Levey Live: Speaking Freely
Friday, June 11, 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 washingtonpost.com users around the world the opportunity to ask questions and discuss topics of their choice with Bob.
Fearless Bob takes your questions about virtually everything, from sports and politics (there's a difference?) to world events, Metro area traffic and issues raised in Bob's columns.
Here is a transcript of today's session:
Warrenton, VA: On Kosovo, Bill Clinton is now doing exactly what his critics said he would- Claim a great victory. While we did not incur any casualties, many Kosovars were killed, raped and wounded while their homes were destroyed. And Slobo is still in power claiming victory himself! Hardly seems like a victory and something to celebrate. What do you think?
Bob Levey: Clinton has always been great at self-congratulation. Still, he comes up smelling pretty sweet on this one: no American blood spilled, Milosevic backing down, bombing over in a reasonable amount of time. The real issue is that nothing will satisfy or calm the Clinton haters. Any other president would have gotten better support, and more congratulations.
Bob Levey: I'm sure you can find a dozen for about half that, without going to Crisfield or someplace nearer the shore. But you may have to do some looking. By the way, you'll be doing all crab lovers a favor if you file a verbal protest when you see prices like these. Tell a manager that he's gouging, and he may stop.
Bob Levey: Who's bashing? I was just commenting on how the economics of the gas industry work. I know full well that you Prince Williamites spend more time on the roads (and probably more bucks on gas). I'm on your side, bro (or is it sis?). I was only trying to say that volume discounting is the norm in most businesses, gas included.
No Metro problems that need
Bob Levey: Haven't been there yet, but I will be, on the evening of July 14. I've just agreed to be the P.A. announcer at that night's game. I promise not to editorialize about the umpiring
Reston, VA: Where do you get your subs? The one last Friday was such a know-it-all attitude. His observation on Capital Beltway traffic was lousy. Majority of the user on Capital Beltway don't know how to merge.
Bob Levey: Last Friday's sub, Vic Sussman, is the guy who runs all interactive programming on this Web site. So for me to say anything bad about him would be a bit politically incorrect. I'm sorry you didn't like him. I think he's got a lot of smarts and a lot of sassiness--both key qualities for staring down the public.
Mayo, MD: There's a huge buzz in the NY modeling world about a Maryland-born model named Amy Nemec. What's the buzz all about?
Bob Levey: I have zero idea. I don't follow modeling. One look at my body, and you'd know why.
Greenbelt, MD: BOB: Please excuse my pessimism, but will it take one or more vehicles falling in the Potomac and the CLOSING of the bridge, before all jurisdictions get serious about fixing the Wilson Bridge? Just when you think they're in agreement some other obstacle creeps up!
Bob Levey: It sure is frustrating, but I think a solution is getting close. It had better. If that bridge closes for even one day, the economy of the metropolitan area will curl up and wither. A great rumor I heard last week: The Army Corps of Engineers is supposedly studying how to erect a huge, temporary pontoon bridge, just in case Old Woody crashes into the river, as you fear.
Bob Levey: Al Gore was a big fan of the Internet (and a big funder of Internet research) during his years in the Senate. He uttered the "father of the Internet" line during an interview. He now says he never meant to say he actually devised the system; he just helped it along indirectly. Still, that line will haunt him in the same way that "potatoe" haunts Dan Quayle. Yet in a sense the controversy should cheer us. Even guys like Gore, who have been in the hottest part of the public eye for more than 20 years, can still mis-speak. Proves they're human.
Lake Ridge, VA: What was your take on the beltway meltdown last week? For once in my life I made the right decision and stayed home, but some people were not as fortunate. There has been a lot of talk lately that people should live where they work. Any thoughts?
Bob Levey: What amazed me is that there wasn't a single word from any public official about public transportation or telecommuting--only a bunch of whining from commuters who know they have to change their lives, but want the other guy to change his first. I'm hoping that some far-sighted leader will urge everyone with a home computer to stay home on days like June 2 and do as much that way as possible.
falls church va.: why don't sponsors realize that when their commercials SCREAM at you, you just put on the mute button? It is so annoying to have the volume changed on you every time an ad comes on. It is self defeating. Are they stupid?
Bob Levey: Not stupid--desperate. They scream because they fear that you won't listen unless they do. Yet the fear is actually on their side. The same clicker that lets you mute their "spots" also lets you click to another channel. That's real power in your hands, for a change. The clicker is already reshaping ad rates, programming choices, the entire industry.
Hi Bob, enjoy the heat this week?
Bob Levey: Gun dealers who don't do background checks VOLUNTARILY are playing a losing game. They have to realize that the law will land on them hardest (once we finally get serious about placing limits on gun sales). Why do they wink and look the other way? Don't they inhabit the same world as the rest of us? Don't they CARE that they're making it just a little more dangerous for their own families (as well as yours and mine) every time they sell a gun to a criminal?
Herndon, VA: What's your take on the current situation in Kosovo? If it's a victory -as the Post's E.J. Dionne says- why are so many people reluctant to say so?
Bob Levey: Because of politicians like Tom DeLay, who called it "Clinton's War" throughout and led the charge on Capitol Hill to deny support to the president. I can't wait to hear DeLay address veterans groups in his home district when he runs next year. My first question to him would be: Don't you realize by not getting behind our soldiers, you were endangering them?
Burke, VA: What qualities, skills, experience does Hillary Clinton have that, in your opinion, would make her a "dandy" senator? -BTW, I believe Giuliani's skills are much more suited to an executive position than a legislative one.-
Bob Levey: Mrs. Clinton has many skills and much political experience. I'm not sure she has the right attitude and the proper supply of patience. How will she handle the go-along-get-along style of the Senate? How will she like being told which committees she'll be on? How will she like being part of a minority party? How will she like spending hour after hour chasing Social Security checks for some widow in Utica? I've said it before and I'll say it again--I can't understand why she wants to do this. She can make a much bigger contribution--and make it faster--in many other jobs.
Upstate, NY: Is Bill Clinton the luckiest president we've ever had? No matter what, he keeps bobbing to the top. Will some of this rub off on Hillary? On Al?
Bob Levey: His luck is amazing, apparently limitless. But I don't think it will necessarily rub off on Hillary. You heard it here first: she's odds-on to lose in New York if she runs. As for Gore, I'm afraid he is going to walk into a silent buzz saw. The country is still very upset about impeachment, and the morality of what Clinton and Monica did. Gore will be blamed for being The Loyal Number Two, and for being part of an administration that has been pretty shameful in lots of ways.
McLean, VA: How do I voice support for extending the Metro to Tyson's? The traffic is horrible, and looking out the window of my office I can see five or six cranes for new buildings. The Post reported on it about a month ago, but it sounded like more of an idea than a plan of action for WMATA.
Bob Levey: The key guy to lean on is Gov. Gilmore, whose support will free up serious money in Richmond. Another key is to make your views known to the high-tech barons of Tyson's and environs, chiefly Steve Case at AOL, who is Gilmore's buddy and one of the most influential business leaders here, or anywhere. Case knows that gridlock is harming his business. Gilmore knows that gridlock is harming his career. Where's there's a will, there's a way.
Bob Levey: I can't find it in my stomach to criticize what's obviously a compromise. Yalta was a compromise, too. So was what happened in Paris during Vietnam. Any deal that ends the shooting has to look at the future, not just the recent past. The real issue has always been whether the Kosovars can hope to rebuild any kind of a life in their homeland. Don't be fooled by the rhetoric and certain word choices. This is a practical deal that has a good chance of solving a practical problem.
Arlington, Virginia: Not taking sides, but I think that Mrs. Clinton would very much enjoy the Senate and do very well there. She's another of those policy wonks who can discuss the arcane facets of the tax code and, as a lawyer, she'd actually understand the legislation she votes on. Having said this, I agree with you that she could find better outlets for her abilities than being a Senator.
Bob Levey: Politicians do much better as Senators than policy wonks. By the way, I think Hillary is both. I just can't see her huddling in a corner of the cloakroom with Trent Lott, in the name of bipartisan spirit. I also can't see Trent Lott wanting to do that, either. Hillary would be a super-Senator, a lighting rod, such an international curiosity that she couldn't get her real work done. Besides, can you imagine her standing there and smiling sweetly when Strom Thurmond calls her "Hon?"
Washington, DC: Where is this Shirley Povich field and who plays there?
Bob Levey: It's in Bethesda. Local minor league teams play there. Big piece in our sports section just the other day about it all. Bruce Adams, a former Montgomery County politician, is the brains and the dough behind it.
Gaithersburg, MD: Hi. I'm 15 and I read your column every day. My opinion on the hats question you talked about a long time ago: Most of my teachers don't care whether or not we wear hats in class as long as we aren't being disruptive. A lot of my female teachers even wear hats that go with their outfits. The security people are fanatics, though. One morning in the winter I was coming into school with a turtle fur headband on and they almost snatched it off my head. It was only to keep my ears warm and I was going to my locker. But they'll tell you to take your hat off and completely ignore the fight going on down the hall. Just because of that, I think hats should be allowed so that the security people can focus on more important things--like the black eye my friend got from a fight that started next to him.
Bob Levey: I believe in self-expression, and your right to wear whatever clothes you want. But no school can allow disruptions, and if this means banning all hats just because one might distract another child, I'm afraid I have to agree. One big however: A good principal will make sure that a small fire about a hat doesn't become a huge blaze about civil rights, by stating hat rules (and the reasons behind them) carefully and civilly. Just telling high schoolers no will never cut it. By the way (small commercial coming!), be sure to catch "Levey Live" this coming Tuesday, June 15. Our guest will be Janice Mills, principal of Laurel H.S. We'll discuss hats and the whole discipline situation in post-Littleton public schools.
Bob Levey: We're a land of endless second chances. Tyson has just gotten what many, many other criminals routinely get
I don't know that Mrs. Clinton _would_ be a member of a minority party...the Republican lead is awfully slim. And Republican congressfolk are concerning themselves with vital interests. Like holding up all presidential nominations in a snit fit over a gay man being appointed Ambassador of Luxembourg -we can pay taxes, apparently, but we shouldn't ask to be treated like citizens...-. Or lecturing the Army for respecting the free practice of all religions, rather than just the ones Bob Barr approves of...
Bob Levey: I can't agree with your assessment of the Senate. More Democratic "safe" seats are being relinquished (one way or another) than Republican "safe" seats. Besides, Republicans always have money advantages, and that's how modern Senate races are won (unless the Republicans are running a total dim bulb as a candidate, and sometimes even when they do). But even if you're right, Hillary Clinton would have no seniority. Does she think she'll get on Judiciary just because, well, just because? That ain't the way the system works. She'll be cooling her heels on Fish and Wildlife, debating the spawning habits of eel in the St. Lawrence River, and wishing she were back in some law firm, pulling down $800 a minute.
Richmond, Va: Bob, I think you probably know that the real reason Hillary Clinton wants to be in the Senate is to further her real goal to become President herself. Just think - the Clintons would be the only couple in American history to both occupy the White House. Just not at the same time.
Bob Levey: Nice idea, and I'm sure this is what she's hoping, in some corner of her mind. But if she runs in New York and loses--a very, very real possibility--her political career will be over before it has begun.
Fairfax, VA: What do you make of Spike Lee's comments about shooting Charlton Heston? Even in jest that seems highly inappropriate. Your thoughts?
Bob Levey: Horrible. No gun jokes are funny. We should use the same standard we use beside airport hijack detectors. If Spike had told his little "joke" there, he'd be in the slam.
Arlington VA: hey Bob, what do you think about Sen. Hutchison's -of TX- comments about DC voting rights this past week? Specifically: DC residents shouldn't have a vote, DC gets special financing from the feds -not true anymore- &shouldn't complain, if DC had a vote it would be over representation -what about Wyoming which has fewer people?-, etc. It was probably the most blatant example of the "give us your tax dollars and shut up" thinking in some time.
Bob Levey: No, actually what Sen. Durbin said to Mayor Williams was just as bad. He essentially told the mayor: Don't you dare try to develop your city economically in the same way that I might try to develop Illinois economically. Just run the city so as not to embarrass anyone on the Hill and not to give any potential Senatorial opponent an issue in some future campaign. Just be like a colonial governor, Tony--make the trains run on time and shut up. It's outrageous--and it will continue until the issue of D.C. voting rights is brought to the 50 states in the right way.
Rockville, MD: Agree with the negative comment from Reston about Vic Sussman. Please give your keyboard to someone else next time.
Bob Levey: Vic is on the phone to Mike Tyson at this very moment. Something about getting Mike to pay you a little visit......
Mountain View, CA: I tend to disagree about criminals getting second chances, unless they have celebrity status. In Europe, they actually teach prisoners skills so that when they get out of the clink, they can be bakers, or cooks, or shoe repair guys, or dry cleaners ... you get the idea. What the ex-prisoners there get is a fresh start. They serve all of their sentences, and can lead productive lives when they get out. Someone like Tyson -- who has raped, beaten, and bitten people are allowed to get out and rejoin society? Please.
Bob Levey: I can't imagine Mike Tyson being satisfied with a new career as a cook. He has tasted the fast lane, and he's never going to want to taste a lane that's slower. He is a great big spoiled brat--and no corrections system can do anything about that.
Falls Church, Va: I've been a loyal democrat until Clinton did the dumbest thing in his career, and her name wasn't Monica. It was Madeleine. How on earth could he appoint such a truculent, unpleasant, steel faced person to a position which requires delicate tact and diplomacy? I cant forgive him. She is the reason we are in this mess right now.
Bob Levey: Stop it. Milosevic is the reason we are in this mess. If his squadrons hadn't raped women or lined up 15 men and shot them, bang, just because of who their forbears were, no NATO troops would ever have left the shed.
Upper Marlboro, Md.: If Al Gore stumbles out the starters gate I'm sure the Dems will rally behind Bradley. What happens if Bush stumbles out the starters gate. Do they ride it out and hope for the best or look for another candidate to rally behind? Who's do you think is in the number 2 position?
Bob Levey: I still think Elizabeth Dole would be the most powerful Republican candidate in the general election. However, I grant that she might never get the nomination because she won't bend (or can't bend) to some my-way-or-else elements of the Republican party. Gonna be interesting. The race will probably be about substance as well as style (welcome change). If I were running against George W., I'd hammer him endlessly over his lack of Washington experience and his lack of international experience. Reagan surmounted these same two minuses. Not sure if W. can.
Mitchellville, MD: Is it right for me to boo Albert Belle even though I love the Orioles??
Bob Levey: If you failed to run out a ground ball, and you made $13 million a year, I wouldn't boo just you. I'd boo your cat, your hamster and you third cousin. See previous remarks about M. Tyson: Albert Belle is a spoiled brat.
Fairfax, VA: Hey, I liked Vic Sussman! I appreciate anyone who types fast and thinks quickly -like you, Bob.-
Bob Levey: Much obliged! The thing to remember is that Sussman types with 10 fingers and I type with only two. So I'm actually five times as wonderful as Vic is....
Warrenton, VA: Bob, one thing I have noticed in the media. Anyone who thinks Clinton is dishonest, immoral and-or incompetent is branded a Clinton hater. I voted for him in 92 and have been sorely disappointed. Doesn't mean I "hate" him.
Bob Levey: I think there are many more out there like you than like Tom DeLay. People voted for Clinton in '92 because he was dynamic, and wanted change. They voted for him in '96 mostly because Bob Dole was a wan, backward-looking horror of a candidate. I agree that Clinton is dishonest and immoral. That doesn't make either of us a Clinton hater. It just plops us into the same boat--truly shocked by his behavior, worried that young Americans will stay cynical for decades.
Herndon, VA: You chide those of us who live in the suburbs, far from our jobs, instead of moving to DC - but then you -rightly- say that DC is a colony, and that it's citizens are treated as second-class Americans -which they are, and I agree the situation needs remedy-. Why blame us for not wanting to be treated so?
Bob Levey: Why not move into D.C. and work for political change? All right, I realize that's unlikely. I don't blame you for wanting all your rights. But if you're going to stay in Virginia and enjoy them, the least you can do is bug the Warners and Robbs to DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE D.C. VOTING RIGHTS ISSUE. He who hides from a problem perpetuates it. That goes for Warner, Robb--and you, too.
DC: I take real exception to Falls Church's comment about Madeline Albright. Spend an hour in a room listening to her and you can't help but be struck with her intelligence and presence. Her appearance has nothing to do with her ability to her job.
Bob Levey: Typical sexism, I'm afraid. Dean Rusk looked like a bulldog with a hangover. Did anyone ever comment on how ugly HE was?
Bob Levey: I'm afraid so. Otherwise, you'll be like the guy who downs eight scotches, but still drives home because he-and-he-alone can "handle it."
Centreville, VA: Seriously, though. What is up with those Orioles? Even their Ace Pitcher, Mike Mussina, is losing games! What's your take, Bob?
Bob Levey: Bad chemistry. Bad pitching (except for Mussina). Bad acquisitions (Conine looks like a cigar-store Indian at the plate--DeShields couldn't start on my son's Little League team).
Herndon, VA: I don't hide from the DC voting problem, and I will gladly lobby Warner and Robb. And make my voting decisions based in part on their actions in that matter. But may I point out that I have more influence while I _am_ represented. I can conceivably do more to affect DC voting rights now than if I lived in DC. Shameful, certainly. But true.
Bob Levey: Well said. I wish you were wrong. You're not.