Post Politics: Pelosi, Political Scandals, More

Lois Romano
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 9, 2009 11:00 AM

Washington Post national political reporter Lois Romano was online Thursday, July 9 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest news about the White House and Congress.


Lois Romano: Good Morning. Thanks for joining me today.


Tuckahoe, N.Y.: Enough with the Sarah stuff. Palin isn't the problem; it's the huge number of Americans who so hate our system of government (and who are so clueless about it) that they think that any mediocrity who entertains them (or whom they could share a beer with) is a proper person to entrust with power over our lives.

I mean, who in their right minds would think that a Marian Barry is someone worth voting for? How do we explain ourselves? Why doesn't a politician who makes the false claim that our outrageously expensive and ineffective medical system is "the envy of the world" (where? The Sudan?) get hooted from the stage?

It's because people have flat-out stopped thinking about important things, amusing themselves, using their vote to make statements, or to show their vehement dislike of other segments of the populace, and its as irresponsible as picking the most amusing drunk out of the bar to drive the teens back from the prom. Would we pick an open heart surgeon, or even a plumber, the way we pick our leaders?

We are paying a huge price for the collapse of our public school system, probably with the contribution from the break down of the nuclear family, because a large segment of the population has lost the power of rational thinking. Yesterday it was Palin; why not run Manny Ramirez tomorrow?

Lois Romano: I understand your frustration- and there certainly has been an enormous attention paid to her resignation. But public opinion polls show she remains very popular in her party, which makes her a contender for president 2012. As long as that is the case, there will be much focus on her because, arguably, she could shape policy one day.


Milwaukee, Wis.: Have you ever meet Valerie Jarrett? I read this interview with her when she was asked "What are your own personal politics?" and "Where do you disagree with Pres. Obama?" and she basically went blank and then turned it back to Pres. Obama. That is somewhat scary to me.

Lois Romano: I have met her. She is a very bright woman. She may have not handled that particular incident smoothly, but the truth is that as long as she works for the president, she shouldn't be drawing attention to herself or her views.


Louisville, Ky.: Hello, Lois. Thanks for answering questions today. One of my annoyances (lover's quarrels?) with politics and media is the endless blaming. Panetta says the CIA did mislead representatives, but the Republicans say it is cover for Democrats. We really need some light on this issue. Did the CIA mislead? That seems like it should be a simple yes or no. If they did mislead, then why can't Republicans be comfortable in acknowledging that? I don't believe so many people would go to such lengths just to protect Pelosi from a statement most people have forgotten.

Lois Romano: We may never get to the bottom of this because so many of these briefings and documents are classified. Unless the CIA makes the minutes of the meetings available, its he said- she said. And for some of the meetings, there are no minutes. Its just recollections.


St. Louis, Mo.: Her resignation remained me of the V-P debate with Joe Biden.

People who like her before thought she did it great. People who dislike her before thought she did awful. People who didn't care then, didn't care afterwards.

She never moves the poll number much.

Lois Romano: At this point, that may remain true for a while. She has the support of the base-70% was the latest number. But her support among Democrats is low and stagnant.


Des Peres, Mo.: Morning, Lois. Here's a professional question rather than political nitty-gritty. Do you Post people keep a regular check on Cable chat shows like Morning Joe or Fox and Friends? I'd think it might be a useful way to take the pulse of the chattering classes each morning. Eugene is on Joe pretty much but do the erst of you tune in from time to time? Thanks.

Lois Romano: Yes, we watch. I can say that everyone is watching everything all the time. But some of us are watching some of the shows--enough so that we're covered. Its an important part of the job to keep up with what the public is saying and what other news outlets are saying.


Brunswick, Ga.: I've read that U.S. Commerce Secy. Gary Locke said the 2010 Census "Will Not Be Politicized."

I'm a novice here, but how exactly would one "politicized" a federal census?

Lois Romano: Its pretty complicated and Im not sure I know all the nuances but I'll give it a try. The census decides how many congressmen/women a state gets- and what district they are elected from. If, for example, a district that has historically voted republican loses population, a democratic legislature can then carve that district up in way that favors democrats. So the political parties have a keen interest in the count -- and how its done.


New Glasgow, Mont.: Any thoughts on Arne Duncan's plan to push for merit pay in public schools.

As someone with a daughter with a learning disability who try as she might, doesn't get good grades in certain subjects, I worry that teachers will not want her in their classroom or want her to go into the more remedial curriculum.

Lois Romano: All I can tell you is that he has said that he wants the best teachers to be rewarded with merit pay. There is always a push-pull with the unions on this issue. The unions have historically preferred pay be assigned by seniority.


Anonymous: What is Mitt Romney up to these days? He seems very under the radar?

Lois Romano: This from the Wall street Journal this week:

For this unsuccessful 2008 Republican presidential contender, it is hard to imagine how events could be moving more decisively in his favor in 2009. One can almost hear him wondering: Why didn't things break this way last year?

Let us count the ways that the world has conspired to help Mr. Romney. At a time when the Republican Party is straining to find new leaders, other prominent party members who aspire to that role -- Govs. Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal and Mark Sanford, and Sen. John Ensign -- have stumbled or, in the case of Gov. Sanford, flamed out in spectacular fashion. Mitt Romney now looks by comparison like the serious adult in the room.

Romney Moves Back Into Spotlight


While other Republicans have withered, Mitt Romney has returned to the spotlight as a leading candidate of the minority party, WSJ's Gerald Seib reports.

Beyond that, the national agenda is squarely focused on the economy -- which plays to Mr. Romney's strength as a successful businessman -- rather than on national security, which benefited Sen. John McCain in last year's primaries, or on the social issues where Mr. Romney's tendency to shift about has caused him so much trouble.


Fairfax County, Va.: Am I right to think that President Obama's success in any initiatives (even totally non-economic), in the 2009 governors races, in the midterm elections, and ultimately in 2012, is totally tied to how the unemployment rate ebbs and flows over the next year or two? If so, it seems pointless to follow any other details, as it's all shadowboxing as we watch that one number.

Lois Romano: That's certainly a prime indicator. The administration had hoped that the stimulus package would have put more jobs in play by now.


Auburn, N.Y.: Which school does Joe Biden's second wife, Jill, teach?

Lois Romano: a local community college


Rolla, Mo.: I see the word "torture" on page one of the WaPo today. Why is this word okay when referring to actions by Mexican authorities, but not by the U.S. (where the WaPo prefers "enhanced interrogation techniques)? Mexico Accused of Torture in Drug War

Lois Romano: We say the country is accused of tortue-- not that it is torturing.


Washington, DC: This is in response to the parent asking about Arne Duncan's merit pay and children with special needs. The merit pay isn't to be based upon "he had a D and now he has a B." For children with special needs, merit means did the student meet the goals of their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) so if the goal was for their child to move half a grade in a year and they did that, then merit was achieved. I work in special education and don't want anyone to have the impression that we won't serve these children if merit is introduced. I am at a charter school and pay is merit based. It works well.

Lois Romano: Thank you for clarifying!


Bossier City, La.: I've heard that George W. and Laura Bush were not much for the Washington social scene.

Do you think they'll ever come back for a visit?

Lois Romano: They were not very involved in the social scene. They made clear they preferred Texas and their old friends. Of course, they will come back but I suspect it will not be for a social event--unless there's a political component.


St. Paul, Minn.: Except for her fanatical "base," it's clear that Palin's resignation -- and her reasons for it -- has been roundly panned. Unless I missed it, any word from John McCain on his former running mate's actions? Even though the election is ancient history, does this open him up to new criticism for his decision to select her, which has now, for better or worse, put her permanently into the public spotlight when a lot of people would just like her to disappear?

Lois Romano: I have not seen any comment from McCain. Right now, no one has really emerged to lead the GOP- which may in part account for her high numbers. There's also been a few bad tuns involving the party's stars. Its very early in the process. She may remain popular, but at some point even her base might see an alternative to lead the party.


Madison, Wisc.: Ms. Romano, thanks for taking questions. I hear cries of outrage from my conservative friends every time the president visits another country or even travels within the U.S. The complaint is that he is living large on the taxpayer's dime. Is it your impression that this president spends more on his lifestyle than previous presidents?

Lois Romano: No. The president has to travel. Thats part of the job. He gets the same treatment and protection as any other president. Its not like he can go out and have a five-star dinner on the public's dime.


Boston: Sorry to have another Palin question, but... Is it irritating to you to see TV interviews with her? The "journalist" interviewing her seems to just have a set list of questions and doesn't even seem to listen to her answers. When she told Andrea Mitchel that Obama's economic policies were "immoral and uneconomic" isn't the obvious follow-up to ask about Palin's views on Keynesian macroeconomics? And the GMA interview - really? Not asking what she meant by the Department of Law? How is the public ever supposed to figure out if this woman is a serious know-nothing or just poor at expressing herself if the interviewers don't force her to go in depth on her views? This is in no way limited to Palin, but she seems an excellent example.

Lois Romano: Sometimes there just isnt time for all the follow-ups. However, I would direct you back to Katie Couric's epic interview with Palin, which had many follow ups.


Bolivar, Tenn.: Marsha Blackburn, my congresswoman, has sign-on as co-sponsor of so-call "Birther Bill" requiring a presidential candidates to formally present their birth certificates to... I don't know who exactly?

Don't you think it's weird how mainstream this "Birther" nonsense has become? Much moreso then Grassy Knollers, 9/11 truthers, vast right-wing conspiracies.

Even if you don't buy into it, at everybody I know has heard about it... I admit I was curious about it when it referred to the Supreme Court by Justice Clarence Thomas until I actually heard Orly Taitz, Andy Martin or Alan Keyes speak about it...

Lois Romano: That's a new one for me. Haven't heard of it. Not sure why it would necessary since all informaion is so public these days.


Wichita, Kans.: What do you think about all these Obama relatives recently getting book deals, his brother-in-law Craig Robinson, his half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng, his half-brother George Obama. Do you think they'll be worth the read?

Lois Romano: Hard to say. This is typical in any administration. I'm sure they will all- in some way- add to our knowledge.


Lois Romano: Thank you all for joining me today. Its time to check out. Please come back here every day at 11 to chat with a member of our political team. Have a great day!


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