David S. Broder
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Broder On Politics
With David S. Broder
Washington Post Columnist/Staff Writer

Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2001; 3 p.m. EST

The economy is dragging -- unemployment is up, consumer spending and confidence down, the budget surplus is gone. Certainly, economic cycles and circumstance play a large role in the situation. The question is: How do we recover? And could part of the solution stem from delaying the Bush tax cut?

Meanwhile, as we struggle to economically, we need to take a long look at just how we've changed because of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The transcript follows.

Broder has written extensively about primaries, elections, special interests and the business of politics. His books include "Democracy Derailed: The Initiative Movement & the Power of Money," "Behind the Front Page: A Candid Look at How the News Is Made" and "The System: The American Way of Politics at the Breaking Point."

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Indianapolis, Ind.: David (I hope you don't mind the familiarity),

What's your opinion on the travel industry ad that uses the president's speech?

When I first saw it I expected the Bush administration to ask them to not use his likeness -- but nothing has happened.

While it's really a very nice ad, in my opinion it just doesn't "feel" right. I can envision another company or professional organization taking a politician's likeness and going a "step further" in using it to promote their business venture. I just think it's better not to even go there at all.

David S. Broder: I am not sure my first response went through, so let me repeat it. I am generally unsympathetic to commercial use of a president's name or image. But President Bush has made it clear that he supports travel and tourism by Americans, so he may not be upset by this ad. I hope it does not become a precedent.

Richmond, Va.: David, I was watching the Sunday morning talk shows this weekend, and I was very dismayed that Vice President Cheney was so blunt in calling Sen. Daschle an obstructionist. Even though I'm in the higher tax bracket, I don't see how slashing corporate taxes and the accelerating the tax cuts from last year will help the economy? Why are there no public debates on the matter? Just a bunch of sound bites.

David S. Broder: My column last Sunday raised exactly that question. I pointed out that Jeb Bush last week persuaded his legislature to postpone a scheduled $130 million upper-bracket tax cut that was scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, and asked why his brother the president was not willing to ask for a similar sacrifice. Vice President Cheney told Tim Russert that federal and state economic policies are different, which is true. But it fails to address the issue, in my view. I am on your side of the argument.

washingtonpost.com: Column: Why Should Tax Cuts Be Untouchable? (Post, Dec. 9, 2001)

Vienna, Va.: At what point will the recession overtake the war as an object of political concern?

David S. Broder: I cannot predict. It depends obviously on the course of the war and the course of the economy. For some people, the shift already has happened, but most people I suspect are keeping a close eye on both the war and the economy at this point.

Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: Mr. Border --

Thank you for your outstanding article comparing Dec. 7, 1941, to Sept. 11, 2001. Do you believe, as I do, that President Bush lost a wonderful opportunity to motivate Americans toward community service in the weeks following the attacks? Perhaps the initial surge of patriotism could have been directed toward volunteering at community food banks, at cleaning up neighborhood parks, and so forth.

I think it's obvious from my question where I stand on this matter, and I wonder if I could have your thoughts. There's no need for a rubber or scrap mental drive in 2001, but the desire to help one's country is timeless. I see fewer American flags flying every day, and I believe the moment has past.

David S. Broder: I hope the moment has not passed, but I certainly agree with you that Americans have been ready to help out in concrete ways in the war on terrorism. Karl Rove, the president's political counselor, said today that the president has encouraged community service, but I believe he could have done more to summon people to help. I hope he still may do that.

Fairfax, Va., Re: corporate taxes: I'm all in favor of lower taxes. If you slash corporate taxes, then the companies make more money, which means they can invest more money in new employees or internal improvements or anything else that spends the money that would have gone to taxes. I'm not an economist, but I can't see how this is bad.

David S. Broder: Cutting taxes is not bad, whether you are talking about corporations or individuals. But most of the remaining scheduled income taxes--95 percent by one authoritative estimate--will go to top bracket individuals. They are those least in need of economic help and are much more likely to invest in safe deals than to spend or invest in new ventures. And when we face at least three years of budget deficits, we are looking at hard choices ahead.

Walnut Creek, Calif.: I just read that Charlie Rangel would rather have Republican George Pataki as governor of New York rather than Democrat Andrew Cuomo. What does he think is the matter with Cuomo, and how could he possibly think his District would be better off with a Republican than a Democrat? The most moderate Republicans always seems to support the fiercest conservatives. Why can't the Democrats take a play from the Republican play and show party loyalty. Maybe then they'd all have greater success and once again be the majority party?

David S. Broder: I can't answer that question. You'll have to seek enlightenment from Mr. Rangel.

Fairfax, Va.: How much political hot water has John Ashcroft gotten himself into? And how much of his problems with the Senate come from his policies and how much from his personality?

David S. Broder: I don't think personality is much of a factor. The senators know John Ashcroft from his six years as a member, and most of them like him personally. The policy issues are serious, and as you know, concerns about some of his decisions have been raised by Republicans as well as Democrats. I don't know how this will play out, but I think the issues are substantial.

Lexington, Va.: Mr. Broder,

There seems to be a debate on campus about the appropriateness of criticism of those who challenge the "war on terrorism." They seem to say that if one criticizes the war effort, that criticism itself shouldn't be criticized (the old I have First Amendment rights but don't you use yours thing). What are your thoughts on this attitude on campus?

David S. Broder: I think campuses need to be places where all ideas, even controversial ones, are openly debated. No one has a monopoly on wisdom, and the price of being part of that open debate is tolerance for views opposite your own. I was unsympathetic to those who called the Vietnam War "immoral," but those who called it unwise (I was not one of them) turned out to be right.

Sioux Falls, S.D.: What insights did you gain through your trip to Oregon? Do you think that Bush might face trouble out West, since unemployment is surging out there and the terrorist attacks are less visible?

David S. Broder: Bush was not particularly popular on the West Coast before Sept. 11. He lost California and Washington by fairly wide margins and Oregon was close only because of the Nader vote. His environmental policies do not play well in those states, nd the recession is a problem there, as elsewhere. It is far too early to judge where he will be in November 2004, but that part of the country may pose special difficulties for him.

Miami, Fla.: David, what is your position on the polls that are being taken? Do you think that they are an accurate account of the all-around performance of Bush, or are people focusing on the war?

David S. Broder: I think the current polls on presidential performance reflect the widespread, and in my view, deserved accolades for the way Bush and his team have reacted to Sept. 11. They are supported by the anecdotal evidence from the few trips I've made since the attack on our country.

Louisville, Ky.: What is your prediction on how the ABA's opposition to Sen. Bunning's son's District Court judgeship nomination will play out? Will Bunning Jr. be confirmed anyway, rendering the ABA more irrelevant in the judicial confirmation process or will their not qualified rating significantly affect Bunning's confirmation chances?

David S. Broder: I have not covered that controversy and I am unable to judge the prospects.

Mt. Lebanon, Pa.: Put on your prophesy hat. Will the replacement of Dick Armey as Majority Leader lead to a more moderate, considerate, thoughtful House of Representatives or to a more strident, acrimonious, blunderbuss kind of outfit [more noise, less trajectory]? Thanks much.

David S. Broder: Reporters make very bad prophets, and I have a long list of misjudgments to my own credit -- or discredit. Let us wait and see what happens.

Jackson, Tenn.: What type of resources are the major media expending on the Enron bubble? And with the current war situation, will the media attempt to link major administration figures with the collapse, and which figures are likely to be most effected?

David S. Broder: The Enron story has received heavy coverage in the Post and in the other newspapers that are my regular reading. I will beg off guessing who may be burned as that story continues to unfold.

Washington, D.C.: David, just read your article on delaying the tax cuts. If that were to happen (although I won't hold my breath), what do you think the political ramifications will be for both Republicans and Democrats?

David S. Broder: The tax issue will be debated between Republicans and Democrats in any case, because the majorities of the two parties were on opposite sides last spring when the Bush tax cuts were approved. If they were to be suspended or delayed now, the issue would be back in the news, but the basic dynamics are set in any case.

Nashua, N.H.: It looks like our government surplus will be heading to Afghanistan and the Middle East, do you think President Bush's tax cuts are a good idea for our economy right now? If we are already into deficit spending, shouldn't we be running lean and mean right now?

David S. Broder: As I have indicated in previous answers, my view is that the tax cuts were skewed to the rich when they were first passed and there is even less justification for them now, when we know deficits loom ahead.

Lexington, Va.: Mr. Broder,

What are your thoughts on the current agenda in the Senate? Tom Daschle has them debating and voting on railroad pensions and an agricultural bill (that doesn't need to be renewed until next September) avoiding more timely issues like an energy bill and the stimulus package? Not to mention at least debating a moratorium on cloning (which would seem to be important to discuss now and not in three or four months). Do you think it will pay off for him politically?

David S. Broder: The Senate agenda at the moment is partisan. And I do not think that partisanship plays well in wartime.

San Francisco, Calif.: David:

Do you think that the administration is serious about going after Iraq? Or is it simply rhetoric? Without our coalition partners, a battle against Saddam might be fruitless. Maybe steps are being taken behind the scenes to destabilize the government that we don't realize.

David S. Broder: I think President Bush is very serious about attempting to purge Iraq from its status as a terrorist state. I do not know how or when he intends to move on this front, but I think it is clearly on his agenda.

I have to end this session now to go out for an interview, but I thank all of you for participating. See you soon.


That wraps up today's show. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.

© Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company