my nose is resting on the keyboard.

The bubonic stomach flu prevented me from sketching Joe the Plumber at CPAC yesterday. But the good news is CPAC is still going on today, and I intend to stop by there after this chat (and a nap).

Questions? In the spirit of Twitter please limit them to 140 character or less.


Bethesda, Md.: Dana, why aren't YOU on Twitter? Your wit seems especially well-suited to the 140-character format.

Dana Milbank: Excellent question, and within the 140 character limit.

I was discussing this with the great John Roberts on CNN this morning. He has just begun Twittering and has 71 followers. One of his dispatches this week was about how many beads he collected while at Mardi Gras.

I have signed up for a Twitter account, but only so I can be a voyeur and watch others Tweet. I have noticed, however, that I have 44 followers. I fear that I am letting down this modest following and possibly I should start Twittering in earnest. So here is my first tweet:

I did not go to Mardi Gras and I did not get any beads.


Alexandria, Va.: I must confess I logged on specifically to read snarky comments about Bobby Jindal's speech: the whole big government is bad, even though it spent billions post-Katrina in my state. Where are your typical questioners today?

Dana Milbank: I believe the typical questioners contracted the bubonic stomach flu immediately upon clicking the link to this chat.

Now this may be seen as a sign of my illness, but I have been a fan of Jindal. I met him before he was in Congress through some friends of his from McKinsey.

But State of the Union addresses have not been kind to Bobby. He was the leader of the purple finger brigade on the House floor during one of Bush's addresses to Congress. And his Tuesday night speech may actually supplant Clinton's '88 keynote speech in its badness.


One of his dispatches this week was about how many beads he collected while at Mardi Gras: Did John Roberts have to take his shirt off in order to score beads? If so, may we see pictures of him bare-chested, please?

Dana Milbank:

Can you tweet photos? It is certainly worth inquiring about. You can become is 72nd follower on Twitter -- and tell him I sent you.


The Flu: So you're going to the CPAC convention to give them all the flu? Blatant liberal media bias has now become anti-right wing terrorism.

Dana Milbank: How did you know I was planning to lick all the doorknobs?


Atlanta: Hi, Dana,

The newspaper industry might be in trouble, but your field of expertise is recession proof! Admittedly, you had a scare in almost losing Burris. But Joe the Plumber is back again. And again. And again. If he runs for Congress and actually wins, it will be the equivalent of winning the lottery for you. Would that be awesome or what?

Dana Milbank:

Particularly because he has promised to slap around his congressional colleagues and expects he will spend a lot of time in jail for doing so.

Would it be a conflict of interest for me to use the Sketch to start a Wurzelbacher for Congress Exploratory Committee?


Alexandria, Va.: What's the deal with the distinguished Sen. Burris refusing to resign? Is this not a shining example of the need for a Constitutional amendment for special elections to fill vacant Senate seats? (Though I do almost feel bad for him, being shunned by his colleagues and all).

Dana Milbank: Don't you dare try to take Senator Burris away from me. Not unless you give me Wurzelbacher.


Fairfield, Conn.: Please tell me someone is covering CPAC in depth! I just took a look at their agenda. Oh my freaking goodness.

-- Al Franken and ACORN: How Liberals are Destroying the American Election System

-- Presentation of John M. Ashbrook Award

-- Sarah Palin Unplugged on the Media Video Interview

-- Youth for Western Civilization Ball

-- Bailing Out Big Business: Are We All Socialists Now?

In three days there is ONE session on health care (which appears to be wholly negative), and no sessions about the financial industry, the world economy, poverty, etc.

Judging from the agenda and the speakers, conservatives are truly wandering in some bizarre, dark, parallel universe. Frankly, this is all good news for Democrats.

Dana Milbank:

Calm down, Fairfield. Most of this will be canceled after I spread contagion through the Omni Shoreham this afternoon.


Seattle, Wash.: The question of the week:

Does Bobby Jindal's speech evoke The Page Boy, or Mr. Rogers?

Won't you be my neighbor?

Dana Milbank: I shall throw this question open to the wider community.

The general thinking is he was oratorically over-coached and something went terribly wrong.


please remain calm: this is one of those unavoidable pauses when your chat host is vomiting on his slippers...

Dana Milbank: fgfgfgfgfgfgfgfgfgfgfgfgfg


Santa Fe, N.M.: Enough piling on Bobby. Obama's non-SOTU was bo-ring! Heresy?

Dana Milbank: You're on your own, Santa Fe. I was too busy reading all the Tweets to pay any attention to the speech.


Twittly, N.Y.: Troops out of Iraq (most), Bobby Jindal (not amazing), Norm Coleman (really?), Mickey Rourke (shame!!), Rush Limbaugh (I should care because...?)

Dana Milbank:

You've tweeted an entire week's news in 140 characters. I shower you with Mardi Gras beads.


Eau Claire, Wisc.: First, I'll trade you, I'm recovering from a heart attack -- at least the stomach flu does not need whole new lifestyle changes.

Okay, now that I'm done whining, I turned on the TV and caught the tail end of some news story about a CPAC guest making a "joke" about nuking Chicago. But I did not get any details. Have you heard about this? Would you have details? Thank you.

washingtonpost.com: Crowd Laughs at Nuclear Threat to Chicago (MSNBC, Feb. 27, 2009)

Dana Milbank:

Here's wishing you a solid recovery, Eau Claire. And I won't try to match my belly up against your ticker -- although for about six hours yesterday I seriously contemplated the lifestyle change of never eating again.


Fairfax County, Va.: As soon as I saw the new Pentagon policy allowing photos of the coffins (if the families agree), I thought of your expose regarding a parallel policy at Arlington Cemetery funerals. I also thought of the young woman (an Army employee and Iraq War veteran) who was supposed to permit press coverage where the families wanted it, but was apparently fired for doing so.

Thank you again for a strong piece that got important facts out and probably contributed to this change re the coffins. Any follow-up on the Arlington story, either on the young woman or the press restrictions observed there now?

washingtonpost.com: What the Family Would Let You See, the Pentagon Obstructs (The Washington Post, April 24, 2009)

Dana Milbank:

Happily, the Army Secretary has indeed revised the policy so that there will be more access to Arlington burials of the war dead, consistent with the families' wishes. Last I heard from Gina Gray, she was reemployed elsewhere.

The flag-draped casket story is one I've been following for a long while as well. I wrote this about it back in October, 2003:

Since the end of the Vietnam War, presidents have worried that their military actions would lose support once the public glimpsed the remains of U.S. soldiers arriving at air bases in flag-draped caskets.

To this problem, the Bush administration has found a simple solution: It has ended the public dissemination of such images by banning news coverage and photography of dead soldiers' homecomings on all military bases.

In March, on the eve of the Iraq war, a directive arrived from the Pentagon at U.S. military bases. "There will be no arrival ceremonies for, or media coverage of, deceased military personnel returning to or departing from Ramstein [Germany] airbase or Dover [Del.] base, to include interim stops," the Defense Department said, referring to the major ports for the returning remains.


Washington, D.C.: Look, I love a good Biden gaffe as much as any other red-blooded American, but I didn't think the Recovery.gov thing was very noteworthy. I mean, sure, he called the address a "number," but he remembered it pretty quickly! Is the media reaching for a gaffe here, or are my standards just low for our adorably garbled VP?

Dana Milbank:

I would answer this but you are over the 140-character limit.

Actually, I think Biden "remembered" it because his aide, off-camera, gave him the name. But, yes, we should give the guy a break. It's not a truck, you know, it's a series of tubes, and it's very complicated.


Er...: I don't mean to alarm you but there really is no such thing as a stomach flu. That's a myth. Have you eaten any peanut butter recently?

Dana Milbank: hjhjhjhjhjhjhjhjhjhjhjh


God Bless the U.S.A.: I think you should give Congress some credit for even knowing how to Twitter. Remember many of these folks were born before indoor plumbing when a twitter meant something very much different.

Dana Milbank:

True. And somehow Twitter retains a naughty connotation. There were snickers in the newsroom when an email went out recently with the subject line "Cillizza Twitters Claire McCaskill" or some such.

Cillizza, by the way, is the proud papa of a baby boy born just this week. He promised not to tweet the birth; I am taking him at his word and have not looked.


Baltimore, Md.: Chicken soup, ginger ale, maybe a little Brian Lamb on C-SPAN and you'll be fine, Dana. And I don't think you missed anything by missing Joe the Plumber. Paul Farhi's piece in yesterday's Post on the guy's appearance at the downtown Borders pretty well summed up Joe's current position in the media/public firmament. We have all moved on to Octomom.

washingtonpost.com: Joe the Author, Plumbing New Lows in Interest (The Washington Post, Feb. 26, 2009)

Dana Milbank: Thank you for making me feel better, Baltimore.

It is now time for my nap, then I've got a whole lot of contagion to spread at the Shoreham.

Thanks, all, for tuning in. I promise to be back to full strength next week.


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