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Washington Sketch: Is Dana Milbank a Right-Wing Idiot or a Left-Wing Idiot?

Dana Milbank
Washington Post Columnist
Friday, April 17, 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, April 17 at noon ET to take your questions and comments about...comments.

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Dana Milbank: Good afternoon, Dear Reader.

As promised, I'm asking for your help today in writing a column. This one isn't a Sketch but a piece I'm writing for the op-ed page this weekend.

It's based on reading the comments section following my columns, which I did this week following suggestions from some of you. Here is what I discovered:

On Tuesday, I learned that I am a right-wing hack. I am not a journalist. I am typical of the right wing. I am why newspapers are going broke. I write garbage. I am angry with Obama. I misquote Obama. I am bitter. I am a certified idiot. I am lame. I am a Republican flack. My column should be on the comics page.

On Thursday, I realized that I am really not a journalist but a media pimp with my lips on Obama's butt. I am a self-appointed smarmy elitist. I am a bleeding heart liberal who wants nothing more that for the right to fall on its face. I am part of the ObamaMedia. I am pimping for the left. I am carrying water for Obama. Lord, am I an idiot.

So here's what I want to get at. I can understand why the right is so angry -- they're out of power and are lashing out. But why the anger on the left? I would have thought this would have dissipated with the election of Obama and the big majorities in Congress.

Please share your thoughts, and I'll hopefully be able to use some in the column.

And, as always, please send your questions, comments and any stray wise-guy remarks.

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Washington, D.C.: Those torture memos are ripe for satire. As disturbing as they are, there's something rich about being told exactly how to slap someone legally to elicit information. I trust you to work on it, and somehow find the humor.

Dana Milbank: Will do my best. Maybe the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing with demonstrations.

This may be a tricky assignment, however. I'm working on a book of rhymes and have been told that my ditty on "W is for Waterboarding" is not exactly what the publisher had in mind.

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Los Angeles: I think we need to get rid of Rod Blagojevich by dropping him in the middle of a jungle in some foreign country. Now, if I can only think of a way to get him to agree to come along and do it....

Dana Milbank: Is it true that Patrick Fitzgerald will be one of the other contestants on the show?

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Anonymous: I don't remember bed bugs being such an issue before the Obama Administration took power. Coincidence? Could it be because he's either a "radical Communist" (according to Alan Keys), a "Fascist" (seemingly a new line by some other conservies), or "progressive" (the surprisingly tame term used by Glen Beck to describe people who are normally disdainfully called "liberals" on Fox News)?

Dana Milbank:

It is another unwanted intrusion by government into our bedrooms. In fact the EPA is so far under our sheets that is has now found the vermin in the boxsprings.

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Atlanta: You are so clever! Reporting on the only tea party that wasn't an overwhelming success. Just another incredible spin liar. You should congratulate yourself.

Dana Milbank:

Thank you.

But why don't you think the Lafayette Square tea party wasn't a success? I say any protest that ends with the Secret Service calling out the explosives robot is a job well done.

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Jackson, Miss.: Dana,

Thanks for doing these chats. They are the highlight of my Fridays. I recently found a copy of your first book "Smashmouth" at a used book store, and am greatly enjoying it. Do you plan to write a similar book about the 2008 election? You could become our generations Theodore White!

Dana Milbank: For some reason I almost never find people like you in the reader comments section, Jackson.

I am amazed that a copy of Smashmouth still exists anywhere after all those remainders were recycled. Homo Politicus is out in paper back -- but based on the success of my two political books I'm thinking the better model for me isn't Theodore White but Theodor Seuss Geisel.

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Expat, Canada: Dana! Twice in one week - I feel giddy.

Re: your comments.

Take heart! It seems to me if you are goading both right- and left-leaning nutjobs to leave you hate-ridden, anonymouse comments, this means your point of view is balanced and fair! Straight down the middle! An equal opportunity humorist! (unless you didn't tell us about all centrist nutjob commnets How would those even read?)

Dana Milbank:

Actually the comments from both left and right agree on one thing: I'm an idiot. And who am I to argue?

I think, Expat, that the folks out there on the wings will say this is "false equivalence" -- that offending everybody equally doesn't mean you're correct.

I do like this notion of the centrist nutjob. Possibly we could all start a group and have a tea party in Lafayette Park where we all rail about the the need for pay-as-you-go accounting rules.

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Angry Left Behind: Or the Angry Left Buttock, as the case may be. I am angry, because the whole Republican party has not been rounded up and thrown into a black site. They are worse than pirates, and the so-called Mainstream Media are no better for failing to demand some law-book throwing.

Dana Milbank:

I hadn't thought of that. So it's about the lack of a truth commission, prosecution of CIA interrogators, etc?

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Arlington, Va.: Dana,

You are a brave man to have ventured into the nether-world of the anonymous comments section.

I know folks (Fever, Weingarten) either praise these comments as opportunities to learn or of being, at the very least (like the description of Earth in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), "Mostly Harmless." However, they scare me. I mean, do these people venture out into the world unmonitored?

It seems as if the WaPo could save newspapers solely by charging a nominal fee for this spew. As Freedom is never Free, Frothing-at-the-mouth rants should also come with a price!

Dana Milbank: My favorite are the ones who post the same comment every hour or so, just in case anybody missed it.

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Barnesville, Minn.: WWWWWAAAAAAAAHHHHH HHHHAAAAAAHHHH

They were mean to my God Obambi I feel so sorry for you pathetic excuses of Journalists.

When Bush was President to dissent was patriotic. With Obama we are Threats to National Security. Get a life loser!

Dana Milbank:

It appears this was meant for the "reader comment" section.

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Berryville, Va.: Dana -- Not mentioned this past week was the fact that tea used to be packed loosely in boxes (as shown by all existing photos of the original Boston Tea party).

Don't you agree that the moral decay of the country therefore must date back to when some liberal degenerate hit on the idea of storing and serving it in teabags?

Dana Milbank:

Yes. And another thing that went unmentioned: Nobody was tarred and feathered the way they were at the real Boston Tea Party -- at least in the HBO John Adams series. People would have taken the tea parties much more seriously if there was actual tarring and feathering occurring.

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Evanston, Ill.: Those who are angry on the left are the true believers, the ideologues. They want to see torture prosecution not b.s. rhetoric about looking forward. They are sort of in a bi-polar state where they are happy that the ostensible left won but dismayed at Obama's predictable move to the right. Obama is coddling bankers and doubling down in Afghanistan so it is easy to attack him from the left as a neoliberal imperialist. A few on the left, like Alexander Cockburn, never bought the hype and can now tell the rest of the left they told you so.

Dana Milbank: Possibly. But it seems to me the angry ones are passionate about Obama. It is criticism of him that seems to stir up the most anger.

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anger from the left: While I am on the left, I consider myself to be objective. While I was no fan of Bush, I did not start agressively expressing frustraion and anger about him and Cheney until around 2003. Two full years into his administration. Now, I am not suggesting that Obama should be treated with kid gloves for two years. But the "anger from the right" sounds very hate-filled, and very much all about violence/revelution. So I think some (not me) on the left feel obligated to stay in the fight.

Dana Milbank:

This chat is waaaaaay better than the comments section.

This makes sense to me too -- sort of a reaction to the right, which didn't grant Obama the customary honeymoon.

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Rockville, Md.: There is such a thing as a "sore winner." People get used to being angry and when things change - they don't. So they find stuff to be mad about, or for.

Dana Milbank:

Okay, I'll throw that in, too.

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Anonymous: You are not an idiot. I would put you up there with H.L. Mencken, Rush Limbaugh, and Howard Stern: a true spokesperson for the people.

Dana Milbank: No, I have already stipulated that I am an idiot. We are moving on.

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Why all the anger on the left?: I'm not sure I have an answer for you - I didn't understand why, during the Bush years, so many of the conservatives I knew/know were so angry, because, hey, they won - and I've noticed the same phenomenon this time, lingering, residual anger on both sides of the political aisle. Why I've pretty much given up on reading what I'd view as partisan websites on either side - the WSJ or Salon.com, for example (though, of course, I'm still reading this liberal swill, ditto the NYT - and I mean that only in a good way).

But I've noticed the same thing on Howard Kurtz's chats, for example - one minute he's being lambasted by the right, the next by the left. And this has been going on ever since, I'd say, 2000, it just seems to get worse.

Frankly, a lot of it I blame on the increase of sites (such as, alas, this one again), where anonymous posting is allowed. The comments sections are really pretty scary, I think; which is why I second your suggestion, in last week's chat, to allow only comments where the poster identifies him or herself and provides a phone number where they can be reached at 3 a.m.

Dana Milbank: Amazingly thoughtful. You'd get eaten alive in the reader comments section. And they'd use lots of tricks to get around the obscenity filter, by using cr@p and h*ll and such.

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"But why the anger on the left? ": Because a lot of them expected instant miracles and that doesn't happen.

Dana Milbank:

Yes but wouldn't this be directed at Obama?

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"Angry" Left: Well, I think we won in November despite the media, not because of it. The media has become just a useful tool for the right - every rant, every hissy fit, every extreme is reported as seriously as any policy statement. The media just don't do any fact checking, other than political ads during election season. So, the 4th Estate lets us down and we are ready to let the 4th Estate sink into the cesspool of their own making. And this is from someone who, until the 2001-2008 years, staunchly supported the 4th Estate. Now I think we would be better off just to have a left wing media and a right wing media and let you so-called "journalists" decide which wing to join. You failed us when we needed you the most.

Dana Milbank:

I'm starting the insane centrists wing. I will use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS TO DENOUNCE ANYBODY WHO DOES NOT BELIEVE IN PAY AS YOU GO ACCOUNTING!!!!!!!!

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Rockville, Md.: So someone at a later date could leave a comment about my comment in a chat about comments? Heavy.

Dana Milbank:

Only if the comment period has not closed. I think it's a week or so. And is there really a comments section following a chat? This is sort of like the congressional record, where everybody gets to revise and extend.

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the Left: We're angry because we thought Obama would turn us into a Muslim nation, socialize all industry, burn all flags, made abortions mandatory even if a woman doesn't want one, and legalize three way marriages. We are soooo disappointed.

Dana Milbank: Now, now.

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A composite complaint: DANA, I TYPE IN ALL CAPS SO YOU CAN FEEL MY RAGE AND I CAN COMMUNICATE MY SHAME IN YOUR SHODDY, CORPORATE ENSLAVED, BUREAUCRAT BOOT LICKING, YELLOW, RIGHT WING APOLOGIZING, LEFT WING ENABLING, ILLUMINATI, SKULL AND BONES JOURNALISM.

Dana Milbank:

Oh cr@p.

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DC: I guess I'm technically on the left, since I voted for Obama....I'm not angry. I feel much better these days. But I am overwhelmed by the ding dongs that can't pull together a solid explanation about tea-bagging. When you find one, please report away.

Dana Milbank: The chat moderator has forbidden me to talk about tea-bagging for reasons of double entendre. Let us hope that "tarred and feathered" isn't some grotesque sex act that I am not aware of.

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"No, I have already stipulated that I am an idiot. ": Hey, you may be an idiot, but you're OUR idiot.

Dana Milbank:

CENTRIST NUTJOBS, UNITE!!!!!!! LET'S TELL THOSE MAKERS OF CR@PPY COMMENTS TO GO TO H*LL!!!!!!!

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Radical Centrists: I saw a guy on the Daily Show years ago who talked about this. His conclusion was that it's a lot harder to rally the people in the proverbial town square when your cry is "I REALLY THINK WE SHOULD EXPLORE ALL SIDES TO THIS ISSUE TO DETERMINE WHAT THE MOST EFFECTIVE COURSE OF ACTION WILL BE."

He had a point.

Dana Milbank:

LET'S HEAR IT FOR PILOT PROGRAMS!!!!!

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"Yes but wouldn't this be directed at Obama?": Some of it is. But the stuff directed at you is directed at you because you are here. (I didn't say it made sense.)

Dana Milbank:

This could be brilliant. But I'm not sure I understand.

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Washington, D.C.: "Yes but wouldn't this be directed at Obama?"

But until he gets his own WaPost chat, you're do fine as a whipping boy.

Dana Milbank:

Yes, here I am talking all of Obama's flack and wear is he? Off in Trinidad and Tobago. Probably walking through the surf for one of those People magazine spreads.

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washingtonpost.com: There is a comment section following a chat, but not until after the host is done.

Dana Milbank: In this case I am going to keep the chat "open" indefinitely.

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Centerville: Mr. Milbank,

Back in October, I used to argue with both the right-wing and left-wing zealots in the comments section of various columnists here.

Perhaps that makes me a centrist zealot. I am in fact in favor of pay-go, but I do not write in all caps. I write in complete sentences and never use vulgar language.

Too boring, I know. I'll go back to Dana Priest's chat now.

Dana Milbank:

The chat moderator wonders if we should charge comment leavers who use ALL CAPS. I think this is a revenue model that must be explored.

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Ocala, Fla.: If there is a growing consensus among the thoughtful readers across the entire political spectrum that YOU ARE AN IDIOT, then it is only right that you have chosen to embrace your position as CYBER-COMMUNITY IDIOT. You can perform a valuable service by uniting all factions in the knowledge that YOU ARE AN IDIOT. Everyone will come together on this point, and peace and understanding will break out spontaneously. And tea-drinking.

Dana Milbank:

This is the obvious solution to my troubles.

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Celebrating the First Amendment: Yesterday was First Amendment Day. Does the "free press" protection therein just refer to you, or do the nutjobs who post inane comments acquire some sort of sacred mantle because they are writing on a newspaper Web site?

Dana Milbank:

I hereby call on the Committee to Protect Journalist to set up a Subcommittee to Protect Nutjob Comment-makers.

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Dunnellon, FLA: If we yell obscenities at Obama, we get a visit from the Secret Service. Yelling them at you is worry-free.

Dana Milbank: That one's going in the column for sure.

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Takoma Park, MD: All good thoughts... I would posit that all partisan, socioeconomic, moral, logistical, and inconsequential discord in this country can be traced to the disappearance of the McRib.

washingtonpost.com: I think it's because they stopped playing the national championship game on New Years Day.

Dana Milbank: That's not going in the column but you get a one-year membership in my new organization, ONWARD CENTRIST NUTJOBS.

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sort of a reaction to the right, which didn't grant Obama the customary honeymoon. : well, and I can't help but wonder if a lot of the extreme right's 'indignation' is manufactured because they still can't get over the fact that a black man is president of the united States of America. I know there were a LOT of good 'ole boys in my office going to the "tea party" to protest paying taxes, something they apparantely were OK doing the last 8 years, but all of a sudden are horrified at. They just HATE that Obama is President, but at least are afraid to say that.

Dana Milbank: That's fine but you now owe the Washington Post $10, for two ALL CAP comments at $5 apiece. The moderator will be calling to collect.

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Montgomery Village, Md.: WOULD THAT REVENUE STREAM BE CONSIDERED "CAPITAL GAINS"?

Dana Milbank:

That just set you back $40, Montgomery Village.

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shhhhhh: if all caps is shouting, how do i talk in a whisper? do i have to go all e.e. cummings or is there some other way?

Dana Milbank:

(i recommend parentheses lower case and no punctuation)

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Dana Milbank:

MY FELLOW NUTJOBS:

THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMMENTS. I AM NOW GOING TO WRITE MY COLUMN.

Darn -- that just set me back $80. But there's an employee discount.

I will not say goodbye, so as to leave this chat open indefinitely and prevent the comment makers from having their say. . .

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