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Levey Live: Speaking Freely

Friday, August 27, 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 DC. Bob's columns. Here is a transcript of today's session:

Bethesda, MD: Here's my take on what Dan Snyder should do with the naming of the stadium. Sell the naming rights to the stadium and get as much loot as possible, THEN name the field Jack Kent Cooke Field.

Colleges do this all the time. At Tennessee, the stadium is named Neyland Stadium, but they have named the field after a distinguished alum or player -Can't remember which-

Problem solved. Snyder has his money, we'll have our commercially named stadium joining everyone else and Jack Kent Cooke's name will be associated with the team still.

Hurry back, you are missed!

Bob Levey: You won't have to miss me too much longer. My pearls of prose will be back in the paper (and back on line) starting Monday.
Of course, like a steel mill that has to get its furnaces up to speed, I'm spending the last weekday of my vacation here at my desk, getting all the junk sorted and all the column materials ready to go.
Your "Snyder solution" sounds grand, except for one thing. Why would a company pay big bucks for naming rights, and then not use them? No chance of it playing out that way. I think Jack Kent Cooke Stadium is heading for the dustbin, permanently.

Gainesville, VA: Gore's camp has been trying deperately to paint him as Boy Scout and distance him from Slick Willie. But given events of the past seven years, I certainly don't see him that way. My image is the bumbling buffoon chanting "no controlling legal authorty." Do you think Al Gore is a person of integrity and has just been mixed in with the wrong crowd?

Bob Levey: I think Gore is as solid as Clinton is weak. Gore knows better than anyone that the country is sick of the Clintons, and he risks being caught in the downdraft of that sentiment. I've long said that Gore could have won the 2000 election hands down by resigning the second that Clinton admitted lying to the grand jury, his family and the country. If Gore had gone before the TV cameras and said, "I refuse to be associated with a man like this any more," there'd be no Bill Bradley, no bad polls, no late-night comedian jokes. The guy would be a moral force.

Northern VA: Hi Bob,
How's this for a controversial topic: I'm tired of the media stating that the US lost the Viet Nam War. For the record, South Viet Nam lost the war, about 3 years AFTER American combat troops left. Yes, mistakes were made by the Pentagon, Presidents, Congress, field commanders etc, but the US military do not lose that war. If anything, they prevented South Viet Nam from losing the war 10 years earlier. By the way, Bob, were you drafted in the 60's?

Bob Levey: Some wars are lost, but I say the war in Vietnam was won--by the North Vietnamese.
Please don't misunderstand me. I didn't root for that nation then and I don't now. But the performance of their soldiers during the war in Vietnam was one of the greatest military feats in history. How would you like to take on B-52s when all you have are third-rate peashooters given you by the Russians and Chinese? Yet the North Vietnamese managed it, by sheer will.
I don't believe the U.S. could have won the war, in retrospect. We were unwilling to understand what kind of opponent we had. We thought we could bomb the North into submission.
I was indeed drafted during the 1960s (in fact, I got my notice to report for a physical 15 minutes after graduating from the safe cocoon of college). I failed the physical because of a heart condition and because my knee had been, shall we say, reconfigured in a high school football game. But I would have served, and would have gone to Vietnam if sent.

Tysons Corner, VA: Bob, is it true that the metro will be expanding through Tysons Corner soon, if so when? And where will they have room for it?

Bob Levey: There's a plan to create a Tyson's Loop--a spur off the Orange Line. But it is at least five years and $500 million short of actually happening. As for room, it'll be an elevated loop, so very little land will have to be found for it.

Herndon, VA: Yesterday the Post reported that the FBI had acknowledged that its agents fired "a very limited number" of potentially incendiary tear gas cartridges on the final day of the Waco siege, contradicting congressional testimony from Attorney General Janet Reno among others. This is just the latest of a dismaying series of deceptions or misinformation on the part of public officials. What needs to be done to restore trust in our leaders?

Bob Levey: If you're suggesting that Janet Reno has something to answer for here, I disagree vigorously. Reno was obviously misled by liars in the FBI who thought they could "slick" their ultimate boss. All of them should be identified and fired. It's this kind of back-door sleaziness that undermines faith in government officials. I don't see that Reno did anything sleazy. She chose to believe her own FBI when she testified before Congress. They hung her out to dry.

Washington DC: There has been alot of discussion about the evolution-creation debate this week. I'd like to pose this hypothetical question for you: how would you react if your son's freshman biology teacher decided as a matter of principle not to expose his students to the unproven theory of evolution?

Bob Levey: I would complain loudly. A teacher's job is to make children think. That means exposing children to all points of view, including any that a child (or the teacher) may not agree with. How can any child learn to sift wheat from chaff without hearing the entire 360 degrees of any issue, especially controversial issues?

Bowie, MD: Hey Bob:

How do you feel about the revamp of the website's front page -I think it's great, actually - easier to find stuff!-?

And gotta love the rain - I must be out of my mind - last night I was out in that downpour, standing outside, loving every milliliter of rain that fell...::sigh::

Bob Levey: I love the redesign of the page--much cleaner, much easier to find what you're looking for.
As for the rain, I thought it was just me. My wife and I were coming home from downtown last night by Metro. As we came up the escalator at Van Ness, there was a space of about 30 steps where we weren't under cover. We had one (scrawny) umbrella between us. I told her it was all hers, because I wanted to get wet! And I did! And it was wonderful!
If they ever lock us up in the same nuthouse, you can have the umbrella....

Dulles VA: Hi Bob...
I'm one of those NoVA commuters whose life is defined by traffic -commute from Arlington to the evil Dulles sprawl-.this week my car was in the shop & I made an amazing discovery-- this summer they beefed up transit to Dulles. You can now catch all kinds of Fairfax Connector buses from West Falls Church and Tyson's, and they're only a quarter with a Metro transfer. My Metro-bus commute took about 10 minutes longer and was cheaper and more pleasant than driving.
My question is, why are they keeping this a secret? I think I read some story about it in the Post with no details, but never seen it advertised or promoted.
-Maybe I should keep my mouth shut - the bus was nice and uncrowded!-

Bob Levey: Welcome to the world of public transportation believers. We need you, and more like you.
I'm sure some on-liners are smirking about those ten minutes you "wasted" by taking the bus. Think again, smirkers. This correspondent could read on the bus. He/she could get a head start on the work day on the bus, not to mention clearing out his/her better aboard the bus than it's ever possible to do while driving a car. She actually FOUND ten minutes, if you ask me.
As for advertising this and other buses, I've been tilting at that windmill for ages. Metro does wonderfully at generic ads. But they ought to "zone" their bus ads into neighborhoods like yours, for customers just like you. Of course, they plead poverty. But they're gonna be a whole lot poorer if their buses run empty.

fairfax, va: alright, i 've heard all the responses from the female arena on " a cheater is always a cheater", what do you think? I hope that you will be truthful about this.

respectfully-on the line of getting back.

Bob Levey: A cheater is always a cheater. You can twist and fudge and alibi and plead special cases. But no one ever forces anyone to get married. It's a vow of trust. Once you break that trust, it's broken.
The part I never understand is how adulterers live with themselves. If I had to wake up every day and look in the mirror at a face belonging to a liar, a guy who took the easy way out, a guy who said lusty feelings lasting 10 minutes were more important than his family, I'd have a very, very hard time.

Washington, DC: Do you think that if most Americans knew that DC residents had no voting representation in Congress and Congress could dictate how we spend our own tax dollars -as it did in the last appropriations bill hearings- that they would want our status changed?

Bob Levey: Great question, and I'm afraid my answer will be less than satisfying:
I don't think most Americans give a damn.
They think Washington is a theme park, and should be one.
They think that any Washingtonian who's seriously exercised about this should move to Maryland or Virginia.
They think lots of racist thoughts, too. I have always thought that the real issue is that Washington is two-thirds black, and few whites outside D.C. really want to spend political capital on an issue that seems so heavily black.
Yet I think some president (Gore?) will provide the leadership to walk us out of this tangle some day. It simply has to happen. Every day that Washington goes without full rights is a black eye to all Americans who enjoy those rights.

Alexandria, VA: Hey Bob - I need some DC wisdom. I work in Old Town, and am flying to Boston on a Friday evening, say 6 pm. Dulles or BWI? It's much more expensive to fly out of National and I can't justify it. Prices are identical for the other two airports. Thanks so much.

Bob Levey: Let me answer in two ways, one if you're driving, one if you're taking public transportation.
IF DRIVING: Dulles will be about 15 minutes closer--as long as you don't hit traffic. To get from Old Town to the Dulles Access road takes you through one of two routes that are equally treacherous and hateful. Either you go around the Beltway to McLean, and pick up the access road there. Or you fight north along the GW Parkway, get on the Beltway west for a little while, then go north. Either way, you are venturing into the land of the unknown. If you drive to BWI, you'll have to cross the Wilson Bridge. But once you do, the Maryland roads are a little less iffy than the Virginia roads.
IF BY PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Close to a wash. Yellow Line subway to Rosslyn, then Orange Line to West Falls Church, then bus to Dulles will take about an hour and a half. Yellow Line subway, change to Red Line at Gallery Place, to Union Station, then train to BWI station, then bus to airport, will take about as long (as long as you hit the timing and schedules just right).

Oklahoma City, OK: Yo, Bob. How did your kids Little League season go?

Bob Levey: I sigh at the question.
Then I sigh again.
So-o-o-o-o close.
So $%$#@# close.
My son's D.C. Little League all-star team got to the semifinals of the Eastern Region in Bristol, Conn., last week. They drew Toms River, N.J. last year's world champ (and just as good this year). Our kids played the game of their lives. They came back from four runs behind THREE TIMES in the game. They lost on a home run in extra innings. They had an excellent chance to win. Maybe they should have won. In any case, I have no doubt that they'd be in Williamsport, Pa., right this second, playing for all the marbles. Toms River is there instead. I can't watch. Hurts too much.
At least our guys can console themselves with the thought that they were one of the 16 best Little League teams on the planet this year.
As for my guy, he played every second at shortstop, and got three hits in that epic game against Toms River. I am so proud of him that I could bust--and I have, regularly.

Arlington, VA: another option for the person needing to get from Alexandria to Dulles Airport - metro to National and take the Washington Flyer to Dulles - the buses leave every half hour -I beleive-, cost about $15 each way, and are the most relaxing, hassle-free way I've found to get from here to there.

Bob Levey: Excellent option, although it doesn't get you past traffic any better than if you drive yourself.

DC: Bob,
I have a question that's been pestering me for years. I've searched many years and have sacrificed family and friends in pursuit of the answer. I turn to you as my last hope before giving up...Dang I forgot the question. Oh well, I'll get back to you.
Thanks, Bob.

Bob Levey: And here I thought that dementia was mine and mine alone.....

Mt. Rainier MD: Does Fairfax believe that adultery is a gender-related problem? I don't hear guys expressing lots of sympathy, forgiveness, support, etc. for the women who play. And no, don't think they deserve it either.

Bob Levey: They don't. It always takes two to tango.

Hyattsville MD: How's our friend Vic? Hand-holding -technologically speaking- has got to be a challenge from a distance AND a cage. Are we keeping him comfy, there?

Bob Levey: I spoke to Vic this morning. I asked him if his supply of bread and water was holding out. He said yes, they were, but he really missed those BMWs whose front ends he likes to lift for fun. I told him that when one is sentenced to life in a tiger cage in Rosslyn, one has to expect to make some sacrifices.
Yes, technological handholding is a big, big problem (especially when the held hand belongs to Levey, whose knowledge of techie stuff is less than zero, if that's possible). Just the other day, Vic had to explain to me what a bookmark is. I know you're laughing. I wasn't. And he wasn't. He knew I was that hopeless. Because I am.

The Rest of America: -Actually I'm in DC, but I spent most of my life elsewhere.-

Most of America has no clue that DC is not represented in Congress. When I moved here and told friends back home that, they were shocked.

Whether they'd care is another issue... but the "move to MD-VA!" thing seems to be a local phenomenon.

On the other hand most of America thinks Marion Barry is still mayor. But then, I didn't see them wanting to abolish democracy when Orange County, CA blew itself into bankruptcy.

I don't know the answer to this... but I can tell you I've heard, "You're kidding! That's ridiculous!" many times when explaining DC's status.

Bob Levey: But have you ever met an actual member of Congress who says, "That's ridiculous," and then gets off his rump to DO something about it? They can't see any benefit with the home folks--and the way the system works at the moment, they're right

DC: Bob,
I just purchased some voice recognition software, but somethings wrong. I talk to my computer but it doesn't answer me. Do you suppose it's mad at me ?

Bob Levey: It's waiting for you to sing.
Try "Moon River."
That ALWAYS wows 'em.
Second choice: "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head."
One of the worst songs ever written. Every time I hear it, I think it must have created out of peanut butter. That's how ooze-y it is.

Pleasantville, VA: Dear Bob,

Governor Jesse Ventura has been criticized for making a paid appearance at a WWF event, saying he has "disgraced the office he has held". Given the fact that Clinton issued denial to rape accusations THROUGH HIS ATTORNEY and the leading Republican candidate can not even answer if he ever used cocaine, do you see the media attackinh him because he has proven that anybody with little education can effectively govern?

Bob Levey: Jesse-boy is not a serious politician, by his own admission and intention. As long as he signs the state paychecks and stays out of trouble, I think people are willing to let him alone. But profiting from your status (and stature) is another kettle of fish. Do you think it would be proper if, say, Gov. George W. Bush charged to throw out the first ball at a Texas Rangers game? He'd be making a buck on the basis of his PUBLIC role. Not kosher.

Chicago, IL: What qualifies someone as a true Washingtonian? Is there a number of years in residence or income level implied with this term?

Bob Levey: We're certainly not as bad as northern Vermont or southern Alabama, where you have to have been born there to qualify. Here, five minutes is often good enough. But it helps to have done time across at least two administrations. That way, you prove that you're here to stay, despite whichever party is blowing smoke at the moment.

Alexandria, VA: Bob--

I promise right here that when I'm President, I'll give DC citizens a real vote. You can hold me to it.

Bob Levey: But did you do coke after you were 28?

Reston, VA: Joel Achenbach's columns for PM Extra are pretty cool , if you ask me - what else does he do for the paper? -I only read the online edition...-

Bob Levey: Joel is cool to his socks, and has been for a very long time. I'd say three columns a week for the PM Extra are a full meal for just about anyone--and I say that as a guy who has dished up five a week for going on 19 years. But Joel also does large, big-think feature pieces, usually for either the A-section or Style.

Washington: Here's something I've wondered about for a while, and with all the people moving during summer, it's been brought up again. Why are ordinary people like you and me allowed to rent and drive those behometh moving trucks with no sort of special course or training. I'm not talking the little 10 footers- I mean the Big Mommas that you need a ladder to get into. I've almost been killed twice in the last week by clueless drivers who don't realize this is NOT a Honda Accord they are driving. The same problems exist with those huge motorhomes. Why aren't there any legal requirements to drive these monsters?

Bob Levey: I hope you caught my recent piece in the Travel section, wherein I described driving a Ryder Behemoth from New York to L.A. My mother was moving there, and I drove her stuff out to her. I agree with you totally. All I had to do was hand some clerk a credit card and a driver's license, hop behind the wheel and turn the key. Training? They would have scoffed.
These babies are VERY difficult to drive. Many times, I neared the promised land--and I'm a good driver. As always, it's those other clowns you have to watch out for. But seriously, that's true. No one gives truckers enough room--and occasional truckers aren't used to that.

Moncton, New Brunswick (Canada): Hey Bob, I've got a question for you.

I'm wondering what you think about diplomatic immunity. Our city is hosting the World Francophone Summit next week, and a number of human rights violators, dictators who could be charged with war crimes, are coming. The Canadian government says they can't be arrested here under diplomatic immunity, which has left many in an uproar.

Bob Levey: In principle, diplomatic immunity makes sense. You can't subject diplomats to politically motivated arrests. But when diplomats use their immunity to duck local criminal laws, I scream like everyone else. For example, here in D.C., we had a case a couple of years ago where a drunken diplomat smashed into a car driven by a teenager and killed her. The guy was technically untouchable, although his embassy disliked all the negative ink and ultimately decided to knock the props out from under him by insisting that he face local justice.

Rosslyn, VA: A story just crossed the AP wire, Bob: Phenix City, Ala., beat Toms River, 3-2 after an overnight rain delay.

Bob Levey: Well, well. There is justice. May I please breathe now?

Alexandria, VA: I'm another recent public transportation convert and I blame the lack of information about buses on why it took me so long to make the switch. A neighbor of mine bet me a dinner that the taking the DASH bus to King Street and blue line from there to Farragut West would be quicker and cheaper than my 395 commute. He was absolutely right. The whole thing takes about 10 minutes less each way and costs me about $12 less a week. And I have found the time to read again! Metro and it's peers need to get out there into the communities and explain to people exactly what is available.

Bob Levey: You're clearly right, but local politicians have to do the same. The elected folk moan constantly about having to kick in their share for Metro. But they never go to a public meeting and urge people to use the trains and buses they've already paid for.

northern virginia: a cheater always cheated... people make mistakes and people do learn. and people can forgive and heal. it doesn't always happen... but it is possible. so a cheater may learn not to be a cheater.

i don't think this is a situation that lends itself to explanation by pat little rules of thumb.

Bob Levey: Yes, it's possible that a cheater can learn not to cheat again. But ask a mental health professional or a family counselor: it's far more likely that once a cheater cheats, he/she will cheat again.
I always cringe a little when I hear that a person ditched Spouse One to cavort with (and then marry) Spouse Two. Doesn't Spouse Two realize that the same wrecking ball could descend on him/her? It happens, pal--all too often.
By the way, I didn't mean to offer a pat answer--just a principle. Principles work.

Dulles VA: -this is the guy who took the bus again...-

1. I'm not really a convert -- I used the MBTA in Boston for my reverse commute out to the burbs for years.

2. Lost ten minutes? HA! I got so much reading done yesterday! I figure I gained about an hour of the day back.

3. For advertising, I recommend signs along eternally gridlocked I-66.

Bob Levey: How about a set of Burma-Shave-style signs along 66?

Arlington, VA: Hey Bob, and Producer Vic! I see where Sholl's cafeteria has been saved -- what's your next project? Also, what's your take on the Post writer who got caught -and fined for it- eating potato chips on Metro? Is she just trying to be funny, or does she have a serious disregard for a long-held -and workable- rule? Thanks for the chats!

Bob Levey: Still weighing the next project. Let's hope it's as successful as the fight to save Sholl's.
I'm afraid my store of sympathy for people who eat/drink aboard Metro is empty. See a column I've prepared for early September, about a woman who got ticketed for drinking water while on a subway platform. Many people think that's benign. I don't. Rules is rules.

no tell, alabama: It is referred to as LA,
Lower Alabama not southern Alabama FYI. What about "Dan
Boy" Snyder coptering in and
putting his own mug on the
large screens at JKC stadium?

Seems like an egomaniac. Maybe
he'll be called Squire2.

Bob Levey: I suppose you have to be an egomaniac to make that much dough by age 34.
Thanks for the steer re Lower Alabama.

Olney, MD: Bob, We just moved my folks back to Maryland from Santa Fe in a 20 and 25 foot rental moving vans. They were new and a dream to drive. I don't drive or move for a living and I wouldn't want to - I was a lot younger when we moved them out there. I guess we're just cheap. Driving 1,900 miles over three days on Rte's 40, 44 and 70 and observing driver behavior close-up leads me to the obvious conclusion that it's not as much the size of the vehicle that causes the problems but the same ole lack of paying attention, excess speed and plain discourtesy. By the way, it was the professional truckers that were the most courteous. Thanks for the paper and cyber column!

Bob Levey: Amen to that point about professional truckers. When I was doing the trip in my Rydermobile, I would always flick my lights to signal to a passing vehicle when it was safe for him to cut back in. Only professionals truckers flicked their own lights to say thanks

DC: Bob, I remember now.
You know the expression 'Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers' ?
What's a peck ?
Your my last hope, Bob.

Bob Levey: It's a unit of measure. I believe a peck is about the size of an old-fashioned peach basket.
As I always say, newsies know everything (except what happened to Peter Piper--ya think he expired from overwork?)

Arlington, VA: I liked the idea of a separate name for the Redskins' field and the stadium. That way, the play-by-play guys could say, "We're here live at Widget Stadium," while the sportswriters will write about those future playoff victories -- please let us have some -- "A hard fought battle in the trenches of Jack Kent Cooke Field, etc." If the football gods smile upon us, it would also sound good in those ESPN shows that look back at past champions.

Bob Levey: I can just hear Old Jack up in heaven (or down in you-know-where?)......
"You know what those rotten summofaguns did to me? They took my name off the building and applied it to a bunch of grass!!!!!"
Better to just remove his name altogether. In three weeks, I predict that no one will mind and no one will care

va: How far in advance do you prepare you columns? Do you ever change one days later?

Bob Levey: I usually write three or four days ahead. I decided on that method from Day One, for reasons of mental health. I just couldn't see wandering in here each day and asking, "OK, what will I write for tomorrow?" Or: "Omigosh, I have nothing to write for tomorrow!!!" I never would have survived. So I build (and depend on) a cushion. Some days I have as many as six or seven in the can. I like to say that I could be killed by a passing truck, and no one would know I'm dead until the week after next!
Yes, I sometimes change what I've written several days later. But never without consulting my editors, and only if it's really necessary. I'm a charter member of the get-it-right-the-first-time school.

Rather not say: Okay, I'll probably get blasted: I've always known that DC didn't get representation. But then, I remember way back in jr. high school learning that when the "founding folks" were trying to decide where to put the capital, both MD and VA were fighting for ownership, and the wisdom of the day was to keep the capital out of a state... so that it would be, in a sense, for ALL states. Anyhoo... this is what I think of whenever anyone mentions "DC Statehood"

Bob Levey: In fact, the original District of Columbia consisted of land given by BOTH Maryland and Virginia. The new capital was never going to be all in one state or the other.
Yes, the founding fathers wanted the capital to be outside a state. Yes, it has been and should be for all states. But what do you think Jefferson and Washington would say if they knew that nearly 600,000 Americans don't have full rights? Do you think they'd stand for it for one second?

Cathedral Heights, DC: Bob, I'm totally with you on the question of eating-drinking on Metro. Question: do you think we should politely speak to offenders about it? Or just stay silent and hope Metro police nabs them?

Bob Levey: I hate to rat on my fellow subway-niks, but I always point out sins (and sinners) to a cop--assuming I can find one.

Bob Levey: That's the end of today's road, gang. Thanks for joining us. Be sure to do it again next Friday, same time, same station. And don't miss this coming Tuesday's "Levey Live" program. Our guest will be Alan Spoon, president of The Washington Post Company. That show appears from noon to 1 p.m. Aug. 31.

© 1999 The Washington Post Company

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