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Levey Live: Speaking Freely

Friday, August 20, 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.

Bob Levey
Bob Levey
Dan Murano/washingtonpost.com

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 DC. Bob's columns.

Here is a transcript of today's session:





Fairfax Co.: Is it just me or does it seem that parking fees, espeically at theme parks and sports events, are reaching outrageous levels? Twenty years ago, local theme parks charged $1 for parking. Now it's $6. I know inflation hasn't increased 6 times since 1980. What gives?

Bob Levey: Profiteering gives. They know they have a captive market so they take advantage. Bicycles, anyone?


Falls Church, VA: Since you've had some time to hob-nob with some Little League Big Shots, maybe you can explain a little about baseball's popularity in the rest of the world. For example, Germany is sending a team to the LL-World Series. I had no idea that German kids could be interested enough in baseball, let alone play well at it. Do you think baseball could become as popular as soccer in the rest of the world?

Bob Levey: I think it might eventually, although it's so strongly identified with the U.S. that it might face resistance, the same way that American football has not spread outside this hemisphere. I'm not sure that Germany alone will send a team to the Little League World Series. I think Europe will. I'm told that European baseball is far behind Far Eastern and South American baseball.


Alexandria: Will you be in DC on midnight Jan. 2000? What do you think will happen?

Bob Levey: 1)Yes.
2) Nothing out of the ordinary.
Seriously, would someone please tell me what the big deal is? If there are any interruptions of services, they won't last long. Does anyone say that the sky is falling when a summer thunderstorm knocks down a power line? I suspect that if Y2K brings any badness, it'll be on that order.


Washington DC: Why are you such a bleeding heart liberal? You're such a wuss, whiner, complainer.....how do you stay employed? I wil say that I do respect your annual campaigns for children - I think you do an outstanding job. But next time you go across country - please fly. Your whinings about your road trip were classic Levey - totally pansy -$$ed. I have made that trip 5 times and have never had one thing to c

Bob Levey: First time I've ever heard of a liberal truck driver! My dear, sweet correspondent refers to a piece I wrote in the Travel section last month about a cross-country truck trip I took. Believe me, pal, if you'd been aboard the day we hit a blizzard, you would have complained, too.
I guess I stay employed because they like the tan I've got. Or maybe they like my green eyes. It couldn't POSSIBLY have anything to do with the fact that I've gotten around on the fast ball for 32 years, could it?


Alex, VA: Bob, The Redskins record this year will be:

Thanks.

Bob Levey: 6-10. Another boring year by the most boring team in sports. Sorry, Snyder. You've bought the football equivalent of a Plymouth dealership.


Arlington VA: OK, this isn't a major issue, but something I've noticed...

I sometimes eat lunch in a small park near my office. It's a nice bit of fresh air and peace, where I can read or listen to NPR while I eat.

Except for something that seems to have gotten quite common... people pull into the parking lot -which is small- and sit in their cars, engines running, eating their lunches or napping or whatever. So everyone else sits there breathing fumes and listening to engine noise.

Not only is it pollution -not a lot but still-, but it's really inconsiderate to everyone around them. What's with people?

Bob Levey: You said it--inconsiderate. And incredibly misguided. Why would anyone want to sit behinbd the wheel of an idling car when he/she could sit outside? Mind boggles......


DC: Bob, I have an itch right in the middle of my back. Could you scratch it for me ?
A little lower...to the right....RIGHT THERE !
Thanks Bob

Bob Levey: And they say we're not a full-service profession.


DC: How are you coping with D.C.'s loss? We're proud that they managed to make it as far as they did. Who are you rooting for now?

Bob Levey: In case other Leveyites did not read the sports pages on Wednesday......
My son's Little League team (the D.C. state champs) went all the way to the Middle Atlantic finals at the Eastern Regional tournament in Bristol, Conn. They lost in extra innings, 8-6, to the eventual champ (and last season's world champ) from Toms River, N.J. I hope that everyone within the sound of my typing fingers realizes what an incredible achievement this is. No D.C. state champ had ever before won more than one game at Bristol. These kids won four--and came within a foot of beating Toms River (one of our players hit a ball to the warning track in the bottom of the sixth inning that the wind knocked down--if it had been a home run, we'd be at the World Series right now). Not only that, but D.C. came back from four runs behind THREE TIMES in this game. One sportswriter told me after the game that he has covered amateur and minor league baseball for 12 years and this was the best game he has ever seen.
How does one cope with such a defeat? Not well. I'm still suffering over this. But the good news is that my son is moving past it. He even said to me this morning that he'll root for Toms River next week.


Montvale, NJ: Sorry your team lost. Now you can cheer for New Jersey!It is overcast here. We had some rain this week so some
green returned. How is DC doing?

Bob Levey: See previous answer. A return trip via the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike will snap anybody out of anything!


Bowie, MD: Hey Bob :-

Dare I ask how your stomach is holding up after all of the worrying about Allie and his team?

GO DC!

Bob Levey: I'm a big believer in Life's Lessons from Sports. I don't think it's just about balls and strikes and wins and losses. I think it's about how (and how well) you pull yourself off the deck and go on.
My guy did that in a big way in the big game at Bristol.
He made an error in the first inning. Another in the fourth. Both led to runs. But he came back to get three hits, including a pistol shot off the wall in left field with two out and two strikes in the last inning. I say that's courage. I say that'll stand him in very good stead. No kidding, I hope he remembers that hit when he's 75. Zillions of kids would have crumbled. He rose to the occasion.
As for my stomach lining...
What stomach lining?
And what voice?
I couldn't talk until yesterday. Not doing so hot even now....


Stafford VA: Bob,
Congratulation to Allie and his teammates for a job well done! Do you know who won the title on Connecticut?

Bob Levey: Toms River beat Middleboro, Mass., 3-0, last night. They go back to Williamsport for the third time in five years. Don't bet against them. They are a very good, very poised team


Colesville, Md.: I'm rather amused by GWB, Jr's dancing around the drug issue, but how long do you think it'll last. And what do you think will be the fall-out from any type of revelation. The country's been pretty forgiving of Clinton's various escapades, will the same hold true for W?

Bob Levey: The longer he leaves it dangling, the more damage it will do. He's getting incredibly bad advice if he believes "the pack" will let him alone in a couple of weeks. Any time a politician looks as if he has something to hide, armies of reporters smell blood--and keep looking for it.


Alexandria, VA: OK, Bob, why no mention of the team's loss on Tuesday to Toms River? No shame. They played better than any other team that lost to last year's World Champions. Also, guess you don't mind getting the wrath of Plymouth owners and dealers in the area. Don't forget, Daimler-Chrysler is having a big year in car, van and truck sales. No, I'm not a Plymouth dealer, owner, or stockholder.

Bob Levey: I couldn't have mentioned D.C.'s loss on my Tuesday chat because the loss hadn't taken place yet. Hey, I have great mental powers, but they're not THAT great!
Indeed, the D.C. kids played much better than any other team in Bristol, besides Toms River. Our kids had the best pitching and the best infield defense. A little more pitching and hitting, and I'd be living out of a suitcase and a laundromat for another week.
I stand by my defamation of Plymouths. Totally soulless, uninspired, uninspiring cars


Beverly Hills, Ca: Last week you mentioned that you reside in southern Montgomery County. Why not just tell us where? Itís okay to be able to afford Bethesda, Chevy Chase or Potomac. You must be just ravished with white guilt.

Bob Levey: I'm ravished with taxes. Sure feels wonderful.
I wouldn't want to tell you where I live. You'd make me pick up my son's soccer ball, which has been sitting under the deck for the last seven years.


Mt. Rainier MD: Now that conservatives have gone all compassionate, can we call them bleeding hearts, too?

Bob Levey: My preference is: bleeding heartlesses.


Washington, DC: Bob, you are on vacation and your print column is not running but you are still having your on-line chats. Carolyn Hax just signed off her on-line chat saying he print column would continue to
appear but she would not have on-line chats for a week or so.
What ever happened to vacations?
A vacation is a period of time--several days to several
weeks during which one does -not- work, in case you have forgotten.

Bob Levey: I made a 52-week-a-year commitment to the custodians of the future at washingtonpost.com. They would not be amused if I said I would rather read Stephen King trash at some beach.
Seriously, in many ways, these chats are just like talk radio (where I have also worked for 16 of the last 20 years). You work, work, work to build a regular following. How can you then turn around and thumb your nose at it? Besides, this is so much fun--guy calls you a bleeding heart liberal, guy castigates you for where you live. I mean, wouldn't ANYONE want to sit here and subject himself to such gushing?


Germantown: Not a Plymouth owner, but a Chrysler fan....

Plymouth has history of good cars - the 69 Superbird, the Baracuda, the Road Runner. Even the little Dusters are cool if you squeeze a 340 Magnum into it.

Bob Levey: My family's first car was a 1949 Plymouth. I still remember my father's pleasure when he packed us all into it. I also still remember the colorful language he used when it died on the New York Thruway.


Fairfax, VA: I agree with your answer about George Dub-ya. Honesty, after all is the best policy. When are these egg heads going to learn that cover-ups always end up exposing more!

Bob Levey: If they can't learn from Clinton, you'd think they'd learn from that great Republican, Richard Milhous Nixon, whose wonderful staff gave us that deathless phrase, "modified limited hangout route." Nixon died because of that route. Dubbayew might, too.


Arlington: What kind of chance do you think Boise has to win?

Bob Levey: This refers to the Boise, Idaho, Little League, I assume (unless some dude named Charles Boise is suddenly planning to run in New Hampshire against Dubbayew).
I'm told they're very good--strong pitching, three kids who can crush the ball. That's often all you need in Little League.


Vienna, VA. : Funny, my beau thinks you're bullheaded and conservative.
So, Sholl's is saved!! Any comment?

Bob Levey: Bullheaded I often am. Conservative I seldom am--not in the typical Capitol Hill meaning of the phrase, anyway. However, I do believe in the system, in honoring your commitments, in working hard, in family. If that equates me with Dan Quayle and similar hyenas, I guess I'll just have to live with that.
Hey, isn't that great about Sholl's! Proves yet again that publicity can affect even the hardest-hearted real estate folk. I may stop by for a piece of victory apple pie right after this chat....


Washington, DC: Bob- I sent this on Tuesday after reading about your son and his team, but I guess I was too late to get it posted... I just wanted to let you know how much I admire how involved you are in your son's life. Coming from a childhood where my father wasn't around at all, I hope your son realizes how lucky he is to have a dad who thrives on being around him. Maybe more parents will realize how lucky they are....

Bob Levey: I appreciate that more than you can possibly know. The trick is to be involved in my son's life (and my daughter's, too) without crushing or overshadowing them. The real aim of any parent is to help a child be independent. If a kid needs his parents in the stands--as opposed to wanting and liking his parents in the stands--that's a sign of weakness, not of strength.
In any event, I couldn't possibly have been anywhere else during any moment of those ball games in Connecticut. As I told a friend the other day, which Levey do you think was crying harder after the last out?


Cyberspace, USA: Bob,
Sorry to hear about your son's team's loss.

My question to you is, have you ever thought SERIOUSLY about running for office, either on a local-National level? You smart, intellengent, passionate about people & issues effection the common man. I personally think you could write yer own ticket. Besides, I'm sure Vic would vote for you, as well, as THOUSANDS of Leveyites!

Bob Levey: Bite your typing fingers...
I would never do it under the current system. As Bruce Babbitt so memorably put it, who wants to spend one's life on the phone, begging money from fat cats one doesn't even know?
However, I will tell you this: When and if I retire from the Typing Biz, I'm going to be involved in public service and/or higher education. Somehow. Somewhere.
Vic would never vote for me, by the way. How could he? They refuse to slip ballots into that tiger cage of his


Arlington, VA: hey Bob - what do you think of renaming JKC stadium to "Redskin Stadium?"

I noticed in the Post story that this is only until "Naming rights are sold" -AOL Stadium?-. Memo to big corporations: if you sponsor a venue and then, as a public service, DON'T mess with the name, I'll have a more positive impression of you.

Bob Levey: Why didn't Snyder just skip a step and wait until some company bought the naming rights? Then he could have gone directly from the Big Jack to the Big Something Else, without annoying Cooke's family.
At the same time, I was amused by the argument that a few people made--about how Jack Kent Cooke Stadium was part of tradition. After just two years?


Alexandria VA: Hey Bob - opinion. My roommate and I have conflicting schedules and rarely get to talk, except when we ride the metro in the morning. It's not that we talk of anything offensive or off-color, but we have noticed that people don't take kindly to us. We've gotten scolded, dirty looks, glares, etc. and we find it quite disturbing. Why do you think the "metr-iquette" -nelogism?- is such that you are frowned upon for having simple conversation? I don't see what is so wrong with talking on the metro.

Bob Levey: It's the biggest single difference between American public transportation and the public transportation in other countries. Ever ridden a bus in Europe? People act as if they're at an ice cream social. But in the U.S., we seem to think it's uncool to crowd someone's mental space. Maybe we're afraid he's about to whip out an AK 47.
Anyway, keep chattering, and if someone objects, tell him to stick it.


Fairfax, VA: Bob,
Are you still going to go to Williamsport for the World Series. It'll be worth every mile!

Bob Levey: Too much else to do. Sorry. Some other year


Vienna, VA.: Don't you DARE put yourself in the same category as Dan Quayle. Eww. You're much better than that, Bob, and my beau doesn't think you're anywere near that extreme. and don't EVER discredit Hyenas by using those noble beasts as a synonym for...THAT bunch of scary people!
And have some apple pie for me

Bob Levey: Thanks so much. I have to confess that Quayle leapt to mind because I saw him on the tube the other day, after that abusurdity in Iowa. Danny Boy has gray sideburns now. I found myself welcoming him to the club and wondering if anyone ever accuses HIM of looking like Gingrich!


College Park, MD: Bob--I have tried to ask this question a few times. Why does Herblock, the Postís political cartoonist, continually portraying the National Rifle Association as gangsters? Every time I see a Washington Post cartoon on gun control, the NRA members have Fedora hats, pinstripe suits and look straight out of Guys and Dolls. Wouldnít this be similar to a political satirist always drawing our current president with a headband, marijuana cigarette in his mouth and pants down around his ankles? I think Herblock loses any objectivity by these gross visual misrepresentations--even if they are meant to be caricatures. Your opinion?

Bob Levey: Since when is a political cartoonist objective? Herblock doesn't draw cartoons so they can be displayed at the Sistine Chapel. He's there to skewer hypocrisy--and I say he still does it better than anyone else. One of his best weapons is overstatement. But that's only designed to draw a smile and hammer home a point.


Washington, DC: Who will be replacing Meg as the Op-Ed section editor? I though Rosenfeld did not want the job and would not take it.

Bob Levey: No word yet. Cauldron still bubbling


Arlington, VA: hi Bob, Can you settle an argument. A friend told me a story about a fellow who refusted to sell his property to a potential buyer just because the buyer was a lawyer. I said I thought that was illegal to discriminate that way and she said you don't have to sell your house to anyone you don't want to but again I swear we have laws that bar such discrimination since what is to prevent someone from not wanting to sell to an African-American, gay couple, etc. etc. Can you settle this one?

Bob Levey: There isn't any clear case law on this, as I understand it. Covenants that bar the sale of property to members of certain races and ehtnic groups are clearly illegal. But anyone can refuse to sell anything to anyone. The trouble comes if you say aloud that you're refusing because the potential buyer is a lawyer. Then, civil rights laws may apply (or may not). Get ready for a big court fight on this one


Bladensburg Md: George W. would have been better off if he'd been more consistent. He talked about the drinking and womanizing, mentioning of course how he'd got religion on both, as soon as he was asked. But when drugs comes up, suddenly he goes all grande dame on us and is 'above' talking about rumors? He convinced me he'd done something he didn't want to talk about anyway.

Bob Levey: You and many others. I'm surprised that the Bushian equivalent of Lucianne Goldberg hasn't emerged yet--some greedy idiot who claims to have the goods on some coke party that Dubbayew attended in 1970 or so, and who claims to have tape recordings that prove it.


Alexandria: Did you ever hear again from LA Dad -father and son playing frisbee on the Ellipse...Secret Service-

Bob Levey: No, but we're looking into a column on this. Stay tuned.


The Front Office: I get the feeling that you are nervous little man that woke up one day and realized that he was a major player at The Post and somewhat of a local celebrity. Whatís it like to go through life knowing that Don could pull the plug on you at any minute?

Bob Levey: I keep practicing my free throws. If The Post gig goes sour, I can always play for the Wizards. In fact, I might actually help them. The guys they have now surely won't


Mt. Rainier MD: Poor Dan Q.! All his best friends say that he's lots smarter than he's made out to be, and I keep thinking, well, he'd have to be or he wouldn't know when to breathe. He'd sure have to be smarter than his own mouth makes him out to be.

Bob Levey: I wouldn't bet on his smarts. The "potatoe" business "out-ed" his IQ forever. As for his supposed compassion, I'll never forget him saying in the 1992 debates that he had "taken time out of my busy schedule" to visit actual underprivileged kids somewhere. Thanks for caring so deeply, Dan. Did you miss a fund-raiser or two?


Arlington, VA: Re: Talking on the Metro
Yes, I glare at people who talk on the Metro--but ONLY at the ones who talk or should I say, SHOUT, at the top of their lungs--not to mention the mother who reads AT THE TOP of her voice to her two kids on the Orange Line!

Bob Levey: The ones who kill me are those who have Walkmen attached to their skulls (and cranked as high as they can go). They shout to talk because they think they have to!


DC: Why are you so mean to Vic when he's nothing but nice to you?

Bob Levey: Nice to me? NICE TO ME? The man continues to insist that I can stand on my own two feet, technologically. He said to me just a few minutes ago that since I figured out how to configure my borrowed computer while I was doing this chat in Connecticut, I must know how to do it here in D.C. The man simply doesn't understand how obtuse I am. My kids have shown me how to work the TV in my own home about 37 million times, and I still can't remember (or figure it out on my own).
Vic is my shepherd. I shall not want. He leadeth me through green technological pastures. He restoreth my data base. Yea, though I type through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil--AS LONG AS THE DUDE IS ON THE OTHER END OF THE PHONE TO HOLD MY HAND WHEN THE DAMNED SERVER CRASHES!


Arlington, Va: Funny you should mention "Stephen King trash". Just where do you think YOUR prose ends up at the end of the day. every day it appears?

Bob Levey: Bird cages all over the D.C. area love and respect and thank me


DC: Actually, the European Little League champion in the past has sometimes been US kids who live on a military base there...I remember this happening one year.

Bob Levey: True, and it may be true in 1999, too.


Falls Church, VA: Hey Bob, I really believe you will be eating your words about the Redskins this year. I really think we have a chance!

Bob Levey: With no backs and no defensive line and no sparkle? I'm already making plans to give my heart to the Wizards by Thanksgiving--and as bad as they're gonna be, that's a major sacrifice.


Crownsville, MD: Hi, Bob:

You mentioned quality of umpiring last time - I watched some of the games on TV last night -or was it the night before?- and saw umpires calling strikes that bounced to the catcher... I hope the umpiring in your son's games were better.

Bob Levey: Sometimes yes and sometimes no. The real problem was inconsistency from inning to inning by the same ump. In the big-big-big game against New Jersey, the ump called strike three on my son on a pitch that was about a foot outside. Yet he called a pitch in the same place a ball on the next hitter.


The upper left-hand side of lower Mongomery County: Do you think William Donald Schafer Cougar Mellencamp will extend the water restrictions in Maryland to include wet T-shirt contests?

Bob Levey: I'm hoping for a water-chugging contest featuring Hell's Angels. First to chug three gallons of H2O gets a free parking place for his big at all Giant Food stires--something like that


Colesville, Md.: Hate to admit that I haven't been keeping up with the Post as much as I should BUT how did the final tally of the Camp Campaign go? What did you learn this year? Any general thoughts?

Bob Levey: We raised about $440,000, more than $100,000 short of our goal. I'm really surprised. I thought it would be a banner year, what with Wall Street humming and incomes soaring. I learned what I always knew: there's no way to figure any charity campaign in advance. They do what they do, and you can't really rescue them if they're doomed to fall short.


Arlington, VA: I don't want to deal with George W's problems with the press but a pet peeve I have is that the press determines the context of the campaign. It's not tax policy or what compassionate conservatism might be but it is purely personal stuff, some relevant, most not. I also believe that a reporter who asks a candidate about his-her sex-drug life should preface it by publicly stating his-her own sex-drug life.

Bob Levey: Reporters don't have sex or drug lives. They have no time for the former and no money for the latter.
To your more important point....
The press reports what people do and say. We don't cook up these stories. We simply pass along to you readers and viewers what is actually going on. So how do we determine the context of a campaign?
Sure, we decide what questions to ask, and what to put high in our stories. But any candidate can overcome Death By Journalism. He just has to have something to say, and say it. The worst candidates are those whose platforms are full of bromides and b.s. Yet they attack the press for distorting their message.
What message?


Vic Sussman: It's okay when Bob says I live in a cage in Rosslyn. It's okay when he suggests that I pick up the rear end of Volkswagens for fun. Actually, I only heft BMWs, having expensive taste.

But really, folks, when Bob starts INSULTING COMPUTERS IN CAPITAL LETTERS I get nervous.

Computers have feelings too...

Bob Levey: You see what I mean, gang.
Vic is way over the edge, and his machinery is, too.


Bob Levey: I'm off to lick some more Little League wounds, gang. See you on Tuesday, from noon to 1 p.m., when "Levey Live" visits with Washington Post business reporter George Hager. We'll do this every-Friday free-for-all a week from today, at the same time.



© 1999 The Washington Post Company


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