Post Politics Hour
Thursday, April 2, 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 buzz in Washington and The Post's coverage of political news.
Washington Post congressional reporter Lois Romano, was online Thursday, March 26 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll that shows how Americans feel about big-ticket spending, President Obama's European trip, the case of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens and more.
Watch Romano's Video Series: Voices of Power
Lois Romano: Good Morning everyone! Thanks for joining us today. Lets get started.
West Bend, N.C.: Re: Sen. Stevens, Do you think Mark Begich should offer to resign the Alaska Senate seat? I think it would be a great gesture of statesmanship and bipartisanship and I doubt Stevens would want to return to the Senate.
Lois Romano: Well, that will never happen. He won so he's a senator. I think Stevens would love to return to the senate but at this point I doubt he'd every run again.
Minneapolis, Minn.: Hi Lois -- Thanks for taking questions today. Here in Minnesota, it's looking like our long recount nightmare might actually be coming to an end...or not. The Republicans are making noises that Coleman, even though his chances of winning are looking more unlikely now than before, should keep fighting on, including taking his case to the federal courts and even the U.S. Supreme Court, thus still keeping that seat empty for a long time to come. What do you think? What do the Democrats do in response? If Franken wins in the state courts and the Senate tries to seat him, what happens then?
Lois Romano: From where I sit it looks like Franken will make it to Washington. The higher courts dont like to get involved in this stuff and have made that clear. At a certain point, the expense and tumult will wear on the public- probably already has- and the GOP will end up doing themselves more harm that good long term.
Centreville, Va.: Hello Ms.Romano,
I have a modest proposal for your consideration. Much has been made of the notion of sacrifice during our economic crisis, with the president telling us in general terms that, to solve it, everyone must participate and make some concessions to come to a solution. For example, the UAW making contract concessions, Wagoner stepping down, CEOs agreeing to $1 in annual compensation, etc. Now, in regard to the U.S. Congress, which surely has a hand in causing this mess, I have yet to hear any member -- who after all are well compensated, work well less than a full year, and most of whom are millionaires (admittedly that word carries less heft that it used to, but with the median income of the average American well below $100,000, it's still some pretty sweet juice -- as I say, I have yet to hear any member volunteer to work for only $1 a year per term. This action would demonstrate that our political leaders understand the meaning of sacrifice, which I'm not sure that they really do, at least the meaning of the word that the average American has. Those senators and representatives who don't wish to make this sacrifice could resign and try to find a real job. What do you think?
Lois Romano: I would have to research this, but I seem to recall one or two may already give their salaries to charity.
Re: Vote in the NY 20th: Michael Steele is saying that a win for the Republican in this special election will be a "clear repudiation of Obama" -- but what puzzles me is that, given that this district was sooooo Republican in the first place, that this tie, even before the actual count is finished, should give Steele, and the Republicans pause, since the win for the GOP should have been a sure thing, based on the area. In short, what is Steele talking about?
Lois Romano: Oh, he's just using it as a vehicle to make hay. The race was pretty close- so its not a repudiation of anyone. And as you say, its a republican district. Democrats always suspected they could lose that seat. It was unusual that they were able to keep it for two cycles.
Arlington, Va.: Re former Sen. Ted Stevens: he was indicted for doing business with some sleazy characters. The Justice Department was cornered into indicting him, but in my humble opinion, intentionally tanked the case. And while I am glad a Democrat won the seat, I was a bit surprised that Stevens was found guilty in the first place. What were the prosecutors thinking? I used to work in a U.S. Attorney's office (not an attorney), and office policy was TURN EVERYTHING OVER TO THE DEFENSE. The result? -- lots of plea agreements that were rarely appealed, and trials that were short, sweet, to the point, and the defendant was usually found guilty. Prosecutors like the trio that tried Stevens need to be kicked to the curb, because behavior like this completely taints the process of justice.
Lois Romano: I dont know what they were thinking- but I can tell you they didn't purposely tank the case. They wanted a conviction. It was just badly bungled and unprofessional.
Washington, D.C. - RE: Stevens: How come it is only the high profile cases or those defendants with lots of money can get these kinds of reversals? My problem is not with Stevens or the defendants, but the government and the DA. How can we trust that they are not doing these same antics to win cases at all costs at the lower levels where there is not the scrutiny? (See "Courtroom 301" as just one example of how much the focus is on getting a final decision without a real search for truth in court cases).
In other words, if I were charged with a crime, what are my chances of getting an ethical prosecutor?
Lois Romano: You raise a very important point. We cant be sure. Stevens had the best legal team available. But obviously, not everyone can hire a Brendan Sullivan. Legal aide is always overworked, and often simply not able to spend the time and resources needed.
Chattanooga, Tenn.: Just because Stevens's conviction was vacated doesn't necessarily mean he wasn't taking things from people that he shouldn't have been taking. It just means that the U.S. Attorneys who brought the case did it in a very poor manner. The idea of Begich resigning is ridiculous.
Lois Romano: Yes, it is a non-starter, as we say.
Potomac, Md.: Thanks Obamas for making our country a laughingstock. Who gives the Queen an iPod? Presidents Bush and Reagan knew better, giving her fine china or silver. And my GOSH, what was Michelle doing TOUCHING the Queen on her BACK? Oh well, at least it wasn't Bill bearing the "gift" of Arkansas BBQ and a Yankee Doodle DVD!
Lois Romano: Oh come on- lighten up. I thought the IPOD was kind of fun but I know it will analyzed for weeks- and spurned by traditionalists. As far as touching the queen on the back- that was probably a no-no.
Winthrop, Mass.: Since the case against Sen. Stevens is still solid, why not try him again? There is supposed to be far more corruption evidence against Stevens not related to to the charges so why let the man go free? Is this a case of a president from the Senate letting any senator go free no matter how corrupt they are? Is President Obama simply maintaining his membership in the old boy's club of the Senate?
Lois Romano: No he wasn't. The case was an embarrassment to the government. They sat on evidence and reportedly an FBI agent got too close to the star witness. Sometimes, its better to cut your losses.
New Haven, Conn.: Out of curiosity, what is your perception of why so many women were/continue to be so uncomfortable with Michelle Obama? Some of the comments you had in your article were pretty disturbing to me, especially coming from my own gender. Do you think it's race, do you think it's generational, do you think it's geographical?
Lois Romano: I thought there was really only one comment that indicated a discomfort. No matter how you slice it, people have really warmed to her. We can focus on the unhappy few-- but the far bigger story is how she has won so many people over since the campaign.
Catonsville, Md. Sorry but your reply regarding whether or not the prosecutors may have intentionally botched the case was a bit flippant. I don't know how you can say with certainty they didn't. It seems strange that professional prosecutors would make such a grievous error in a high-profile case. And also, any criminal attorney will tell you the best way to insure a conviction will be thrown out or overturned on appeal is to withhold evidence. It's just not reasonable to assume this was done accidentally.
Lois Romano: It wasn't a flip answer. It was quite serious. They wanted a conviction. I don't believe they intentionally botched the case. These lawyers could get sanctioned.
Arlington, Va.: Re Obama giving the Queen an iPod, I heard a report that the Queen had actually asked for one.
Lois Romano: Thank you for that!
re:Potomac, Md.: I've been amused by the iPod controversy. The way people are acting, you'd think the royal family was still in charge of this country...who cares?! And frankly, I'd rather get an iPod than a wink or a backrub, Potomac.
Lois Romano: ditto!
London: re: the iPod. The Queen uses e-mail to keep in touch with her grandchildren. They will probably use the iPod with her. Believe me, she has enough china.
Lois Romano: I guess everyone is so focused on this because of the gift Obama gave Prime Minister Gordon Brown a box of CDs-- apparently in the wrong format.
Arlington, Va.: To all the people getting bunched up about the iPod -- it's what she asked for! And as for her present to the Obamas, I thought it was a bit silly, but then I recalled the rules concerning how much a gift to the president can be worth that he can actually keep. So, no harm, no foul on anyone. Seriously, Sean Hannity needs to get a life!
Lois Romano: Ok-more on ipodgate. I cant find any reference to the queen asking for the Ipod. BUT the pool report states that President also gave the Queen a "rare songbook signed by Richard Rodgers". Is that weightly enough for everyone?
Pennsylvania: Did Michelle Obama curtsey, or the President bow, to the Queen? I sure hope not.
Lois Romano: She did not. and it would have been inappropriate.
Re: Potomac: I have followed politics very closely for over 40 years. Up until this presidency I had never heard what the American president was giving some other head of state. From where is this negative trash bubbling up? Can we put a stopper in it?
Lois Romano: Its always published as part of the reporting- but I agree we're all getting a bit carried away. More importantly- the Dow is up, Obama is being well received, which is good for the country.
Baltimore, Md.: Hi, Liz--
Thanks for taking questions! Regarding Mrs. Obama and Her Majesty having "a moment", the Times of London had this to say:
A breach of protocol? Hardly. Buckingham Palace was very relaxed today about the incident, and attitudes there have changed significantly since the days of Mr Keating and his lese-majesty. And no, they don't issue instructions to people about not touching the Queen.
"This was a mutual and spontaneous display of affection and appreciation between The Queen and Michelle Obama," said a Palace spokeswoman.
Lois Romano: Thank you for this!
Minneapolis, Minn.: What is going on with Sarah Palin and the Republican party? Is the love affair over?
Lois Romano: The conservative base I assume still loves her. But beyond that, I'm not sure many practical GOP politicians see her as a viable presidential candidate just yet.
Philly, Pa.: Hi Lois, I found your recent piece on Michelle Obama's popularity interesting but sad. Some of the responses were quite troubling -- it seems like women themselves, including young "modern" women, are intimidated by other women who are "strong" or opinionated (I say this is as a woman myself). One comment that I found particularly interesting was from the 34-year-old white woman who said "white women have more insecurities than black women." Did you challenge her on this? Did you talk with minority women or women who previously liked Michelle?
washingtonpost.com: Michelle's Image: From Off-Putting To Spot-On (Post, March 31)
Lois Romano: I did challenge her and I understood her point- but it was hard to capture it all. She was actually tying to be complimentary toward Michelle- saying she has a strong sense of self and doesn't let others define her or her core values. Overall, I was heartened by the interviews. I found people who had a knee-jerk negative reaction to her last year were giving her a chance and finding much to like.
Seattle, Wash.: MSNBC just cited an AP report that said that Michelle touching the Queen was because the Queen initiated it! You media types are simply amazing.
Lois Romano: thanks!
Manhattan, Kan.: I've read that any piece of apparel Michelle Obama is shown wearing on her trip overseas sells out almost immediately. Any chance she could be persuaded to buy an American-made automobile during her trip?
Lois Romano: The crystal sweater from JCrew sold out in five minutes. Amazing.
Lois Romano: Thank you all for joining me today. See you in two weeks.
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