Post Politics Hour

Lois Romano
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 18, 2010; 11:00 AM

Don't want to miss out on the latest in politics? Start each day with The Post Politics Hour. Join in each weekday morning at 11 a.m. as a member of The Washington Post's team of White House and Congressional reporters answers questions about the latest in buzz in Washington and The Post's coverage of political news.

Washington Post national political writer Lois Romano was online Thursday, February 18 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest in political news.

The transcript follows

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Lois Romano: Good Morning- and thanks for being here. We'll get started in a few minutes.


Terre Haute, Ind.: Ms. Romano,

Do you think that a lot of the commentary about Sen. Bayh's retirement being a fatal blow to bipartisanship and all that's good in the world is a bit lazy?

The guy is popular back here, but that's only because he has a popular name and votes whichever way the popular winds are blowing. He seems willing to do bipartisan things because he sees political value in being seen doing bipartisan things -- not because he's actually an intellectual leader of centrist senators or anything so special.

If you ever hear the guy try to discuss anything substantively, it's pretty obvious that all he has going for him is a famous name and a nice head of hair covering the empty space between his ears.

Nothing but blather about patriotism and apple pie kind of stuff. He's not a details guy. The notion that he might run for president someday, let alone challenge Obama, is laughable, so why is the national media all worked up that his retirement is a sign of the political apocalypse?

Lois Romano: I think you make some very good points. But one of the reasons everyone is making such a big deal about him leaving is because of his name. Its symbolic. He's from a political family, and he has been in politics for a long time. He's giving up the family business. The inference is if he's lost interest, if thinks its a problem- then this could have broader implications. Also, the Dems might have a hard time retaining the seat now.


Florissant Valley, MO: Hey, Lois. You've been out of sight lately! How do you think this new "spending committee" will play out? Seems like Sen. Danforth and someone else chaired one a decade or so ago and absolutely nothing came of it. Simpson is a R whom it is impossible to hate, but do he and the Dem co-chair have any credibility? Is there an R who could comend respect, like the Dem Tip did when he sat down with Reagan for the social security fix in the 80s? Is the atmosphere so poisonous that no reform is possible? Thanks

Lois Romano: I suspect the committee will have a lot of credibility-- like the 9/11 commission. According to my colleague Lori Montgomery who covers the budget Erkine Bowles, as Bill Clinton's chief of staff, "helped broker the last significant bipartisan budget agreement in 1997, crafting a package of tax hikes, entitlement cuts and budget controls that helped generate the first balanced budgets in nearly 30 years."

Simpson is well regarded and not a knee jerk partisan; He's seen as thoughtful. The atmosphere is poinsonous but if the commissions comes up wtih a solid plan, those opposing it could look like obstructionists and naysaysers.


Leesburg, VA: Lois,

When then-candidate McDonnell was running for governor, his opponents brought up a college thesis and his schooling at Pat Robertson's ultra-conservative Regent University as proverbial "Red Flags" that the candidate was too socially conservative to govern the Commonwealth. The candidate haughtily dismissed these allegations as "personal attacks," assured us that these antiquated ideas were long ago and no longer held, and that his oppositions "attacks" were evidence that they didn't want to "focus on the issues."

Now, in one of his first acts as Governor, McDonnell has issued an executive order making it permissible for State Employees to be discriminated against based on sexual orientation (under the previous two administrations, sexual orientation was protected against discrimination). While being able to say "told you so" has it's merits, it's ultimately hollow.

My question is: is this merely an aberration, or can we expect more of the same from Governor McDonnell?

Lois Romano: Gov. McDonnell is a conservative politician so I suppose some shifts are going to be inevitable. But he was a very good candidate and he appealed to the state. Voters are smart one has to assume voters knew what they were getting.


a nice head of hair covering the empty space between his ears: Kinda like Sarah Palin, huh?

Lois Romano: ouch! Thats a bit harsh.


Carmel, CA: Maybe Bayh's dropping out at the last minute was a blessing in disguise for Indiana Democrats. According to Dan Parker (head of Indiana's Democrat Party), State law allows the Democrat Party to select a replacement candidate by June if no other person qualifies with enough signatures by Friday (which seems unlikely). Republicans on the other hand are facing a primary election without Mike Pence (not enough time to get signatures) who would have been a strong candidate. If Democrats get someone like former Indiana Congressman Timothy J. Roemer (current ambassador to India) to come home and run, the disguised blessing might materialize.

Lois Romano: Most people think Bayh would have retained the seat-- but it's at risk now. Dan Coates is thinking about running on the republican side and he could be a strong candidate.


if the commissions comes up wtih a solid plan,: But it won't even get started if the Republicans refused to serve on it. And seriously, the evidence is overwhelming that taxes will have to be raised. Do you believe any Republican (even the "moderates" now in the Senate) will sign on?

If you do, I got several bridges I want to sell you.

Lois Romano: Well, first of all Republicans will serve on it-- as we speak people are maneuvering to get on it.

I can predict what republicans will do in six months-- but yes they will likely resist any tax hike. However, if its targeted and in conjunction with cuts-- who knows?


Boston: Lois, this week every story I have read about the stimulus package has called it "Controversial" or had some other derogatory adjective placed before the word "Stimulus". I realize it has been publically "Controversial" for a few people who belong to a party that was swamped in our last elections, but the numbers aren't controversial at all. It took the Obama team until yesterday to release and politicize the dramatic V-shape chart, but anyone who works in finance or economics has been seeing the same positive moving numbers for months now. So why append the negative adjective to appease a bunch of know-nothings who are to use one of their own idioms "talking down the economy"?

Lois Romano: The controversy also refers to public dissatisfaction that so much money was spent to boster up corporations-- and not enough to help hurtng consumers. This excellent story on today's front page touches on that.


Princeton, NJ: All this talk of bipartisanship leaves me feeling ill. You can't have agreement when the other side has no contact with reality, when they lie if it suites their purpose. Two examples from health care.

The CBO has found that the 30 states with restrcitions on malpractice suits have no lower health care costs than those states without restrictions.

Dr. Koop was on TV with an ad that said that England retricts health care to old folks (like me). showed that EVERYTHING he said was false. For example, he said that people his age (93) would not get pacemakers. Actually, 47 people over 100 got pacemakers in England in 2008.

BTW, why aren't these lies and misrepresentations pointed out in Post articles? Do your ethics require equal time for truth and lies?

Lois Romano: Many of the misrepresentations have been exposed-- like the fact that there are death panels in the legislation. The truth is - its very complicated legislation and very few legislators knows everything thats in every bill.


Arlington, VA: I'm trying to understand Sarah Palin's logic here.

She says it's unacceptable for Rahm Emmanuel to use the word "retarded" in describing a government policy. She says it's unacceptable for a left-leaning cartoon show to feature a character with Down's Syndrome who mentions that her mother used to be governor of Alaska. But yet it's completely acceptable for Rush Limbaugh to use the word "retarded" because he's a like-minded Republican?

I'm afraid I don't understand her logic. Can you explain it to me?

Lois Romano: Beats me. All I can say is that Sarah Palin is a partisan- and that's what gives her celebrity and a following.

I was wondering myself why Rush didnt have to apologize....


Salinas, CA: "Well, first of all Republicans will serve on it-- as we speak people are maneuvering to get on it. "

More opportunities to provide sound bites for the 2010 mid- terms and 2012 elections?

Lois Romano: My understanding is that the members will not all be legislators-- which would give the commission credibility.


New Hampshire: Hi, Lois,

I'm going to question the CW on the 2010 election. I just don't see how the Republicans are going to ride a wave of anti-incumbent sentiment with--and forgive my harshness--a bunch of retreads. Dan Coats is just an incumbent with a lacuna. In my district, Charlie Bass is going to challenge the current Dem, Shea-Porter. Pleasant enough guy, but with nothing more to offer than what he had when we voted him out the last time.

My guess is 2010 in this district comes down to turnout, period. Sure, the Republicans are angry, but angry doesn't pay the bill, if you know what I mean. All the Republicans have to do to increase Democratic turnout is convince enough Democrats that letting a Republican win means another couple of years of no attention to the nation's problems. As for the Tea Party candidate, if they wave their guns and shout obscenities and call the rest of us names, as they did when Obama came to town, they'll poll in the single digits.

Lois Romano: I happen to agree with you-- it could go either way. A lot will depend on how the economy does in the next six months. If jobs come back, if the market goes up- if people think they're doing well again- Democrats will do well.


Poplar Bluff, MO: Hi Lois, thanks for the chat. What odds do you give for the health-care bill to go through budget reconciliation?

Lois Romano: Hi- I think it is still a strong option. Im including a link here to a Salon article that goes through some of the options Democrats have right now.


The "Tea Party": Lois, I spend a lot of time in DC, NYC and Boston. I love to just wander around those cities and my wanders often bring me across something I love even more: groups of people out sharing their thoughts, passions and opinions in the open square.

That is a long preface to my question regarding the media's fascination with the "Tea Party" movement (although recent CNN poll shows it's not really a movement, just Republican men who are sore they lost last election).

I've been to several Tea Party rallies and seen average to below average crowds...especially considering the unending stream of official and unofficial publicity these guys receive. when I stumbled upon an anti Iraq war protest in 2003 the crowd covered the Public Garden and most of the Boston Common. When I stumbled across the Boston Tea Party in April of this year the "crowd" fit neatly into a small corner of the Common across from the state house.

Yet it is the Tea Partiers who got tons of newsprint and months of air time (even today) I don't get the editorial judgment there. Can you help explain why sore losers are so newsworthy?

Lois Romano: I would trace their newsworthiness back to the September rallies, when tens of thousands of protesters showed in DC as well as in different locations around the country. When that many folks show up- and are able to organize a national protest- its newsworthy. It indicated a level of dissatisfaction out there that was newsworthy.


Seriously?: Hi Lois,

When you said voters were mad about all the government money flowing to corporatioins, please tell me you weren't conflating the bailout (passed under Bush) with the stimulus (passed under Obama.) For that matter, why hasn't the Post done more (or anything) to clear up the widely held misconception that the bank-bailout and the economic stimulus are the same thing?

Lois Romano: I think we have made clear they are not the same thing-- but that doesn't stop people from being angry. The stimulus was supposed to create jobs- and perhaps it has-- but people who cant pay the mortgage arent seeing the benefits they read about trickle down to them. What they see is billions going to boster AIG and GM.

I dont have an opinion-- Im just telling you what Ive read in hundreds of news stories from around the country.


Hamilton VA: Lois I don't think voters are really that smart. They are self centered and usually vote their own interests. They may be quick and believe they are good judges of character but not smart. The lack of knowledge of basic civic facts and disdain for science and intelectualism belies the smart part.

Lois Romano: I have faith in voters-- thats not to say they dont make misstakes. But that's what the process is all about- they get a chance to correct the misstake in the next election. Sometimes they do vote their gut- but thats only human.


Beltway Boys: Simpson and Bowles.

How come none in Washington can ever think of committee chairpeople from anyplace other than the capital?

You know, we have 50 states out here, yes? Real folks live in them, too.

Lois Romano: Neither of them live in DC-- and both are far less beltway types that others.

But they both have an understanding of the process which is important. One hopes that they will tape people from around the country for the other slots.


Lois Romano: Unfortunately, its time to end the session. Thank you for all the great questions-- and smart observations. We had a very feisty group today! It was fun. See you in two weeks.


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