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Dana Milbank: Nancy Pelosi, torture, Chris Cillizza, More

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Dana Milbank
Washington Post Columnist
Friday, May 15, 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.

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He was online Friday, May 15 at noon ET.

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Dana Milbank:

Good afternoon, Sketchreaders.

Not a bad week, all in all: It began with Rush Limbaugh goosestepping and ended with Nancy Pelosi crabwalking. Along the way, you helped me write two stories using the new Etch-a-Sketch feature, which I hope to continue next week. Next week is already looking strong, with Dick Cheney set to appear at the American Enterprise Institute on Thursday, if his head doesn't explode before then. Also, dress rehearsals are going well for the highly anticipated (by me, at least) and oft delayed video production I'm doing with Cillizza. We're due to start the day after Memorial Day, and I think that date might actually stick.

Anyway, tell me what's on your mind -- and, don't worry, this web chat serves crabs.

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washingtonpost.com: Etch-a-Sketch: Torture and Disney Edition

Etch-a-Sketch: Torture and Disney Edition

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Blue Crab, Chesapeake Bay: On behalf of all crabs, I take offense to your crab reference regarding Nancy Pelosi's walk away from her press conference. Real crabs can crush a man's finger with our claws instead of flailing about like she did yesterday.

Sincerely, Blue Crab President, CAA (Crab Association of America)

Dana Milbank:

Believe me, I fear the crab. But don't misunderestimate the perils of Pelosi. My favorite Pelosi quote: "If people are ripping your face off, you have to rip their face off."

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Bal'more crabs and other fauna: Great that you referred to Pelosi's "crabwalk" since she has connections to both Baltimore and SF. What other DC personas resemble the native fauna of their hometowns?

Do any midwestern senators chew their cuds? Reptilian Floridians? Do Snowe and Collins have any lobster-like qualities?

Dana Milbank:

Harkin, Grassley and Vilsack exhibited pig-like behavior during the swine flu outbreak.

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Greenville S.C.: From what I saw of the three so-called TV major news stories about the Speaker's press conference, none seemed to show footage of her minutes of confusion. Any idea why they may have missed it?

Dana Milbank:

I cannot fathom the ways of television, but here's the whole delicious (if you like crabs) thing on CSPAN, courtesy of the extreme Howard Mortman.

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Madisonville, Tenn.: What's up with the top secret project you and Chris Cillizza are into? Let me guess -- you're doing the next big D.C. thriller in video form instead of a book?

Dana Milbank:

I think the key to success will be whether I can convince Cillizza to wear clothes when we film it. I think I will not be giving anything a way to say that we are going to have a dog on the set.

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washingtonpost.com:

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Baltimore: How many weeks don't begin with Rush Limbaugh goosestepping?

Dana Milbank: Well, you've got a point there, crab cakes.

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Atlanta: My favorite Pelosi quote: "If people are ripping your face off, you have to rip their face off."

Does that mean she is for torture? I'm confused.

Dana Milbank:

Well, um, she was not, um, specifically briefed on, um, face ripping, and, um, to the extent she was, she, um, was told that, er, it wouldn't be done unless, um, well -- thanks everybody!

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Bethesda: Dana,

Your attacks on Limbaugh show you're a leftist.

Your attacks on Pelosi show you're a rightist.

Don't argue with me - I know only thing for certain in the world, and that is that I'm never wrong.

Dana Milbank: Guilty.

I got several emails this week of the ALL CAPS variety saying: YOUR RIDICULOUS AND DISGRACEFUL COLUMN TODAY ON (pick one: LIMBAUGH/CARTER/PELOSI) REMINDS ME WHY I DO NOT READ YOUR COLUMN ANYMORE. When I replied that the writer's statement was self-contradictory this only served to produce an even angrier reply.

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Chattanooga, Tenn.: Good news for Pelosi and adversaries -- recent advancements in face-replacement technology should allow them to rip at will.

washingtonpost.com: Surgeon Discusses Connie Culp Face Transplant

Dana Milbank:

I do not understand why these web chats have not won me the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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Palm Springs, Calif.: Mr. Milbank: I thought your article on President Carter was a smarmy collection of cheap shots.

washingtonpost.com: The Man From Plains, With Lessons From the '70s

Dana Milbank: Thank you.

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Pelosi and crabs: Could you tell if her perfume was Old Bay or Zatarain's?

Dana Milbank: Girardelli.

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Alexandria, Va.: Nancy Pelosi lied. And she continues to lie. Unfortunately for her, she didn't go to the Bill Clinton School of Dissembling -- she's a lousy liar. She stumbled and bumbled and shuffled paper and crab-walked.

But the Democrats control all the levers of government. She won't pay a price for this, right? Isn't it just good comedy? She can lie all she wants -- we're a one-party state now, aren't we?

Dana Milbank:

Well, I won't go so far as to say it was a lie, although, to use one of the euphemisms I once applied to George W, the facts seem to be malleable in this case.

Speaking of malleable facts, I heard from Ari Fleischer this week. He was aggressively spinning his 2001 statement about the Bill Maher incident when he said Americans need to "watch what they say."

In fact, he said, "that's not what I said about him." Which goes to show that, given the choice between trusting Ari or your own lying ears, you should go with Ari.

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Pelosi question: Okay, since I have not seen any real questions about her yet, let me throw one out. Is Pelosi in danger of losing her title of speaker of the house?

Dana Milbank:

Serious answer: Only a wardrobe malfunction of the most grievous kind could cost the speaker her gavel.

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DC: I thought your response to Palm Springs was both smarmy and crabby.

You win!

Dana Milbank:

Will somebody tell me the difference between smarmy and snarky? I think snarky is good but smarmy is bad.

I should note, as an aside, that I took inspiration from Rush Limbaugh this week (bet you weren't expecting THAT) when he quoted George Bernard Shaw: "The powers of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who haven't got it."

Mega dittos!

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Hartford, Conn.: Do you think Pelosi is telling the truth?

Dana Milbank:

It depends on what the meaning of is is.

Here version of that was: "I meant 'we,' we in that -- in that -- meeting."

So it is possible that, parsed in a certain way, that she was not lying, and that there is not a sexual relationship with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.

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Boston: Hi Dana,

What's with our leaders in Washington? Nancy Pelosi seems totally incompetent and yet she seems a hundred times better than Harry Reid. Are these the best two leaders the Dems could find or are they just picking their leaders so that your job will be easier?

Dana Milbank: Speaking of Harry Reid, I don't think he got enough credit for his Las Vegas sales job before the Commerce Committee this week. They have antelope! And mountain sheep!

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Austin, Tex.: "Only a wardrobe malfunction of the most grievous kind..."

When it comes to members of Congress, is there any such thing as a non-grievous wardrobe malfunction?

Dana Milbank:

I don't think it did Katherine Harris any harm.

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Anonymous: Dana : I hurt my back this week and you're not making things any better by ignoring my emails. Can you at least promise another chat with you and Dana Priest in the future to lift my spirits a little ?

Dana Milbank:

I'm just back from the chiropractor myself. Some sort of sprained S.I. joint, which is another way of saying I have a pain in the butt. In fact this is the first web chat I've done while sitting on an ice pack.

I am ready for the Priest whenever she is ready for me. She has a busier schedule, however, going to all those black sites.

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Austin, Tex.: I'm surprised how little play there has been on Pelosi's apparent (or purported) use of the royal "we."

Wellllll Hellooooooooo!

Dana Milbank:

An accurate observation (or is it cynicism?).

Your question inspired me to do a tally from the transcript: 61 mentions of the first person plural in yesterday's press conference.

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U.S. Attorneys: Too bad you're not sketching Karl Rove's testimony to the special prosecutor in the U.S. Attorneys case.

Dana Milbank:

I would give great sums to be admitted to that room. Although it is very comfortable sitting here on my icepack.

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Angry response?: What can be angrier than a message with poor grammar, logical inconsistencies, and all CAPS?

Dana Milbank:

A response will all of those things plus a naughty word that gets through the filter with a misspelling, such as "YOU STUPID @SS."

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Raleigh, N.C.: Approximately how many times a week do you have to convince Cillizza to wear clothes? How often are you successful? Is he refraining from clothes-wearing as part of Washington Post's cost-cutting measures?

Dana Milbank: This is a daily struggle. In fact I just heard him on the Diane Rehm show and was picturing poor Diane's face when Chris walked in wearing his birthday suit.

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smarmy snark: Snarky: Dana, you ignorant slut! I can't believe you don't know the difference betweeen snarky and smarmy.

Smarmy: Dana, you ingenious cut-up, you! That was deliciously self-effacing of you to pretend not to know the meanings of those words!

Dana Milbank:

Thank goodness we have English teachers on these chats. I think, then, that I would rather be snarky than smarmy, if given the choice.

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Seriously, for just a second: Assuming Pelosi DID know about the waterboarding, what could she do about it, without breaking laws herself?

Dana Milbank:

Well, that was her fallback position yesterday -- that none of this mattered anyway. That probably could have been a defensible position. Problem is now she's gotten herself all tangled up in contradictions about what she knew and when.

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Just wondering...: How's Tim?

Dana Milbank: I thought you'd never ask. Tim Curran, the Post's national politics editor, is very well and in fact was the first person to notice the curious, crustacean-like movements of the speaker of the House yesterday. Ladies, his keen observations can be yours for a low, low price: currant@washpost.com.

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Chattanooga, Tenn.: How could anyone call you A STUPID @SS?? YOU'RE A SMART @SS!!!

Dana Milbank: Smarmy.

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Corning, Ark.: Can crabs be waterboarded?

Dana Milbank:

No. What happens is the CIA gives the interrogator wooden mallets and nutcrackers. This puts the crab into a "stress position."

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Dana Dana!: "I am ready for the Priest whenever she is ready for me. "

Where do I go to stand in THAT line??

But seriously, I missed a Dana/Dana chat? When? Where?

washingtonpost.com: Washington Sketch/National Security and Intelligence

Dana Milbank:

It was long ago, when she had won only 7 Pulitzers and I didn't have to do chats sitting on an ice-pack.

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Tim follow-up: Will he actually read any emails I send him?

Dana Milbank: He reads every single one, even the ones from Nigeria with business propositions. So send any further questions on any subject to Tim, and I'll be back with you next Friday. And that, Madam Speaker, is no lie.

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


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