Post Politics Hour

Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 6, 2010; 11:00 AM

Post congressional reporter Paul Kane was online Thursday, May 6 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest news from Washington.


Paul Kane: Good morning folks. How is everyone on this wonderful spring morning here in DC? So many issues dominating the news these days -- everything from terrorism to immigration to oil spill/climate change, and of course the never-ending debate on Wall Street reform.

Not to mention, a new DEMON SHEEP ad in the California Senate race.

This one from the Dems, an echo of the Carly Fiorina ad that got so much odd buzz last year.

OK, on to the questions. -pk


SCOTUS Nominee: Announcement next week, right?

Paul Kane: I'm an outlier on this one. I know my colleagues Shear and Barnes have in their piece this morning a note that Biden is out of the country and that therefore signals this won't happen till next week.

I personally think we're all gonna wake up to notes in our BlackBerrys around 7 am saying that AP is reporting that an announcement will come by 10 am. It's just a feeling. I can't say for certain this is the case. I just think that they've already made up their minds. Obama has already interviewed all these finalists for the previous vacancy. He already knows which one of them was the one he liked 2nd best last time. The decision's made. It's just a matter of deciding when to make the announcement.

Tomorrow? Or Monday?

Fyi -- Pat Leahy has cleared his schedule from tomorrow morning all the way through Monday. He's not going home to Vermont this weekend, he told us. Why? He won't say. I think that's because he plans to be on the Sunday shows talking up the new nominee. I could be wrong.


Evanston, Ill.: Is it just me or do you find Illinois senatorial candidate Alexi Giannoulias and North Carolina senatorial candidate Cal Cunningham look alike?

Paul Kane: Let's let the public decide:




A great week to have you back: Let's start with this great quote from 72 year-old Rep. Obey on one of the key reasons for his retirement:

"...I have to ask myself how I want to spend the time I have left. Frankly, I do not know what I will do next. All I do know is that there has to be more to life than explaining the ridiculous, accountability destroying rules of the Senate to confused, angry, and frustrated constituents."

Huzzah and hallelujah! But what can we do to make the Senate a functioning organization, and will it be done?

Paul Kane: First of all, he's 71. He turns 72 fairly soon.

But I was in the Obey presser yesterday for this, and that comment brought out lotsa laughs from his current and former staff who were assembled in the Appropriations Committee hearing room for an emotional farewell.

Obey is one of a kind. Actually, he wasn't one of a kind, there were plenty like him back in the day. But we're losing these folks, through retirement, through defeat, through death. I'm not saying the Congress is a better place with the likes of Ted Stevens and Jack Murtha.

I'm saying it was a different place.


Washington, D.C.: New jobs report is released tomorrow morning. Conventional wisdom seems to be that the report will show fairly strong growth. Good news for Obama and the Democrats?

Paul Kane: Any jobs report that is showing growth is good for Obama. Period.

There's a diminishing returns aspect for congressional Dems. They need real, sustained job growth asap. They can't wait till Columbus Day to see really good job growth, because by then the dye will have been cast in most voters' minds.

They need job growth now.


Eugene, Ore.: If Elena Kagan get the nomination for the SCOTUS, who do you will play her in the SNL skits of the senate confirmation hearings?

My pick is comedian Kevin James.

Tell me Kevin James and Elena Kagan don't look alike?

Paul Kane: Aw, that's terrible. But I like the question.

You know who will not be happy if Kagan is the nominee? Arlen Specter. You might remember that in January and February 2009 the republican ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee was Specter, and he put up a serious fight against her nomination as solicitor general. He opposed her in committee and voted against her on the Senate floor.

Now, flash forward, he's a Democrat trying to prove his Dem bona fides in a tightening primary that's 12 days away. A Kagan nomination to the Supremes would be one more way for Sestak to remind voters of Arlen's prior life.

PS -- I'm likely gonna be on the ground in Pittsburgh tomorrow and Saturday following the 2 candidates around. So look for a story on that race late next week. Anyone have recommendations for good food in Pittsburgh?


Hawaii Special Election: Assuming that the two Democrats end up splitting the vote and the Republican wins, is this really such a big deal as some are making it out to be? Aren't the Democrats very likely to win the seat back in November?

Paul Kane: The Fix and I went back and forth on this one yesterday. Here's the deal, the special election in PA-12 to fill Jack Murtha's seat is the bigger deal. For sure, because it's a 1-on-1 race and because the campaign themes are very much national in their nature.

But remember, if Republicans win the Murtha race on May 18, that makes Hawaii a much bigger deal. Because it's 2 special elections in a row, and if Dems lose both, they will have lost a ton of momentum that they picked up in passing health-care.

Flash back to 2008, May 2008. Within 9 days of each other, Dems won special elections in LA-6 and MS-1, 2 very conservative districts that had not been held by Dems in something like 50 combined years or so. The victory in the Baton Rouge district was probably a bigger deal, because there was a liberal 3rd party candidate in the race, holding down the Dem nominee to 49%, allowing an inferior GOP candidate to come close to pulling off the win.

But the Dem won, and that story ended up inside the newspaper.

When the Dem won in northern Mississippi 9 days later, it was treated like the biggest news possible. Len Downie, our editor at the time, tore up A1 to bury the latest development in the Obama-Clinton primary, and instead led the entire paper with the story of a Dem winning the special in Mississippi. Why was it a bigger deal? Because it came second.

That's the Hawaii impact. If Rs win PA-12, look out Hawaii.


Poplar Bluff, MO: Paul thanks for the chat. I have two questions today. First, who do you like to the the next PM in the U.K.? Second, do you think there will be fewer instances of fans running on to the field during a Phillies game?

Paul Kane: I've been to London once, all of 4-5 great days last August. (Caught U2 at Wembley. Man, what a show. You really need to see U2 in Europe, particularly Dublin or London, to understand the idol worship they get over there. Like seeing Bruce in Jersey.)

Ok, so my point is, I've no clue who's gonna win. But this much is certain: Gordon Brown is simply not liked. People hate him. They hated him last August, and they hate him now. If he loses and finishes 3rd, it's not because he called some woman a 'bigot' on a live mic. It's because the British voters can't stand him and that moment reinforced for them why they can't stand him.

As for fans on the field, I think the 2nd fan running on the field mid-pitch for Hamels -- as he was going for the complete-game shutout -- probably assured that the joke was over. The 1st one, that 17-yr-old kid, he became something of a martyr. The 2nd guy, he nearly cost us a game against the Cards. I think people get it now. Joke's over. Move on. Get back to booing the opposing pitchers, folks.


food in Pittsburgh: Go to the Strip District (NOT what it sounds like.) Lots of good stuff there, plus a good place to ask the locals for their advice.

Paul Kane: OK, I'm not sure if I trust this suggestion or not. Does sound pretty slim shady to me.


Outraged, DC: I am outraged and surprised by the lack of an uproar over the calls to deny Miranda rights or strip citizenship from a US citizen who is accused of a crime. Putting aside for a moment that he hasn't been convicted of anything (can you guys spell lynch mob?) the same document that guarantees him the right to a fair trial, that gives him Miranda rights, is the same document that you all rely on for the right to print whatever you want. It's called the Constitution and these people who want to deny a citizen his rights have sworn to uphold it. Why isn't the Post even mentioning that these rights are guaranteed to all citizens? The thing that keeps us free is the free press. Do your job!

Paul Kane: Actually, let me give you the take of a former DOJ prosecutor who now works up on the Hill. Yes, he's a Republican, but this is his explanation for Miranda things. And he's right.

There is no "right" to be read your Miranda rights. All it means is, if prosecutors want to introduce into evidence anything you tell them, it must have come after you've been read your Miranda rights.

So, what the John McCains of the world are trying to say -- and, I'd say, doing a very poor job of it -- what they're saying is, hey, the guy in Detroit tried to blow up a plane. There are 200 or so witnesses who saw him try to blow up the plane. He lit his crotch on fire. People in the plane tackled him, held him down. You actually have as evidence the bomb wrapped around his crotch.

You've got all the possible evidence you'll ever possibly need to convict the guy.

Don't Miranda him up, don't give him a lawyer. Keep him talking, interrogate him to find out more stuff about his terror networks. Don't worry about the prosecution, that's gonna be open and shut. Just focus on getting info from him. Sure, none of the info he tells you in this non-Miranda discussion will be used at trial. But a good prosecutor won't need that info anyway. But the CIA might need that info.

That's what McCain has been trying to say.


Food in PGH: Whaddaya like? Pamela's for breakfast, Rose Tea Cafe for Taiwanese, Tessaro's for burgers, Sushi Kim for Korean, Alexander's for Italian, Pipers Pub for everything else (best scotch selection in PA).

AVOID Primanti Bros.- it's the equivalent of Pat's/Geno's in PHL or Ben's in DC- a place built on an outsized brand, and only tourists go there.

Paul Kane: I'm kind of a VIP at Ben's, so I resent any bad mouthing of that place.

But your point is otherwise noted. Thanks for the suggestions.

And some may wonder, if you're a regular in this chat, how do I not know anything about Pittsburgh? I'm from Pennsylvania and I know nothing about Pittsburgh?


The only time I've ever spent there was an over-night during the Obama-Clinton primary, the night before the April 2008 Pennsylvania primary. And frankly, I was inside the bubble, so I just didn't really see the Iron City at all.


Bloomington, Ind.: David Plouffe, David Axelrod, Tim Kaine and other bigwig Democrats are telegraphing their 2010 mid-term electoral strategy and it's very positive with getting the female, non-white and youth vote.

But are the Democrats doing anything to kept likely Republicans at home by demoralizing them? In my own life, I've talked with folks who say they're voting Republican and I ask, "Have you already forgotten George W. Bush?" and and it's weird. They didn't connect Republican and George W. Bush until I said something.

Paul Kane: People have short memories, what else can be said.

Back to your point. It's very hard to "demoralize" the base of the opposition. Rove-Mehlman-Gillespie didn't demoralize the left in 2004. Heck, John Kerry that year received more votes than any Democrat in the history of our fine republic. More than Gore in 2000, more than Clinton ever imagined getting.

So liberals were not demoralized.

But the right was incredibly ginned up.


Las Vegas: What are the odds you're giving that Harry Reid doesn't make it to the election evening party? That would include primary, general, news flash resignation, alien abduction.

Dreams are made of hopes. And odds.

Paul Kane: Do you mean that he's going to stand down and let someone else run in his stead?

I don't think there's much, if any, chance of that right now. The circumstances with Dodd, and Torricelli in 2002, were that there was someone else waiting in the wings who could turn certain defeat into near-certain victory. So in came Blumenthal, and in came Lautenberg (to replace the Torch).

In Nevada, no such Democrat exists. Maybe someone can find Richard Bryan, the former governor and former senator, and coax him into it.

But that would almost never happen. Because Reid and Bryan highly disliked each other when they served together. Then again, Torch and Lautenberg openly and publicly threatened each other's lives, and Frank eventually got Bob's Senate seat.

So anything can happen. I guess. Don't you just love the United States Senate?


Fairfax, VA: Good quote from Obey. Supposedly new House members are told by veteran members that the Republicans (or Democrats) are the opposition, but the Senate is the enemy.

Paul Kane: Indeed they are.

The Senate is a quirky place. But, honestly, I love it.


Strip District: Think the Italian Market, Paul, only there aren't burn barrels in the MIDDLE OF THE STREET. Great seafood/Asian/Italian places, and three awesome b-fast joints: a Pamela's location, DeLuca's, and JoJo's (Johnny Apple's favorite- the omlettes are enormous).

Paul Kane: Ok, the Strip District is definitely a winner among Pittsburgh folks who know what they're talking about. Can't wait to report back to y'all on how it was.


Pittsburgh: Those infamous sandwiches with the French fries and cole slaw thrown in are higly overrated. Avoid them like the plague, in the interests of your digestive tract!

Paul Kane: Back on the PA Senate race:

Be sure to read The Fix's new take on Sestak going really negative against Arlen. It's a powerful ad. Frankly, I'm surprised they waited till 12 days before the vote to roll out this ad.


PGH finds: There's a world beyond the Susquehanna, Paul- you should check it out sometime. For PGH, go to the Southside if you want to get your drink on (you JUST might run into a certain local QB and his entourage).

Oh, and how can one get VIP status at Ben's? Because the rest of us are treated like peons.

Paul Kane: If I told you how I became a quasi-VIP, I'd have to kill you.


"Heck, John Kerry that year received more votes than any Democrat in the history of our fine republic.": Until President Obama, you mean.

Paul Kane: Indeed.

Obviously, Obama won more votes than any man, woman or child has ever won in these here United States of America.

But on that point, about demoralizing the other side. Think about how demoralized the conservatives were. All that had gone wrong for them.

Well, there are your vote totals. You know what? John McCain got more votes than any Republican ever, except for W. in '04. So what some might consider a demoralized base, others will simply consider an energized base on the other side.


Baton Rouge, LA: The victory in the Baton Rouge district was probably a bigger deal, because there was a liberal 3rd party candidate in the race, holding down the Dem nominee to 49%, allowing an inferior GOP candidate to come close to pulling off the win. But the Dem won, and that story ended up inside the newspaper.

What about the fact that Don Cazayoux, the Dem who won the special election, lost the regular election a few months later? How'd that momentum work for him? Each election is different and comes down to each individual candidate. All this talk of momentum and winning the news cycle is a beltway fabrication.

Paul Kane: Yes, Caz lost in the general election and he's now the US attorney for that region. (Or maybe he's still waiting to be confirmed, but he's at least been nominated.)

But the combination of those special elections was a strong foreboding of what lay ahead for Republicans, and that was a second straight Election Day of lose more than 20 seats. What those 2 elections showed in May 2008 was that Dems could play anywhere. Anywhere. And eventually they did play just about everywhere.

That's what Rs are looking at in Hawaii. How high a % can Djou get, can he clear 40%? Because if he can, that's a sign of the times, because Neil Abercrombie's opponents never cleared 40%.


Arlington, VA: I assure you, I have not been living in a cave these last 6 or 7 years, but just the other day, I watched a YouTube clip of Howard Dean's infamous war cry, the one that lost him popular sentiment--and it was the first time I'd ever seen it.

I repeat, I have NOT been living in a cave the last 6 or 7 years!

But after seeing it, I couldn't help but be disappointed. What I saw was a quick, jubilant, "Woooooo!" When what I was expecting was a long, bellowing outcry that would have made Sam Kinison proud.

Paul Kane: Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know what to say to this person. How have you NEVER seen the Dean scream?

In case there are others who've missed out on a great, iconic American moment:

For what it's worth, the scream part is over rated. What isn't over rated was the crazy theme of what he was saying. His campaign was imploding, and he was acting as if nothing was wrong.


takoma park: die will have been cast (like one of two dice).

Paul Kane: We've no spell check/editors in these chats!


Minneapolis: Speaking of the Senate - as a Minnesotan, I have to say I just Love our two Senators; Kloubachar, Franken. That's all.

Paul Kane: Huh. You don't hear that too often.

for what it's worth, Franken's low profile approach to being a senator is interesting. It's almost as if he's doing everything possible not to make news, to be so serious that he's not newsworthy.

At a certain point I keep expecting him to just blow up: "I can't take it anymore, I'm not myself. Time for a stand-up routine!"


Plattsburgh, N.Y.: After the 2010 Federal Census is done, which state are you most interested in to see how redistricting will happen within?

This is a test of just how much of a political junkie you really are.

Paul Kane: Well, your state, frankly. You guys in NY look to be losing 1 seat, as our my people in PA.

It's a continuing erosion of seats away from the northeast/midwest, and down to the Sunshine Belt.

Some things are already set in stone. That LA-6 seat I was talking about, the Caz race, well, apparently the Louisiana black caucus of state legislators has its eye on that seat, and it's expected to be carved up in a way that will make it highly likely to be an African-American who wins it in 2012.

In Jersey, things could get really interesting. They've made bipartisan deals in the past, giving a little to Ds here and a little to Rs there, pure incumbency protection. To the point that only 1 of the 13 districts is competitive. Now, they're going to lose a seat.

How do they carve up the remaining districts without making everyone nervous?


Miranda Rights: So, in McCain's fantasy world, what information would we have that we don't because we "mirandized" the Christmas Day guy and the Times Square guy? I think we need to get over the idea that terrorists are super-duper warriors greater than the combined forces of WWII Germany and Japan when in fact they are more like the hapless Pakistani who didn't even understand that propane tanks aren't likely to explode with firecracker detonators. We are terrorizing ourselves with this fantasy rather than the reality.

Paul Kane: Look, I'm just telling you what the Republicans are thinking. I'm not taking sides here.


Reston, VA/Middleton WI: Obey:

How many pillars of the House like Obey are left? I understand the argument that these old guys can get stale in their thinking and politics, but Obey really is one of a kind. Before the '08 elections I listened to him debate his Republican opponent on northern Wisconsin radio and he just eviscerated the guy and made him eat his talking points -- it was an amazing contrast between Obey's experience and his challenger's lack of it.

Paul Kane: Honestly, think about the Old Bulls on the Dem side, and there just aren't many left. Here's a rundown of bad things that have happened to Old Bulls since Obama's victory in '08:

* Bob Byrd, relinquishes appropriations committee chairmanship because he's just too old (Nov. '08)

* John Dingell, loses House commerce chairmanship in a battle with Waxman (Nov. '08)

* Ted Kennedy, RIP. (Aug. '09)

* Jack Murtha, RIP. (Feb. '10)

* Charlie Rangell, forced out as Ways and Means chairman over ethics. (March, '10)

* Obey, announces his retirement yesterday.

Now, let's be clear. Dan Inouye, roughly 86 years old, is not a spring chicken and he's Byrd's replacement. Same goes for 70-something Waxman, replacing Dingell.

But they don't carry the same weight, don't carry themselves in the same manner.

I really think that's it. There simply aren't any old school old bulls left anymore.

Max Baucus? No. Carl Levin? Eh. Sandy Levin? No way.


Re Hawaii: After the special election, is there a primary for the fall election and will the Democrats most likely win back the seat?

Paul Kane: Yes, Dems will be favored to win the general election in the fall. The primary for that will take place in September. If Djou wins, the 2 Democrats are likely to go at each other again in the primary for the right to take on Djou.

If 1 or the other Dem wins, then he/she will likely have a clear field.


Census results and loss of Congressional seats: So what happens when the current Census results demand a state loses a Congressional seat? How does one go about determining what district goes bye-bye?

Paul Kane: There's reapportionment -- which is at the federal level and sets the level of congressional seats for each state -- and then there's redistricting.

Once each state knows how many seats it has, the legislature there carves up the map to create the districts. Each state has its own system. Some set up a bipartisan commission to do this.

Iowa is generally regarded as the best state, the most non-partisan, the least gerrymandered state.


Paul Kane: Alright folks. Time for me to check out and get ready for the big trip to Pittsburgh. I'll be back here in this spot 2 weeks from now, and wow, that's going to be right after Super Tuesday, the May 18 slate of primaries.

So we'll have lots to talk about then.

Until we meet again, go Phillies.



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