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Dana Milbank on Scott Brown, John McCain, more

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Dana Milbank
Washington Post Columnist
Monday, February 8, 2010; 1:00 PM

Post columnist Dana Milbank discusses his recent columns about the swearing-in of Scott Brown, his longing for the iconoclastic version of John McCain and he takes your questions about the latest political news.

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Dana Milbank:

Good afternoon, webchatters! Nothing doing here in Washington, so there won't be a Washington Sketch tomorrow. But there is still much to talk about. I have written notes for this chat in the palms of both hands, and I am ready to go.

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Oak Park, IL: Don't you think John McCain was never really the man--the candidate-you admired? That he was desperately seeking an identity or a niche that would define him apart from the others, and gain him a seat in the Oval Office?

McCain, the maverick of yesterday, is surely following the new leaves that seem to portend a national, or at least, a Republican turn to the right, in this age of the Tea Party mavericks. And I truly think he still believes he can get that coveted seat, in 3 years.

Dana Milbank:

I don't want to think that, Oak Park, but I suspect you may be right. One theory I've heard a lot since the column came out is that McCain really wasn't a maverick from the start, that he became one because the GOP establishment didn't embrace him early on. Then, when he discovered he could become one of the cool kids himself, he gave up the whole outsider thing, which was only a tactic in the first place.

McCain in 2012? As my fellow palm-writer Sarah Palin might say, let's close that door because it's not going to open.

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The question we all are asking: What talking points are written on your palm today?

Dana Milbank:

Don't

Drive

on M St.

Still Not

Plowed

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Hartford, CT: So how loud was the collective scream from people who are sure that your revelation--that you actually liked someone or something--shows you're fundamentally unsuited to discuss any public topic?

How many variations of "in the tank" did you get? "On the bus"? "In the teapot"?

Dana Milbank:

I'm too a-scared to look at the comments to find out.

I had actually put in a line about actually VOTING for McCain, but we took it out because it required too much explanation. Here, however, I can explain.

My policy in each presidential race is to vote for the best candidate who is not on the ballot. I think this is superior to the Len Downie approach of not voting at all; I don't have to commit to one candidate or the other in the race, but I can still go through the exercise of who would be a good president. So I voted for McCain in 2000, when Bush and Gore were on the ballot. I voted for Chuck Hagel in 2004, when Bush and Kerry were on the ballot. And I voted for Mike Bloomberg in 2008.

I should also add that I live in DC so it doesn't make the slightest difference how I vote.

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Sarah and her crib notes: So have you sent her some flowers as a thoughtful gesture? I mean, she goes out of her way to provide new material on the wackness that is her world. You really should thank her.

Dana Milbank: I have just written a note to myself to do that after the chat. My palms are full so this note is on the left forearm.

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TM, Zeeland: During your nearly decade-long illicit affair with John McCain, did the two of you ever discuss moving in together and adopting Joe Lieberman?

Dana Milbank:

I would have done it but Lindsey Graham was jealous.

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Anonymous: I also am a longtime McCain supporter and think you are right on the mark. What is your hope in the last sentence based on? That the real McCain will come back after the current election is out of the way?

Dana Milbank:

I'm afraid it's just a hope, based on a wing and a prayer.

It's so hard for me to believe that a man who defied the Viet Cong is afraid of a loudmouthed Arizonan named J.D. Hayworth.

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Stages of Fraudulent Iconoclast Recovery: 1. Denial. He did not want to meet with Falwell and only did so because it was politically necessary.

2. Anger. I am angry that he selected Palin even though it was politically expedient.

3. Bargaining. You've made some mistakes John, now go back to your honorable stance on immigration.

4. Depression. His shifting views on campaign finance show that he is not who he once was.

5. Acceptance. His shifting views on gays in the military show that he is not who I thought he was in the first place.

Dana Milbank:

Good diagnosis. I am feeling much better now.

So, turning the tables, here's a question for the question-askers: Who are the iconoclasts out there? And don't give me Olympia Snowe or Ben Nelson.

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Kiss, Don't Tell: Can we expect a book of shocking revelations about what you and John McCain were doing in the back of the Straight Talk Express?

Dana Milbank:

We were Dunkin Donuts.

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Los Angeles, CA: With regard to your sarcastic piece on Senator Brown, whom you insist on calling Senator Centerfold.

Your seem to be overeager to reach back in history for a nasty sobriquet. However, I don't recall your calling Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Killer, nor Senator Byrd, Senator Ku Klux Klan.

I guess it all depends on your politics. Please discuss.

Dana Milbank:

I have identified the senior senator from New York as Chuck Schumer (D-TV). And Roland Burris as D-Blagojevich. I referred to Obama as "The Honorable Beach Babe from Illinois."

So I'm guessing you are a newcomer to the Washington Sketch. Welcome.

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Lanesboro, MA: Your article fails to mention Sarah; some reason?

Dana Milbank:

D'Oh!

I had written it down but that part of my palm got smudged.

(Actually I had meant the fearmongering 2008 campaign to cover Palin and the pallin' around with terrorists.)

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Parkland, FL: This is not a question, an observation. Stop whining about Scott Brown and how he wants to be sworn in too quickly. You are a spoiled child who can't accept reality, a typical liberal opinion writier. The gig is up, you guys are exposed for who you are, nothing but cheerleaders for a political idealogy. Actually, I find it funny.

Dana Milbank:

An opinion "writier." Is that like a courtier? Or a rapier? I am also alarmed to hear that my gig is up, because I am rather enjoying it.

As for whether or not the jig is up, I am actually delighted that Senator Centerfold has been sworn in so that he will have the opportunity to display his independence in a floor vote tomorrow night: whether or not to sustain a Republican filibuster of an Obama nominee.

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Divorce Court: Will you be naming Senator Graham in a suit for alienation of affection?

Dana Milbank: I have since warmed to him over climate change.

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Who are the iconoclasts out there? : Jim Webb?

Dana Milbank:

My point exactly.

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Who are the iconoclasts?: Representative Fortney "Pete" Stark (D-Cal.), for daring to say publicly that he's a non-believer, religion-wise. My hero!

Dana Milbank:

Well, I was thinking of a less literal definition of iconoclast.

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Evanston, Illinois: How about an age limit for the senate? I'm sorry but Robert Byrd, John McCain and Tim Johnson need to park the bus and move on. The same was true for the last couple years of Ted Kennedy's career. They get reelected for the presumed power of their seniority but in fact they are dead weight for the country. Joe Lieberman too.

Dana Milbank: But Orrin Hatch definitely gets grandfathered in. Washington Sketch could not survive without him.

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Would that be the Cosmo Pol?: Will Senator Centerfold be wearing pants?

Dana Milbank:

With apologies to SNL, not if he filibusts out of them.

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Austin, TX: Please assure me that "Dunkin' Donuts" is not some euphemism that I don't understand.

Dana Milbank:

Right, right. Next you'll be telling me there's something sinister about tea bagging. Why can't breakfast foods just be breakfast foods anymore?

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Harrisburg, PA: Dana,

Thank you for the chat, and please pardon the length of this post.

I read your book in 2001, and remember a lot of things, including: unflushed toilets, Bill Bradley lulling VIPs to sleep (painful for me to read, but I guess it was true), false flag ops involving the correct pronunciation of 'Des Moines', and lots of Shrub foibles. What I don't really recall is anything memorable involving McCain's campaign in the book.

Was it b/c you were too close and maybe felt that in the interests of disclosure thought it best to not put much in?

For my money, David Foster Wallace's Rolling Stone profile (reprinted and expanded in "Consider the Lobster's" "Up Simba") was a pretty awesome view of the maverick as a candidate, one who even back then was saying some pretty right-wing stuff leading up to South Carolina.

Dana Milbank:

Well, I've tried to block all memory of that book ("Smashmouth," 2001, Poor Sales). But I think there was a good bit of McCain v Bush in it.

No doubt he was a real right-winger then too, and I said so at the time, but he leavened that with the campaign finance pitch, the concern about tax cuts, and his willingness to cut deals.

_______________________

Beer Summit 2: What kind of beer will be served at the Health Care Summit?

Dana Milbank:

Aqua Vitae.

_______________________

Newton MA: You have given voice to my own sense of deep disappointment. I am a political junky, hoped for an Obama/McCain race that would really explore the different approaches they represent and came to despise the McCain who showed up. I hope your hope comes alive once again. I voted for Obama and in 2000 would have given every nickel I could to McCain. I admired him so....less so now by a lot.

Dana Milbank: I feel you pain, Newton. But thank you for sending us Senator Centerfold.

_______________________

Ron Mwangaguhunga: What do you think of President's Question Time with a sitting President facing the US Senate. I believe GHW Bush (and, of course, McCain) contemplated this ...

Dana Milbank:

The Washington Sketch would like nothing more. Yes, I recall that McCain did say he'd take questions from Congress once a week if elected; of course, he offered this at a point when it was pretty clear that he wasn't going to be elected.

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Iconoclast: Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, because of his facial hair?

Dana Milbank:

Or Evan Bayh, because he wears running shoes with his suits? I understand he has a foot problem, but they do make athletic footwear in black. . .

_______________________

Iconolclasts: Mark Sanford had his image shattered.

Dana Milbank:

I think we have collectively proven the point: there are no more iconoclasts.

Well, I've pretty much exhausted the contents of my palm, not to mention my brain. Look out for some columns later this week, assuming they can get M street plowed.

Thanks for chatting.

_______________________

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


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