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  •   Levey Live: Speaking Freely

    Friday, March 12, 1999

    "Levey Live: Speaking Freely," hosted by Washington Post columnist Bob Levey, appears every Friday from 1 to 2 p.m. Eastern time. It is a live, open-agenda discussion offering users around the world the opportunity to ask questions and discuss topics of their choice with Bob.

    Bob Levey
    Bob Levey
    Dan Murano/TWP

    "Levey Live: Speaking Freely" differs from Bob's regular Tuesday noon Web show--which features newsmakers and Post writers. The Friday event is what talk radio folks call an "open mike" show, your chance to schmooze with Bob about anything in his Monday through Friday columns , in the news or on your mind.

    Never fear, Levey was here LIVE ONLINE, his coffee pot bubbling merrily as he typed at you from his palatial penthouse office high atop Babylon-on-the-Potomac.

    Here is a transcript of today's session:


    Washington, DC: Do you think Elizabeth Dole has a realistic shot at the Republican nomination or is she headed for a place as George Bush's running mate?

    Bob Levey: Not only does she have a realistic shot; I'd say she will be dead even with George W. Bush in the polls very soon. Do not count her out or sell her short. She can appeal to many middle-of-the-roaders from both parties and both sexes. Remember, the big lesson from the impeachment disaster is how sick many people are of business-as-usual. She ain't business-as-usual.

    Arlington, VA: Bob,
    Driving to work today on I95 southbound, I saw an all-too-familiar sight: a police officer in the left lane speeding by me, no lights on, tailgating the unfortunate driver in front of him until the other driver moves over. I was doing 68mph, the speed limit is 55mph, and he passed me in no time at all.

    Immediately everyone around me got in line behind the speeding officer, and so now even MORE people are doing 75+mph. After all, what could be safer (safer=not getting a ticket) than following a police car?

    Is there anything I can do about this? I have been told before to take down the license plate number, and call in a complaint to the police dept. Obviously the nature of the incident (speeding car whizzing by) prohibited me from getting the tag #. But even if I had gotten it, do you think calling in a complaint would actually produce results?

    Bob Levey: You absolutely should file a complaint with the police department in whose jurisdiction you saw this. How else will anything ever change? Yes, you may see nothing done, because cops sometimes pull their wagons in a circle. Also, it may have been an officer responding to an emergency (who was thus speeding legitimately). But give the system a chance to work.

    West Coast, USA: What exactly was the point of yesterday's column?

    Bob Levey: Point? A column has a point? All right, no more Mr. Wise Guy.... The point was that a lot of westerners think the east is an over-the-hill wreck, and I don't happen to agree.

    Colesville, Md.: It's been an interesting week for me for a compare/contrast situation. I'm not old enough to remember Joe DiMaggio playing; my parents might just barely remember - if my Dad had really followed baseball, but I understand how important he was. In everything I've read (before and after his death) I've been impressed with his poise and awareness of his position in society, from his playing days all the way up to the hour he died.

    Wednesday, I took my brother to that game where they put the orange ball in the orange circle because his favorite player is Grant Hill. I was struck by the difference sports figures have taken. I looked at the Washington bench: Howard and Strickland both pulled over for DUI, Howard with a child that for a while he was even denying parentage of, (and not to mention the antics of their former teammate Mr. CWebb).

    To make this story short (too late, I know), here's my question(s): Are sports figures heroes? Is it "fair" to expect them to understand what Joe DiMaggio did - that thousands (well, now millions) of children grow up imitating them, wanting to be like them, and watching their every move. Some players - Ripken, Hill, Jordan, etc. - seem to "get it", but they appear to be a vanishing breed. Thoughts?

    Bob Levey: Absolute money corrupts absolutely, so today's athletes have chances their forerunners never had to be selfish and irresponsible. One reason DiMaggio was so stylish all his life was because he always realized how lucky he was. The Allen Iversons and Albert Belles don't.

    Arlington, VA: What do you think of Charles Bakaly's "resignation"? As a bureaucrat, I believe that Starr is responsible for any leaks by people who are his direct reports. I wouldn't blame him if a typist leaked the information. Do you think I'm all wet here?

    Bob Levey: I think they're both to blame, even if Barkaly acted on his own. If he acted on Starr's orders, Starr belongs in jail. Seriously. I also think this is a tip-of-the-iceberg story that will blow wide open over the next few days. Many, many people (of all political stripes) assumed that Starr was leaking throughout 1998. This may finally lead to an answer as to whether he was.

    Gaithersburg, MD: Tell me you didn't mean it. Last week on your Friday online chat you stated, "I don't buy her (Monica Lewinsky's) notion that she's a victim. People who flash thong underwear at married Presidents are victims? She knew exactly what she wanted and she got it - trouble included." Minutes later, you wrote, "I don't believe that Grease is a racist. I believe he is a victim of radio culture...." I'm not for one minute defending what Monica did. But certainly a 22 year old's infatuation with the President of the United States is more understandable (and less offensive) than a grown man's viciously racist remark on a radio morning talk show. Your lack of sympathy for Monica I can understand (even if I don't personally agree), but your defense of the Greaseman as a "victim" is truly terrifying.

    Bob Levey: Fair point. I should have said that Grease is a product of that radio culture. I didn't and don't mean to excuse him in any way.

    Herndon, VA: Did you catch the picture of ticky-tacky town houses set on a treeless landscape in Ashburn in today's Metro Section? Is such a horror an inevitable feature of urban sprawl in your view?

    Bob Levey: Thanks for a great question. Man, oh, man, does it make me crazy to see developers clear-cutting forests to plop townhouses down in the middle of nowhere. But, no, I don't think it's inevitable, as long as local governments plan, plan, plan, and make developers preserve as much green space as possible. Truly, planning can be accomplished without sacrificing profits. Look at Columbia, Reston, portions of Alexandria.

    Washington, D.C.: This happened many weeks ago, but I thought you would find this amusing. I was turning right at a red light, so I stopped my car, even though there was no oncoming traffic. I wasn't stopped for more than a second or two before the the guy behind me, honked. A lot. I considered for a moment rolling down the window and pointing to the red light, maybe he didn't see it. Now, it's been a few years since my drivers ed class, but isn't it the law to stop on a red light, and then proceed?

    Bob Levey: It sure is. Congratulations for standing your ground. The only way to make bozos see their bozo-hood is not to bend to their impatience.

    Springfield, VA: Hello Mr. Levey,
    I enjoy reading your column everyday, and I especially like the information you give out (e.g., where to donate used cars (Children's Hospital)). You have written about an organization which accepts old Christmas cards; I have misplaced its name and address so can you please let me know what it is again? Thank you.

    Bob Levey: The organization that used to do this no longer does, and I haven't been able to unearth a replacement. Anyone out there in Web-land have any light to shed on this?

    Onancock, VA: Other than "Levey", who are some of your favorite columnists?

    Bob Levey: Bill Raspberry--consistent, elegant, thoughtful. Tom Boswell--witty, concise, accurate. William Safire--grouchy, often wrong-headed, but entertaining

    Burke, VA: I'd just like to put in a plug for the Virginia Railway Express. During Tuesday's snow I was able to get home in only a half hour more than usual (train was late). Sure beats the 2-4 hour driving commutes I've heard about. Definitely beats the Metrorail, which was so full Tuesday that people couldn't get on.
    Some people on the train that day were complaining about it being late and having to stand. Consider the alternatives, folks!

    Bob Levey: Amen. But get ready for the pastoral VRE to be a little more crowded. Reconstruction of the Mixing Bowl interchange in Springfield (junction of I-95 and I-395) is scheduled to begin later this year. Traffic will be an absolute zoo for ten years! Many, many of those hugely delayed motorists will try (and adopt) VRE, I assume.

    Washington DC: This is absolutely crazy! Big companies like AOL and Marriott are getting huge tax incentives and benefits! They don't even NEED them, sheesh. I don't get why people are throwing away money at those companies, and what about the shortfall? The little people will have to make it up. It doesn't seem very farsighted.

    Bob Levey: Big clout yields big benefits. I'm not trying to be cynical, but if you swung 4,000 jobs and billions of dollars, wouldn't you look for a break from government, too? It is a little surprising that these two companies decided to invite a big public relations "hit" (they'll surely hear from hundreds of people who feel the way you do). But I guess they calculate that they can survive it.

    wash dc: although i am not a republican, i do believe they have some interesting candidates this time around. however, it seems to me the ultra conservative christian coalition will hurt the republican's chances of getting anywhere as they will create so much havoc again within Republican party prior to the convention it will take a long time for the republicans to get it together for election day. do you think the c. coalition has too much hold on the republican party and should lay off and not get so involved in politics as they did last time around.

    Bob Levey: I suspect the Christian Coalition is about to get frozen out of the inner Republican circle. I think that's what that code phrase, "compassionate conservatism," really means. How can you be a compassionate conservative if you're always trying to tell women what they can and can't do with their bodies, and if you insist that even mental cases can own guns? By the way, I don't think it'll be just GW Bush who shoves the arch-right out of his way. Dole has already begun to do it. So have Alexander and Forbes. Only Quayle seems to be running with one eye on the rightest of the right wing.

    Washington, D.C.: As a columnist, what do you view as your contribution to society through mass media?

    Bob Levey: My job is to spark debate, frame opinion, elucidate issues that might otherwise slumber, help the little guy.

    Vienna, VA: When Bill Clinton ran for president, the press worried that Hillary would unduly influence the President. Now that Elizabeth Dole seems to be preparing to run, why isn't the press raising a stink about her husband, Bob, being too influential? Ye olde double standard?

    Bob Levey: Actually, the worry about Hillary came after Bill was elected--and it wasn't just (or even mostly) the press that felt that way. As for the Doles, why wouldn't Elizabeth consult her husband? The Viagra King has oodles of experience, both as a legislator and as a campaigner. The rap on Hillary was that she had never played in the big leagues before. Bob Dole has.

    Washington DC: One more anecdote to add to your "Washingtonians may be grumpy but they're great when it snows" file.
    Mini traffic jam at R Street and 29th about 4:45 Friday -- car after car getting stuck on ice. Young man making trip after trip with two buckets of sand that he throws under car wheels and gets us all started again. I said to him "good Samaritan!" and he just smiles and says "You do what you can."
    Wouldn't it be nice if more people had that attitude?

    Bob Levey: Nice one! Thanks for letting me (and all of Web-land) know.

    Alexandria, VA: Bob: Looks like you've made some progress on your pages, like eliminating unfreeze and freeze. I understand "Automatically Update Page", but what is "Get New Text"?
    Also, the copyright notice at the bottom of the page is 1998.

    Bob Levey: "Get New Text" sounds pretty straightforward (and pretty comprehensible) to me. If you have a better suggestion, I'll be happy to slide it under the cage door of the cyber-kings.

    wash dc: a follow up please. some christian coalition leaders, i.e., gary bauer, can raise $$$$ faster than any candidate out there. he already raised some incredible amount without even doing a fund raiser, as was reported in your paper. Doesn't money talk, in that he will have a hold on the republicans just because of the amount of $$ he has collected. Won't they have to give in to his pressure?

    Bob Levey: There's no law that requires a Republican candidate to take money from anyone--especially if that candidate can raise enough money elsewhere. That's what I think you'll see--and are already seeing.

    Washington, DC: Soon a federal commission will report its thoughts concerning legalized gambling. States and localities increasingly count on revenues from lotteries and casinos. Should gambling be regarded a victimless recreation or a vice to be contained and discouraged? Where are the Republicans on this?

    Bob Levey: I've never understood why the Republicans don't make gambling a bigger issue. Could be that they can't agree among themselves which way to go on it. I don't believe for a minute that gambling is victimless recreation--and you wouldn't either, if you hung around the parking lot of many casinos. Losers have a certain look in their eye--and the guys in the parking lots have lost far more than just a few bucks, you can tell.

    Bob Levey: Half an hour remaining. Keep those cards and letters coming

    Mt. Rainier MD: I can see big companies checking out what they can get. What I can't see is the state government rolling over and playing dead. I'm just livid about MD giving them all those tax breaks. Should have called their bluff, and if they left, well ta-ta. The biggies in the company weren't going to be thrilled with uprooting themselves out of their nice Montgomery homes and moving to northern Virginia.

    Bob Levey: Yeah, but the biggies could have afforded the move. The littlies and medium-ies would have been hard-pressed. Yet I don't think real estate was the paramount issue. I think commuting was. I'll bet more than 50 percent of Marriott employees would have declined to move if the company had gone to Virginia. That would have meant hours upon hours of extra commuting--a fate worse than death.

    Fairfax, VA: I am curious about the race of the suspect in the recent carjacking where a child was in the car. Not one of the papers I have read has given the suspects race. Why does this lead me to believe that the suspect is white. It seems to be happening just as frequently as it did 50 years ago. If a suspect is black it is stated, if the suspect is not you're left to guess. If you really want the publics assistance in spotting any suspect be consistent with your descriptive information (including race).

    Bob Levey: Our newspaper never gives the race of a crime suspect unless it is clearly relevant, and very few other papers do, either. As a matter of fact, the suspect in this case is black. But the police already know who he is, so asking for the public assistance isn't relevant here (and usually isn't relevant in any crime).

    Washington DC: What's with the constant left-handed compliments when referring to the computer staff? Geeks? Cage door? Cyber Kings? Do you have cute names for Donald and Kate Graham as well?

    Bob Levey: Sometimes my creativity just bubbles up so big and so bright that I can't control myself. As for the Grahams, heck, yes, we have nicknames for them. I wouldn't repeat them on a bet. My mortgage is due in two weeks!

    DC: Where are you from, Bob, if you don't mind my asking?

    Bob Levey: Born and bred in New York City. Escaped at the age of 17 to go to college (The University of Chicago). Spent 13 months working for The Albuquerque Tribune as a cub reporter. Came to Washington (and The Post) in 1967. Haven't left either yet (and I hope I never do).

    Fairfax, VA: I am a daily metro rider and I understand that the frequent pauses between stops cannot be helped, but it drives me nuts when the conductors offer no explanations. Even a simple "We'll be moving in a minute or two" is better than sitting in silence wondering what is going on. Today we sat on the orange line somewhere between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom for about 10 minutes with no comment at all. It can't help but make a person anxious. Am I asking for too much?

    Bob Levey: I'm surprised to hear about an information blackout, because whenever this happens to me, the problem is the opposite. What I seem to get is: "We'll be holding in this location for about two minutes. Or possibly three. Maybe four. There are two trains in front of us. One needs to offload. The other needs to park, once the first train is done." Let me read my paper in peace!

    arlington va: hey bob why are you such a knee jerk reactionary?? i heard Geraldo's slot is opening up
    check into it

    Bob Levey: I wouldn't cry if Geraldo disappeared (or if I were paid a zillion bucks to replace him). But "knee-jerk reactionary?" Sorry, my friend, but no label truly fits me. I call 'em as I see 'em. No ideologies. No party labels

    Washington, DC : Do you know anything about George W. Bush having an alcohol problem? I've heard rumors that he might be a tad unstable!

    Bob Levey: What I hear is that he tippled a bit when he was young, but has now abandoned it. I'm surprised he hasn't tackled this head on by now, because we have just been given an object lesson by Mr. W. J. Clinton of what happens when you don't tell the whole truth at your first opportunity. Bush is on record as saying that what he did when he was young isn't germane to who and what he is now. Fine. And I happen to agree. But the press will keep hacking at him on this, for sure, so why not answer now, to take the fizz out of the issue?

    Washington, DC: Why is the housing market so strong in the city? Do you think it has anything to do with the impending doom of the eight year reconstruction of the Springfield bypass?

    Bob Levey: Sure. People just can't bear to waste their lives on 2-hour commutes--and why should they?

    Arlington, VA: Bob, in relationship to Ken Starr's office leaking, I thought it strange that the OIC carries 80 guarded boxes of sensitive material up to the Capitol, transfers it to armed guards who put it in a secure vault and virtually everything in it was in the Post the next morning when nobody on the Hill or in the White House knew what Starr had sent up.

    Bob Levey: The stuff was released to the press by Starr and company at the same time it was handed to the Hill. It was never meant to be kept secret

    Accokeek, MD: Gus Frerotte--What is your evaluation of his ability--and do you think the 'Skins should have re-signed him?

    Bob Levey: He was pretty good three years ago, but something disappeared from his game--confidence, from what I could tell. I really liked Turner's decisiveness in benching him after just one game and sticking by that decision. I don't think the Skins should have resigned him, and I'm surprised anyone else did. I'd rate him as being cooked, or darn close.

    Bethesda, MD: George Stephanopolous: Traitor or Truthteller?

    Bob Levey: Both, with an accent on the former. From the excerpts I've read, he could have laid bare the inner workings in much richer detail.

    Mt. Rainier MD: I'm surprised you think Elizabeth Dole will not be 'business as usual'. She's hardly a new face on the scene, and seems to me she'll be beholden to the same interests and in the same straitjacket her husband was, trying to reconcile the unreconcilable interests in the Republican party.

    Bob Levey: If she does that, she loses--so there's a zero percent chance she'll run the same Viagra-less campaign that her husband ran in 1996. Her remarks this week virtually promise it. You didn't hear her say one thing about tax cuts, gun control, kill the safety net, all the issues on which Republicans have lost so often before. She wants to position herself as a clean break, and I think she may be able to carry it off. Of course, you're right in one sense--money. She won't be standing on the corner with a tin cup. She will hit up many of the same Republican fat cats who have always contributed before. So in that sense, her campaign may reflect traditional party views (and those who hold them).

    Washington, DC : Bob:

    I'm a great admirer of Libby Dole and I'm perplexed that Mr. Dole would choose to do a commercial for "erection" problems, when his wife is a serious candidate for the Presidency. Am I overreacting or a prude?


    Bob Levey: He did the commercial before she announced, and before she had made up her mind. By the way, it might help, not hurt. I'm not trying to be silly here, but don't you think many Americans (especially the elderly, who vote in large numbers) will be more favorably inclined toward a couple who are 63 and 77 and still have sex? I say it can hardly hurt the Doles to be portrayed that way.

    RichardNixon, somewhere in hell: Isn't it time to abandon the independent counsel law?

    Bob Levey: Sure is. By the way, sir, is a new, rejuvenated version of you gonna run in 2000? Are you tanned, rested and ready?

    Washington, DC: When does the actual carpet-bombing of Springfield begin?

    Bob Levey: In October, I believe. You still have plenty of time to move to North Dakota

    Washington DC - Mt. Vernon Sq.: Bob, love your column. That new convention center they're putting up (a block away from the old one) is a pain in the butt to the citizenry in the surrounding area. The construction work has cut off a one block access to the subway system and turned it into a three block walk. You should see the senior citizens and mothers with babies trying to execute these hurdles (construction equipment, etc.). Is there anyone we citizens can talk to about improving our access? Clark Construction has erected an entire fence around two blocks!!? They made a throughway for cars - but not for walkers?

    Bob Levey: Richard White is the general manager of Metro. As the cheerleaders used to chant at my high school football games, if he can't do it, no one can.

    Kensington, MD : Here's a story for you...My roommate works at a very well-known restaurant in the district. Some lady walks in with her small dog on a leash. They stop her at the door and tell her that she can't bring the dog into a restaurant. So she tells the hosts and a manager that it's a seeing eye dog in training. The dog was not a german shepherd or any other type of commonly known seeing eye dog. It was on a leash, and it had no harness. So as not to cause a scene in the restaurant, they allowed her to use the rest room with the dog, per her statement that she just needed to go to the bathroom and then would leave. So she goes to the bathroom, comes out, and proceeds to wander around the restaurant looking at all of the memorabilia on the walls-with the dog in tow. The manager reminds her politely that she has to leave with the dog, and she starts screaming about how this is a $40 million law suit, and that she's an attorney with the Justice Department. So if she's an attorney, shouldn't she know about health code violations? And if she's training seeing eye dogs in her spare time, doesn't she realize that her case would only be bullet-proof if the dog didn't appear to be a pet? It never ceases to amaze me to what lengths some people will go to provoke a major law suit, even when they have no chance of winning.

    Bob Levey: So did they throw her out? They should have.

    wash dc: Although alot of folks speculate the Mrs. will run in NY for the senate, is there a big chance some other thing that we haven't heard about yet on their trials and tribulations might sneak out once again. There always seems to be one more thing to learn about them.

    Bob Levey: Always possible. Especially possible with the two of them

    washington d.c.: What do you think compassionate conservative means vis a vis the gay issue? Do you think it still means they should stay in the closet? Is it hypocritical to be gay and republican as stated on the Grace and Will show?

    Bob Levey: I hope it means live-and-let-live, which is so obviously the only fair approach

    Warrenton, VA: Bob, for years I have been concerned about the allegations with the Chinese government. Illegal campaign donations, trying to influence our elections and now high level spying. I feel this has been the issue to focus on and not Zippergate. Bill Clinton and Al Gore have some splainin' to do.

    Bob Levey: More Al than Bill, since he claims he has a future in politics. All Bill has is a past. And what a past!

    bethesda,MD: About six months ago, there was a letter sent to a magazine, in which Starr said that he was leaking information from the grand jury? I cannot believe that his sidekick acted alone.

    Bob Levey: Starr has admitted leaking????? News to me. If there had been any such admission, don't you think the Justice Department might have busted him by now?

    Bob Levey: That's it for today. Many thanks for all those provocative questions. We do this every Friday at the same time (1 to 2 p.m. Eastern time on Fridays). Make it a habit. And be sure to join us for "Levey Live," which appears each Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m. Eastern time. Our guest March 16 will be E. R. Shipp, the new ombudsman (reader representative) of The Washington Post.

    © 1999 The Washington Post Company

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