Post Politics Hour

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Ed O'Keefe, of the Federal Eye blog

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Ed O'Keefe
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Monday, March 16, 2009; 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.

Ed O'Keefe, Federal Eye blogger, will be online Monday, March 16, at 11 a.m. ET to take questions about national politics, congressional news and the latest from the Obama administration.

A transcript follows.

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

Archive: Post Politics Hour Discussion Transcripts


Ed O'Keefe: Hello and welcome to the Monday morning episode of the Post Politics Hour, I'm your host, Ed O'Keefe, author of The Federal Eye blog, but here to answer your queries about national politics and the federal government.

Oh, and if you're wondering, this American University graduate is a bit anxious about the

Eagles' NCAA basketball matchup against Villanova this Thursday night

. If you're a Wildcat student to alum, consider yourself a temporary enemy.


Pittsburgh, Pa.: It seemed utterly inconceivable that this weekend's "Saturday Night Live" would have any cold open other than a parody of Jon Stewart's beat-down on CNBC's Jim Cramer. And yet they avoided the topic entirely -- not even mentioned on the Weekend Update.

I cannot believe this was mere artistic freedom. Did NBC overtly or subtly threaten SNL not to make Cramer look bad, or do you think this was more likely a case of self-censorship (which can be the most insidious type)? Where is the outrage?

Ed O'Keefe: I just screamed out loud on your behalf.

You'd have to check with the NBC folks, but I know that MSNBC producers were told to not discuss the issue the morning after. But was the whole situation that funny that it warranted SNL's attention?


Seattle, Wash.: I heard that Obama will be using his grassroots organization to pass the budget. I thought the budget was signed last week. What's the deal?

Ed O'Keefe: No, he signed the omnibus spending bill last week that takes care of funding the government

Ed O'Keefe: Obama signed the 2009 Omnibus spending bill last week, paying for the federal government's operations through the end of this fiscal year. His budget proposal is for FY 2010, which begins later this year.


Baltimore, Md.: As an AU alum who graduated in 1970, long before Bender Arena even existed, I am amazed and pleased that the Eagles have now made it into the NCAA tourney two years in a row.

For politics, is the AIG bonus latent bailout proof of the wisdom of that old proverb which holds, "He who rides a tiger can never dismount."

Ed O'Keefe: Haha, I suppose it might! We'll just have to see what the government does to fix the Tiger as it continues it's ride, I suppose.


Fayetteville, N.C.: Good morning.

Ron Paul has been calling for more transparency at the Federal Reserve. With the spotlight on all our financial institutions, do you think that could actually happen? They seem to like secrecy, but we know they've been keeping interest rates artificially low for a while, especially around election time.

Ed O'Keefe: If you watched last night's "60 Minutes" (a show everyone should watch every week), you'll notice Bernanke expressed a desire to open up the Fed process a bit more. The fact that he sat for a two-segment TV interview -- the first since 1987 -- shows he's trying to broaden the nation's understanding of what it does. He also made the point that they can't allow television cameras in on their meetings, because it would cause too much volatility in the markets.


What kind of bird knows how to dance?: An American University Eagle! GO Eagles!

I don't know about you, but I believe! Villanova shouldn't expect to be around long.


Ed O'Keefe: Well there was a guy at the AU game on Friday with Cinderella slippers... I wonder if they fit AU?


Alexandria, Va.: I'm just mystified at the WP's front page story Saturday about Obama blaming Bush for the economy. The author quotes President Obama's call for "an end to petty grievances ... recriminations ... and worn out dogmas..." and seems to make the claim that Obama's having described inheriting "a fiscal disaster" and "a big mess" is in fact indulging in the very "petty grievances" that he once denounced.

Pretty much everyone agrees with President Obama's description of the economy as a "fiscal disaster." That's actually a pretty mild recrimination. And the situation is in no way "a petty grievance."

The story is blown up out of nothing. It's not news and certainly not front-page news. It seems to support the belief that the media likes process stories that generate controversy.

Ed O'Keefe: This is the first of many comments we've received today on Scott Wilson's Saturday front page story on Obama's rhetorical shift when it comes to whose to blame for the economy.


SNL and CNBC: Not that SNL isn't often lame, but it would be particularly lame for them to follow in the trail of Comedy Central's line of satire. Not much benefit for them to try to pile on to Stewart's take-down. Would in fact make them look lame in comparison.

Ed O'Keefe: One person's opinion...


Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: You're probably going to get a lot of comments like this but I just wanted to express my dissatisfaction with the story by your colleague on Obama "blaming" the previous administration. Considering that Republicans have been loudly calling this the Obama recession -- never mind that the guy has been in office less than two months and the recession started in Dec. 2007.

Would it have hurt you all to include a little context? The only good defense is an offense and if your critics are trying to stick you with the blame, you have to hit back. The Obama Stock Market (Post, March 16)

Ed O'Keefe: Another comment on Scott's story.

The focus of it was one what OBAMA and his aides are saying about the economy now, which is different than what he said at the start.

Republican commentary and thoughts on the matter are pretty clear and we've reported on such efforts in the past.

_______________________ Obama's New Tack: Blaming Bush (Post, March 14)


St. Paul, Minn.: Ed -- Unless I have a very short memory, didn't past presidents and vice presidents, especially from the losing party, disappear for a while after the election and the inauguration of the new president? So what's with Cheney giving a typically Cheneyesque interview yesterday with CNN? How do you imagine the White House feels about that? Does he actually help by reminding the public of what went before (Libby, Iraq, you name it), or does the new administration fear that he's undermining their message in already difficult times? Dick Cheney (CNN)

Ed O'Keefe: All of the reading I've done on the matter notes that the White House would not comment on the interview.

Cheney's appearance not only made news but also served as a big free ad for CNN's new four-hour "State of the Union" Sunday morning show. The networks drool over news nuggets from the Sunday morning talk shows, since news reports about the interviews require the obligatory mention of when and where the news happened.

But yes -- customarily former presidents and vice president sit things out for awhile longer. As Politico's (sorry I refuse to use the caps) Mike Allen

reported earlier this month

, "an informal network of former aides is keeping his views in the political bloodstream, defending his legacy in TV appearances and backgrounding reporters about his record." The former president himself even recently showed up at an SMU political science course and took questions from students for about 50 minutes. All this as he plans to start raising funds for his presidential library, which is slated to open in 2013.

As for President Clinton, his Clinton Foundation keeps him in the news on a fairly regular basis. He was on "Larry King Live" just last week.


Washington, D.C.: Any idea when we'll start seeing names for new ambassadors, beyond Iraq and Afghanistan?

And how bad is the White House logjam still for the next tier of federal nominees?

Ed O'Keefe: Let me refer you to the reporting of my colleague Al Kamen, who keeps score on how many nominees have been confirmed and how the numbers compare to admnistrations past.

As for new ambassadors, we'll have to wait until later this Spring to learn of our new diplomats in overseas postings.


History Repeats Itself: I seem to recall Democrats blaming Bush for the downturn in the economy in early 2001, when we were still operating under Clinton's budget. I also seem to recall Democrats chastising Bush and company for "talking down the economy."

What's good for the goose...

Ed O'Keefe: ... exactly.


New York : Its wonderful that MSNBC has directed its so-called 'liberal' commentators not to publicize the de-pantsing of its fellow-NBC right wing pro-business channel; now liberal viewers can see as clearly as can be how they've been played by the corporate media. Politics on cable is nothing more than professional wrestling for people who can read. If it got him extra audience share, Olbermann would be more right wing than Bill O'Reilly. These pundits have no core principles except for self-interest.

Ed O'Keefe: That SNL question has obviously touched a nerve...


Re: Health Care: Okay, so Larry Summers, NEC Director and all-around brilliant economist, says "Our ability to produce competitively in the United States will be enhanced if we contain healthcare costs. I have heard it said that GM's largest supplier is not a parts company or a tire company, but Blue Cross Blue Shield." Yet, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf says "the costs of providing health insurance to their workers are not a competitive disadvantage for U.S.-based firms." Greg Mankiw, another pretty brilliant economist, also agrees with Elmendorf. Who is right?

Ed O'Keefe: I defer to my esteemed and talented Business colleagues on these types of questions... spare me! I only cover the operations of the federal government and national politics! Sorry!


USG employee: Why are not more congressmen upset about AIG paying 4,700 people $600 in retention pay, and 6,400 $121 million in bonuses? AIG's head said it only averages $19,000 but that's half my annual salary and I have to help pay their bonus because their company is failing? The AIG head said, "These employees are highly specialized and/or are part of businesses that control billions of dollars of revenue ...Our competitors understand how valuable our top executives are, and we are acutely aware that they would like to siphon off our most talented leaders."

I can't understand how valuable they are; they let AIG fail. If that's the most talented AIG has and I were another company, I'd let AIG keep them.

Ed O'Keefe: I'm sure if you were to walk the halls of capitol hill today you'd be hard-pressed to find a Congressman NOT upset with the AIG news. Barney Frank told the Today show that the bonuses amounts to "rewarding incompetence" and that the company should be reorganized. Pelosi called it "unconscionable" and McConnell referred to the news as "an outrage." Something -- not sure what, but something will probably be done about this.


New York : The Cheney interview by John King was one of the lamest things I've ever seen. It belonged on Fox, except Chris Wallace would have done better. When were follow-ups declared illegal in the journalism game? And do you think that Cheney's admission to sanctioning torture merits any discussion at all, or was that declared off-bounds when CNN negotiated for this great honor? All in all, I'm amazed that this embarrassment was ever aired.

Ed O'Keefe: one person's opinion....


Presidential Libraries: Can you explain to me what the purpose of a presidential library is?? These always seem to be a big deal, and I just don't get it.

Ed O'Keefe: There are 13 overseen by the Office of Presidential Libraries in the National Archives and Records Administration. They preserve all of the papers of each of those presidents, and allow regular everyday folks to eventually review original documents and other information for themselves. Learn more here:


Annapolis, Md.: Re: Cheney. He is using the entitlement of a six-month "transition office" in Washington. Haven't heard of a lot of former VPs doing that. So it doesn't surprise me that he's on the talk shows already.

As for the "Obama Market" stories, I thought WaPo did a good job of reporting the change in tone. And I think Obama was right to change the tone a bit, in order to prevent right-wing repetition from becoming "fact."

Ed O'Keefe: One person's opinion...

_______________________ Learn About the Presidential Libraries (National Archives)


Skewed Opinions?: Are you ever embarrassed by the Post's Opinion pages, since they so regularly skew to the right?

On Sunday the Post "asked members of Congress and others whether federal budget earmarks are defensible." The three members of Congress whose responses were listed -- Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) and Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) -- are all Republicans; no Democratic members of Congress were quoted. The Post's omission of contributions by Democratic lawmakers is consistent with a pattern I've been noting in the media of portraying earmarks as a practice unique to Democrats. What's your take on this, Ed?

Ed O'Keefe: My take is I have no take on this.

The Opinion and news sections are kept separate at The Post. I have no input or idea what they're working on, and vice versa. And even if I did have an opinion, I wouldn't share it.

There've been several silly questions like this today, and this one's the most tame. Folks, save it.


Bonuses: Maybe we should look at the AIG bonuses like earmarks. Many posters on this site said we shouldn't care about earmarks because they make up such a small percentage of the overall cost of the bill.

Using that as a barometer for disgust and outrage, we should be welcoming the AIG bonuses. We're talking about what, 1 percent of the bailout amount, if that?

Ed O'Keefe: An interesting proposition...


Port Ewen, N.Y.: I think the real outrage here is not that SNL didn't continue the parody, but that real news shows didn't expose, in far more detail, the absolute immorality of a money channel(who wants us to trust them)to deliberately share unreliable information. Cable news gets some bad rap for its repetitiveness and shallowness, but this really deserves exposure. And I don't mean just the battle between Stewart and Cramer.

Ed O'Keefe: Another person's opinion...


Ed O'Keefe: Folks, that's it for today. Thanks for submitting questions and check out my blog on the federal government, The Federal Eye, when you get a chance.


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

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