Washington Post White House Reporter
Wednesday, May 13, 2009 11:00 AM
Washington Post White House reporter Scott Wilson discussed the latest news about the White House and Congress with .
Scott Wilson: Hey everyone. Hope all's well. As the president just said, it's a beautiful day so those of you here chatting should probably be outside enjoying it, but I'm glad you're participating. The president heads to Arizona State University tonight to deliver the first of several commencement addresses he will give over the next week. He's been talking health care again this morning with House leaders, who say they'll pass a bill by the August recess. And he meets in a few minutes with Senate leaders over the Supreme Court selection process, most likely. I'll get to your questions.
Clifton, Va.: So does anyone in the WH have the courage to tell the American public that no matter how much they sacrifice and lower their standard of living to fight global warming that it will not matter one bit. If India and China aren't going to do anything why should Americans pay more for everything, stop grilling outdoors, not use their fireplaces and pay more for everything.
Scott Wilson: That does make it a tough sell, but we'll see what emerges from the Copenhagen conference later this year. The United States and China are about neck and neck at the moment for title of world's biggest polluters, so the Obama administration would argue that a)the U.S. reducing its carbon footprint is essential to begin taking on climate change regardless of what others do, and, b) that doing so will allow the U.S. to better lead by example by removing some of the hypocrisy from its message. And, yes, it will likely cost more.
Princeton, N.J.: Good morning Scott. Overall, why is Obama even risking another Iraq/Vietnam quagmire by escalating in any fashion in Afghanistan? Is it primarily about the instability of Pakistan and the nuclear capability they have -- or it primarily a Taliban/9-11 connection, etc.
Scott Wilson: An essential question that loomed at the center of the administration's recent AfPak review. Vice President Biden argued the side that the admnistration should do far less in the region, that more troops would make no difference, that securing Pakistan's nuclear weapons should be the main goal, along with confining al-Qaeda to remote areas where staging attacks is impossible. But Obama and his military leaders favored the surge of sorts - more troops, aid and civilian personnel to help build an Afghan state and shore up the Pakistan government by helping it better improve its citizens' lives. "Ungoverned spaces" is a term the administration uses now to describe al-Qaeda havens that must be shut down. Pakistan is certainly the more worrisome case for the admnistration, but your question is a very good one and will likely guide the administration as it makes revisions to its strategy along the way: What is the goal? This is going to be a long, long project.
Arlington, Va.: I don't get what's up with Dick Cheney these days. First he's calling out the Obama administration for not only disagreeing with him (--gasp--), but for reversing Bush administration policies--going so far as to say that Obama is endangering America in doing so. Now Cheney is saying that Rush Limbaugh is a better Republican role model than Colin Powell? How does that gain him any more credibility in the post-Bush years?
Scott Wilson: He just can't seem to help himself. A colleague of mine noted that he is far more visible now than when he held the second highest public office in the country. I don't see how it helps him or his party given his unpopularity. Everyone out there: What do you think? Is this good for the GOP? Is Cheney out there because he is sincerely worried about Obama's national security policies? Or is this a campaign to burnish the Bush administration's legacy? Thoughts welcome.
Rolla, Mo.: Does anyone covering the torture/enhanced interrogations get the feeling that we have come through a period that history will judge harshly, the way we now view the Japanese internment camps in WWII?
Scott Wilson: Obama has certainly framed the last eight years in those terms - regarding torture, economic irresponsibility, and other matters. Historians will have a lot to look at, certainly.
Toddlertown, DC: So I am a lifelong Republican, McCain voter, blah blah...
Politico is reporting that "when the RNC meets in an extraordinary special session next week, it will approve a resolution rebranding Democrats as the 'Democrat Socialist Party.' "
Seriously? At long last, that's the party of Lincoln?
Why not just call 'em the "Democrat Socialist Poopy-head Baby-Eater Party" and be done with it?
washingtonpost.com: Politico: GOP to rebrand Dems as 'socialists'
Scott Wilson: I'm speechless...and puzzled. Who is this intended to appeal to? If it's alienating lifelong Republicans such as yourself, seems like something to reconsider...I'd like to know who's coming up with these "ideas" and if they aren't actually moles for the Democratic "Socialist" Party. I'll ask around.
Boston: Hi Scott,
I read how some see Gov. Crist wanting to go to Washington so he can enhance his presidential chances by being close to Obama and serving as a big critic. It seems to me his best chance is to position himself as the next Obama, a centrist choice that is not aligned with GOP hardliners. You know best of course.
Scott Wilson: I really don't know best, but a couple things occur to me on this. Crist was very important to the administration's victory on the stimulus bill (along with other Republican governors who endorsed it.) So he could serve as a critic, I guess, but he has also helped a Democratic president win the biggest domestic spending measure in U.S. history. And, as for staying in the center, I do think that makes lots of sense - in the general election. He faces some tough conservative primary competition, but has lots of money and should make it through. Maybe the idea is to be critical in the primary, then soften up in the general.
Washington, D.C.: I am increasingly frustrated by the President's lack of action on DADT. I am not gay, but am highly disgusted by this overly discriminatory policy. I follow the stories of those rejected by our military, who clearly needs all the help it can get. When he (or Gibbs) is asked and they say they have to work in through the legislative process, why can't there be a follow up of "what is the administration doing right now to move that process along?" or "in the meantime the president doesn't think it's important to intervene to prevent the ongoing destruction of the careers and lives of our gay service members?"
Scott Wilson: Very good questions that I'll pursue. I wasn't in the briefing yesterday, but was surprised in reading the transcript by that exchange. It's possible Gibbs was caught off guard and so wasn't fully plugged into what the administration is doing on that front. But I'm interested in knowing what their legislative plan is and how far along they have pushed it.
Re Cheney: Since you say thoughts re Cheney are welcome, here is mine. We talk a lot about the "bubble" around the president (any president), but sometimes overlook the bubble around other people.
I believe that until November-January (election- inauguration), Dick Cheney was in an extreme bubble, almost a bunker, in which he helped control the levers of power, was able to focus on the tasks at hand, and could completely ignore public opinion, since he would never run again. He had a staff that I assume was fiercely loyal, a lovely residence with a sympathetic domestic staff, and a famously supportive, politically engaged family.
He genuinely did not know, have to know, or want to know the depth of his rejection by most Americans, and is now responding in fury and panic to what must have been a horrific awakening. That's my theory.
Scott Wilson: Interesting.
Springfield, VA: I think Cheney is out there for one reason and one reason only. He sees the writing on the wall and is trying to keep himself out of jail. He's trying to frame the debate as "it worked" therefore no big deal that we tortured these people and broke the law. I'm afraid it just might work and he won't end up in jail.
Scott Wilson: Another thought...
NYC: Personal style aside, can you name any substantive differences between Obama's war policies and those of the previous administration?
Scott Wilson: A timeline to leave Iraq, and a big escalation in Afghanistan. Those are significant, I think.
New York, NY: Why are 60 votes are suddenly needed to confirm Dawn Johnsen, considering her predecessor, Jay Bybee won easy confirmation in 2001 through a simple voice vote. Bybee's successor, Jack Goldsmith, was also approved by a voice vote. Steven Bradbury served for three years as an acting OLC head, and so did not have to come up for a vote. Having a full -- and filibuster-proof -- Senate vote on Johnsen would be an unusual break with recent precedent, wouldn't it? So what am I missing, Scott?
Scott Wilson: My guess: Far more intense partisanship than early 2001, though that seems hard to believe given how intense it was then (after Bush v. Gore, Clinton impeachment, etc). And given the Bybee, Goldsmith, Bradbury track record I'll bet some Dems wish they had the voice vote to do over....Not a very satisfying answer, but that's my sense of it.
Somewhere Over Ohio -- Wifi on the plane!: I have one question I'm hoping you guys in the political press might ask the great fighter-leader, Harry Reid, if you don't already know the answer: during Reid's tenure as Majority Leader, Michael Mukasey was confirmed as Bush's Attorney General with a grand total of 53 Senate votes. So how come Dawn Johnsen is unable to be confirmed until she has 60 votes?
Scott Wilson: See previous answer, but this is a very good question. We'll pursue.
Washington, DC: The thoughts of people like the poste from Missouri really scare me. Like the Japaneese internment camps in WWII? Those were american citizens who were jailed for no reason.
There is a big difference between that and imprisoning people fighting for, as defined by every international document, as stateless armies AKA terrorist groups. If poeple think waterboarding three people is the worst thing on earth let me know..........but if we are going to be prosecute BUsh officials, we certainly need to prosecute Clinton officials for thier role in Bosnia. And for sure Obama officials...for ordering the firing of missles into crowded civillian areas by unmaned drones.
People...lets keep a view on reality in this situation, and not political pot shots that try to make a non political-point at the expense of the realism.
Scott Wilson: Another point of view...
Northern Virginia: Clifton's argument is that no country will "go first" on climate change because each one will be waiting for someone else to do so. Well, smaller polluting countries have in fact already "gone first" with policies well ahead of ours. But in terms of the big polluters club, of which we are such a major member, I'd say that "going first" is another term for leadership. I am absolutely sure that climate change does not exist as an isolated issue. China, India, and other countries have a motive to negotiate on many issues, including climate change, and we will be in a far stronger position if we have stepped up first. Otherwise, they have an easy out.
Scott Wilson: This is roughly what I was saying re: the ability to better lead on the issue....
Alexandria, Va.: Regarding the ongoing debate on torture -- I seem to recall a few weeks ago a report came out of congress essentially alleging that the White House was using "enhanced interrogation" to try and get a confession about the Iraq/9/11 link (which of course never existed) - in order to justify its own foreign policy objectives.
I'm confused why this seemingly important issue has not been raised in any of the many interviews Dick Cheney has done recently? Wouldn't this be a key point of discussion?
Scott Wilson: Yes, and I'm puzzled by this too. He should be asked and if he does an interview with us he will be.
Virginia: Reuters reported this morning that the US credit rating is at risk.
Is this something that Washington is talking about at the moment?
Scott Wilson: Actually, no, which is somewhat surprising given the possible impact on U.S. debt payments if the U.S. rating are downgraded.
Pittsburgh: Is the Republicans' latest ploy re the approval of, ahem, enhanced interrogation methods one of trying to shift the blame from themselves to Nancy Pelosi, on grounds she knew but didn't stop them? Won't most of the public (other than a few true believers) see through such a lame excuse?
Scott Wilson: I don't know, but aren't you a little alarmed that the House Speaker (who represents liberal San Francisco no less) was briefed on the torture techniques and didn't raise any concerns about them? Does the excuse she gives - that she was told about them but not that they were being used - make sense to you? Wouldn't you have asked the next logical question - ie, are you doing this now? And even if this is true, is this good representation in Congress for a constituency that cares deeply about this issue? Just playing the devil's advocate.
It's possible Gibbs was caught off guard and so wasn't fully plugged into what the administration is doing on that front.: I've never gotten the impression that Gibbs is unplugged regarding any policies in the Obama administration. Doesn't he speak with authority not unlike Ari Fleischer for Bush 43?
Scott Wilson: I agree with you here - I do think he's quite plugged in - but he just might not have expected the question given that there was no real "news peg" for it. It may also indicate that there's no activity as yet by the adminisration to end "don't ask, don't tell."
Hamilton VA: In the dustup about when did Nancy Pelosi know and how much where torture is concerned. What could she have done anyway? She could not talk about it, all classified, and if she objected to the adminstration how much weight would that have carried. I can hear Addison and Cheney now.
Scott Wilson: If you believe the government is violating the law, there are recourses, classified or not. There's an attorney general who has the same level of clearance, for example.
Scott Wilson: I'm going to sign off now, but I'll be back with you in a week or so. Thanks for the lively chat.
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