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"Levey Live" archives

Levey Live: Speaking Freely

Friday, June 18, 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/

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: I am one of those who feels that Clinton, Albright and NATO bungled the conflict in Kosovo. I know you think they did a bang up job. With all the atrocities being uncovered this week, my point is we needed to get into Kosovo much more aggressively an incisively to protect them. Our eternal bombing gave Slobo all the opportunity he needed. Do you still think that was the correct way to wage war?

Bob Levey: I think Clinton was amazingly out to lunch to declare on Day One that ground troops wouldn't be used. No one believed him when he later said that ground troops were always a live option. So in that sense, I suppose he isn't the greatest strategist (or politician) around. Yet the air-war strategy did achieve the major aims--Milosevic buckling, NATO assuring something like a return to their homeland by the Kosovars. You're looking for a degree of perfection and protection that was never possible, no matter who was calling the signals.

Mt. Rainier MD: It seems the Republicans feel that having students recite prayers in school or sit and stare at the 10 commandments in class will cut down on violence. Frankly, I can't think of anything more likely to make me feel violent than having someone else's religion -or someone else's version of my religion!- shoved down my throat.

Bob Levey: You've hit the essence of the problem. I have absolutely nothing against religion or spirituality. In fact, I think it's a great idea for kids to pause and reflect quietly at some time during the school day. But there is no assured, non-sectarian way to do this the minute you start using the word "God." To recite even the 10 commandments is to be coercive in some way. It may not quite be shoving religion down an unwilling throat. But just as I respect religion and religious freedom, I respect the right of even one schoolchild to avoid someone else's definition of those terms.

Mike , East Lyme CT: Bob,

What, in your opinion, makes the Washington area a great place to work, and live. What makes the area stand out compared to other major areas.

Bob Levey: Incredibly well-educated population. Incredibly purposeful and dedicated population. Incredibly terrible pro basketball team, about which all can complain (and all do).

Silver Spring, MD: Why do local media act like
the Orioles are our home team?

Residents of "Charm City"
didn't return the favor when
they didn't have a football

Bob Levey: Have you noticed the Senators playing in RFK Stadium lately? The Orioles are as close to a home team as we have (and as close as I believe we're going to get for the foreseeable future). Numbers never lie, my friend, and the numbers are these: one-third of all Orioles customers come from the Washington metropolitan area. So it isn't the local media who have dubbed the Orioles our home team. Our readers (and listeners, and viewers) are voting with their wallets.

Glendale, Maryland: Dear Bob,

I have come to the conclusion that Congress has lost the ability to pass legislation that will protect our law abiding citizens from criminals such as those who have easy access to guns.
The next piece of legislation that Congress enacts should be a law prohibiting lawyers from serving in Congress. Instead, only people who have basic common sense such as stay-at-home moms, successful small business owners, school teachers, barbers etc. should be allowed to serve in Congress.
What do you think of the above proposed agenda for tackling the crime problem?

Bob Levey: Not to mince words, but I think you're talking nonsense. The problem isn't whether Congress contains lawyers. The problem is that Congress cannot get together politically. Leaders don't lead. Committees don't work quickly (because leaders don't use them correctly). Lobbyists have way too much power. If you want to fix Congress, demand parties that actually want to see things change. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans truly do. Proof of the pudding: the stalling on campaign finance reform. What a joke! The country is crying for reform, and Congressional "leaders" hide behind some perversion of the First Amendment to justify taking anyone's cash.

Washington DC: I couldn't believe that one republican was actually heard to say that if columbine had had the 10 commandments posted, the killings would have been prevented! Oh please. Do these people really have their heads in the sand?

Bob Levey: They're just playing to the home audience (i.e. the home voters). In case you missed it, it's always about getting re-elected. The genius who said this probably has polls that told him to say this. I pity both him and his pollster.

VA: Speaking of religious freedom, I hope you also support the right of Wiccans in the military to practice their religion as freely as Catholics, Protestants or Jews may?

Bob Levey: Absolutely, although I would expect to hear the age-old argument about military readiness. If a Wiccan in the military is brewing a potion, and doesn't make it into battle on time, I'd have a big problem with that--and so would every general I know.

Bethesda, Maryland: Hi Bob!

I noticed on the cover of the Post's Weekend section a photo of a pretty awesome looking roller coaster. So do you do amusement parks in the summer with your son?
Will we catch you on The Hurler or one of the other many scream machines?
Certainly it would be a departure from being tethered to your computer all day.

Bob Levey: Both of our kids hate lines as much as their parents do, so amusement parks usually fail our "family outing" test. Whenever we might go to one, it's a hot summer Sunday, which guarantees a two-hour wait for each ride (and also guarantees that Papa Bear will spend $50 on sodas and ice cream, to soothe his two savage beasts). Given how busy our family is (and apparently always will be), I'd say summer breaks will come in very small doses in 1999.

Arlington, VA: Why is it that the editorials on the far left of the op-ed pages have no by-line, while all the other editorials and letters have their author clearly identified? I'm all for free speech and free press, but if you feel strongly about the positions you're stating, then don't hide behind the shield of anonymity!

Bob Levey: The left-hand editorial page is the voice of the newspaper (technically of the publisher). The right-hand page (or op-ed page) features a wide range of signed opinion, usually written by non-staff members (and never offered on behalf of the publisher's viewpoint). I don't blame you for assuming that there's some grand conspiracy about all this, by the way. We in the newspaper business do a terrible job of explaining how we operate. Your question is just one example.

FFX, VA: Re: School Prayer

While I am against a mandatory prayer -for all the reasons named above-, what about a mandatory moment of silence? Kids can pray if they are brought up to prey, or they can reflect on the day ahead. At any rate, it would settle everybody down at the start of the day.

Bob Levey: No objection from this corner. In fact, I'd be very much for it--as long as it doesn't degenerate into some giggle-fest or tickle-fest.

Bethesda, MD: Add those buildings who insist on having their sidewalks hosed down each morning to the list of my pet peeves. I can understand washing it down once a week, but everyday I
have to sidestep these people
and I don't always succeed.
Are they in cahoots with dry cleaners because I'm seeing mine often to clean stained pants legs...

Bob Levey: I guess my body language must be in better shape than yours. I encounter this on downtown sidewalks all the time. All I do is clomp a little louder as I near the Raging River. The guy usually aims the hose the other way. If he doesn't, you might try clearing your throat extra-loud as you draw near.

loveland, colorado: do you think there will
be a real problem with
transportation especially
air traffic at the end
of the year regardless
of Y2K?

Bob Levey: I expect that some nattering nabobs of nervousness will not fly over New Year's weekend. I also doubt seriously that anything terrible will happen. Even if a few computers do go haywire, how bad will it be to curl up beside a fire and play Scrabble for a coupla days? We probably should all do that, anyway. Incidentally, I plan to write a column for 1/1/2000. And I expect to see it in print. So much for any Y2K bugs I might foresee in the news biz.

College Park, MD: How do you feel about Congress passing laws on censoring multimedia entertainment to youth? How could you tell if playing a video game or watching pro-wrestling causes "Trenchcoat Mafias". How silly.

Bob Levey: And how dangerous. This is a first step down the road to censorship of books--a true danger to a free society.

Princeton, NJ: Bob, I was just wondering if it would be possible to get BOb Woodward on the show some time? With "Shadow," out,t it was be interesting to chat with him.

Bob Levey: Great minds.... Woodward is on my wish list.

Arlington: So if we are allowed to have the 10 commandments in school, what happens when the child of the local Satanists wants to do a little prayer to the fallen one?

I'm being facetious, but there's a real issue there. Personally, I think the 10 Commandments hubbub is more about people wanting to enforce THEIR religion as the "real" one. Yuck.

Bob Levey: That's exactly it. The minute you choose one prayer to start the school day, or one set of commandments, you choose against other prayers and other sets. You can't help but exclude someone.

Fairfax: Bob - howdy!
Who, in your opinion, is the most under-rated or under-appreciated local politician-civil servant in the Wash. area?

Bob Levey: Nobody in the world is better at personal constituent service than Rep. Connie Morella, the Republican from Maryland's Eighth District (Montgomery County). As for seeing issues clearly and in a non-partisan way, I tip my cap to Kathy Patterson (D.C. Council) and Kate Hanley (Fairfax Supervisors). I would have included Rep. Tom Davis on this list a year ago, but he seems to have tanked a bit now that the Republican big boys have made him a big national money-raiser.

Indianapolis, Indiana: I noticed my old pal Bob Barr on C-SPAN last night saying that the Ten Commandments would have prevented Columbine. Am I the only person in this country that believes that these 535 people have better things to do than take lobbyist's money, ignore us and spout out superfluous nothing when the polls say they should. Short of a revolution, what do we do? I'm sick of feeling powerless to these people.

Bob Levey: You are powerless in Indianapolis to dis-elect Bob Barr from his seat in Georgia. But the folks in his district are not. That's where the rubber has to meet the road. Write to your representative (regardless of party) and demand that his/her national party spend serious bucks to support Barr's next opponent. The only surefire anti-moron medicine is a winning opponent.

Somewhere, USA: Heck, I consider the O's my home team and I'm from a Va suburb!

Bob Levey: You aren't alone, Mr. or Ms. Somewhere. Just check out the parking lots at Orioles games. Full of Virginia tags. By the way, since the Senators have been gone for 28 years, and since so many Northern Virginians make the drive to Ball-de-more all the time, it's odds against that the major leagues will move a new team into Arlington or Fairfax. Why should they, when a large hunk of their market belongs to another team?

DC: I have yet to hear a reasonable argument against a 3 day background check for gun sales. It seems to me that if you cannot wait three days to get a gun into your hands, you're the kind of person who probably shouldn't have one to begin with.

Bob Levey: I couldn't agree more. Another way to look at this: Ask a six-year-old child about waiting periods. Ask if they make (common) sense to him. I bet I know which answer you'll get.

DC: Hi Bob. I was browsing your past discussions a few weeks ago and I noticed one in which you mentioned that at least Jerry Falwell practices what he preaches. That might be so, but let me tell you, the rest of Lynchburg, Virginia practices what he preaches too. I have the unfortunate pleasure of attending school in Lynchburg and although I do not go to Liberty, I am "blessed" with Jerry Falwell everywhere I go. The town operates around Liberty's curfew; half of the shops are either religious in nature or pro-Christianity. I don't resent his beliefs, but I do resent his evident ownership of Lynchburg and my decision to go to school there. -Just had to comment on the situation after reading that discussion.-

Bob Levey: Jerry Falwell certainly exerts a lot of influence on the town and its economy. So why didn't you know that (or find that out) before choosing to go to school there? It's not exactly a secret.

Arlington, VA: Since it was Bob Barr who said that the ten commandments in the classroom would have prevented Columbine, do you think that having them back in his school days would have prevented him -or anybody else- from committing adultery?

Bob Levey: Great point. I'll bet the Younger Barr dishonored his father and mother a time or two, also.

Nonplussed, MO: Hello Bob; how about that judge who gave -a pro football player- 90 days in jail for a death he caused while DUI? What is going on with our judicial system? You could get more time for writing a bad check.

Bob Levey: This isn't the first judge who has bent the rules in favor of someone famous. Don't you think Judge Idiot out in California bent the rules in Simpson's favor? We are a star-worshipping culture, and it shows in court, too.

FFX, VA: Bob, do you really think that if we do -by some miracle alignment of the planets- get a MLB team in VA that the people who drive 2 hours round trip will continue to do so? The VA baseball fans will embrace a VA team, and free up all of those VA seats - Camden yard for some MD butts.

Bob Levey: Not necessarily. I don't think ownership of fans' hearts transfers that fast. I grant that everyone in Northern Virginia would sample at least one game of a new local team. But that wouldn't necessarily mean that such fans would go to fewer games in a season. I think they'd go to more--their usual eight or 10 in Baltimore, and one or two more than usual in Northern Virginia.

DC: Re Bob Barr

Whenever there's idiocy and hypocrisy from the House there's usually a quote from Barr in the news coverage. The man is truly one of our least intelligent and least honorable members of Congress.

Bob Levey: A little tale from inside the walls: Every single day, I get a fax from Bob Barr's office. I have never requested any, and never would. The fax is always some ad hominem comment that Barr is making on some news event that doesn't (and shouldn't) concern him in the slightest. This proves two things to me: One, the guy's appetite for publicity is unquenchable and two, his sense of what's news is hopelessly out to lunch. I don't care what you think about snail darters in Wyoming, Congressman!

Rosslyn, VA: Bob - Is it legal, out of mere curiosity, to continuously drive forward and reverse on a major street to find a parking spot? This morning I noticed a Jeep doing this exact thing on Lynn St. for a couple of minutes for that very purpose. A confrontation ensued when that Jeep saw that another car -that also came around at the same time a spot did open-because he had "been waiting" on it? Isn't this behavior dangerous?

P.S. Love the show - don't know what I would do with my lunch hour!

Bob Levey: It's always illegal to back up on any public street (although we'd all wink at a minor back-up of a few feet, done once). Next time, call a cop (and then call me--sounds like a glorious Bob Levey column). Thanks, by the way, for those kind words about Lunch Hour with Levey. I bet I won't hear such kindness from tomorrow morning's Bob Barr fax (yes, it even comes chug-a-chugging out of the machine on weekends!--some schmo in Barr's office really believes I'm sitting here on Saturday afternoon, waiting to be told what to think by Bob Barr).

Mt. Rainier MD: Happy -early!- Father's Day, Bob. Is that your favorite day of the year?

Bob Levey: I hope I don't sound like too much of a grump, but we never do Hallmark Holidays in our house. I'm the world's most in-there-pitching father, but I don't need a card to remind me that my kids love me. Their dirty socks and unwashed, three-day-old dishes are reminder enough.

Arlington, VA: FFX is dead wrong. The O's are my home team and always will be. Yeah, if NoVa gets a team, I'll check out some games, but that won't keep me out of Baltimore. I'd never abandon my team for the sake of convenience.

Bob Levey: And who says the Northern Virginia team would be convenient? If they played out near Dulles, for example, and there were no subway connection, it would take you as long to get from Old Town Alexandria to the Northern Virginia games as it does to get to Camden Yards.


If I encounter civil unrest like we did in the 1960's, I want a gun today. One can't plan for emergencies three days in advance. What don't people understand about the Second Amendment to the Constitution?

Bob Levey: You're the one who doesn't understand it. The Second Amendment gives militias the right to bear arms. It doesn't give every citizen the right to shoot any other citizen.

washington, dc: Hi Bob,

It just seems illogical that you need to be 21 to be alcohol, 17 to drive a car -and even then you must pass a written and practical test-. But any body, of any age, and for any reason can buy a gun? It seems to make common sense that people must pass gun-safety and use courses before owning a gun. Your thoughts?

Bob Levey: See my previous answer. Some rights accrue just because you're old enough. The right to own a gun HAS to depend on what kind of level head you do or don't possess. We regulate the distribution of heavy-duty drugs, for example, based on whether you're sane or a known criminal. Why not the same approach for guns?

Washington, DC: I enjoy your column on my metro ride in. What I don't like are the people who blatantly continue to sit when a blind, handicapped or physically challenged person is in need of the seat designated for them. Would I be correct if I politely reminded that person to "move it?" How would you handle this common occurence? I would have given my seat but I was standing along the blind gentleman.

Bob Levey: Just be a little forceful and a little disdainful. You don't need to challenge the sinner physically. Just say, politely but crisply, "Excuse me, but would you mind offering your seat to this blind person?" I'd be shocked if the person didn't spring to his/her feet.

Washington, DC: So what do you think happened in the House with this gun bill? How can they be so far removed from what the public is thinking and feeling about gun violence?

Bob Levey: Their polls say otherwise. Their polls are way, way wrong

Arlington: Hi, Bob.
I noticed the other day that Metro may institute flat fees and free transfers for Metro buses. Do you think they will ever do the same for the trains? In New York it is so convenient to pay the same no matter where you go, buy monthly passes and get free transfers onto buses...I know it's all a money issue, but do you think there is a chance?

Bob Levey: No, because it's not just a money issue, but a political issue. Remember that every NYC train operates within the city limits (except for one extended line that goes to Rockaway Beach). Here, the system cuts through 11 jurisdictions. Each ponies up a share of the costs based on ridership in their home turf. So if you charged a flat fee, D.C. could scream that its riders (and voters) were paying the same as Montgomery riders, even though D.C. riders travel fewer miles.

Washington, DC: How about adding to the idiot Congressman list Virgil Goode and Randy "Duke" Cunningham, for amending the gun bill so there can be MORE handguns in D.C.?

Bob Levey: Neither is on my Favorite Politicians list. Cunningham once called a radio talk show I was hosting to defend free medical care for members of Congress. "And why do you feel that way, Congressman?," I inquired, sweetly. Because he had just had surgery at NIH, for free, Cunningham replied, without the slightest dab of irony. In other words, if it works for Duke-the-individual, it's fine. Incredibly, blatantly corrupt, no?

Fairfax, VA: The "free society" you like to mention so much comes at a huge price. The price is personal responsibility. However, personal responsibility cannot be taught by day care or the educational system. It must be displayed for children by people they look up to the most - their parents. This is the answer to all the Columbine questions of "why?" is simple. However, it is a hard answer and I don't see too many people lining up to do what is necessary. I know lots of people who live on one small income to achieve this goal, but it is not easy.

Bob Levey: I'm with you on personal responsibility. The newspaper article I most look forward to reading is the comments of Mr. and Mrs. Klebold and Mr. and Mrs. Harris, on the question of where they went wrong. Don't you suspect that, somewhere, somehow, they "took a pass" on personal responsibility?

Vienna, VA: What good is freedom of expression if one has to live in fear of their children will be shot at school?

Bob Levey: Freedom of expression is always good. Freedom from violence is also good. You don't need to threaten the first to achieve the second.

FFX, VA: It seems that we will have to agree to disagree on the MLB team in VA. I just think that alot of VA fans follow the O's only because they are close, but they would switch if they had their own HOME team.

Bob Levey: You might be right if the Orioles continue to lose. But if the O's win and the Northern Virginia team loses, you're dead wrong. By the way, howzabout the Northern Virginia Chips for a name--Chips as in microchips?

Tysons Corner, VA: Why don't you think this idea of a moment of silence has come up before? It seems like a great solution to the problem.

Bob Levey: It has come up, many times, in many places. It always gets squashed by school officials and politicians who fear that it's too secular. As I've said, I'm more afraid of an approach that's too religious

Metroland: metro's fares are plain common sense. If you ride the train more, you pay more. Fair enough.

And let's face it -- the value of a rush-hour trip from Shady Grove to downtown is a whole lot more that $1.10, when you think of the cost of driving and parking!

Bob Levey: Exactly. Thanks

Mitchellville, MD: Bob, Up until last week the O's were off of the Internet because they couldn't put 3 w's in a row! Hah

Bob Levey: Cute!

Washington DC: HI Bob,

Any word on how the blue crabs are doing this year? The population in the past few years has been scant. I'm worried that things are going to keep getting worse if law makers don't try to do something substantial to help the population. How do you feel about a moratorium on crabbing for one season?

Bob Levey: I can just see Glendening proposing a one-year moratorium--and threatening the livelihoods of thousands of watermen. Not a great way to win friends!

Ashburn, VA: Re: Metro fares

Why not just have 3 zones? MD, DC, and VA. Riders pay Fee A to travel within one zone, Fee B for travel among two zones, and Fee C for travel through three. Say, $0.85 per zone or something along that line.

Bob Levey: Because there are far more miles of railroad within DC than anywhere else. You have to figure this fare question on a fairness-per-mile basis. It can't be just a question of MD-DC-VA. For one thing, most trips are either within DC or between DC and one state. You'd always have to take that into account

Bob Levey: That's all we can wedge in today. See you next Friday, at the same time. And if you can't wait that long, check out "Levey Live" this coming Tuesday (and every Tuesday). It appears from noon to 1 p.m. Eastern time.

© 1999 The Washington Post Company

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