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  •   Levey Live: Speaking Freely

    "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/TWP

    "Levey Live: Speaking Freely" differs from Bob's regular Tuesday noon Web show--which features newsmakers and Post writers. The Friday event is what talk radio folks call an "open mike" show, your chance to schmooze with Bob about anything in his Monday through Friday columns , in the news or on your mind.

    Never fear, Levey was here--LIVE ONLINE --his coffee pot bubbling merrily as he typed at you from his palatial penthouse office high atop Babylon-on-the-Potomac.

    Please join Bob again next Friday at 1 p.m. or on Tuesday at noon, Eastern. Here is a transcript of today's session:


    Hyattsville, MD: "Speaking Freely' is a nice title. Do you think that people can really speak freely? I refer, of course, to the recent furor over 'niggardly'. What is your take on this incident?

    Bob Levey: Free speech had better be in vogue and had better remain in vogue, or I may refuse to eat my spinach. It's the key freedom in our country--more important than any other, I believe. As to the "niggardly" mess, I don't think that was a free speech issue. Mayor Williams found himself swaying in the political winds. Thank goodness he found sufficient backbone to make the right (and the only right) decision.


    Mt. Rainier MD: Bob,
    Do you think anyone was honestly surprised to find out what kind of connections people like Sen. Trent Lott had to the conservative councils? There seemed to be a very ho-hum response to that, like 'well, what else did you think'.

    Bob Levey: I was honestly surprised, and I don't think I was alone. It's amazing to me that any politician would leap under the covers with any group without checking it out, carefully. It's too easy to get snared or duped into an embarrassing mess. Lott has been on the Hill for nearly 30 years. I would have expected better--unless he thought this relationship would help him somehow. I shudder at that possibility.


    Annandale, VA: Hi Bob,
    What was your original hair color?

    Bob Levey: My mane has been gray for so long that I sometimes can't remember! Seriously, folks... boring brown


    Washington, DC: Maybe we should give Mayor Williams a bit more credit. After all, he did what very few public officials or politicians ever do: He admitted he was wrong and tried to make things right. Would Marion Barry have done the same in a similar situation? Would Clinton?

    Bob Levey: Amen on both counts. I sincerely salute Williams for reversing course. He obviously isn't afflicted by the excess pride that seems to accumulate, like sludge, in politicians who have been around for a long time (do I mean too long?)


    Warrenton, VA: One would think that the solution to the David Howard language flap is straightforward. At worst, he used a word that could and was misunderstood. In the future I bet he says I am stingy with my budgets!

    However by all accounts he went to great lengths to apologize and explain the misunderstanding. Some didn't want to know- they just wanted to cause trouble.

    So why do some around town still blame Howard? Sure seems like a racist agenda, rather than dealing with it and getting on with the city's business.

    Bob Levey: Some blacks think that they can always curry favor with other blacks by blasting and dissing whites. I wish that weren't so, but the Howard flap proves that it is.


    Rockville, MD: In this past Sunday's Outlook section in the Post, there was a letter addressing "common sense" things drivers should do while driving in inclement weather; one of which was to turn on headlights. There is a Maryalnd law that requires headlights to be on at ALL times during inclement weather; why don't the police (state/local) enforce this law?

    Bob Levey: They do--when they can. But the police are responsible for so much--and for so many crimes that are so much more serious--that the bitter truth is: they do very little crime prevention, and they make very few arrests that head off crimes or disasters.


    Bethesda, Maryland : What is your opinion of the IOC? Do you think it is time for the organization to be dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up? How does this scandal affect the athletes who work so hard all year long?

    Bob Levey: I don't really believe it'll affect the athletes. I do believe that it'll affect the process of awarding future sites. Has to. How can the IOC not clean itself up after this disaster, especially since they know that the press will be watching every time?


    Arlington, VA: Has anyone looked into the issuance of handicapped decals in DC, the type that hand from the rear-view mirrors? A lot of the metered spaces in downtown DC seem to be occupied by cars with these decals, yet I've seen some very spry people jump out of these cars.

    Bob Levey: Your humble and obedient servant has written about this issue many times. Those stickers often go to people whose ailments may not be obvious to the naked eye. For instance, if you've just had gall bladder surgery, you can easily and legitimately qualify for a sticker. Yet you won't look sick, or even walk very slowly. Good advice: that old business about the book and its cover.


    DC: I know this isn't your beat, but given that you're at the hub of journalism--what effect do you think King Hussein's death will have on the Middle East? Thanks.

    Bob Levey: It has to unsettle things, although I can't for the life of me predict how. Hussein has been around for so long that he has served as a rare source of stability. Anything that destabilizes that part of the world can't help


    Fairfax, VA: You wrote the other day about Metro train operators announcing "Dupont Circle" as "DEW-pont Circle". There must be something in the training about emphasizing every syllable. On the blue/yellow line, we frequently hear that the next station is "BRAD-DOCK" road. Everyone I know pronounces it more like "Braduck". Comments?

    Bob Levey: I don't see why this would be so tough to correct. Just do a little in-service training with train drivers, and presto, it'll be BRAD-duck forever more. I didn't even mention the one that truly drives me mad: Ju-dish-ooo-ery Square. The best solution would be a permanent, canned recording, made by someone who speaks English.


    Arlington, VA: I have a comment. A request? A wish? I would appreciate it if drivers would consider using their turn signals, to give the cars around them warning of their next move. I think it would prevent lots of traffic flow problems if they did.
    Thanks.

    Bob Levey: You must be inhaling forbidden substances. Drivers obeying the turn-signal law? Drivers being considerate to one another?


    Falls Church, VA: Whats your take on the legality of having police officers, posing as whores, enticing "customers" to solicit sex from then and then arresting them? Or whats your position on trying to sanction morality?

    Bob Levey: I'm not as current on case law here as I should be, but I do know that the line is very hard to draw. Let's say you're a cop who's hanging around a streetcorner. A prostitute comes up to you and offers to perform a certain service. Have you elicited an action that wouldn't have happened otherwise? Will this case go anywhere if you arrest her at that moment? Do you need to let the prostitute perform the act before you have a case? If you do, is THAT entrapment? Very, very tough. This is why we have courts, which review the actions of cops, who sometimes go over the edge in their zeal to "make a collar."


    Fairfax, VA: The Post made such a big deal over the past year about the new presses, and the ability to print in color, yet the only things in color are the front page and the front of the Sports section. And the weather map. Why not more color photo's & charts?

    Bob Levey: More color coming very soon, to a front lawn near you.


    Silver Spring, MD: The impeachment process has caused me to re-evaluate the integrity level of the Congress and Senate members in office today. I find that for the most part they are lacking. What is your feeling?

    Bob Levey: Depends on what you mean by the I-word. With the campaign finance laws so stupidly lax, candidates and incumbents can mine money from anyone and everyone. Does that mean they lack integrity? Not necessarily, although it does mean they often concentrate on dough instead of the jobs they're elected to do. If you're asking whether people on the Hill swap votes for sex, drugs or money, I'd say no way. If you're asking whether incumbents care more about re-election than anything else, I'd say you're 1000 percent correct.


    Washington, DC: What's been the general reaction to the Post changes, color, etc.? I've heard a couple of visceral anti-change comments from friends. Why do people get so emotional about stuff like this?

    Bob Levey: I haven't heard a syllable of negative reaction--only a couple of perpetual Post bashers who wonder why we didn't do it 15 years ago. The answer to that is money. It took $230 million to build the presses in College Park that make color possible. The poohbahs had to breathe deeply for many years before they decided to spend that kind of change on a product that may be going out of fashion.


    Falls Church, VA: What are some of your favorite local restaurants?

    Bob Levey: Anyplace that will listen carefully when I say I don't want cream sauce but do want fish sauteed lightly in lemon and olive oil. I can't say I have two or three favorites. I try to experiment, and to hit places that are a little different.


    Alexandria, VA: Bob: In today's Style section, Howard Kurtz writes about the People magazine article on Hillary and Chelsea. What's your take on why the Clintons are reacting the way they are?

    Bob Levey: They sincerely want to keep the laser light off their daughter, although they are hopelessly naive to think that can happen. In fact, they were very lucky that Chelsea escaped the glare as successfully as she did while she was still here, and still in high school. As with so much that the Clintons do and say, there is an aroma of self-pity, a sense that they want all the power and visibility but none of the side effects that come with it. This is yet another example.


    New York: Many senators have insisted the presence of Monica Lewinsky would be an affront to the dignity of the Senate. I find this terribly unjust because she is at worst as guilty as Mr. Clinton - yet it seems it is all right for him to remain President. Yet she, she is so sullied and despicable even her presence is demeaning to the Senate. Is this not unjust in your opinion? Thank you

    Bob Levey: The Senate doesn't fear live-and-in-color Monica because she's despicable. They fear it because they know what the reaction would be out in the electorate: Can't you clowns stop harping on this poor woman and this awful story? What's going on in the Senate is one thing and one thing only: a feverish search for the door marked EXIT. All 100 Senators want to be done with impeachment before it hurts them politically any more than it already has.


    Tysons Corner: Over the past month, with the flap in DC over the use of the word niggardly, I was amazed at the number of reporters, both print & TV, who would not say the word. It was always refered to as the N-word. I understand them not wanting to use the word nigger, for fear of offending someone, but why the refusal to use a completely harmless word which their own report is about?

    Bob Levey: Beyond me. Maybe they thought that some listeners would mishear the word and think they had said "nigger."


    arlington,va: I disagree with your comment on using canned voices. I feel that Metro offers visitors a real flavor of the city and using canned voices takes some of the local nuances away.

    Bob Levey: Mangling "Judiciary" and "Grosvenor" and "Braddock" gives a real flavor of the city? Forgive me while I choke.


    Tysons Corner, VA: Back to the "niggardly" flap for a second:

    I have yet to hear one person call out the person or persons in Howard's office who misunderstood the word and proceeded to tell others that he was a racist. That is a dangerous accusation in more ways than one.

    If I do not understand a word, I look it up or query the speaker. If I think I hear something outlandish, I ask the speaker to repeat & if necessary clarify. Is that too much to ask? It could have been done durring or after the meeting. A dictionary could have been the first place the person(s) went to prior to starting a dangerous rumor. This person(s) should be held accountable for their knee-jerk ignorrant reaction.

    Don't completely mis-understand me, I can see where a person would have been concerned upon hearing that word (I would have as I did not know it prior to this incident). However; you know what the old saying about "ass-u-me" and I would have seeked clarification.

    Your thoughts Bob?

    Bob Levey: I think the guy who blew the whistle on Howard was determined to be angry and determined to cause trouble. I think he also believed he could torch Howard because Howard is white and gay. Again, I salute Mayor Williams for standing up to that kind of hate-mongering.


    Washington, D.C.: The ironic note about Hussein's passing is that his Queen is a former American who was partly raised in the DC area. Wasn't Queen Noor's father, Najeeb Halaby, the head of the FAA or some similar agency?

    Bob Levey: The FAA it was


    Bob Levey: Half an hour remaining in today's show. Keep 'em coming. Any subject at all.


    Washington DC : How important do you think it is to get into a really top-notch college (assuming the student has top-notch ability)? My daughter sailed through school at the head of her class with no prodding from me, but now she's a junior, it's college crunch time, and her grades have become mediocre--partly because she's taking AP courses, which actually require WORK, and partly because her social opportunities are now considerable. Her shot at getting into the colleges that have always been on her list is slipping away before our very eyes. If this were your kid, would you take away the car keys and the social privileges until the grades came up--or let the chips fall where they may (and hope she doesn't blame you for a missed opportunity, once she develops a bit more maturity)?

    Bob Levey: Let the chips fall. Colleges do not quantify the admission decision, even though they hope you'll think they do. Grade point averages and SAT scores are still only some of the package. The interview counts for a lot. If your daughter has a sense of purpose in that interview, and genuine poise, and she seems genuinely interested in going to college, she will be a strong candidate. Besides, what's wrong with a social life? Or extra-curricular activities? I hate the idea that only bloodless drones get into good schools. As for how important it is to go to a top-notch school, I'd say: very. The higher you set the bar for yourself early, the better you'll do late.


    Washington DC: Yes, I know, there's signs on every subway platform, but personally speaking each station's name clearly would be a BIG help, especially those who are deaf (and there's a large population here in DC) and would benefit from announcements (in-station as well as onboard) that were spoken clearly without all the ridiculous slurring of words. My personal pet peeve is L'Enfant, too many drivers make it sound like two words when it's one.

    Bob Levey: You mean good ole La-Fawnt Plaza? Another one that drivers routinely mangle.


    Washington, DC: Bob: More on the People magazine article. It's perfectly understandable that the Clintons want Chelsea out of the limelight, yet they put her in that same limelight whent it's to their advantage. Why all the fuss? Let he who is without, and all that jazz.

    Bob Levey: Well said, although I don't think even the Clintons believe that good ink about Chelsea is going to bail them out of the current mess.


    washington dc: what do you think about the fact that we have a hard time just accepting niceness these days? with all the horror stories we hear, it's sometime seems difficult when a stranger simply smiles at us.

    Bob Levey: What's difficult about it? I consider a smile a ray of sunshine, and I always try to return it in kind.


    Alexandria, VA: Bob, I absolutely love your style. Do you think, M.J. will return and why?

    Bob Levey: Thanks. No. Why should he, since he already has more money than The Big Guy Upstairs?


    Alexandria, VA: Bob: The guy who was allegedly upset by David Howard is Marshall Brown. And,
    I don't think Najeeb Haliby was with the FAA. I believe he was President of an airline, possibly TWA.

    Bob Levey: Halaby was both


    Arlington, VA: Choke on regional accents?? How can you, with one pen, defend free speech, and on the other hand, dictate that all persons in service positions must speak unaccented, dictionally perfect English? Must all New Englanders now take lessons to get rid of their accents? What about Southerners? Midwesterners? What about immigrants to the United States. I thought one of the beauties of the U.S. was the rich diversity of cultures, backgrounds, and, yes, the accents that go with those backgrounds. Would you go beyond the U.S. borders to Canadians and correct them? And if you're going to go that far, why not make the British speak "proper" English? OOPS!! They DO speak proper English - we're the ones with the accents. Maybe we should take lessons from them instead.

    Bob Levey: It has nothing to do with regional accents. It has to do with flat-out ignorance. There is one way and only one way to pronounce L'Enfant. If a Metro driver can't manage it, he should apply for a transfer to maintenance. I can actually live with some regionalisms aboard Metro, although they'd never be my choice. For example, Tenleytown. Anyone with a southern or Kentucky mountain accent will say "Tinleytown." I find that offensive, but not ignorant.


    Centreville, VA: Say what you want about Bill's character, it's become an idealogical battle. But I for one do not believe Hillary would allow Chelsea to be used for "positive press". I believe she feels it is their proper role as wife & daughter to support him, as many wives & daughters have done to men who are not president or even known outside their home town. Do you really agree that they would use their own daughter that way?

    Bob Levey: You'd better believe it. The Clintons are "always on"--perpetually in the public eye, perpetually alert for political advantage. I don't believe they'd use Chelsea in a cynical, damaging way. But if she could reflect stardust on them, they'd sweep it up and put it in their pockets.


    Washington, DC: More on canned Metro voices. I agree that some of the operators slay the stops that they announce. But "Joodishuairy Square" does let you know that a real human is running, or at least has the capability of running, the train. That may be minimal comfort, but at leat its some.

    Otherwise the prospect of hearing that metallic voice telling us there is "no chance for error..for error...for error," pops up. And let us not forget the mechanical voice with an attitude that reminds us to stand clear of the doors. A human voice, no matter haw Norm Crosbyesque is welcomed.

    Bob Levey: You'd rather have a real human destroy a perfectly good word like "Judiciary" than hear a well-modulated professional say it correctly, every time? Man, has anybody got some Tylenol around this place?


    FFX, VA: Bob, do you think that the DC area fans will support the Bullets (I know, but I still call the bldg in Landover the Cap Centre) or will they hold back because of the combo of the lockout & the horrible play recently from the team. They got a good turnout for the preseason game & the scrimmage before that, but they were FREE! Abe & La Sooz keep raising ticket prices as the team keeps losing more games.

    Bob Levey: I think the support will slowly return--and that it will return at warp speed if the team wins. Alas, there doesn't seem to be much danger of that, even with Strickland back. Candid prediction: Dead last


    Bethesda, MD: Bob, you may get more than your share of smiles from people who recognize your mug. I agree with the other writer. So much time goes by between street smiles that my first reaction usually is - panhandler? pyscho? Sad, but true.

    Speaking of the latter, what's your take on Mike Tyson?

    Bob Levey: If I ever saw Tyson, I'd cross the street. I'm no shrink, but I don't have to be. He's over the top.


    Washington DC: Hi Bob,

    I was wondering if you could repeat the address of where I can send my grocery reciepts to be redeemed for school equipment? Which stores are valid, Safeway, Giant, Both? This, along with the Childrens Hospital drive, is a wonderful thing. Take care

    Bob Levey: Both Safeway and Giant receipts will work. Send yours to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071. Do it before March 1, please.


    Vienna, Va: Ever notice how washington is sometimes pronnounced "warshington"? It's wierd. You don't warsh your clothing, do you? Apparently, this accent is spoken by true born-and-bred D.C. natives, but I could be wrong on that count.

    Bob Levey: You're absolutely right on that count, and it has mystified me for going-on 35 years. My pet theory: It's the same sort of trouble-with-R's that Baltimore natives have, and the trouble just migrated 35 miles south.


    Fontainebleau, France: Not a question, Bob. Just greetings from France from your former bridge column copy editor.

    I'm sure glad I can get washingtonpost.com here, but I do I miss reading the paper version of The Post each morning (and I miss helping to put it out). Can't wait to see the colorized version.

    See you in June.

    Bob Levey: By June, the cherry blossoms will have faded, but impeachment will have, too. On balance, that'll be a fair trade.


    Rockville, MD: Hi Bob - Most writers are also voracious readers. Are you able to read as much as you would like? Fiction or non-fiction?

    Bob Levey: You know how to hurt a guy. I have about 2 percent as much time to read as I'd like. I almost always use my Metro commutes to snatch a few pages, but the commute is only 11 minutes--a little tough to demolish War and Peace at that rate. In fact, my next to-be-read book is Tom Wolfe's new novel. But it's something like 700 pages. I may not finish it until Y2K disease haunts us all. As for fiction vs. non-fiction, I toggle back and forth


    Alexandria, VA: Bob: The tram system at the airport in Atlanta uses a canned voice to announce the stops. There's no reason why it can't work for Metro.

    Bob Levey: Does that Atlanta voice pronounce the name of the city It-lanna?


    Washington, DC: Bob: I love your column and style. As an old Washingtonian, I am curious, however, about your predecessor Bill Gold. Is he still around? Do you know what he's doing? By the way, this is a great format.

    Bob Levey: Bill died last April. Great guy, and a great act to follow. Thanks very much for the kind words


    Bethesda, Md: Hi Bob!

    Najeeb Halaby was president of Pan Am, and a gall bladder operation (done with a laparascope, as mine was) shouldn't require a handicapped parking permit - I was playing tennis in a week!

    Bob Levey: On the third try, we get Halaby's bio correct. Thank you very much. And glad you were out there swinging so soon


    District Heights, MD: Why am I having to pay for damages to my car that resulted from PG police chasing a stolen van? It just doesn't seem fair that I have to come out of pocket for these $4,255.00 damages and have been inconvienced for two weeks now. Is there someone I can call regarding this?

    Bob Levey: Why doesn't your insurance cover this? Check with your agent


    Washington, DC: Hello Bob,

    Why are most people up in arms with the word niggardly. Sometime, we get angry at all the wrong things. What we should be angry about are the boarded up houses in DC, lack of city jobs and getting our city in first class status.

    Bob Levey: So totally, exactly right. Thanks for saying it so well.


    Greenbelt, Maryland: Now that we have the ability to view almost everything online, how much longer do you think we will have a need for printed materials?

    Bob Levey: Print will never die, because it's too much of a habit to too many people. Print may wane among younger people, or in certain businesses. But a printed record IS a record, and little cyberdots on a screen aren't.


    DC: do you really think the press will be watching, in regards to the IOC, in order to prevent corruption, or just for a great news story?

    Bob Levey: Reporters aren't cops. We don't prevent corruption. But if a great news story brings about a socially positive result, that's great.


    District Heights, MD: Yes, my insurance company is covering the 3,+ in damages, but I have to pay the $250.00 deductable. That's why I'm saying why...

    Tamara

    Bob Levey: You would have had to pay that if you'd been hit by a kid on a tricycle. That's what a deductible is.


    MCLean Va: The House Managers described themseleves as "Prosecutors". The Constitution does not use the word prosecutor to limit their function in an impeachment inquiry. If they would have considered themselves as both a prosecutor and a judge, (as the Senate, rightly, considered themseleves a jury and judge), I believe, they would have taken more care before making such an important decision like impeaching the President. They had the chance to called live witnesses. Now they are whining because there were no live witnesses.

    Bob Levey: The house managers do seem to have taken on roles that they don't really deserve--as prosecutors, as tourguides into the case, in some ways as actual Senators. It's yet another reason why a situation that has never come up before can be so dicey to handle, for all concerned.


    Washington DC: Hard to accept niceness? Even when I see everyday examples of meanness (or just disregard) I find THAT hard to accept. I smile at everyone because I'm genuinely happy to be where I am, and I love going through this town. I still have a very hard time even after years of living here with taxicabs that don't stop to let you cross the 'street' that's directly in front of union station to catch buses or rides that are waiting there. I don't understand the general lack of courtesy in some instances in town.

    Bob Levey: One way to induce niceness. Practice it.


    Centreville, VA: I disagree with your assesment of People running the Chelsea Clinton story.

    Unlike her parents, Chelsea did not have the adult privilege of deciding whether or not she would become the "first daughter" and be moved into the White House & the DC area. Yes, she is an adult now but the ability to make such a choice has passed. Adult children of presidents rarely (if ever?) move into the White House when their parents run for office.

    Bob Levey: But Chelsea is news, no matter how she cares to slice it or object to it. Her age has nothing to do with it, and whether she moves back into the White House has nothing to do with it. She is world-famous, even though that's because of her parents. You can't expect any news outfit to ignore someone who is so interesting to so many people. However, no news organization should snoop into her private life, or go through her garbage.


    Bob Levey: That's it for today. Thanks for hopping aboard. Be sure to join us next Friday at the same time for another edition of "Levey Live: Speaking Freely." And be sure to catch the Tuesday version of "Levey Live," which "airs" from noon to 1 p.m. Eastern time. Our guest on Feb. 9 will be syndicated Washington Post political columnist E. J. Dionne.


    © 1998 The Washington Post Company

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