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Post Politics Hour

Lois Romano
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 1, 2010; 11:00 AM

Washington Post national political writer Lois Romano was online Thursday, April 1 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest in political news.

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Lois Romano: Good Morning and thanks for joining us today. I'll try t get to as may as your questions as possible.

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Anonymous: Re: the RNC Bondage trip - it's easy to fire a low level staffer (how is a 24 year old a "director"?)who submitted an expense report with something that should never have been paid, and say the problem's been taken care of.

But what about the Program Manager (Fundraising, Development, whatever it's called at the RNC) who authorized this payment of the expense and the Accounting Manager who reviewed and processed the payment? Maybe people don't realize how an accounting department works - a staffer just doesn't sit down at a computer and process a check herself. An Accounts Payable Supervisor sets up the vendor (with a Federal ID for the 1099), reviews the expense report (expense reports get greater scrutiny because of the frivolous things people submit as opposed to routine expenses like office supplies or postage) and the check gets reviewed again before it's sent out.

Not to mention the IRS rules for documenting meals and entertainment - names have to be submitted, along with the business purpose - otherwise you violate the RICO laws, and the payment can be disallowed and the IRS can criminally prosecute.

So what happened to the people who authorized the payment for the club? I'll be they're still there, and they should join the staffer on the unemployment line.

Lois Romano: I am not covering the story- but as a reader I had the same questions. She obviously had to go to a supervisor to have the expense paid. But perhaps its her job to vet the expenses before seeking approval. It is a lot to put on a 24-year-old-- to handle all the intricacies of irs regs, spending, recording, researching, etc. Obviously, other people must have--or should have- had line responsibility.

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2010/2012: So can you explain how the "hippie punching" strategy is going to pay off in 2010 and 2012?

The Rahmian strategy of throwing the left under the bus may have worked to pass Health Insurance Reforms, but it's destroying the coalition that they built to win in 2008.

I'm a five year Hill staffer and attorney. Where is this going? Because it's convinced me to vote against him no matter what.

Lois Romano: would you have preferred no bill? elections are diffrent from governing- governing is a lot harder, as you know. And as you also know, the most of the electorate falls in the middle of the ideological spectrum. He cant govern from the left or he will ensure a GOP White House victory in 2012. I dont buy that he threw the base under the bus. He needed to get something signed.

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Washington, DC: Here is what I don't understand. Why do reporters, anchors, and opinion columnists go on TV and say things that are verifiably false, but none of their colleagues point it out?

Examples:

1. Eric Cantor is the only person to receive death threats: False. At a minimum the same people played death threats to Bart Stupak a week earlier.

2. The person that threatened Eric Cantor means the left has its fringe elements as well: False. The person that threatened Cantor had previously threatened Obama, Pelosi, and Reid, not to mention his roommate. Do you reporters just make assumptions? Shouldn't statements that are assumptions be characterized as such? (sure there are people from the left out of bounds, but this isn't one of them).

I don't understand how fact checking has become so passe? Has the 24 hour media seriously diminished serious journalists willingness to verify before reporting?

Lois Romano: well those are false statements. but who said them? Not every news organization I assume. and the left does have a fringe. But you are right in that this case doesnt support that fact.

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London, UK: Why has Obama adopted the "Drill, Baby, Drill" philosophy? It seems like an obvious snub to his base and ammunition for critics who remember how Gov. Palin's energy policy, literally the same as the new Obama policy, was excoriated as The Worst Idea EVAR. Is there some pragmatic political reason for the U-turn, or are Democrats finally realizing that maybe exploring domestic energy supplies might be worthwhile?

Lois Romano: Obama tried to craft a compromise that satisfied moderates who he needs to get a climate bill this year.

He actually cancelled some leases and refused to allow drilling in Bristol Bay. The vast majority of people want the US to have more energy independence-- and the administration wanted to signal that it was in tune with the populace.

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Boston: Responding to 2010/2012, who feels the Obama administration has thrown the left under a bus. I'm a member of the far left and I couldn't disagree more...I'll vote for him again with enthusiasm.

Really, if our own side is trying to sink the President's chances for success (which is what this sounds like), this country is in worse shape than I thought. The left should stop complaining about being 'thrown under the bus' and get ON the bus...'cause as far as I'm concerned, it's a GREAT trip so far.

Lois Romano: thanks for the comment.

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Washington, DC: Non-serious question: barackobama.com/OFA is now selling t-shirts that read Health Reform is a BFD

Is this the first time that "F" has been used in a slogan for a major campaign fundraising org like this? I guess there are serious questions related to this - such as whether there'll be a backlash, or if this implies the administration is at ease with the way Biden chooses to express himself - but IDC, I'm too busy ROFLing to GAF.

Lois Romano: now thats a good question. I couldnt tell you if its the first time or if it will have a backlash. But I bet you a quarter that it will sell a ton of shirts.

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Flip Flop?: Refresh my memory -- didn't Obama campaign AGAINST drilling offshore?

Lois Romano: he didnt not campaign against it.

from WP, August 1, 2008:

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Sen. Barack Obama suggested he could accept an expansion of offshore oil drilling today if it is in a broader package of energy measures that would free the logjam on energy bills in Congress.

"My interest is in making sure we've got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices," Obama said in an interview with The Palm Beach Post.

"If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage -- I don't want to be so rigid that we can't get something done."

Republicans have consistently said they could craft legislation that would expand oil exploration on the outer continental shelf without jeopardizing delicate shoreline habitats. But Democratic leaders in Congress have been ardently opposed. Environmental groups, a key constituency, have been unyielding in their opposition.

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Rocklin, CA: Lois, yes the left has a fringe. But have you ever heard of a left wing militia group? Also, everyday on cable news mistatements are made by guests and hosts. Amazingly they are all considered experts on every subject. However, I rarely hear corrections made either at the time of the mistatement or later.

Lois Romano: how old are you? Every hear of the weathermen underground in the 60s? ok- so not militia-- but violent nonetheless.

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Rockville, Maryland: Some who oppose off shore drilling are making the case that President Obama should not make concessions to the Republicans until they get something in return. This "confidence building" does not make sense to them.

I wish they would apply the same thoughts to Israel, when they want all the settlements closed now. Before the peace conference and the important negotiations.

Lois Romano: It does seem pretty hard t get any concessions anywhere in this political environment. max baucus worked the GOP for months on health care-- and in the end got nothing. but hopes springs eternal.

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Baltimore, MD: In regards to the Tea Party, do they have any legitimate concerns or are they simply whipped up people believing lies and distortions?

Lois Romano: They have legitimate concerns-- about the deficit and expenditiures-- the same concerns many americans have. But they are still whipping people into a frenzy which can be counterproductive and backfire on them.

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Princeton, NJ: Regarding the left, I stand slightly to the right of Leon Trotsky, but I support the President. I was extremely disappointed in HCR where the real facts never got discussed, eg other industrialized countries get better health care at HALF the cost. I am also bitter about the loss of our civil liberties, but hey! Look at the alternative.

Lois Romano: Thanks. What is the alternature for the lefties who are anrgy with Obama? Stay home and not vote. Thats doesn't seem like a solution. Vote against their interests for the other party? As I said earlier, governing is very complicated. He is not just dealing with a bunch of opposing politicians --but the will of the people.

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Washington, DC: Now that I'm done ROFLing, I do have a serious question! But on another topic. Is there a reason why militia groups get referred to as "militia groups" by the press, and not "domestic terrorist groups?" It's an honest question, I'm not sure what the distinction is. Is it the size/networking of the group that makes it a militia rather than a terrorist group?

Lois Romano: There is a distinction. Many militia groups may also be domestic terrorist organizations, but they are specific paramilitary organizations that sprung up after Waco, and promote a right to bear arms. They are not all domestic terrorists.

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They have legitimate concerns-- about the deficit and expenditiures: But where were these people hiding since 1980 when the debt as a percentage of GDP started to rise under Reagan and continued to rise under Republicans, but dipped under Clinton.

I hate to say it, but I believe race is a factor.

Lois Romano: Im not so sure about that. I have always believed that republicans were much better at whipping the public into a frenzy with a strong message. Democrats could have made hay over the the Bush administrations spending and deficit-- but never came up with strong message that would stick.

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Stay home and not vote: Yes. That is a strategy. Most Americans stay home and not vote. They're expressing their vote: NONE OF THE ABOVE.

You may not like it; it might offend your beltway sensitivities; but it is a vote.

And one that shouts out for basic change to our political system.

Lois Romano: Sorry, but it never works. That's just a cop out.

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Brooklyn, NY: I don't understand something about the RNC bondage club reimbursement... The guy who submitted the reimbursement for the $2k sex club expense is not an employee, just a donor. Is this typical that political committees will reimburse expenses by donors? What's the point?

Further, the guy only apparently donated $10k, but he's getting a huge chunk of that paid back to him (and maybe more that wasn't noteworthy). This seems like some weird sort of money laundering scam or something. Why would the RNC pay money back to it's donors?

Lois Romano: He had a working credit card so an RNC employee asked him for a favor- to put it on his card with the promise of a reimbursement. Thats how it has been explained.

The question, of course, is why the staffer took donors to this club in the first place.

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Lois Romano: Thank you all for checking in today. Its always fun to talk to people who know and understand the process. Please come back!

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