Post Politics Hour

Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 17, 2010; 11:00 AM

The Post's Perry Bacon Jr. took your questions about the latest political news and previews the week ahead.


Perry Bacon Jr.: I"m in Kentucky for the Rand Paul race, as well as the Democratic primary here. Looking forward to your questions.



Washington, D.C.: It seems that a lot of pundits are really hyping up tomorrow's elections, even going as far as labeling it "Super Tuesday." However, how likely is it that a clear picture of the electorate's mood will emerge from these elections?

Let's go with the most likely scenario: Critz (PA) wins, Specter (PA) loses, Paul wins (KY), Lincoln (AR) wins. What does this really tell us about November?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think you are right. It's not clear there is a single trend from these elections. Lincoln is fairly establishment and a veteran incumbent, Sestak serves in Congress. And I think Paul is anti-establishment, but also a symbol of something broader.


Alexandria, VA: Not to let the facts get in the way of a good story, but both TARP and the Stimulus Bill have been successful in terms of saving our financial system and providing the spark to turn around our economy out of recession. So, what is the fuel driving all these tea partiers? Just Republicans p'd off that their eight years of hands-off, laissez faire economics didn't work out so well?

Perry Bacon Jr.: TARP in particular was supported by both parties and has worked, so it's interesting how it has galvanized so much opposition. The anti-TARP feeling is not just from Tea Party people, Halter has been attacking Lincoln in Arkansas on this issue.


Florissant Valley,MO: Morning, Perry. here's a question about the END of the political season -- the day after the mid-term elections.

Any chance that the R's and D's, especially those who get voted out, might be willing to work together, in their final contribution to their legacy? They will have slimed each other for a year; might they not get some substantive work done in those six weeks or so before the new Congress sits? Thanks

Perry Bacon Jr.: I really don't expect so, and I'm honestly not sure they should. Should Bob Bennett, who Republicans have decided shouldn't be in the Senate, really cut a major deal on say Social Security in his last days in his office?

Also, whatever you think of the party divide, this Congress passed a major stimulus, a major health care bill, financial regulatory reform will pass, it's not clear the bickering has stopped action on Capitol Hill.


Tim Kaine, MIA?: Where in the world is DNC chair Tim Kaine? Is he the lowest-profile DNC chair ever? Can we hope he is working behind the scenes, or is he hiding out? With so many races up in the air, and so much controversy on every subject, where the heck is he?? I thought he was supposed to be the latest and greatest wunderkind?!

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think he has done a bunch of press conferences and is on television often. It's always difficult to break through when your party is in control of the White House and you are a party chair, the president and his team are the natural voices of the party (This is why Michael Steele, if he was more effective, could be a huge asset to Republicans, they don't have a single party leader)


Kettering: So is Spector toast since Obama is not helping in the last day?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think win, or lose, Specter's race is not about Obama, but about Specter and whether votes in Penn. trust him enough.


PA Special Election: What are the latest polls showing in the Critz-Burns race?

Perry Bacon Jr.: It's basically in the margin of error. We will see on Election Day.


Silver Spring: I'm confused about the whole "mama grizzlies" metaphor by Palin that's been covered so much in The Post. Palin calls Fiorina and other Republican candidates 'mama grizzlies'

Perry Bacon Jr.: I don't know if I get the metaphor myself. But it's Sarah Palin; a certain segment of voters will embrace it no matter what.


Delaware: Is Delaware really a big deal? I know psychologically, to the rest of the nation, it looks that way, but if there's one politician the people of Delaware like or respect as much as Joe Biden, it's Mike Castle, who's pretty moderate and mostly a classic Northeast Republican.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I don't think Delaware would symbolize much if Castle won, other than he is a good politician.


Pittsburgh: Sarah Palin told the NRA that President Obama would outlaw guns if he could. Earlier, she claimed that the health reform law would lead to formation of Death Panels.

At what point is someone -- a latterday Edward R. Murrow or Joseph Welch, perhaps? -- going to call her out for creating outright fiction?

Perry Bacon Jr.: Do you really think the world is lacking in people calling out Sarah Palin? I think a broader problem in our culture is there are fewer trusted voices; I'm not sure there is a Walter Cronkite-type figure today who people of all political beliefs listen to. More broadly, people don't trust just politicians less; they have less faith in the churches, the media, there is a broader lack of trust in institutions.


anonymous: Well congratulations on being at the Rand Paul race. Its really exciting the new possibilities in political races this midterm election. I just read an averaging poll that has Crist at 33.7% and Rubio at 33.7% ? What gives? Seems Crist is doing better than expected. Thanks.

Perry Bacon Jr.: Crist right now has stronger name ID in the state than Rubio and Meek, so that helps. But I think he can do well as an independent, so I"m not shocked by that result.


Arlington, VA: Did the administration's public complaints about the AZ immigration law come to a quick halt once the polls showed 73% of voters supported the law? Why didn't AG Holder's admission last week that he had not read the law (all 10 pages) before he issued dire warnings of racial profiling and other evils get more press?

Perry Bacon Jr.: I think the polls showing support for that law have had a real impact. Congress was not going to do anything about immigration this year anyway, but it seems to me the condemnation of Arizona has died down.


TARP, Stimulus et al.: Yeah, they saved the country, created the lowest tax rates in 60 years and cost very, very little, but there are big corporate funded astroturf groups out there who don't like that the Dems are in charge and getting good things done so lets trash them.

Look at the terrific debit card bill that passed last week. Ended a huge customer ripoff program banks have milked for years, why would "Real Americans" support that...I want my country back so that banks can go back to ripping me off with impunity.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I would submit TARP in particular is not a clean Democrat/Republican divide as you are asserting. the Tea Party movement, as well as some Democrats, are angry about something that was supported by George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The divide on TARP is in many ways more about elites versus the public than the two parties.


Mama grizzlies: I think they're like pit bulls with lipstick.

Perry Bacon Jr.: Nice.


Evanston, Illinois: Hey Perry, when is Elena Kagan going to do some reasonably lengthy sit down interviews? This is starting to feel like the post Palin nomination period where she refused interviews.

Perry Bacon Jr.: Supreme Court nominees almost never do interviews. She will take plenty of questions at her nomination hearings of course.


New Orleans, La.: TARP should offend every American. The rules of business dictated that the effected banks and AIG should have been put into bankruptcy. The fact that the rules didn't apply to the politically powerful is offensive. And, to those that say TARP worked, I think Rick in Casablanca said it best: "For a price Ugarte, for a price."

Perry Bacon Jr.: Well, here's the case against TARP, one many Americans agree with.


Baltimore MD: The thing with TARP is, it is easy to characterize it as a bailout for he banks that got us into this mess in the first place. It's not so easy to get the public to understand how close the global credit markets came to seizing up in 2008 and how that would have caused a worldwide depression is the asset relief program had not been put in place. Hence, it's easy to be against it, not so easy to be for it when you have to go to the voters.

One more point: I think the mainstream media Palin derides have made the cynical, but logical, decision to give her as much coverage as possible because it translates into viewers on TV, readers in print and click throughs online. And all that means revenue. She's the political equivalent of a baby stuck down a well.

Perry Bacon Jr.: I would you are about right on both counts. I would say the media should cover Palin not just for ratings though, she is a very powerful figure among conservatives.


Chattanooga, Tenn.: But it's Sarah Palin; a certain segment of voters will embrace it no matter what.

By 'no matter what', you really mean regardless of how incoherent, meaningless, or generally unintelligible her utterances, people will react as if they just listened to Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address. What does this say about the state of our politics today?

Perry Bacon Jr.: Not sure Palin's words are treated like Lincoln's but she has a certain following.


Philadelphia, PA: "I'm not sure there is a Walter Cronkite-type figure today who people of all political beliefs listen to."

Not sure that this can be helped with the profusion and decentralization of the media, and the greater inclination among people to view politics as an ultra-high-stakes sport. The tea partiers are not much different than the John Birchers back then (the ones who thought Eisenhower was a communist). The difference is that the media paid the Birchers no never mind. If only they had known then that their ratings would have been so much higher if they'd catered to the extreme right!

Perry Bacon Jr.: Or the extreme left?


Perry Bacon Jr.: Thanks for your questions folks.



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