Post Politics Hour: Weekend review and a look ahead

Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 7, 2009; 11:00 AM

The Post's Perry Bacon Jr. was online Dec. 7 at 11 a.m. ET to take your questions about the latest political news and more.

Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts


Louisville, Ky.: Perry,

Obama is not making it a priority to leave Afghanistan at this point of the war. One of the main reasons he was elected in office was his goal to exit that area. I feel that he is already breaking big promises.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think he talked in the campaign alot about getting troops out of Iraq and casting Afghanistan as the war worthe fighting. That said, I think there is lots of consternation about him from the left on this.


Blessings in disguise: Let's stipulate that Obama doesn't want middle America's attention bogged down right now in the messy details of health reform legislation or his war of necessity and definitely not his choice in Afghanistan. If true, could he have received a better holiday gift than Tiger Woods' water torture of tabloid tittering transgressions or the Salahis for that matter? This was nicely summarized in the cold open for SNL this week. I'd say these bright shiny distractions help him not hurt him. Agree?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I would submit most Americans can follow Tiger, the Salahis, health care and Afghanistan in the same week. It's not that complicated. I think most people aren't following the date to date details of health care because it's fairly complicated and some of it (the abortion language in the bill) won't affect them. But my guess is everywhere in America people know about Tiger, the White House dinner controvery and that the president is increasing troops in Afghanistan.


Mt. Lebanon, Pa.: So in how many different ways is Mike Huckabee's political career over? He is the former governor of Arkansas and Republican celebrity type who ran for president in the last election - for folks who might have forgotten who he is.

And if he is toast, how long will Fox News keep him onboard if he has no viable future ahead? After all, who wants to listen to a talking dead man?

By the way, the news reports that law enforcement in Washington state is still sore as hell at him for letting an armed lunatic loose from prison. Totally understandable.

Thanks much.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I would assume Fox keeps him on because he gets decent ratings. If his ratings plunge because he's no longer a viable candidate, then they might boot him. I would think that's the key, if people who like him abandon not only his presidential prospects but also watching him on tv.


Washington, D.C.: I think it would be good if spouses or girlfriends of senators or congresspeople were not able to get federal appointments. They would still be able to rake in bucks as lobbyists but do we really need Daschle at FAA, Linda that is? Probably not. I know you'll say he's a former senator but plenty of them have served while spouse is in office and some appointed to the bench, such as Jane Roth (Mrs. Senator) persist.

Perry Bacon Jr.: The challenge will always be what is cronyism versus people who are qualified. One would think that members of Congress would avoid directly nominating their girlfriends or spouses though, as Baucus did. My point is if a senator's wife was a appelate court judge and one of the best in the country she should still be considered for the Supreme Court, even if her husband could vote on the nomination.


McLean, Va.: Am I wrong, or is it increasingly certain that Congress will pass some sort of health-care bill in the next couple of months?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think it's almost certain.


Anchorage Alaska: BUSTED: Senator Max Baucus Caught Nominating His Mistress To US Attorney

That's a headline from another online news medium this weekend.

Ugh...isn't this illegal?

And when will the live Congressional hearings on this malfeasance be scheduled? Or will they just vote for an independent prosecutor?

After all, Barack Obama promised us all: Change we can believe in.

Still looking for that change..


Perry Bacon Jr.: I don't think Obama can change how senior senators behave, not matter what he campaigned on.


New York: Perry, what's the level of Tom Daschle's involvement in the health care reform negotiations? Is he on the Hill daily, or only called upon when a crucial vote is imminent? I always wondered why Obama didn't create a special White House position for him that didn't require Senate confirmation, especially with Kennedy in such ill health. Can you shed any light on this? Thanks.

Perry Bacon Jr.: He comes to the Hill from time to time (not everyday) to consult with members and he also is in frequent contact with White House officials. After his tax problems came out, I think it was easier to have him give advice from outside than giving him a daily job in the administration, even one that didn't invovle confirmation.


re: Mount Lebanon, PA: While I think Mike Huckabee is a bit of a doof, sounds like Mt. Lebanon has a bit of wishful thinking there.

Huckabee commuted the sentence. The parole board set him free early. And Washington state kept releasing him from their own prison afterwards.

So while it's perfectly fine to dislike Huckabee, this particular meme seems a bit off base.

Perry Bacon Jr.: Huckabee communted lots of sentences, but yes, the parole board actually released people. I think he will have a hard time explaining that to voters, which is why he will such a hard time running for president.


Lizard Island: After SNL's send-up by Kristen Wiig and Bobby Moynihan this past Saturday, can we now stick a fork in the Salahis, cuz they're done?

Perry Bacon Jr.: They weren't already done? Actually, I'm not an expert in entertainment news, so I'm not sure this helps or hurts them getting on Bravo.


consternation from the left : Do these people - my fellow liberals - really think it's a good idea simply to admit defeat and go home? I moved to Cleveland for a month at the end of the campaign to work for Obama, but only after I heard him say that he wanted to get out of Iraq as responsibly as we got in irresponsibly. And that Afghanistan should have been the main focus all along. Maybe he's wrong, but I can't see how people can claim to have been fooled.

Perry Bacon Jr.: There's an argument the war cannot be won and is no longer working fighting. And I don't think people knew Obama would put more troops into Afghanistan, so that has surprised them in some ways.


Washington, DC: What happened to then-candidate Obama's pledge to have C-SPAN cameras "in the room" where negotiations were during health-care reform talks? I wish the media would call him out on this, and I say this as a supporter of his who voted for him.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I wrote a story that noted this a month ago. I don't think the media has ignored this at all. from my story on Oct. 18

"Three months before he was elected president, Barack Obama vowed not only to reform health care but also to pass the legislation in an unprecedented way.

"I'm going to have all the negotiations around a big table," he said at an appearance in Chester, Va., repeating an assertion he made many times. He said the discussions would be "televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies."

But now, as a Senate vote on health-care legislation nears, those negotiations are occurring in a setting that is anything but revolutionary in Washington: Three senators are working on the bill behind closed doors.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) sits at the head of a wooden table at his office as he and Sens. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) work to merge two competing versions of health-care legislation into one bill. The three men will be joined by top aides as well as by members of President Obama's health-care team, led by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. The sessions started on Wednesday and could be completed this week.


Nice overreaction, Anchorage: Let's try a more mature response. Baucus said his then-girlfriend was qualified for the job (which appears to be true) and then added, "I for one did not want her relationship with me to disqualify her from applying for the position."

Except that there's no way for that to be true. If he's the one making the nomination, then the relationship was a disqualifier. I don't think this was illegal but it was really bad judgment.

Perry Bacon Jr.: Seems like a bad judgement to me.


Max Baucus: At least Max Baucus's girlfriend is qualified to be a US Attorney, unlike, say, Liz Cheney who was appointed to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State or something solely on the basis of her parentage (Dick Cheney, VP at the time). So where were all the anti-nepotists at that time?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I just read through Liz Cheney's bio. She had some foreign policy expertise, but I"m not sure was a Middle East expert when she became Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. I will defer to you readers on this.


Huckabee and Commutation: After the Willie Horton ads in 1988, anytime a governor pardons or commutes a sentence for a felon who then goes on to commit more crimes - that governor is going to be toast in presidential races. May not be just, but it is the way things are. Blame Lee Atwater.

Perry Bacon Jr.: Huckabee won primaries in 2008 despite an earlier person he had commuted who went on to commit more crimes, so not sure I agree with you on that. I just don't think he was a viable contender anyway, because so much of the establishment in the party doesn't like him.


Hamilton, Va.: The Salahis are not done. Maybe as a national story but there is too much other stuff concerning them that will stay relevant in the DC area.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I meant as a national story, as people on a show D.C., etc. Yes, I"m sure the Post will keep covering them for a while.


re changing senatorial behavior: If I remember correctly the last president who tried to change congressional behavior (with regard to perks from lobbyists and pork projects) was Jimmy Carter. That didn't go so well for him.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think Bush tried to reduce earmarks in bills, as has Obama. Journalists and presidential administrations call earmarks waste of money, members of Congress view them as tickets to reelection.


Afghan War: It's not only liberals who think Afghanistan can't be won - some conservatives (I'm looking at you, George Will) do as well, particularly since Obama is in the White House now.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think (and polling shows this) there is reluctance among both parties about this war. The Gallup Poll from last week showed 56% of Republicans and 58% of Democrats support Obama's plan. I would suggest there's disconnect in both parties between their bases and the members of Congress in Washington. My guess is about 80% of Republicans in Congress or high suppor the troop surge, while only about a third of Democrats in Congress are really for it. I think there are more Republicans like George Will out there and lots of Democrats who back this effort.


Huckabee: I like Mike Huckabee--even got to vote for him in the DC primary--but I think he missed the presidential boat when he neglected to change is name to something like "Huck Michaels" about 20 years ago. "Huckabee" just doesn't sound presidential, historically probably never did.

Perry Bacon Jr.: Did Barack Obama sound presidential in 2004?


so much of the establishment in the party doesn't like him: That sounds exactly like the party's problem with ALL of their prospective candidates.

Don't those folks like ANYONE?

Perry Bacon Jr.: Establishment types like Romney, Barbour, Pawlenty, don't like Huckabee and Palin as much. I would submit these are smart choices; Palin I don't think can win a national election, Romney could be a credible alternative in 2012 if the country is in bad shape.


Pittsburgh: Smart or dumb move, Obama going to the Senate instead of summoning them to come to him? Does the fact that he (not to mention Biden) was a Senator until last year make a significant difference?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I generally think their approach to Congress is much different than the Bush's team was, and that might stem from Rahm, Biden, Obama, etc. all having recently served in Congress. I don't think it matters if he goes there or it comes to him. I think his lack of detail about what he wants in the bill has been an interesting strategy shift; I don't know if it's been good or not. President Bush got a lot done in his first year, as did Obama.


Village Media Scolds: Isn't it interesting to watch these (mostly female) Beltway journalists twist the knife into the back of Desiree Rogers? It's the fact that Rogers is too full of herself. Too high-profile. And she's too interested in self-promotion. At least those are the charges leveled against her. But if Rogers were a man in Washington, D.C., and exhibited the same personality traits, would you press corps gossips even notice, let alone condemn, Rogers's behavior? Isn't self-promotion and vanity pretty much required for admittance into the Beltway's (mostly male) elite circles?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I largely agree with you. Some of the criticism of Rogers has struck me as odd. She is not the only self-promotional staffer in Washington. Washington is a very self-promotional city. I haven't seen any real evidence she was behind the Salahis getting in or that she's otherwise doing a bad job as social secretary. The criticism of her was the over the top.


I don't think people knew Obama would put more troops into Afghanistan, so that has surprised them in some ways.: Obama said during the campaign that we should be focused on and devote resources to Afghanistan not Iraq. He called Afghanistan a war of necessity and Iraq a war of choice. Anyone who was listening should have understood that he wanted to send more troops to Afghanistan. Now, you can make the argument that in December 2009 it no longer makes sense to send more troops to Afghanistan because the situation has changed (e.g., Karzai stole election), but there is no reason for anyone to be surprised that Obama is committing more troops to Afghanistan.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I don 'think it was clear in the campaign Obama would increase troops as much as he has hit. We've now had two different trops increases. We might disagree here.


Farmington Hills, Mich.: "I think most people aren't following the date to date details of health care because it's fairly complicated and some of it (the abortion language in the bill) won't affect them."

Really? REALLY?

Perry Bacon Jr.: My meaning was debates on the public option, abortion, etc. have lasted for months and my guess is most people are interested in learning what happens in the end as opposed to following every detail. And for people who already have insurance that covers what they want it to and are satified with the price of their insurance (a fairly bit of the population) I think news about unemployment, how the economy is doing, etc. might be more important.


Austin, TX: What sort of person will the Republicans nominate for president in 2012? I'm not asking for names, just general characteristics. You said you don't think it will be Huckabee, and for similar reasons I doubt it will be Palin.

Do you think the eventual nominee will be somebody who is well-known now? Somebody who appeals mainly to the base of the party?

Perry Bacon Jr.: Someone who appeals to the base of the party but does not radically turn off swing voters, a person who is a strong fiscal conservative and is anti big spending, pro-life, anti gay-marriage, anti cap and trade.


Perry Bacon Jr.: Thanks for the chat folks.



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