Don't Ask, Don't Tell changes, budget reactions, more -- Post Politics

Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 2, 2010; 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 a busy Tuesday and the daily Post Politics Hour, I'm your host, Ed O'Keefe, the brains and good looks behind The Federal Eye, The Post's rolling narrative of your federal government.


Sarah Palin calling for Rahm Emanuel's resignation

, the

Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy

(which I'm

live blogging

once the conversation really begins), the Illinois Primary Day, the president's in New Hampshire, First Lady Obama hosts a meeting on preventing childhood obesity, and -- most importantly -- I'm proud to announce I've seen four of the ten films


for the Oscar's Best Picture. Now to your queries...


Princeton, NJ: I watch very little TV, but recently I saw an ad featuring former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop that I knew was full of lies. (cf What can done about this kind of propaganda that has completely ruined the health reform debate? Can he be sued? If so by whom? Did the Post have an article on this? If not, why not?

Ed O'Keefe: First Amendment Princeton, sorry bout that, not much can be done. As for The Post's health-care coverage, visit


Florissant Valley, MO: Morning, Ed. My impression over the last many years is that most budgets are DOA at Capitol Hill. Is Obama's another one? Any chance he may sit down with Rep leaders and try to hash out some minimal areas of agreement? In other words, will last Friday's encounter lead to anything substantial? Thanks

Ed O'Keefe: It seems most would like to see something substantive come from last Friday's Battle in Baltimore, but Republicans don't seem eager to meet with the president, at least considering their statements since the meeting and their reaction to Monday's budget release.

But you're correct: Any president's budget proposal is just that -- a proposal -- and it's likely to change significantly. Both Republicans AND Democrats will want changes.


Alexandria, Va.: "I don't believe someone should be forced to buy something they don't want to," said Sen. Phillip P. Puckett, a Democrat who represents rural Russell County. "It's un-American. And it might be unconstitutional."

If I write Sen. Puckett do you think he would support me in my right to drop my auto insurance, flood insurance, and the insurance on my house (required by my mortgage). Maybe I wouldn't want to pay those if I had the choice...

Ed O'Keefe: Haha a good question worth asking him! Good luck!


Toronto, ON: Why does the US have such trouble with the idea of gays serving in the military? Canada, Britain and Israel for instance have no problem with it. Heck, in Canada military chaplains perform gay wedding ceremonies. Is it because of the power of the religious right?

Ed O'Keefe: That's part of the concern, yes, but most of the folks I talk to -- in and outside the military -- say it's more of a generational issue, between older military leaders and a younger rank and file that is increasingly accustomed to and comfortable with serving with gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

(Consider this the first of several plugs to follow my live blogging of the Don't ask don't tell hearing in my blog, The Federal Eye. Coverage begins immediately after the chat, around Noon ET.)


Washington, D.C.: I've noticed that you have been using the term "confirm" pretty loosely. For example, yesterday a headline in your blog said that the Senate voted to confirm Patricia Smith when in actuality, the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the nomination, something you clarified in the post. In the past you have written/tweeted that a Senate committee has voted to confirm a nominee when in actuality the committee voted to report the nomination to the full Senate. Sometimes I think you use that term too loosely and it could be misleading. Other times, I just think you don't know what the word confirm means. Maybe I'm the only person who has noticed or finds it a little odd, but it is a strange feeling to read that someone is confirmed (GREAT!) but to realize that they have a few steps to go before being able to start the job.

Ed O'Keefe: Washington -- I'm thrilled to know someone's reading my work so closely!

Thanks for catching that headline error. I just changed it to, "

Labor nominee M. Patricia Smith clears procedural hurdle


Using "tapped," "cleared," "approved" and ultimately "confirmed" is confusing -- but they all mean very different things.

The president "taps" someone to serve, then formally "nominates" them. A committee "approves" or "clears" or "refers them to the full Senate" and then the full body ultimately "confirms."

You're correct -- and I'll be more careful in the future.


Falls Church nit picker: from today's article: "Among the issues to be addressed by the group: whether gay soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines will face any restrictions on exhibiting their sexual orientation on the job; whether the Pentagon will be obligated to provide for their domestic partners; and whether straight military personnel could be compelled to share quarters with gays.".

Since I wasn't around back then, is this how the military was racially integrated as well? Were we talking about offering health insurance to a black man's wife? What if she was white? Were the whites allowed to refuse to bunk with blacks?

Sheesh. A shift in 'Don't ask, don't tell'

Ed O'Keefe: One of several valid points raised by those eager to see the current policy repealed...


New Haven, CT: Do you think the senate GOP or house GOP will agree to another televised Q&A with Obama after last Friday's debacle (from their perspective)? The House Republicans were clearly OWNED in that debate and fact checkers have backed up most of what Obama has said...

Ed O'Keefe: I'm very curious -- and incredibly eager -- to learn if a similar conversation will occur in the future. I hope so, but I'm sure Republicans will think twice, or try to alter the format more to their benefit.

And who can blame them? The president owns the bully pulpit, not the opposition party. But it was a development welcomed by this reporter, and I hope, for the sake of good, substantive, healthy political debate, that he seeks similar formats in the future.


Dripping Springs, Tx: The WaPo had a great and scary budget graphic yesterday. Fundamentally it showed a budget deficit equal to all spending for Military and Discretionary spending. Cutting a few programs regardless of which programs you cut will fix that. Thank you for making that so clear yesterday. I hope that is the lead in all journalistic budget explanations. Either you cut massively mandatory spending and/or raise taxes. Are there other proposals that propose other choices? INTERACTIVE: The Federal Budget Process

Ed O'Keefe: Glad to hear you enjoyed our budget coverage. I agree we always do a great job explaining the process.

The only real cost-cutting proposals put forth by Team Obama focus on that three year freeze for nonsecurity spending. Critics will argue that won't do much, others will say it will help.


Clifton, VA: As a retired O6 and decorated Navy Seal I never had a problem with gay service members. And yeah there were a few in teams I commanded. Its a matter of leadership and applying the same rules and regs that apply to straights. If you can't lead gay and lesbian soldiers its time for you to consider employment at Wal Mart because you lack the leadership abilities and skills this country needs now.

BTW I am a independent who has never voted for a Dem for prez. And our prez could use a few lessons in leadership and listening.

Ed O'Keefe: One person's opinion... thanks for sharing!


Grosse Ile, MI: Can you please explain how Democratic leaders yesterday could so whole-heartedly endorse President Obama's budget proposal, calling it "a start" to deficit reduction? His $20 billion "reduction" is a drop in the bucket to the billions he ADDED to the budget. As well, his budget is the biggest ever, and the deficit for 2010 is also the biggest ever, with trillions in future budget deficits for as far as the eye can see. There is no REAL deficit reduction in this bill, is there?

Ed O'Keefe: Can you imagine if the DIDN'T endorse his budget?

Just remember -- Obama's proposal is just that, a proposal, and it's likely to change. Will the spending go down and the deficit reduction efforts increase? Stay tuned.


Rockville: I do not know about "Princeton, NJ:" but many have started to believe that anyone (and everyone) they disagree with is lying. What ever happened to "honest disagreement?"

Ed O'Keefe: Good point!


Pittsburgh: Re DADT: How many members of the military made good on threats to quit if President Truman integrated the armed forces?

How many would actually quit now if gays are officially allowed into the military? Given civilian unemployment statistics nowadays, isn't it mostly just bluster?

Ed O'Keefe: Another opinion worth sharing...


Rockville: "Either you cut massively mandatory spending and/or raise taxes."

Put everyone to work and paying taxes. That gets a surplus in most cases, if not all.

Just put people to work.

Problem solved.

Ed O'Keefe: And that's one of the argument Democrats will make for the president's budget proposals.


The president owns the bully pulpit, not the opposition party.: It's statements like this, true as they might be, that drive me nuts. Reporters see only process, never content. Who had the advantage, how polite people were, etc. are not the point. The important aspect of the confrontation is the issues, and the President clearly won in that arena.

Ed O'Keefe: Hey -- I enjoyed Friday's conversation for its SUBSTANCE, not the style or the process.

It's my hope similarly substantive conversations are held in the future. But -- in full appreciation of the process -- I realize Republicans may be weary of participating.


note to Alexandria:: When you ask Sen Puckett about supporting your right to drop auto, flood, and house insurance, make sure he also supports the taxpayers fixing your car/flooded house--the equivalent of uninsured folks getting free care at the emergency room.

Ed O'Keefe: Aha! A good point...


Boston: President/GOP session was welcomed by all who saw it. (Except maybe the GOP reps who thought they would be smart and trap "President Teleprompter," only to have him eat them for lunch). Actually, it would be great if the Prez did ths a couple of times a year with the full House and Senate. Not necessarily "Meet the PM", but something like it. Could get Americans more interested in politics too -- or is that a bad thing?

Ed O'Keefe: I wholeheartedly endorse this idea, no matter who is serving as president.


Washington, DC: I'm glad President Obama continued President Bush's habit of attending the opposing party's policy retreats (Bush was the first modern president to do so).

I noticed that this particular retreat is getting a lot more coverage than any of Bush's trips. Is that because of the cameras?

Hardly any coverage mentions that this is actually one of Bush's ideas (it's funny how a lot of things get covered that way, like the celebration of the Muslim holiday Eid-Al-Fatir at the White House, which drew a lot of coverage in 2009, but never seemed to metion that the tradition was started by GWB). Why is that?

Ed O'Keefe: It's mostly the cameras, yes. Video or visuals always gets your much wider coverage, no matter the issue.

Whether you like it or not, that's just the way the big media machine works.

But yes -- Bush attended Democratic Party retreats and began the Eid-Al-Fatir celebrations.


Minneapolis: Re: "The president owns the bully pulpit, not the opposition party."

After watching last Friday's smack down, I don't think the problem for the Republicans with this format is Obama's bully pulpit...I think that he obviously had the facts. And looking at the last year, the Republicans have never had facts on their side.

Ed O'Keefe: One person's opinion... but folks, I'm hear to answer QUESTIONS. Ask away!


RE: Your Response to New Haven, Conn.: Aren't Republicans in a bit of a fix having criticized President Obama for not televising all health-care legislation negotiations (he gave a sensible response) but now expressing doubts about televising their own session with the President. How would Republicans respond if Obama offers to clear future dates for more such sessions? The old adage "be careful what you ask for" is apt.

Ed O'Keefe: Ah, but the president hasn't opened up the entire health-care reform debate to cameras. That's a fundamental campaign promise he hasn't kept -- at least not wholeheartedly. Yes, many if not most of the Congressional hearings were televised, but significant portions of the negotiations occurred behind closed doors, both on Capitol Hill and at the White House. You can expect Republicans will continue to point that out throughout the campaign season.


Brooklyn, NY: I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that the GOP will change the format to some sort of cheesy town hall screaming match - the kind of event where cool heads are drowned out by rhetoric. To be fair though, they were at a disadvantage - they were sitting and eating, while the president lorded over them from the podium. Is the DVD for this on sale yet?

Ed O'Keefe: Oh, it's probably available somewhere at


Anonymous: So how big was Obama's GOP smackdown -- outside the Beltway? We're all gaga about it here, and Jon Stewart loved it. But what about the rest of the country. Is this getting any attention?

Ed O'Keefe: Call your cousins in Peoria and let me know, please.

I know my dad in Upstate New York saw parts of it and was impressed, for what that's worth. As did my mother in law in Florida, but she thought otherwise.


re: Patricia Smith: Hi, Ed - so what do you think will happen now on Smith's nomination? Enzi has said he has a stack of documents he wants to share with his colleagues and Harkin's defense of her seemed tepid.

Ed O'Keefe: First off, realize that this isn't a big nomination, and not one that most people are terribly concerned about, both because it's a low-rung position and labor issues aren't dominating the political dialogue.

That said, it looks like she'll eventually get confirmed. Republicans will do what they can until then to stall the process, as is their Senatorial right.


Rochester, NY: There has been a lot of talk recently about Republicans possibly regaining the House. If this happens, do you think they will immediately start all kinds of investigations, as was done in 1994? Do you think that they'll end up impeaching Obama?


Ed O'Keefe: Impeachment seems far fetched, but you can bet they'll be much more critical and more willing to investigate the administration. Whether the White House plays ball with those investigations, well, we'll have to wait and see if it happens.


Nosy Parker: Do you think Sarah Palin should back down on charging the Tea Party convention in Nashville $100K to address them? The registration (or even just the speech tickets) is really expensive to cover her fee. Wouldn't you think she'd have been wiser (at least from a PR perspective) to have donated her speaking fee back to them? Aren't some of her natural constituency going to be alienated by this?

Ed O'Keefe: This is an interesting predicament, and I know both potential conventiongoers and reporters alike are perplexed by the costs and the difficulty of attending the convention.

But Palin is smart, and you never know, she may still have a trick up her sleeve ahead of her big speech.


Ed O'Keefe: Folks, that's it for today. Make sure to track my live blogging of the Senate's "don't ask, don't tell" hearing at my blog, The Federal Eye.

Talk to you soon!


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