Post Politics: Obama's School Address, Politicians and Profanity, More

Lois Romano
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 3, 2009; 11:00 AM

Discuss the latest news about the White House and Congress with Washington Post national political reporter Lois Romano.


Lois Romano: Good morning everyone. Happy to have you all on board today. I'll answer as many questions as I am able to. LR


Boonsboro, Md.: Has the WaPost had a serious look at the "individual mandate" part of the health-reform bills? How does the government order me to buy health insurance? I just can't see how this would pass muster Constitutionally. Please don't use the car insurance analogy, if I don't own a car I don't have to buy insurance.

Lois Romano: Thats clearly one of the more complicated aspects of the bills-- and all three versions include the mandate. The mandate theoretically comes with public subsidies, a sliding scale depending on income.

Look at it this way: One of the big issues now is that insurers are able to turn you down for preexisiting condition. The govt will make it unlawful to do so under the plan. But to make that work, and to reach universal coverage, its necesessary to require people to get insurance so that people just dont opt in when they are sick. It to have some consistency and insurers want to spread the risk factor -- meaning its the way to push young healthy people to buy in.


U.S. minister praying for president's death?: Have you heard about this and why isn't it on The Post's radar? God's Work? Baptist Minister Prays for Obama's Death

Lois Romano: He's clearly a nut and I dont believe we should give nuts a platform. That being said "The Root" is owned by the Post.


Fairfield, Conn.: So, the right wing is all in a tizzy about Obama's planned address ... not to Congress, but to students. The subject is the importance of education and staying in school.

(Fox News headline: Critics Decry Obama's 'Indoctrination' Plan for Students); numerous comments and conservative web sites go so far as to compare this with indoctrination of Nazi youth ("Is this not how Hitler formed his "Youth SS group?"). The Dept of Ed even re-wrote a line because of how it was being used to prop up the indoctrination claim ("WH withdraws call for students to 'help' Obama"). Now the manufactured controversy seems to be percolating up into the mainstream: "Parents concerned about Obama address to students."

Maybe this is more a question for Howard Kurtz, but how should the (not insane) media deal with this stuff? What about politicians? It seems like ignoring it just allows it to grow the way the death panel rumors and many other manufactured stories have.

I just find this so bizarre.

Lois Romano: It's a little odd-- but no odder than the "birthers" claiming Obama is not American.


Atlanta: Hi, Lois,

I was reading the comment section on the obituary of Robert Novak and was stunned at the amount of vitriole coming from the left. I didn't care for the guy but never even thought, let alone voice in a public forum, some of things that were said.

Then, when Ted Kennedy died, it was the same viciousness coming from the right, even worse than the comments on Novak.

Please tell me these folks are in the minority. If our country is truly that polarized, I don't see how we will ever be able to tackle the serious issues that face us today.

Lois Romano: I do think it's the minority. But the angrier people are, the louder they are. We tend to hear more from the haters. You would think they would let a soul rest in peace.


Powhatan, Va.: Re: Obama's message to K-6 graders next week.

I am very thankful to live in a county that has decided NOT to show the President's address to the students. My reason isn't just about agreement or disagreement; but there is something rather creepily "Orwellian" about all this. Small children...gathering around a screen with the leader's face on it...being asked to write how to "help" the leader.

Can you imagine if Pres. Bush had asked to do this two years ago???

Is this a, small or large, political blunder on Obama's fault, or are we Virginians just in a bad mood this week?

Lois Romano: I think you may be a bad mood. Its called civic engagement.


SW Nebraska: At what point do we declare the Republican Party "off the deep end"? The chairman of the Republican Party in Nebraska Fahleson has just retweeted the nutty idea that parents keep their children home September 8 because Obama is going to speak to the nation's children at school that day.

Lois Romano: Jeez. What is this? People are all twisted up because their president -- EVEN IF THEY DIDNT VOTE FOR HIM -- is appealing to a younger generation to pitch in and get engaged? What are we telling our kids if we keep them home -- that they shouldn't respect the office of president.


Hampton: Yes, all of us right-wingers are completely nuts. We want our Constitutional rights, we want the government to serve us and not the other way around, we want the government to only spend the money it has... and we don't see why the President needs to talk to schoolkids about what they can do for him.


Lois Romano: Well not all.


Washington, D.C.: As a Democrat, I worry that our party is not represented well by its leadership in Congress as even Pelosi has said about Reid, "why does he say these things?" and she always looks shaken, not stirred. Any chance Reid will lose and be replaced by Durbin who seems much more sympathetic?

Lois Romano: Hard to say this early. But I gather his poll numbers are down. His colleagues love him, however.


Hampton: Lois, I know the Republicans and the insurance companies and the right-wing talkers are to blame, but the Democrats still control the House. They control the Senate. They control the White House. They can pass ANYTHING they want and there's nothing the Republicans can do about it.

If Obama's health care reform is right for America, why not just pass it? If they don't, the message their sending is that the Republicans are right: this is a big goverment effort to grab more power by taking over 1/6th of the economy, and Democrats in competitive districts know they'll lose their jobs if they pass it.

Lois Romano: All of that is being debated with the Democratic party right now. Obviously, it would be better for the country if our legislators could come to an agreement. But Democrats are certainly exploring other strategies.


What will become of Ted Kennedy's Senate staff?: By reputation Ted Kennedy had one of the finest staffs ever assembled by a Senator. What will become of them in the wake of his death while the Seat is vacant? Will they continue or are they all unemployed effective date certain? What about those performing constituent service back in Massachusetts? Does that entire burden now fall on Sen. Kerry's staff (as it did on Sen. Klobuchar's during the months of the Coleman-Franken uncertainty)?

Lois Romano: They will continue to work in the office -- as a staff serving the state of Massachusetts. While they can't vote, they can do constituent services. I suspect whomever is appointed or elected to the seat will want to keep most of them. Others will leave because they were only there out of loyalty to Kennedy.


the odd birthers: You said the people who think Obama is doing some Nazi propaganda thing when he tells students not to drop out of school are no more odd than the "birthers". Don't you think we are looking at the same population?

Lois Romano: Probably. And they are a minority -- albeit vocal.


reply to Hampton: You didn't care about your Constitutional rights under the last President.

Lois Romano: I always care about my rights. But I don't think it's a violation of my rights to have the president speak to my children about civic engagement -- whether it's George Bush or Barack Obama. You can respect the office and disagree with policies. If we don't respect the office, how can we expect other countries to?

I simply don't get whats so eggregious about talking to school children. It's trumped-up hysteria.


"Can you imagine if Pres. Bush had asked to do this..": From the Dallas Morning News...

Obama's plan to speak to schoolchildren ignites furor in Dallas-Fort Worth

"Other presidents, including George H.W. Bush, have given similar speeches directly to students."

Lois Romano: Of course other presidents have. I traveled with George W. Bush on numerous occasions when he spoke to school children. He was reading to children when he was informed that we were under attack on 9/11. And guess what? He continued reading for a bit so that the kids wouldn't get alarmed.


Arlington, Va.: Lois, there's a video of a top Obama adviser meeting at a public forum in February saying that "Republicans are (rhymes with glassbowls)." That's not a misquote. It's not taken out of context. Who's the guy? It's Obama's green jobs czar, Van Jones. Van Jones identified himself as a Communist in the past.

A self-described Communist who thinks Republicans are a--holes? He shouldn't be working for the Administration. He should be working for The Post! (Can I get a rim shot?) Van Jones video.

Lois Romano: I looked for that quote and I could never find a primary reference for him saying it. Not sure he did.


Baltimore: What do you think of Obama's Carteresque poll numbers? And with a Congress that's less popular than the Pope at a Planned Parenthood convention, it's been a rough summer for the Democrats.

How does Obama get his mojo back?

Lois Romano: What's interesting about his numbers is that people still like him, still think he's inspiring -- but are skeptical about policies. Thats unusual. He's only 9 months into it-- he's got time.


San Jose, Calif.: Wow, Lois, you are really hostile to conservatives! Look, a good liberal already noted above that the Democrats have all the power. Why do you need to crush every little bit of dissent? Why the anger on the Left?

Lois Romano: No true. I'm impatient with those who seem hateful or intolerant for no reason-- no matter what their ideology is. I don't believe the left should be hateful toward Bob Novak or Dick Cheney --or the right hateful to Ted kennedy to Obama. Reasonable people should be able to disagree reasonably.


Van Jones: Looks like Mr. Jones himself is the primary source for his comment, as he has apologized for it.

Van Jones: A**hole remark "inappropriate"

Lois Romano: I stand corrected. Unsavory language and name calling is never appropriate. Barbara Bush shouldnt have called Gerladine Ferraro a name that "rhymes with rich" and Dick Cheney should not used a no-no word in addressing Sen. Pat Leahy.

Oh, and remember that time George W. Bush called a N.Y. Times reporter a naughty word into an open microphone??

Manners everyone, please!! Get a grip.


Dallas: Yes, Lois, please confirm that an Obama advisor called Republicans ------es. And then take us back to those magical days of high decorum when only our VICE PRESIDENT was allowed to spit "Go ---- yourself" on the senate floor.

Sheesh. We're all babies.

Lois Romano: confirmed.


Washington, D.C.: Wow, Lois, you really love the idea of Dear Leader addressing an adoring throng of schoolchildren. That image is straight out of North Korea. Why can't Obama just record a video -- then teachers and parents can decide for themselves how to present it.

I think what bothers conservatives is the same thing that bothered them about his prime-time health care special: it's so one-sided. He wants to speak directly to the schoolkids but offers no opportunity for rebuttal from the other side. And when the plans for this little stunt include asking kids to work for Obama, it sounds like indoctrination to me.

I guess that sounds crazy to you. Do you have kids?

Lois Romano: I do have kids and it doesn't bother me. As I said in an earlier answer, both Bushes often addressed school children and I don't recall complaints.

Regardless of your partisan beliefs, children (and adults) should respect the office of the presidency. Thats all we're talking about here, in my opinion.


Wow, Lois, you are really hostile to conservatives!: Funny, as a card-carrying liberal, I always thought you were more hostile toward us. Guess you just can't win for losin' somedays!

Lois Romano: I must be doing something right.


Van Jones part 2: Just to be clear, Van Jones was a community activist for green jobs in poor urban settings and has quite an impressive record along those lines.

He made the tacky remark in front of a friendly local audience from the community he served, when he was just Van Jones, not a White House staffer. It's from his previous job.

I hope they don't use this to "wise Latina" the guy. People are more than one soundbite taken out of context.

Lois Romano: Thanks for the comment.


Lois Romano: Thank you all for a lively discussion today. Appreciate you engagement and views. Please join me again.


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

© 2009 The Washington Post Company