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Levey Live: Speaking Freely

Friday, September 10, 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:





Vienna Va: Do you think that Ken Starr would be an excellent choice to handle the FBI Waco inquiry?

Bob Levey: Hasn't the Ken-ster suffered enough? Seriously, you'd have to drag him into such a job. He can make a zillion dollars just by going back to his old law firm (and that's what he'll probably do, according to none other than The Washington Post). I think you can bet the ranch on this: Starr is out of the public service biz.


Orange Virginia: Love your column, makes me feel connected to the big city without having to endure the resulting headaches.

I'm curious to hear your take on the MCI Center. It seems to be roundly praised in the Post but the two times I've been there I've been disappointed. I find it a very unimpressive building designwise and the sound system is muddled at best. I find myself longing for the Cap Center-US Air arena days.





Bob Levey: I can't say I long for USAir Arena-Capital Centre. The Beltway was always SUCH a disaster before and after games. And I always got mad that Metro (those whizzes) didn't build the Blue Line all the way to the front door. Why would you stop service two miles short of where most people want to go? Dopey! Anyway, I do think MCI is a bit skimpy, architecturally. The common corridors are a bit thin when crowds are streaming through. But I like the main space--excellent sight lines, comfy seats. I'm surprised you find the sound muddled. I find it dizzyingly overwhelming. In fact, I wrote a column about this last year--a woman literally flipped her lid because the sound was too loud.


aLEX va: Did you take part in the Bafoonery between Wilbon and Tony?

Bob Levey: I'm not bald enough


Indian Head, Maryland: Are you planning to prepare for Y2K, and if so, how much preparation are you going to do?
Dorothy

Bob Levey: I will prepare for Y2K by kissing the wife and kids, going to bed at 10 p.m. on 12/31/99 and assuming that all will be milk and honey the next morning. Seriously, I've got better things to worry about. If it proves difficult to exhume money from my bank account, well, the guy who sells me coffee will just have to let me run a tab. Interesting sidelight: yesterday was 9/9/99 and all the gossips spread the word on the Web that it would be some sort of shakedown for 1/1/00--that maybe a piece of the sky would fall, or something. Didn't happen. Ain't gonna happen on Jan. 1, either


FFX, VA: How can anyone cry for J. Reno's head over the Waco incident? If she was lied to by ATF & FBI, then how can she be held responsible? I didn't realize mind-reader was part of her job description.

Bob Levey: Amen and a half. What did she do wrong, other than to trust a bunch of FBI people who obviously couldn't wait to sell her out? This is a VERY serious mess, as I said last week. And I'm not at all happy that the good ole boys at the FBI thought they could get away with this, given that the A.G. is a woman. Do you think they ever would have tried this with an A.G. who was male, and had some clout, both politically and professionally?


Dublin, Ireland: Having viewed the lacklustre field for the next Presidential election, do you think Senator George Mitchel should consider throwing his hat in the ring? I think he'd walk the field.

Bob Levey: Mitchell has excellent credentials, but he may be too deep into Jimmy Carter-like save-the-world status. Can you imagine him campaigning again? I can't, and I suspect he can't, either.


Herndon, VA: You have noted that Al Gore is one of the best prepared of all the presidential candidates. What do you think of Bill Bradley following his announcemrnt speech of Wednesday? Does he have a real shot at the nomination? Could he defeat Bush?

Bob Levey: I really liked the Bradley speech, especially the part about the lowest fifth on the economic rung. It really amazes me that people on the upper four rungs think that we'll have a stable world if there isn't a slice of the pie for all. What kind of a country do they think their kids will inhabit? It's all one boat, and we're all passengers on it.
As for whether he can win, it's certainly possible. I sense a big upset coming in New Hampshire, although that doesn't (and shouldn't) mean much. The only way that wouldn't happen is if Bradley misjudges the people of that state. For the last 20 years, they really HAVE been economically beleaguered--far behind the high-tech wave. Now, that isn't so true any more, so they might not be as recpetive to a populist message. yes, Bradley could defeat Bush, as long as premeptively attacks Clinton. Bush will certainly try to position himself as the interns' best friend. Bradley has to be careful not to be seen as condoning Clinton's behavior.


Washington, DC: speaking of Y2K, can you offer any info on festivities taking place in DC to ring in the new millenium? -or last year of this millenium, if you want to be annoyingly specific-

i'm trying to get some ideas of what to do, but i may already be too late to make reservations anywhere....

Bob Levey: The mayor is planning some sort of mega-do. Details to come. I'm sure there will be all sorts of more typical New Year's Eve parties at the big hotels and fanciest restaurants. But I'm afraid I'm not much of a party animal, in that way, anyway. Maybe you missed the "Levey Live" back in July when I announced that I have never been to July 4 on the Mall, and never would go. Crowd crushes are not my thing


Crystal City, Va: You were all over someone recently for drinking water on the Metro. Weren't you ticketed for speeding recently? I challenge you to defend the proposition that sippers are as big a menace as speeders. By the way, just how fast were you going? And how much were you fined?

Bob Levey: You must be thinking of Kornheiser. I have NOT NOT NOT been ticketed for speeding recently for three reasons: 1) I haven't sped. 2) I seldom drive. 3) I couldn't speed even if I wanted to, since our vehicle-of-choice is a severely hurting 1992 Toyota with tires that are, shall we say, questionable.
Sippers are not as big a menace as speeders. I never said so and don't think so. But if sipping on Metro property is illegal--and it is--then penalties are legitimate


Towson, MD: Should we be worried about the apparent collaboration between Microsoft, the NSA, the FBI and the CALEA?

Bob Levey: What's CALEA? Sounds like a soccer team in Buenos Aires....


Arlington, VA: Bob-the sound at the MCI center is lousy, but it's a small price to pay for having the arena in a decent location. Not like stupid Raljon. I recall, back when Cooke gave his part of Landover that stupid name that he said he didn't name it that just for his sons but because "It just sounds good." Just further proof that reality is much stranger than fiction.

Bob Levey: Be careful. Leonsis may declare that 7th and G is henceforth a new postal zone called "Tedjon."


Arlington, VA: If the world ends on Jan. 1, 2000, then it really won't matter if I have lots of canned goods and toilet paper, now will it?

Bob Levey: But you'd better have some kitty litter on hand, in case there's an ice storm


Washington, DC: Afternoon, Bob! First off, let me say how much I really enjoy your columns and chats - a voice of sanity in an otherwise insane city. I look forward to these conversations every week.

Here's my question:
Bill Bradley has been getting a lot of press lately, which makes sense given that he just formally announced his candidacy. He's gaining on Gore in New Hampshire, and doing extremely well in New York, New Jersey, and California, and it looks like he may actually have out-fundraised Gore this quarter - all signs of a major coup in the works..

Knowing of your fondness for Gore, I'm wondering what your thoughts are on the Bradley candidacy,and if you think he really has a chance outside of the Northeast-Mid-Atlantic states where people have cause to know who he is beyond his basketball career. Thanks.

Bob Levey: Please don't try to back me into a corner. I don't have "fondness for Gore." I have respect for him, and for the kind of administration he'd put together. But that isn't an endorsement, either by me or by The Post.
I think Bradley could assemble much the same sort of administration. For that reason, he has to be considered a serious contender. Besides, he knows Washington--which always seems to me to be Credential One. Look what happens when we elect governors from Somewhere Out There. Jimmy Carter didn't have a clue about Captiol Hill. Reagan kept holding Washington at arm's length. Clinton... well, enough said. And George W. keeps saying that running Washington is the same as running Austin. That's like saying that a curve ball in the Three-I League is like a curve ball in the American League.


Washington, DC: 20 more days until the end of the fiscal year, and Congress and the President are far apart on appropriations bills. Are we going to see another government shutdown this year?

Bob Levey: Highly doubtful. Both parties know it was a disaster last time.


Washington, DC: Hi Bob. I'm hoping you can give me advice for future recurrences of the following event. I am a young associate at a DC law firm. Needless to say, I work long hours and weekends on a fairly regular basis. I am also Jewish. Tonight marks the start of the Jewish New Year, which ends Sunday night. My firm knows my religious affiliation, yet yesterday they gave me an assignment due at close of business Monday that can not be done in two working days. This means pulling an all-nighter Sunday night. I have complained in the past when they have given me work that conflicts with my religious observances, and the backlash has been subtle but serious. In fact, I feel that if I complain again, I may lose all hope of ever making partner. Any advice??

Bob Levey: Find a new firm. They are sticking it to you. No reason you should stay stuck.
And while you're looking for that new firm......
Do you really have to pull an all-nighter? Would the client really care if the work kicked a day or two? If the client works only 50 hours a week, why does he expect his law firm to work 150 hours a week? It always seems excessive to me-- a way that lawyers exaggerate their importance (and swell those billable hours).


Washington, DC: Does The Washington Post accept ads for gun shows?

Bob Levey: A thousand times no


Indianapolis, IN: I like Bradley as well as a candidate....don't care how dull his speeches are. But being an African American, I worry that his stance on racial issues may deny him the nomination all by themselves. I hate to think it and I hate even more to say it, but I don't think America is ready for the truths that Bill Bradley has to tell it.

Bob Levey: I disagree totally, because I believe America is ready to confront what Bradley is saying. Reason One: he's right that race is the issue that can spoil the whole carton of milk. Reason Two: he has seen first-hand what he's talking about, by living with black athletes for a decade. Reason Three: his background makes him even more credible. He's not from the Bronx, where he would have grown up with blacks. He's from a little town in Missouri which had zero black residents, where his Dad was a banker, where every kid had a little red tricycle and ate cookies every day after school. The very fact that he can be attuned to racism after that kind of a privileged start is very, very impressive. You might be right that a few 70-something whites are still uncomfortable about this issue. But their grandchildren aren't.


MCLean Va: Spokesman said that we will not take part in the situation in East Timor. Don't you think a better policy would to say nothing and keep the Indonesian government guessing to our intentions. Don't remarks like that encourage repression?

Bob Levey: I'm not sure about encouraging repression, but I do agree that Clinton seems to want to jump out there with mega-statements the first chance he gets--often with poor tactical results. Remember when he said we wouldn't bomb in the Balkans? That cut the ground out from under our military pretty thoroughly. A very stupid move.


Arlington, Va: What do you think of the proposed 4.8 percent pay increase for Federal employees? Do you think that they are currently underpaid?

Bob Levey: I think it's long overdue and richly deserved. I am totally, totally sick of hearing how lazy and overpaid federal employees are. The opposite is true; they work just as hard (and often just as long) as we slaves in the private sector. And they earn far less than they might "on the outside."


Arlington, VA: Mitchell would never make a good president--he actually works hard to reach an intelligent and thoughtful decision based on facts, not popular opinion. Dublin obviously got to watch Mitchell in action as he skillfully steered the peace process in Northern Ireland a couple of year ago. Now he's back in it again, trying to find a solution. Also not a very presidential quality. And before you think I'm slamming Clinton, I'm slamming all presidents since Nixon -I wasn't alive for any others.-.

Bob Levey: Sorry you missed LBJ. Yes, I know all about the Vietnam mess he got us into. But he was a master at working the levers here in Washington. Never been anybody better. I came to Washington when he was president, and I'll tell you, the place was ALIVE with possibility. You think it is now?


Washington, DC: It's a real pleasure to see the Golden Triangle representatives welcoming people, offering assistance, and keeping the streets free of litter. I understand this is a private business initiative. Couldn't the city benefit from a similar city-sponsored initiative throughout the district? Wouldn't it be worth the cost to generate pride in our town?

Bob Levey: I agree with bells on. The mayor has said on many occasions that tourism has to be supported. This is a low-budget way to do it.


Arlington, VA: Hi Bob. I wrote you last week about observing the Road Rage in Arlington. I wanted to let you know that I took your advice and I know have a pad of paper and a pen readily available -mounted on my dashboard- in my car!

Bob Levey: Just do us all a favor and pull over before you start scribbling. I'd hate to have to write a column about a well-meaning citizen who got emulsified at the very moment he/she was trying to nail a bad guy


Somewhere, USA: "Does Washington Post accept ads for gun shows?"

Why not? It should be in the Weekend section! After all, Weekend section covers all sorts of legal activities. It isn't just for left-wing readers only. Maybe the Post is being just a tad discriminatory.....

Contrary to popular opinion, you can't just walk in a gun show and buy a gun. You still have to fill out the same paperwork, wait the couple of weeks, and submit to the same background checks.

The next Silverado Gun Show is Sept 18 & 19 at Howard County Fairgrounds.

Bob Levey: It's discretionary, not discriminatory. The Post doesn't accept ads for streetcorner drug sales, either. Or for stolen property. Or for businesses that deal in areas of questionable taste (escort services, etc.). That has nothing to do with political tilt. It has to do with our best guess at where the line of fairness and good citizenship lies.
I can see a case for accepting ads to gun shows. The shows are not illegal. They are not held in dens of iniquity. They are similar in some ways to boat shows or car shows. But I can also see an ovewhelming case for not accepting ads for gun shows--until and unless sales of guns at these shows become much, much harder and much better supervised.


Arlington, VA: Did you ever have that Metro official on your chat to ask about those new thingamajigs on the platforms?

What was the news on the Metro's vote on whether to extend service hours late on Friday and Saturday?

Bob Levey: Metro general manager Richard White is booked for Oct. 19, noon to 1 p.m.
I don't believe there's been a final vote on extending weekend service


Burke, VA: Bob, I'd like to to re-think your response to the "Why Janet Reno's head?" question. The reason is that she's the boss. Stuff that happens on the boss' watch is still the boss' responsibility, regardless of whether he-she was lied to. FBI guy needs to go, too. But she's not absolved, by any means.

Bob Levey: No, of course she's not absolved. I didn't mean to suggest otherwise. But why should she quit? Trent Lott was just playing that old tired partisan song in urging her to leave. He ought to urge the people who stabbed her in the back to leave.


Washington, DC: It seems that the American people prefer governors as Presidents -Reagan, Carter, Clinton, next Bush?-. Just a guess, but maybe they think too much Washington influence is corrupting. Agree?

Bob Levey: Yes, I think that's it exactly. But it's such a misguided view. This is an immensely complicated government to run. On top of that, Congress is an immensely complicated place to have to deal with. So why do we keep electing presidents who don't have a clue about either part of The Big Job? If I were looking for someone to lead a major industry, would I go out of my way to choose someone who had run only a minor industry?


Indianapolis, IN: Thanks Bob for your insightful response. Since the media insists that we make choices a year out...I'd have to say that for my money the only candidates I would consider would be Bradley or Gore on the Democratic side and McCain on the GOP side. I'd considered the Reform Party, but if Buchanan joins, that's a non starter for me. I find McCain intriguing. He seems to me to be a flawed, yet honorable man. Nothing wrong with that.

Bob Levey: You're right on the button about McCain. People always moan and groan about how politicians are sheep--never an original thought, never a courageous position. Isn't McCain inspiring for walking his own path? Only problem is, he'll never win, because he hasn't kissed up to the right part of the GOP constituency. The one factor that might tilt things his way are young voters. I think they would REALLY


Bob Levey: .... before I was so rudely interrupted.....
I think young voters would REALLY respond to McCain's no-bull style. That is if any young voters exist. I'm afraid Clinton has turned off that entire generation. But maybe not.


Arlington, VA: SmarTrip Cards! I can't say enough about these things and how great they are! Metro needs to do more heavy-duty advertising of these things. They pay for parking, you can put up to $180 of your own money on them and get an $18 bonus in return, and if you lose it, and registered it with WMATA, you get another card -for $5- with all the money you lost on it. Plus, it's fool-proof because if it's lost or stolen, and you've registered it, WMATA cancels the card and it's useless. No, I don't work for Metro, but after nine years of taking it, this is the best thing I've ever seen them do. Now, if they can only do something about these darn short trains.

Bob Levey: I'm a big SmarTrip fan, for all the reasons you cite. Come on in, the rest of you. The water's fine. As for short trains, it's all about money. Add 50 percent more riders, and you'll never see another 2- or 4-car train.


Suitland, MD: I was under the impression that sales at gun shows were not held to the same requirements as those in gun shops. I thought they were exempted from the federal background check and the waiting period. Of course, sales by individual, private owners to others are exempt too. . . Do you know what the deal is?

Bob Levey: Your impression is my impression. I believe some gun shows VOLUNTARILY ask for IDs, and use waiting periods. But gun shows in general are known as a perfect way to skate around the rules in force at stores. Littleton proves it


Falls Church: How do you select the questions you will respond to online?

Bob Levey: The producer feeds me a large assortment of questions, and I choose those that turn my motor. Also those that I figure will turn the motors of those out in Web-land. There's no science to it, only my fabulous, flawless instinct


Albuquirky, New mexico: Sorry Bob, my other server dumped me, before my question got submitted.
I read the Tony & Mike Show this morning & I have a question maybe you can answer......
What happened to Tony's Bandwagon of the late 80's-Early 90's? Did he refirbish it for the 99 season? Did he scrap it out for parts?? Or did the Post Exec's buy it dirt cheap, for Vic to reside in, in leiu of the cage YOU keep him in?
Hail to the REDSKINS, from DEEP in Cowboy-Bronco-Cardnial country!!!

Bob Levey: The bandwagon-mobile would never work for Vic. He insists on vehicles that were too kinky to make it in a Starsky and Hutch re-run.
I don't know if the bandwagon-mobile still exists. I doubt it. What use would it be? The Skins are not going anywhere near the playoffs this season. Quote me.


Twin Cities, MN: As a young voter who almost didn't vote in the last election because of the whole mess in Washington -and elsewhere- I heartily agree that McCain is an exciting candidate who's not getting enough attention from the media. I almost wish we could do split-party ballots - I think McCain and Feingold would be an amazing team and would do great things for this country.

Bob Levey: And think of the message they'd send if they got onto the ballot (and into power) WITHOUT RAISING OR SPENDING MONEY THE SAME OLD ROTTEN WAY.


Alexandria, VA: Hey, Clinton didn't turn all of us younger voters into cynics. Reagan was quite effective in doing that, thank you very much.

Bob Levey: Well said. Can we agree that Reagan began the process and Clinton did a sensational job of accelerating and finishing it?


Washington DC: Hey I am one of those young voters that voted for Clinton. I am no more turned off of voting now than I was at the end of the Reagan years. Sure Clinton clearly has some personal moral issues to deal with but I don't think that took away from a strong economy which everyone regardless of party affiliation seems to be benefiting from.

Bob Levey: Not everyone. See my earlier point about Bradley and the lowest fifth of the population. You think those folks have 401Ks and Infinitis? The gulf is getting wider. Also, how can Clinton fairly claim credit for the economic boom. So much of it has to do with luck, and the collapse of foreign economies.


Under the National Airport Flightpath: McCain is -honorable-? What are you on? This is the same guy who wanted to trample over the local airport authority and make it impossible to hear a park range talking at the FDR memorial by increasing flights at National.... to the benefit of his major donor US West Airlines, what a funny coincidence?

He's an embarrassment -though not an atypical one-.

Bob Levey: This was one of his stranger moves, and I agree that he has to explain it better than he has. Feels like classic help-your-homeboys kind of politics.
What am I on?
Coffee.
Far too much of it


Washington: Hey, Bob, are you -really- fearless?

Bob Levey: Really. Totally. Perpetually.
Only thing I fear is having to fix anything mechnical.
No chance.


Herndon, VA: Young voters aren't _all_ turned off...I'm 24, and I vote in every election I can. How can I not? It took years of fierce effort by a heck of a lot of courageous women and men to get me that right -I'm female-. Should I throw it away for one man who can't keep his pants zipped?

Bob Levey: I'm glad you won't. But I suspect that many, many young voters figure Clinton is the norm. And how can they be blamed for thinking that? Here's Livingston, who can't even take office as speaker of the House because HIS pants were down? And now Gingrich and his honey.... Why take part in such a process, I hear young people saying?


FFX, VA: Are you ready to eat crow at the end of the season. When we win our division...WE MAKE THE PLAYOFFS!

Bob Levey: Five bucks says no.


Arlington, VA: Somewhere USA is a good example of why it's so hard to have any kind of constructive discussion of gun issues. In favor of gun control? You're "left wing." I slapping on a label so you can dismiss what someone says is easier than thinking.

By the way, I have to laugh when people talk about the "left wing" in the US. There pretty much is none, by any traditional definitions of "leftist." Our supposed "left wing" in mainstream US politics is moderate to conservative by the standards of the rest of the world.

Calling liberals "leftists" is a pretty good sign that the speaker is ignorant about political history.

Bob Levey: I appreciate that hunk of total good sense.


Bob Levey: The clock on the wall is making google-eyes, gang. We'll do this again next Friday, same time. Thanks for joining. And be sure to be with us on Tuesday, Sept. 14, when our guest on "Levey Live" will be the president of George Washington University, Dr. Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. That show will appear from noon to 1 p.m. Eastern time.



© 1999 The Washington Post Company


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