Post Politics Hour

Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 29, 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.


Ed O'Keefe: Welcome to the Thursday webisode of the Post Politics Hour, I'm your host, Ed O'Keefe, author of The Federal Eye blog, which tracks goings-on around the government.

Let me direct your attention to an analysis I posted a short while ago about Thursday's AP investigation into economic stimulus data.

As I write in The Eye: "The AP investigation finds that several recipients of economic stimulus data overstated the number of jobs created or saved with the federal funding. But the mistakes come as no surprise to close observers of the stimulus and the related reporting process. White House officials and outside experts always anticipated mistakes in the early stimulus reports.

"Only fund recipients can correct their stimulus reports, but the onus is on the government agencies that distributed the funds to review the reports, catch any errors and request corrections. More than 131,000 progress reports on stimulus funding will be posted Friday on, the government's stimulus-tracking Web site. Much of the data will include corrections to the first version of reports filed earlier this month. After Friday, any other corrections cannot be submitted for posting on until the next reporting period starts in January."

Now to your questions...


Austin, Tex.: Hi Ed. Maybe I'm just spending too much time reading health care articles and missing the rest, but what had Joe Biden been up to this year? I really expected we'd see (and HEAR) a lot more from him in this administration.

Ed O'Keefe: Biden is the administration's top dog when it comes to the economic stimulus. He's on the road roughly once a week for stimulus-related announcements or events and holds regular conference calls with mayors, governors and others to get their take on how the stimulus is helping or hurting.

Read any of the recent reporting on the White House's shaping of Iraq and Afghanistan policy and you'll see that he's also deeply involved in those efforts.


Washington, D.C.: Ed,

What on earth has happened to Joe Lieberman? Why hasn't he pulled an Arlen Specter and switched sides? Does he just like the power he has as an independent? Is that ethical? Does that make Connecticut or our country better off?

Ed O'Keefe: Lieberman may caucus with the Democrats, but remember: He's an independent (and all 100 senators function as independent operators on all sorts of less-visible issues).

Lieberman just helped shepherd several pay and benefits changes long-sought by federal employees -- and their unions -- and he's been generally supportive of the president's foreign policy efforts.

Just because he's not going along on health care doesn't mean he's not a reliable vote for other issues.

And remember: Roland Burris is giving the White House some grief on health care and every senator -- no matter their party -- has the power to hold up any piece of legislation for any reason. Lieberman's merely threatening to do that.


Alexandria, Va.: How would a state decide to either opt in our opt out of the proposed health care compromise? Would a governor decide it alone or would the state legislature need to approve the decision? how about in initiative happy states like Oregon and California? Could there be move to have the decison ratified by voters in an initative campaign? It seems like this would move the current public option debate from Washington to all 50 states for the next couple of years.

Ed O'Keefe: And frankly, I'm sure some vulnerable lawmakers would love to see the health care issue kicked to the states.

How would a state decide to opt in or opt out? Good question. Stay tuned to see how the congressional debate unfolds.


Follow the Money: Yesterday on Pearlstein's chat it was mentioned that Hadassah Lieberman took a job (her first job in decades) as a health insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyist this year. Has anyone at the Post yet checked into this very smelly turn of events? Pearlstein: It's time for the White House to stop pretending that health reform will be a win for everyone

Ed O'Keefe: Good question! I'll check.


Best.President.Ever: That was inspirational in a number of ways. By bearing witness to the sacrifice of our service members as he deliberates on our next course of action in Afghanistan he has shown himself to be a thousand times better then his predecessor.

What we need is a change of message in Afghanistan after the CIA/Karzai's brother revelation of this past week.

We're not there to conquer, we're there to help. Send the Army Corp of Engineers and not the Marines. That's the message the Afghani people need to hear.

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


Thanks WaPo for Matthew Hoh story: Mr. O'Keefe, Thanks to WaPo for the Matthew Hoh story, do you think he will meet with President Obama and the joint chiefs as Daniel Ellsberg mentioned on CSpan yesterday?

Ed O'Keefe: He may, we'll see, though that might set a tricky precedent for the president: Would he/Should he then meet with every other government employee that disagrees with the way he's handling things?


Seattle,WA: Any word on congress passing a 2010 budget or another CR or will the feds shut down on November 1?

Ed O'Keefe: Last I heard they'll pass another CR in December.


Helena, Montana: Ya know, the kerfuffle over Fox News shows how inept the press is at policing its own. It is up to the journalists to call out those who practice propaganda rather than journalism. The failure of the press to do so in the case of Fox News is telling. Not sure if you're scared to go against Murdoch or if you just can't bring yourselves to criticize people you see at press conferences, etc., (or you know you will be called out by the likes of O'Reilly or Hannity and just don't want the bother).

Ed O'Keefe: Your point is a good one, and I just read that CNN's Campbell Brown took both Fox and MSNBC to task last night on her show (which -- we should point out, and she acknowledges -- doesn't do as well in the ratings because she doesn't take sides).


Boston: What is the current state of play on insourcing as it relates to program management or acquisition support contracts and personnel? How much of a dent in the currently outsourced services in this area can the government actually make in the next 3-5 years and what are the limitations and pushbacks?

Ed O'Keefe: Good question Boston! (Nice to see those government questions mixed in with the politics.)

As I reported earlier this week in The Federal Eye:

"Agencies and departments will need to increase the number of contracting officers by at least 5 percent, according to new guidelines issued Tuesday by the Office of Management and Budget.

"Agencies must submit plans to hire more workers responsible for government contracting to OMB by Monday. Some agencies may experience a higher increase in their acquisition workforce.

"The guidelines also instruct agencies to slash spending on "high risk" contracts by 10 percent this fiscal year. Such agreements are considered wasteful, redundant, noncompetitive or poorly managed. Those cuts are in addition to a mandated 7 percent cut in total government contracts over the next two years."

The government hopes to put a big dent in the outsourcing this fiscal year by cutting those "high risk" contracts and then hopes to see further reductions this fiscal year and next.

The potential limitations? Guidelines that don't clearly tell the agencies what to do, and worse -- an OMB that doesn't conduct proper, thorough follow up.


Princeton, NJ: Is there any question why the Democrats are having trouble withe the Senator from Mutual of Omaha, the Senator from Aetna or the Senator from Walmart?

Ed O'Keefe: Too inside baseball, Princeton, please explain.


Nacogdoches, Tex.: Can you estimate the number/ percent of Republicans in Congress who don't believe man-made global warming is real?

Ed O'Keefe: Nope.


New York, N.Y.: $5 bet right now that NOTHING happens to Precious Joe Lieberman over latest disloyality to the party that gives him his chairmanship.

What say you?

Ed O'Keefe: I haven't placed bets since that filly died during the Ketucky Derby a few years back, sorry.


Reston, Va.: Is President Obama going to cancel the NASA Moon program despite the successful test flight of the new rocket (Ares-1X)?

Ed O'Keefe: This is one of those issues that keeps getting pushed to the backburner with all the wars and health care reform going on. There's no clear answer from the White House yet on what it plans to do.


re: Princeton, NJ:: I believe Princeton is talking about Nelson (Omaha), Leiberman (Aetna) and Lincoln (Walmart)

Ed O'Keefe: That's what I thought too -- just making sure we clarify for those not as sarcastic/smarmy


Boston: Hey, I think it was a Postie who came up with Senator Nelson (D- Mutual of Omaha)

Ed O'Keefe: yes, I think you're right.


Old Saybrook, CT.: Any truth to the rumor I am starting that NASA is going to allow a Senator to fly in a soon to be announced mission to Mars, and that they have picked Joe Lieberman?

Ed O'Keefe: Hahahaha....


Princeton, NJ: Steve Perlstein called Nelson the Seanator from Mutual of Omaha, so I am in good company.

Ed O'Keefe: Indeed you are.


Rockville, Maryland: Most who work (or worked) for the government will say the problem with outsourcing is that they never check a few years later to see if all the promised cost cutting ever happened or not. And there is no way to put it back the way it was if the government was a better deal. That makes the whole process something of a joke.

I thank Al Gore for "reinventing government."

Ed O'Keefe: Good point -- the real key is the follow up years later, and there's going to have to be an incentive for OMB and the agencies to do it. What is it? Stay tuned.


Washington, D.C.: Wondering if you've been following that story out of rural Eastern Kentucky about the naked corpse of a murdered Federal Census Worker found strung up by a tree in a cemetery with "FED" written on his chest?

It's so terrible, right?

Are there any new developments in the story?

Ed O'Keefe: There aren't. Local authorities and FBI continue to investigate, but they've said nothing new in weeks.

If and when they do, I'm on it.


Iowa City, Iowa: @Alexandria, Va.

Wait a second, you mean who decides on which states are in and out of the public option isn't known yet?

That's insane. Why aren't more people (cough-cough Washington Post) asking this question every 5 minutes? We two weeks of coverage to Birthers and then we had James Crowley / Henry Louis Gates, Jr.


Ed O'Keefe: It is important, but Harry Reid has not specified how states would opt in or opt out, according to The Post's Lori Montgomery, who's leading our health care reform coverage.


Ed O'Keefe: Following up on the Hadassah Lieberman question, here's an answer from The Post's Dan Eggen, who tracks lobbyists and special interest groups:

Hadassah Lieberman is not a registered lobbyist for anyone, according to Senate records. In fact, there's no record she has ever been a lobbyist.

According to numerous press reports, she does work for public-relations giant Hill & Knowlton, which as a company has represented many health-care clients over the years including GlaxoSmithKline. (For what it's worth, it appears H &K is now out of the lobbying business, according to lobbying reports.)

This was a big meme pushed on the left-wing blogs during Lieberman's reelection campaign (she was hired by Hill & Knowlton in 2005).


Local authorities and FBI continue to investigate: But why aren't there stories on how little has been released? Surely we should know more than we do.

Ed O'Keefe: We should, but the press has written the "little has been released" stories, and there's no sense in writing another one until we have more info.


Ed O'Keefe: (By the way, once you're done reading Dan Balz's fantastic review of the 2008 presidential campaign, "The Battle for America 2008" make sure to check out Time Magazine's exclusive excerpts from David Plouffe's new book.)


Ed O'Keefe: Folks, that's all for today. Many thanks for your questions, check out my blog and I'll talk to you again soon!


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