Post Politics: Sotomayor, Gay Pride, More

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Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 30, 2009; 11:00 AM

Federal Eye blogger Ed O'Keefe took your questions about who is up and who is down in the world of politics and the latest news out of Washington.

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Ed O'Keefe: Hello again Post Politics chatters, Ed O'Keefe here, in the midst of a quiet week in Washington where it seems people are digesting yesterday's SCOTUS decisions and still trying to figure out what exactly was in last week's Energy bill passed by the House. The president heads overseas next week, so the White House is laying low in preparation and Congress is out of town. Now on to your questions...

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Boston: From The Fix today quoting a Republican former ad man for Romney's campaign on Republican's strategy going forward: "On Obama's watch, GM has gone bankrupt, unemployment is pushing historic highs, trillions have been wasted and more soldiers are at war today than a year ago," Stevens said. "Don't pick a fight with a tough girl from the Bronx. There are easier fights."

So on the day that the US military transferred responsibility to Iraqi's my question is when will the blame for problems created under the Bush administration be transferred to blame under the Obama administration? Has it already happened or will there be some ceremony to let us know?

washingtonpost.com: The Fix - Morning Fix: The Fight That Wasn't

Ed O'Keefe: Well you're more than welcome to throw that ceremony, but I think we're already starting to see signs of Obama taking the blame. Look at last week's Post-ABC poll that showed that while most Americans still like Obama personally, they've got serious concerns about how he's going to address the deficit, the economic stimulus plan and health care reform efforts.

He's tackling several big issues at once: a SCOTUS nomination, health care reform, energy and climate legislation, an economic stimulus and maybe immigration reform (unlikely I think). As the results of those big efforts take shape, he'll certainly start to get the blame. And yes -- if violence flares in Iraq and Afghanistan, it will certainly become Obama's issue. Remember that The Post and other news organizations have already labeled military efforts in Afghanistan as "Obama's War."

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St. Paul, Minn.: Hi Ed -- Thanks for taking questions today. How well do you think the president's GLBT event at the White House yesterday went? The atmospherics looked great as usual, but did it quell any of the frustration GLBT supporters have been feeling?

Ed O'Keefe: Most of the primary frustrations from GLBT activists and leaders will not be quelled until Obama confronts the "don't ask don't tell" military policy and extends full benefits to the homosexual partners of federal employees. The latter requires Congressional legislation that the president says he supports. Let's see how much political capital he spends on the issue however.

Remember that last night's event was the first time a president has hosted such a gathering in the White House. It's only one step, but it's certainly a step forward.

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Hampton Cove, Ala.: The democrats passed an Energy Bill that everyone admitted NO ONE READ. Yet, the media portrayal of it is "green jobs" creator and solve our dependence on foreign oil. Has any journalist read the Cap-and-Trade Bill? If not, why parrot the Democrat talking points and not give the public the specifics of the Bill? Is skepticism dead?

Ed O'Keefe: Colleagues have closely followed the commmittee hearings and other negotiations leading up to last week's vote, and the measure still has to go before the Senate, which may greatly alter the bill's current form.

Remember also that the House Energy & Commerce Committee briefly hired a speedreader in case Republicans ordered a full reading of big portions of the bill. That threat never materialized, but it would certainly take a fast reader to get through it.

I encourage YOU to read it, and then find a way to share your thoughts about it.

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Philosophy of reporting: In thinking about Sanford, Ensign, Spitzer, et. al., does the human condition ever suprise you as a reporter?

Ed O'Keefe: Nothing about politicians really surprises me anymore, no.

I was however genuinely surprised by the death of Michael Jackson. That came out of left field in an already busy news week.

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Arlington, Va.: Why does the Post's headline today inaccurately describe the supreme court decision as a victory for "White" firefighters, when the effect of the decision - as explained in the story - will be to enable promotions of a mixed race group of fire fighters, including two Hispanics? Does The Post's style guide use the term "white" to include "hispanics"?

Ed O'Keefe: Read our headline closely: "Justices Rule in Favor of White Firefighters in Racial-Bias Case"

Those white New Haven firefighters brought the case to SCOTUS, so yes, it was literally a victory for those white firefighters.

It was also, as you note, a victory for other groups.

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Baltimore MD: The firefighters ruling and the nomination: Interesting that the Supreme Court divided entirely on ideological lines in its 5-4 ruling, whereas the Circuit Court opinion rejecting the firefighters' claim was unanimous. It is proof, once again, that much of the Constitution is little more than an ink blot test. The idea that the result somehow calls Sotomayor's nomination into question is simply one more ink blot reading by conservative Republicans.

Ed O'Keefe: One person's opinion...

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Anonymous: So a decision by Judge Sotomayor is overturned by the Supreme Court. Just being overruled by the SC can't be that significant, since even members of the SC get outvoted by their colleagues and they stay on the bench. Is the logic of some opponents of Sotomayor that her deicison was so flawed it had to be overturned, thus showing she's a flawed judge? Was hers different than hundreds of other decisions overturned by the SC?

Ed O'Keefe: Yes, opponents have suggested that hers was a flawed judgment, thus reflecting on a flawed judicial career. But that's the opinion of only some.

Note that Republicans have all-but taken a pass on openly criticizing her and her decision.

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Concord, NH: In response to the question from Alabama, I have read large chunks of earlier drafts of Waxman-Markey, the versions that were debated in and then passed out of Waxman's committee. I haven't yet seen what was added to or changed in the bill on the floor in the days before the House voted. Point being, most close observers in the media and otherwise have a pretty good handle on what is in the bill.

Ed O'Keefe: Yes, thank you Concord.

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Salinas, CA: Hi Ed. I noticed in the Federal Eye yesterday note of the frustration of gay rights activists over the slow progress on issues such as same-sex marriage and DADT mingled with pride at the White House reception for the Stonewall celebration. After scanning the guest list of government officials from DOJ and DOD, among others, do you see a measured attempt on Pres. Obama's part to build a critical mass of undeniable consensus before issuing executive orders and/or proposing legislation to level the playing field for gays and lesbians? I see his reasons for continued delay twofold: 1. not wanting these issues to derail important economic/health care initiatives currently in play; and 2. not making the same mistake that Bill Clinton made by having to settle for the disastrous DADT. Your thoughts?

washingtonpost.com: Gay Pride at the White House: The Guest List

Ed O'Keefe: I think you're spot on: Obama and OPM Director John Berry have made it clear that they're going to work on these issues, but Obama has said he wants to do it in a measured way, and in a fashion that includes legislation, which means it'll take the slow, deliberative process that Congress requires.

Obama said something to the effect last night that "when the Obama administration is over, I think you'll be very happy." It's only been about 160 days folks, I'm confident he's going to address these issues, especially because you have an outspoken advocate/leader like Berry running things at OPM.

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Boston: The notion that the New Haven case reflects poorly on Sotomayor I find sort of ludicrous. First, it wasn't her opinion, she was part of a three judge panel that affirmed a lower court's ruling. And she didn't even write the opinion. Anyone who understands this decision will tell you that it's a major shift in Title VII litigation.

The five members in the majority have set new precedent. Sotomayor and the other two judges on the panel simply followed literally decades of precedent on disparate impact claims. And four Supreme Court judges, including Souter, who she is replacing, agreed with the panel's decision. This whole thing is just silly. Alito had more decisions overturned than any of the justices currently on the Supreme Court, and no one even mentions that. I genuinely do not understand how anyone can make an argument that this somehow tarnishes Sotomayor.

Ed O'Keefe: One person's opinion...

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We should do cap and trade: I'll give you a Mets cap, you give me a Nationals.

Ed O'Keefe: Well that's not a fair trade. Have you seen the Nationals' record?

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Writing/Reading Bills: I was chatting the other day with a friend and it suddenly came to me - the legislature should work on bills in a publicly viewable wiki (editable only by Congress members). We could see who put in and took out various phrasing and amendments. And it would be harder to sneak in little things that later blow up. We'd see exactly how the sausage is made - which maybe would lead to better behavior. What do you think?

Ed O'Keefe: I've actually written about this. It's called "open source" and was suggested earlier this year as a way of tracking the economic stimulus dollars.

Unlikely congress would ever take this step, at least not in the near term, but certainly something that would keep the good government, "sunshine" folks drooling about in anticipation for some time.

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Dallas: "GM has gone bankrupt, unemployment is pushing historic highs, trillions have been wasted and more soldiers are at war today than a year ago."

All true. And it's just as true that the buck stops in the Oval Office. But some of these problems took 8 years to make. Do you really think the public is so dumb we expect easy answers or fast solutions -- of ANY leader, Obama, Gingrich, Palin or Paul -- in just six months?

Honestly, sometimes I think all newspeople do is sit around stoking fires. You guys are addicted to the quick news cycle, as if News in and of itself signified anything.

Ed O'Keefe: One person's opinion...

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For Concord: But you can't be too careful. Remember Phil Gramm's Commodities Modernization Act was added in a footnote to the conference report. It was never debated anywhere. It gave rise to the Enron Loophole, oil speculation and the Credit Default Swap mess.

Ed O'Keefe: Good point...

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Abingdon, Md.: "Obama said something to the effect last night that 'when the Obama administration is over, I think you'll be very happy.' "

Wow--I hope he really didn't say that! (I supported him), but I can imagine that a lot of Republicans will respond in the affirmative on that line--just as I was "happy" that the Bush administration was over!

Ed O'Keefe: Let me clarify, having now found the exact quote. "Happy" does not appear in it:

"I expect and hope to be judged not by words, not by promises I've made, but by the promises that my administration keeps," the president said to sustained applause. "We've been in office six months now. I suspect that by the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration."

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Prescott, Ariz.: Chris Cilizza is hyping Sen. Lindsey Graham as some sort of Republican savior. How come he doesn't get mentioned in the Presidential chatter? Is it because he has acted like like McCain and Lieberman's "mini-me" all these years?

Ed O'Keefe: I wouldn't put it in those terms, but Graham has played the second fiddle/supporting character role for some time. I think what Chris was suggesting yesterday is that Graham very explicitly suggested he's ready to step out of that role and take to the national stage on his own. Remember however that he's had his battles with Palmetto State Republicans, who don't like his vocal support for immigration reform. He'll have to temper any potential national ambitions with his need to keep the homestate folks happy.

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Salinas, Calif.: "Note that Republicans have all-but taken a pass on openly criticizing her and her decision."

My guess is that at this juncture, Senate Republicans are feeling that if they attempt to hammer Judge Sotomayor at her confirmation hearing without derailing her nomination (currently very remote), they'll end up proving her point regarding her "wise Latina" comments.

Ed O'Keefe: One person's opinion...

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washingtonpost.com: At White House, Obama Aims to Reassure Gays

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Obamatopia, Iowa: Greetings from Obamatopia,

While we certainly still have "hope," some of us in Obamatopia remember the moral certainty present Obama's campaign rhetoric. Bush was bad and Obama was gonna open a big can of competence on the world. Unemployment is up, the deficit is up by a truly frightening degree, the Obama foreign policy is more or less an approximation of second-term Bush (Didn't we all agree that Bush's detention policy was un-American?). France and Germany still won't send troops to actually fight in Afghanistan, the scary foreign leaders who "loved America, but hated Bush," are still "hating America."

I'm glad Bush is gone and I voted for Obama, but don't you think we should be ashamed for the mass-naivete during the last election.

Ed O'Keefe: I generally believe that roughly 160 days in office is not enough time to evaluate the success or failure of anyone. That's all I'll say.

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Burke, Va.: Most of the opposition I have heard to repealing DADT from those in the military is a fear that large numbers of skilled service members would leave, and recruiting would become difficult - all while we have large numbers of troops overseas in harms way. Have there been any surveys or studies on the effect on retention and enlistment of repealing DADT?

Ed O'Keefe: I have not seen anything reliable, no. Hard to take polls of military members, because you'd have to get military permission in order to do a reliable survey, something they're unlikely to do.

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Ed O'Keefe: Folks, I've gotta run. Lots of developments brewing that I'll post soon in my blog, The Federal Eye. Talk to you again real soon, take care.

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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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