Obama heckled, financial regulation reform, more -- Post Politics Hour

At a campaign fundraiser for Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, President Obama faced a group of hecklers demanding to know what he was doing to get rid of the "don't ask don't tell" policy that prevents gays from serving openly in the military.
Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 20, 2010; 11:00 AM

Post staff writer Perry Bacon Jr. took your questions about who is up and who is down in the world of politics and the latest news out of Washington.


Perry Bacon Jr.: Good morning. Welcome to the chat.



Bristow, Va.: As with the President, I feel that term-limits are needed in Congress.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I always say elections are term limits, but the power of incumbency is tough to shake. On the other hand, California has term limits, a strong argument against them.


Arlington, VA: It seems the Republicans have decided to vote "No" in unison on any financial regulation bill. They want to go into November portraying it as another bailout. Are there bailout funds included in the bill? Will this strategy work for the Republicans? It seems voting "No" for healthcare will help them at the polls; will the same go for financial regulation?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think some Republicans (Corker, Collins, Snowe) will defect on this issue. Just my sense of it. I think the health care issue worked for the GOP because it fit into their big spending, big government themes. I don't know if regulatory reform works quite the same way.


Everytown, USA: It seems as if the politics chats get about 3:1 questions asking about policy versus politics, and an inverse number of political versus policy answers. Do you think this is because, as Kurtz argues, you are all on the 'politics' beat, and that is where your head is? Or is it because, as I argue, that horse-race answers are intellectually lazy, and most political reporters can't understand why regular people care about policy?

Why isn't being an actual expert on the policy being discussed a prerequisite to discuss the politics of something? Being an "expert" on politics is like discussing the referees without once mention what type of sport is being played.

Perry Bacon Jr.: This is an interesting question. I think there is something to being an "expert" in politics, so I wouldn't dismiss that. I learn when I read Dan Balz or watch Chuck Todd on tv or read Peter Baker. Things happen in Congress in part because of politics, and sometimes reporters who have spent months with say the Blue Dogs can explain those things better than reporters who specialize in derivatives.

I am a political reporter, but care a lot about policy and I suspect this is not unique. I would say that understanding say, why Republicans opposed the health care bill, does not require a lot of expertise on health care.


Helena, Montana: Why doesn't Obama have a good advance team that can screen the audience and make sure nobody gets in who poses a threat to heckle him? I thought we Americans no longer heckle our presidents.

Perry Bacon Jr.: A. I don't know if hecklers wear tee-shirts declaring themselves as such. B. heckling occasionally produces interesting responses from pols.


New York: To answer Arlington, VA: Read Ezra Klein's column today. Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who helped write the bill, says there are no bailout provisions. The press has a responsibility to make this clear. Thanks.

washingtonpost.com: Ezra Klein : There is no 'bailout fund'

Perry Bacon Jr.: Ezra Klein is part of the press, right?


Tampa, FL: Think Crist will run as an independent? I think he'd get a lot of Dem votes, as many Dems (including myself) view Meek as having no chance to beat Rubio. We'd realize that a vote for Meek would be a vote for Rubio, and we'd vote for Crist.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I am not sure. I do think Meek is not widely known and there is room for Crist. What we don't know is 1. If his small amount of GOP support vanishes if/when the party strongly distances himself from Crist and Rubio is getting all of the 45% of the Florida voters who are generally Democratic or 2. if Crist can raise money as an indy. (Crist, while well-known in the state, is not Joe Lieberman in the sense of representing a tiny state where he very high name ID)


Salinas, CA: "Why Republicans opposed the health care bill does not require a lot of expertise on health care."

Hence, oppose every Obama initiative based on political considerations rather than policy. The GOP calculation appears to be that each governance win by the current administration is a step further away from taking back Congress and the White House.

Who's the loser in that proposition?

Perry Bacon Jr.: Not exactly. I make this point often, but let me refer to someone else on it. This is Nancy Pelosi, interviewed last April by E.J. Dionne

"I give Republicans credit for this: They vote the way they believe. . . . I think that they vote with more integrity than they get credit for." She added, ""If you can't find common ground, that doesn't mean you're partisan," she said. "It just means you believe two different things."

I think the GOP views every win by the administration as a step away from how they view the country should be run.


"The press has a responsibility to make this clear. Thanks.": No matter how much the press extols the truth that two plus two equals four, some people just won't believe it--they will choose to believe what they will. Birthers, people who are convinced that Obama is building labor camps, etc., won't be persuaded by any amount of fact.

I put more blame on the incendiary politicians and public figures who spout the nonsense to begin with and then fan the flames--people like Palin ("death panels"), McConnell ("bailout fund"), Bachmann ("reeducation camps").

Perry Bacon Jr.: I'm going to suggest another group that deserves some blame: the public. Americans spend a lot of time shopping for cars, in line for I-pads, etc. But the number of people who don't know who the chief justice of the Supreme Court is or the name of their member of Congress is really high. Politicians, I would say this on both sides, wouldn't make so many misleading claims if they knew voters would bother to check them out. There is more information out there than ever, not only articles like what we do in the Post, but factcheck.org and cites like that, where you can verify claims. That people believe misleading things suggests A. they don't want the facts or B. they aren't interested in looking them up.


Providence, RI: Now that David Gregory exposed Frank Luntz's memo and Mitch McConnell's subsequent use of the term "bailout" in describing the financial reform bill, do you think they'll try to come up with another strategy? Or will this stick, sort of like the 'death panels' in the heath care bill? Thanks.

Perry Bacon Jr.: Not clear if Republicans are determined to oppose this at all costs or not. During the health care process, it became clear Republicans would object to a provision (say public option) and then when that was removed, object to another provision. I think this fund may end up being stripped from the bill. I don't know if that guarantees Republican support.

Let me make a controversial argument now. Is it really news that politicians refer to pollsters' arguments? I think we know the Democrats talked about pre-existing conditions all the time and the 45 million without insurance very little because pollsters told them voters don't care that much about the uninsured. I would focus more on whether the "bailout" argument is true and less on where it came from.


The Plan: I mean everyone in the press (and unfortunately, we both know that on these chats that often means the ubiquitous silliness that is cable entertainment) has read the Luntz document that McConnell and other GOP demagogues quote like the Bible right?

Perry Bacon Jr.: He writes lots of these memos. (And yes, we in the press have read them) And to be honest, some of these arguments are not exactly brilliant. Calling something a "bailout" is not popular right now; is that rocket science?


Re: Helena: Hey I'm a Obama supporter, don't think DADT is be-all, end-all, but I think it is great that the President got heckled and I think it should happen more often...to presidents from both parties. That is the beauty of democracy!

Perry Bacon Jr.: I like when the president gets asked questions that are not expected. I don't want speeches to be interrupted that way all the time, but politics is often quite scripted.


Pittsburgh: So the GOP wants to depict the finance regulation bill as just another "bailout." But can't Democrats just as convincingly accuse those Republicans of opposing the reining-in of a Wall Street that brought on the economic crisis of 2008? And how many American voters (including Independents) truly favor letting Wall Street run amok some more?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I"m still waiting for the Democratic obstructionist argument to actually connect with voters who are not already liberal Democrats. Republicans have been opposing everything to great success for months.


Cedar Crest, New Mexico: "I think the GOP views every win by the administration as a step away from how they view the country should be run. " That a bit disingenuous, Perry. You really think 100% of Congressional Republicans thought the HRC was bad for the country? I find that hard to believe given that many of the HRC ideas came from the Republican plan of 1993-4, Romney's HCR plan, and their own amendments. Their oppostion was genuine for some, but definately not 100%.

Perry Bacon Jr.: 100% of Republicans. Maybe not. But Republicans controlled Congress and the White House from 2001-06. Their proposals for health care were largely expanded health savings accounts. Not many Republicans in Congress are for expanding Medicaid vastly as the bill does. I do think most Republicans had ideological reasons to oppose the bill.


Rockville: I argue with people in front of my grocery store who want term limits. They are basically anti-democratic and have little patience for the political process. If someone does good, why not keep them? If you want to win office -- why not have a good idea and not ride in just because the other person can't run again?

Perry Bacon Jr.: An interesting point.


San Francisco, Ca. : Who do you think has been more quantitatively dishonest in their public pronouncements this year, Republicans or Democrats?

Perry Bacon Jr.: W "Bailout" "government takeover" etc. to me is just rhetoric. I could call 15 million people going on Medicaid "expanded health insurance" or "more government involvement in in the health care system." Death panels really aren't in the health care bill, something I think is different, and I cant' recall any Democratic figure making a similar claim not really rooted in reality.


...deserves some blame: the public: I whole-heartedly agree with you: This is why I always laugh whenever I hear the press and especially politicians make the comment (around election time) about how smart the public is and they seem to always know what to do (how to vote). For the most part I believe they have little to no clue.

Perry Bacon Jr.: Not really what I said. I don't think the public is clueless. I do worry we pin too much of the blame on politicians and the press to almost force people to learn more about politics, but I think for most Americans, politics is something they are occasionally interested in.


Indianapolis, Indiana: I say that politics wins out over policy because politics (like town halls and demonstrations) look better on TV then hearings and discussions.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think policy is covered within coverage of politics, there are joined in many ways.


Perry Bacon Jr.: Thanks for the questions folks.



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