Post Politics Hour

Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 17, 2010; 11:00 AM

Washington Post congressional correspondent Paul Kane was online Thursday, June 17 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest news about Congress and the White House.


Paul Kane: Good morning, folks. It's a beautiful spring morning here on Capitol Hill, where the female congressional press corps is basking in the glow of its come-from-behind victory over the female members of Congress in a surprisingly competitive softball game last night in the Glover Park section of DC. On hand in the crowd were SC Justice Sonia Sotomayor, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. On the field were Reps. Linda Sanchez -- who plays a wicked shortstop -- and double-play partner Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

The good guys -- er, the good ladies -- won, as the press corps stormed back to win 13-7 in 7 tense innings, led by the bats of Politico's Kasie Hunt and CNN's Dana Bash. The whole night raised nearly $5,000 to fight breast cancer. It was a great night, exactly the sort of thing that many anti-establishment folks would say is an example of the Washington media being too cozy with the lawmakers that they cover. If that's the case, we'll wear that charge with a badge of honor, because it was fun and competitive. And the media won!

Ok, enough touting my female cohorts in the press corps. On to the questions. -pk


Washington, DC: I would like to know if there is any EVIDENCE that Alvin Green is a "Republican plant" or whether this is just pure speculation and inference on the part of Democrats. Why, exactly, would Republicans waste their time "planting" a bad candidate against DeMint, who is going to win in any event? Same question for the equally ludicrious speculation that Republicans crossed over (which is perfectly legal in SC, anyway) to vote in the Democratic primary -- which would prevent them from voting in the contested Republican gubernatorial primary? I'm sorry, but all this speculation -- which your own newspaper is fanning -- has about as much credibility as the speculation over whether Palin "had work done."

Paul Kane: It's now been 9 days since Greene's surprising win in South Carolina, and not a shred of evidence has been presented to suggest that Republicans were behind this. In fact, the only "evidence" being offered is the fact that Greene won when he shouldn't have.

The South Carolina Democratic Party -- long run by the Fowler family -- has done a wonderful misdirection act, forcing people to look over there, look over there. Even if Greene was a plant, he STILL WON. The leaders of the state party should be offering their resignations out of how sad and pathetic their operation appears to be.


Thoughts from a small person: Just my two cents on the matter, but I don't see how BP can ever emerge from what has to be the ultimate PR nightmare that this oil spill has become. Investors are fleeing because BP stock is dropping, people are boycotting BP gas stations, and the BP chairman utters a flub ("small people") that the internet has made eternal. From a purely objective perspective, how can BP emerge from this at all?

Paul Kane: Never underestimate the power of billions and billions of dollars in cash reserves.

Toyota has survived the recall issue from earlier this year, and will probably emerge stronger than ever in a year or two. Exxon is still alive and well long after the Valdez matter. I think BP has a real short-term issue here, and it needs to figure out its legal exposure. But other companies facing similar tumult have survived and ultimately thrived.


South Carolina noname:

If I understand how the South Carolina primary works...its an open primary.

So the logical scenario of why this no-name won is because registered Republicans voted for this prop of a candidate to, in essence, give DeMitt an unopposed election.

If I understand that the Republican and Democratic primaries are on different days then that opens the door for people to double vote in each primary.

I live in Washington State. What concerns me about the top 2 system it has, and what the California voters passed that is similar to the Washington set up, is that you could have what happened in South Carolina where the second highest vote getter is in essence a prop candidate who really isn't running and allows the incumbent to in essence run unopposed. There could be some behind the scene deal making that in return for not running actively they will get some plum job (this would be especially be true if the top two are of the same party).

Paul Kane: There is absolutely no evidence bearing this point out, other than the bizarre, unsubstantiated claims of the loser camps. In fact, all evidence points to the contrary, that there were no cross-over Republicans voting in the Senate race.

That's the link to the state's election results. Scroll through all the races, and you'll see that there were 422,000 votes cast in the GOP gubernatorial primary, and there were about 191,000 votes cast in the Dem gubernatorial primary.

Voters could not pick and choose which races they voted for; they either had to vote Republican in each of the races, or Democrat in each of the races.

So, if there had been some odd GOP campaign to nominate Greene to benefit DeMint, there would have been a surprising uptick in votes in the Senate primary, an infusion of voters screwing around with the system. Instead, there was a drop-off of about 19,000 votes, about 10% fewer voters in the Senate primary for Democrats than there were for the gubernatorial primary.

Folks, there was no major conspiracy here. The reality is, Alvin Greene won that primary, period. There's still a big issue as to who funded him the $10,400 entry fee to get into the race, but plain and simple, he then won the race in a rout. It's bizarre, but that's the truth.


Arlington: Does Mike Castle have to worry about keeping the right-wing of the GOP in Delaware in line or is it smooth sailing for him as we move toward election day?

Paul Kane: Castle has a challenger from the right in the GOP primary, so he can't take anything for granted, as others have learned. (Sue Lowden, if you're reading this, that was meant as a shot directly at you.)

But the challenge from the right may actually help Castle, making him look more like the centrist in the race, a comfortable place for him to campaign in a state where the middle ground is basically the place you need to be as a Republican. Castle starts out as the clear favorite in the race, according to independent handicappers like Cook and Rothenberg, but there remains a chance that his Dem challenger Coons -- a young upstart New Castle County executive, the same sorta position a 29-yr-old Biden held in 1972 -- could cause problems for Castle. If this year turns into the anti-incumbent year so many believe it is.


Softball Competition: I don't mind the softball competition at all. What I do mind is the beach parties or the grilling at Sedona, Ariz., where the press corps socializes with the politicians they cover and then write stories that make them seem to be fanboys or fangirls of said politicians. I want a skeptical press and one that doesn't have personal friendships with the people they cover.

Paul Kane: By beach party, I assume you mean the Biden event.

Here's a write-up of it from a couple different view points:

Anyway, I attended the Biden beach thing. It was a blast. I loved it. It's the first semi-conversation I've had with Biden since late July '08, when he and I shared off-the-record gossip about whether Delaware would ever jump to Division I-A college football.

That same week I also attended an off-record dinner with a bunch of congressional Republicans.

Hang me.


Politics & Pong: Cilizza's got Politics and Pints. I think you should start doing Politics and (Beer) Pong. You could come to my fraternity and referee a beer pong tournament while asking us questions about obscure Congressmen/women.

Are you up for it? We'd be willing to waive the cover charge for you (but your date would have to pay).

Paul Kane: I'm definitely forwarding this suggestion to Cillizza. Love it. For what it's worth, my friends and I called it "Beirut", not beer pong. But that's probably an age thing, based on kids' memories of Beirut and the bombings.


Boulder, Colo.: Just curious, are Roxanne Conlin, who won the primary for Senate from Iowa, or Libby Mitchell, who also won her close primary and frontrunner to be the first female Governor of Maine, not getting more attention in the "Night of the Women" primaries?

Paul Kane: The thing about Conlin is, Democrats are not yet anxiously pushing her candidacy on the media, and I think it's a specific strategy. I think they want us -- and therefore Grassley and the NRSC -- to overlook her. I think they want her to sneak up on Grassley in late September, early October, and then get that race into a Coakley-Brown-type environment. Make it a 3-week sprint in which she just races past him as the fresh face of the moment and he's the stumbling, older incumbent.

So, yes, Conlin is getting overlooked, and I think that's in part an intentional strategy by the DSCC. As for Maine, well, I just apologize, because I've not covered that race at all and haven't thought much about its governor's mansion since John Baldacci (the first congressman I ever covered) left the Capitol to return to Maine.


St. Paul, Minn: Do you think former governor Sarah Palin's comment about the Pink Elephants on the march is now coming into a real possibility in November? With all the Republican women running for office, do you believe they have a strong chance of winning or not so much? Also, do you think Palin has inspired many of these women after her own success as being a governor and running as McCain's VP?

Paul Kane: I don't think any of these women running for office were specifically inspired by Palin. Sharron Angle, for instance, has been on the ballot every 2 years for 7 consecutive election cycles. She was running for office before Palin even ran for Wasilla City Council.

And Fiorina was eyeing this Senate race as far back as 2007, when she became McCain's adviser on economic policy.

I think this is an interesting phenomenon, in part coming to fruition based on John Cornyn's recruiting (he targeted Fiorina, Norton in Colo, Ayotte in NH) and in part to the ambitions of each of these women.


Challenging the narrative: So, it turns out most people are OK with the Arizona law (except, maybe, the illegals); yet the media continues to try to paint the picture that it's the worst thing to ever happen. Once again, reality doesn't jive with what the MSM chooses to believe- shocking!

Paul Kane: Yes, the latest ABC/WaPo poll shows most Americans supporting the tough approach to illegal immigrants. But in that amazing fashion, a majority also favors a comprehensive approach that would give illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship.

Go figure.


Bruuuuuuuuuce!: Have you ordered your copy of London Calling: Live in Hyde Park yet, Paul? Also, why is it so hard for Democrats to make the case about short-term deficits for things like unemployment insurance and aid to states? Aren't moderate Democrats just shooting themselves in the foot by functionally making the stimulus less effective since states will have to make cuts to balance budgets and the unemployed won't have money to spend?

Paul Kane: Yep, I did the pre-order for the Hyde Park DVD, but not for me. It's a gift for my friend Jena, who's celebrating her birthday today. Everyone wish her a happy birthday and, if you want, click on to this video. Just vintage Bruce:

As for the jobs vs. deficits fight, it's the big battle among Democrats right now. There are just a large bloc of Dems -- not just the Blue Dogs -- who believe that they've taken too many big votes, spent too many dollars so far, and that they need to start making spending cuts.

The thing is, every proposal that people put forward, the counter-argument is the same: Oh, what's $10 billion in savings when you're talking about $1 trillion deficits?

Well, if you add up all those proposals -- eliminating earmarks, cutting federal worker pay, eliminating the extra engine for the JSF -- pretty soon, you're getting close to $100 billion in savings.

Now we're talking real money.

But each of those plans has a constituency, and it's hard to make the cuts.


Maryland REPUBLICAN: I just don't get it....our President can't win! People complain that all he does is give good speeches. Now the same people are complaining that his speech Tuesday night wasn't delivered with enough emotion! Geez, people! Let the man do his job! Who among us can be effective when our every word is analyzed to this degree! There is too much work to do - be a part of the solution. If YOU can do it better, head south and DO IT! Stop quarterbacking from a distance. AND FELLOW REPUBLICANS - KNOCK IT OFF. WE ARE NOT HELPING OUR COUNTRY WITH THIS NASTY NONSENSE

Paul Kane: For what it's worth, I kinda called this react to the Tues night speech. I went to a couple co-workers on Monday and said, You know I'm kinda tired of seeing Obama in the gulf. And that's exactly what happened -- the cable TV yackers, who had spent weeks yelling at Obama to do more, just got tired of seeing him down there in the gulf, several days a week, and they just snapped.

That's how it seemed to me, that there was just an over-reaction to begin with in one direction, and an over-reaction in the other direction. The interesting thing is, on the 1 question of how is Obama handling the gulf crisis, his numbers are terrible.

But on the overall question of how is he handling his job as president, his numbers have barely changed in the 2 months since the Deepwater explosion.

What does that tell you? It says that, overall, most voters think it's really crappy what's happening in the gulf, but they aren't placing ALL the blame on Obama. There's a nuance to people's views.


The Senate's fault: Yesterday The Daily Show had a great clip of eight U.S. Presidents promising to end American dependency on foreign oil. The clip was funny, but it places the blame for our failure of will and policy and not on the Senate where is rests squarely. Why doesn't the media do more to point out that the blame for things like the BP disaster (and dozens more oil related catastrophes) rest squarely on the shoulders of the Byzantine structure of the Senate?

Paul Kane: I'm sorry, I'm missing your logic. You think that Senate rules caused the explosion?

I know what you're trying to get at -- the idea that the filibuster has prevented a national energy policy from taking root -- but you're just wrong. Have you analyzed the make-up of the Senate over the last 30 years?

This is, easily, hands down, the most progressive Senate EVER. The one we have now. Back in '93, when Dems held 57 seats, they had guys like Howell Hefflin in their ranks and Sam Nunn, old-school southern Dems. Guys who were never going to vote for stuff like cap-and-trade.

I just think you're really misguided here. There has never been broad consensus for a national energy policy that moves us away from dependence on oil.

Plain. Simple.


Vienna, VA: I know you're typing on the fly here, Paul, but I think it's debatable to describe the Arizona law as a "tough approach to illegal immigrants."

The problem with the law, for many, is that it will be "tough" on legal residents far more so than illegal immigrants. Despite the wording in the law that racial profiling is not allowed, it's hard to explain how to carry out this law without profiling.

Also, is it legal to for a state to assume the function of the federal government in tracking the citizenship of residents?

Paul Kane: What I meant to say is: The way I read the polling is that a large, large majority of Americans support a get-tough approach to illegal immigration. All the points you raise about the specifics of the AZ law, well, the general public isn't paying attention to those. The general public supports a tough law-and-order approach to illegal immigration. It supports building that "danged fence."

The general public also thinks it's not sane or sensible to try to round up all 12 million or so illegal immigrants, then send them back to where they came from; so, that's why there's majority support for a pathway to citizenship.

It seems contradictory, but it's actually fairly common sense.


Fairfax: Do you think the media relies too much on public opinion polls in its reporting? I mean, do you think stories are focused too much on the process like Senator X supports policy Y, while the people support policy Z, rather than Senator X supports policy Y and here are the facts about policy Y versus policy Z?

Paul Kane: I think there are all sortsa stories out there for people to read and consume. If you want to read straight policy on the legislative proposals that are out there, there are plenty of those stories that are in the mix. And we play those stories very, very prominently in the Washington Post.

And the reality is that those stories are not widely read.

Take today, for example.

At this very moment, the wonderfully written story by Wil Haygood and the South Carolina Senate race is the 2nd most read story on our entire web site. Nowhere in the top 5 stories at this moment is a BP/Deepwater story.

This Alvin Greene story is fun, folks, there's no denying it. But in the end, it doesn't matter. If Vic Rawl had won that race, none of you would know who he is. Because it's a Senate race that no one is paying attention to; the DSCC has stated that, as a matter of policy, it doesn't really care about South Carolina because they have no chance of defeating DeMint.

Yet the public is gobbling up that story.


Here is a Real Stimulus Plan/Outside the Box: Give every tax payer a sum of Money (say $2000, $3000, $ much as possible) and tell them they have 12 months to spend it...or it goes away. People will buy new windows, fix their cars, buy appliances, take vacations, repair their roof, buy clothes...what ever- we need to get $$$$ flowing badly.

Why don't our poltical "leaders" think out side the box for once?

Paul Kane: What would I do with $5,000? Hmmm. Let me count the ways. ...

On a serious note, economists have decided that these giveaway checks don't work very well. They encourage people to do 1 of 2 things:

a) paying down debts that they hold;

b) spending recklessly on things like a trip to Vegas.

While choice A is a nice long-term thing, it does little to instantly stimulate the economy. And while B might help places like Vegas, it's not a wise expenditure.

(Point of personal privilege here: I spent 2 nights at the black-jack tables in Vegas last week after finishing up working on the Right Angle primary. Why do so many people hold when the dealer is showing a 2? I'm not sure what the book says to do, but I can assure you that, when the dealer is showing a 2, his chances of busting are not good. Of the 20 or so times I saw dealer showing a 2, I'd guess he/she busted about 3 times, maybe 3, and the rest of the time he/she ended up with 17 or higher.)


Perspective: $20 billion is about half a year's worth of cash flow for BP.

Paul Kane: See, that was my point to the earlier question about BP and its ability to survive this thing.

The only way BP doesn't survive is if Americans, on their own, actually start to en masse boycott using BP stations to fill up. Or something like that.


Paul Kane: Alright folks, time for me to run. I've loved the questions, as always. And I'll be back here in 2 weeks, when the Supreme Court hearings will be concluding. And maybe by then we'll know who put Alvin Greene up to running for Senate!

In the meantime, a personal plea to the Phillies: Start laying off the sliders low and away, work the count into your favor, don't press; then pummel the ball into the cheap seats.

See you in 2 weeks. -- pk


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