Washington Sketch: Bank of Obama, Pirate Substitutes, No Offense Intended

Dana Milbank
Washington Post Columnist
Monday, April 13, 2009; 2:00 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 Monday, April 13 at 2 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the things politicians say -- and the absurd ways they find to say them.


Dana Milbank: Good afternoon, sketchreaders.

Apologies for postponing Friday's chat -- I was away.

When last we chatted, it occurred to me that I could save time and effort by having you, the reader, write the column for me while I find other important activities in a gym or saloon. I was hoping to start this experiment today, but there are a couple of wrinkles:

1. I have spent the last hour listening to the IRS commissioner and he is so incredibly boring that I don't think a Sketch can be salvaged, and:

2. It's 2 pm and it's possible there are only about 8 people out there chatting right now.

That said, please tell me your thoughts on whether the commissioner should have mentioned all the administration officials with tax problems during his 40 minute speech (he didn't) or whether he should have blown it off when finally asked about it with six minutes remaining ("a lot of people are going to make inadvertent errors").

Alternatively, you can reassign me to go to Robert Gibbs's briefing at 3:15 if you see some promise in it.

Hopefully by the time we return to our regularly scheduled chat on Friday, circumstances will be better.

Now, on to your questions.


Boonsboro, Md.: I thought your send up of the Prez as Ditech salesman was pretty funny. However, by the comments you seemed to have broken the Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not criticize the Obama. Please keep it up, those of us not humor-impaired appreciate it.

Dana Milbank: Thank you, Boonsboro (is there really such a place?).

The silly part is it wasn't really criticizing the Obama or the Obama's policy. I just thought it funny that he was pitching low, low mortgage rates and announced the website five times.


Clarks Summit, Pa.: So we have a president who is actively trying to use his office to publicize the relief that is available for homeowners, or potential homeowners. This is a serious national crisis!

Why do you use sarcasm and ridicule against his efforts?

washingtonpost.com: Washington Sketch: President Obama as Mortgage Broker

Dana Milbank:

Ah, the humor impaired are among us. You are right.

Obama: off limits!

Mortgages: off limits!

So maybe this dull speech by the IRS commissioner will turn out ok after all.


Washington, D.C.: I think the Make Home Affordable program is great! I need to bring my payment down, so I can pay down my credit cards. The problem is when is it going to start! There is virtually no information on that. I have a Countrywide Mtg. which is now owned by Bank of America.

On their site they want you to leave your contact information so they can contact you in 2 -4 weeks. I called Countrywide 3 weeks ago and got transferred to some department at Bank of America who had no idea when they would be offering the Presidents plan. So for those of us who want to avoid foreclosure we must bide our time, and hope we don't start falling down the slippery slope.

Dana Milbank: I believe Chris Dodd can help you with Countrywide.


Tears for Pirates: I told my 3-year-old son that SEALs killed some pirates last night and he's been in tears ever since. What are some practical ways to give him solace?

Dana Milbank: Argh! You'll walk the plank for that one, matey.


Washington, D.C.: Call me a Grinch but we have a $10,000,000,000 deficit. Do we really need to be continuing traditions celebrating Christian/Pagan holidays for 5-year-olds?

Dana Milbank: I was never very good at math, Grinch, but I think the budget deficit has many more zeroes than you have supplied.

Given the reaction to Obama as Ditech salesman I dare not criticize his attendance at the Easter Egg roll.



Can you help me with this?

Apparently, according to what I have been seeing on cable news networks, this dictator type (who is actually foreign, btw) has been elected as President of the United States. According to what I am seeing, this fascist is responsible for the continuation of two wars, the collapse of the economy, and total gridlock in government so severe that a whole block of legislators refuse to vote on any of his legislation. It's so bad that whole groups of people are throwing tea in harbors and anchor men are crying. How have we possibly allowed the situation in the U.S. to go so far?


Dana Milbank: I am doing all I can. I am hoping to attend a tea party later in the week with Senator Vitter.


Washington, D.C.: Now that the White House has a puppy, inquiring minds want to know: Has the White House lined the floors with papers from The Post or the Times?

Dana Milbank: I believe the resourceful circulation department at the Post is offering a special puppy-training subscription rate for just such an occasion.


Vienna, Va.: Dana, I have a few things I'd like to sell on Craigslist and, once I get the money, will promise to spend it locally to stimulate the economy. Can I get POTUS to pitch my items on national TV?

Dana Milbank: Get in line, buddy.

First he has to do an event telling everybody to get a newspaper subscription. ("Go to washingtonpost.com today -- that's washingtonpost.com and I will personally guarantee your paper will arrive before 6 a.m. . . . ").

Disclaimer: The preceding was not meant as a criticism of the Obama or his policies. Any offense was strictly unintentional.


Baltimore: Have you booked your flight to Cuba yet? I hear they have great beaches.

washingtonpost.com: Obama to Lift Cuba Travel Restrictions

Dana Milbank: I'm waiting until I can get there with frequent flier miles so I don't inadvertently stimulate the Cuban economy.


Florida chick: Curran. Photo. Now.

Dana Milbank: Well, there's been a wrinkle in this area too. Last week, he left early one day complaining of a migraine. This week, he's gone entirely, possibly in Cuba. I think this whole public dating project has really unnerved him.


Evanston, Ill.: Hey Dana, Did Obama hire Kal Penn to assuage all those pot smokers he offended in his virtual town hall? What are the odds Obama is a secret pot smoker?

Dana Milbank: Well, they are growing some, ahem, herbs in that organic White House vegetable patch.

Disclaimer: The preceding was in no way meant as a criticism of the Obama, his garden, organic vegetables, or the easter egg roll.


Arlington, Va.: Dana -

Missed you Friday, glad you are here today.

When an article about the Peeps diorama contest results in comments bashing the Obama administration and the Somali Pirates, exposing the full extent of humorlessness, you realize how important columns like yours have become. Keep fighting the good fight!

Please don't let the humor-impaired dictate your columns. If you do, well, then THEY WIN!

Dana Milbank: You're right. I should just come out against the Easter Egg Roll.

Disclaimer: I have done no such thing. Yet.


Call me a Grinch but : As you say, the humor-impaired are among us.

Dana Milbank:

Can a Grinch be involved in Easter or does he only come out for Christmas?


Or Herbs, right?: No criticism of herbs either?

Dana Milbank: Disclaimer: Any offense given to lovers of herbs, or "the herb," was strictly unintentional. Except for thyme. I do not like thyme, even if the Obamas like it.


Tears for Pirates: Casts a pall over the Next National Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day, don't it?

Dana Milbank: Blimey.


White House lawn: I saw the picture in the Post online of the Obama's kicking off the Easter egg hunt with the big bunny looking a little menancing standing right behind the president. I hope they check those guys out before they don the costume--Karl Rove could be hiding in there ala Frank Drebon in Naked Gun...

washingtonpost.com: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Dana Milbank:

I have it on good information that they checked the bunny costume beforehand and made sure it was Joe Biden.

But this caricature of rabbits is another reason I just might -- but have not yet -- come out against the Easter egg roll. As a lover of rabbits I am offended at this grotesque stereotype.


Richmond, Va.: I'm the guy who posted the comment that started your riff on having other people ghost write your column. Were you serious? I'd love to take a stab at it if you were. Seriously, how do I contact you? I've tried to e-mail you before (long time ago), but the WashPost server kicked it back to me.

Dana Milbank: Excellent. We're trying to figure out a way to do this technologically, which is not my strength. Possibly I can post the topic in the morning in blog format and ideas can be posted as comments.

If I put my email here I'll get all kinds of spam, so let me just put a sample email here, Tim Curran = currant@washpost.com, and you can assume mine follows the same format.


Pirates!: I think the media needs to come up with a new name for the Somali Pirates. The name "pirates" just doesn't sound evil anymore, thanks to "Pirates of the Caribbean", the Pittsburgh Pirates, etc.

Dana Milbank: How about Buccaneers?


Gym vs. bar: We've seen the sketch videos, so we know what you look like, Dana (not to mention your work with Richard Simmons). A gym? Really?

Dana Milbank: I just figured the editors would be suspicious if my only listed leisure pursuit was "saloon."


Grinch: I'm pretty sure the Grinch is a "Christmas only" phenomenon. Although I'd like to see him to toe-to-toe with the Easter Bunny.

Dana Milbank: It is crying out for a Jim Carrey sequel.


Kensington, Md: Obama's sales pitch is set to be followed up by a spam campaign:

From: PrezXXXr@wite-house.guv.com To: Mulbink, Mulberg, Mulberry



Ever wonder hwo toget your bills udner control? The Fed has lowered rates to the lowest levels in history! Just go to MakingHomeAffordable.gov for 10 easy steps to taking back contorl of your finances adn your life.

Your uregnt action is needed.


Mr. Barack Obama Presdient, Untied States of America Washington, DC AMERICA

Dana Milbank: You write with the grace and dexterity of a Somali pirate.


The Humor-Impaired Among Us: Just looked at the comments and am reminded, yet again, why I don't look at them as a general rule - what percentage, do you think, (a) actually read your column (b) read any of the descriptions of your column/chats (i.e., references to humor), and/or (c) are completely off their meds?

Dana Milbank: I have nothing against comments but think they should be accompanied by:

1. the person's real name, and

2. a number where they can be reached at 3 am.


Belfast, Maine: Dana, you've offended me by repeatedly suggesting there is something wrong with criticism. By the way, I think The Post should begin charging for these chats to discourage pointless postings, like this one.

Dana Milbank: I hereby apologize for unintentionally offending anybody who was unintentionally offended.

I'm giving you this one for free, but your next pointless posting will cost you a nickel, Belfast.


Washington, D.C.: If you wish to curse the pirates with ineptness, don't name them the Pirates or Bucaneers. Instead, name them the Nationals or the Redskins.

Dana Milbank: Brilliant! To go one better, this whole problem will be solved instantly if we merely refer to them as the "Somali Wizards."

Except this may offend Harry Potter fans.


Chevy Chase: On the crazy continuum where does Glen Beck fall? Michael Jackson is a ten and zero is an inanimate object.

Dana Milbank: Actually I think he's perfectly rational. What's the easy way to ratings? Make them think you're absolutely nuts.

And here I am trying not to offend anybody by criticizing the Easter egg roll (which I still haven't done by the way).


Original Grinch Again: I never was good at math, that's why I became an agency lawyer.

At it's equal opportunity grinching...they're both semi-religious pagan/Christian holidays. I just don't see the point with that big a deficit.

Seriously, how much in overtime are we paying for Secret Service to screen these families?

Dana Milbank:

Ok, since you're a lawyer you can defend me against all the criticism I am about to receive:

I'm coming out against the Easter egg roll.

I'd like to say this is because it's pointless and not multi-denominational and costly. But mostly it's because they stopped letting reporters take their kids.


Pirates : We Native Americans will not stand idly by while you call Pirates Redskins. As penance you can watch "We Shall Remain" tonight at 9 p.m. We suffer enough at the hands of Dan Snyder's racism.

Now prepare to be boarded.

Dana Milbank:

Shiver me timbers.


Washington, DC: Hey, how come Mr. No-Polarization didn't pair the Easter Egg Hunt with a Search for the Afikomen (for Jews) and a General Search for Meaning (for atheists)? SO MUCH FOR CHANGE!! NOTHING IS DIFFERENT FROM THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION (except the First Dog has longer hair).

Dana Milbank: The preceding comment in no way expresses the opinion of the Washington Sketch or its employees.


Dana Milbank: Ok gang, thank you for this excellent discussion.

I think we can call it a success because I adhered to the moderator's request that I not use the word "teabagging" in any of my answers.

I'm signing off to resume my desperate search for something to write about tomorrow. Speak to you Friday.


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