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  •   Levey Live: Speaking Freely

    Friday, February 26, 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/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 Tuesday when his guest will be Washington Post political columnist David Broder.

    Here is a transcript of today's session:


    Bob Levey: Without the slightest question. His comment was way, way over the edge. Significantly, not a single soul in the broadcast biz has risen in support. Nor have we heard any limp arguments about how Grease was just exercising his first amendment rights. What he said was racist drivel. I hope he never works in radio again. I suspect he won't.

    Washington, DC: I'm a recent transplant from New England and I've been a state of shock all winter at how over-the-top this whole area goes at the mere mention of snow. The schools close at a dusting, the salt trucks put down so much that yesterday I slipped on a pile of salt, and the forecasters seem to overdo their predictions so much that I'm beginning to think they're getting paid off by the bread, milk, and toilet paper people. Why the panic?

    Bob Levey: Because we're not used to snow, and many of us don't have the slightest idea how to drive in it. Good point, by the way, about the bread, milk and toilet paper lobbies. Do people really think civilization will be laid low for four days by three inches of snow? Crazy! By the way, it's high time for a totally new look at school closings. I say all inside-the-Beltway school systems should make one decision, and each county should make its own outside-the-Beltway decision. That would end the absurdity of, for example, three slippery two-lane humpbacked roads in Upper Montgomery County shutting down all of (very urban and non-hilly) Silver Spring and Bethesda.

    Annandale, va: hi bob,
    it's me again, the one who took your advice and started reading laurie colwin's stories...i know you're no expert on her (are you?) but i'm on her third novel and am getting sick of reading about married women having affairs. It's a tad bit disconcerting, don't you agree? nevertheless, i can't stop reading her books...i can't stop until i read all her work. okay...carry on..i really don't expect to hear a reply from you. i was just in the mood to complain. adios.

    Bob Levey: Both I and the Surgeon General warned you: Might be habit-forming! She is the best fiction writer I have read in the 1990s. By the way, she writes about much more than married women having affairs, as you will discover if you keep Colwinating.

    Manassas, Virginia: I am a Prince William County Government Employee. We have the lowest paying jobs of any governmental organization in Northern Virginia. We are being asked to receive the lowest increase in pay of any jurisdiction in the metropolitan area.

    My question is:

    How can I along with my fellow employees open the eyes of our County Government leaders? Why are they allowing us to fall so far behind other areas in pay increases compared to others in the area including the Federal Government?

    Bob Levey: To pay you more--or even to pay you what your comrades earn in neighboring counties--the Prince William leaders would have to raise taxes. Do you really think that'll be politically palatable? The long-range answer is unionization, although I recognize that that's a tall order for public employees in a virulently anti-union state like Virginia

    Falls Church, VA: Do you think President Clinton owes us an explanation of why he raped Juanita Broaddrick or should we all just let him slide on this one too? Is it ok to have a president who is a rapist?

    Bob Levey: Has fairness been TOTALLY kicked to death in the last year? You don't have the slightest right to assume that Clinton raped Ms. Broaddrick. In fact, by any reasonable standard, her story smells. Twenty-one years ago, she swore under oath that he did NOT rape her. But NOW she comes forward--and it just so happens to be a week in which Monica is getting huge bucks for publishing her book. Of course it's not OK to have a president who's a rapist. But are you going to base a serious charge like that on one TV piece and a couple of newspaper articles? Those are the beginnings of the process, not the end.

    Fairfax, VA: Regarding WARW's firing of the Greaseman:
    Why did it take a remark like this to get him fired? He has, in my opinion, tripped over the line many times in the past with his comments about women. It just shows that, once you start moving into areas of questionable taste, it's only a matter of time before something truly offensive is said. WARW shouldn't be surprised at all; this has been a long time in coming.

    Bob Levey: Amen, especially when you look back at what he said in 1986--that comment about how we should kill four more of them and they'd give us a whole week off. If it had been my radio station, he would have been gone then.

    Herndon, VA: I heard your commentary on WTOP the other day and you almost drove me into road rage with the vehemence with which you attacked Ken Starr. He was not the villain. He was doing his job, as directed by the Department of Justice, following the heavy footprints left by this sad president. Yes, the independent counsel law gives congress a way to shirk its own duties and should probably be abolished. But I am appalled at the piling onto someone who was doing his job well. To hear you tell it, Starr may as well be Satan himself. Who's the real villain here?

    Bob Levey: Certainly Bill Clinton told the lies. He initiated the sex. He has totally demeaned and diminished the office he holds. As I've said for months, he would have resigned in the first five minutes if he had any honor at all. But Kenneth Starr has perverted the purpose of--and now the political underpinning of--the independent counsel law. It was never designed to be an endless fishing expedition, yet that's how Starr ran it.

    Matthew, Laurel, MD: Bob, do you think this latest sordid story about Bill Clinton forcing himself on the now identified "Jane Doe #5" is true? If so, had she come forward when Starr questioned her do you think it would have made a difference in the impeachment trial? Also, How badly has Clinton's overall credibility been hurt because of this whole matter?

    Bob Levey: I believe Clinton is president today only because of his stratospheric polls--which is why Democrats stuck by him. I have no idea if the Jane Doe #5 story is true, although, as I just said, I find it mighty hard to believe that this woman would have stayed silent for 21 years if the story were true. You're darned right she would have changed the outcome of the trial if she had come forward earlier. Maybe America did decide it was "just about sex." But if it had been about rape, too, you'd have seen Clinton's polls drop like a rock, you'd have seen Democrats ditching him--and you'd see Al Gore in office.

    Colesville, Md.: Who do you think would win a Gore v. Bush, Jr. election?

    Bob Levey: Gore, because he has already lined up big-time support in California, and among organized labor. But the better question is: Who wins between Gore and Elizabeth Dole? Yes, I think she'll be the nominee and yes, I think she can win

    Mt. Rainier MD: Re the Greaseman, I agree with your hopes that he's out of radio. But doesn't it seem more than a little hypocritical of the station managers, when he was doing what he was hired to do, talk ugly? They don't call them shock jocks for their polite style. All of them seem to attract their demographics by being 'funny' in the ugliest way about women, blacks, gays, whomever.

    Bob Levey: There's a difference between ugly and racist. I have worked in radio for 20 years myself, and I have often seen station managers worm and squirm in situations like this, hoping it will all blow over so Their Great Ratings Gorilla could continue to rake in the bucks. Much credit is due WARW for tossing Grease in the trash first, and for worrying about profits second.

    Washington D.C.: As a woman, I have mixed feelings on Boston College's Professor Mary Daly's decision to stop teaching rather than allow men into her "Introduction to Feminist Ethics" class. What is your opinion on the matter?

    Bob Levey: Political correctness gone haywire. The entire function of a college teacher is to open the minds of students, regardless of what kind of genitalia are attached to those minds. This professor ought to be taken to the woodshed.

    New Hyde Park, New York: I've heard a lot of talk about Mrs. Clinton running for the Senate in New York. What are your thoughts on it? If Mrs. Clinton decides to carpetbag on up here and run for Senate, she'll have to realize that she'll get drubbed by the media.

    Bob Levey: Drubbed ain't the word for it. How would you like to do six campaign stops a day, and to hear the same questions at every one of them about the blue dress, the returned gifts, even about your own sex life (if any) with your husband. Hillary surely doesn't need or want this. I'd say she'd have to be gaga to run. But, hey, I've been wrong before.

    Washington, DC: Are you taking Y2K more seriously now that a Senate report has called this one of the gravest problems this country has ever faced? I'm paraphrasing, but that's the gist of it. The report expressed deep concerns about what might happen in Japan and other countries our economy is linked to.

    Bob Levey: You better stock up on bread, milk and toilet paper right now, brother! In a word, no, I'm not worried at all. If I have to walk to work and type columns on a Royal Manual, I will.

    ma: Why hasn't Clinton personally denied the allegations made by Ms. Broaddrick?
    Having his attorney deny this allegation is not the same as Clinton making the denial. Is he afraid he will be caught in yet another lie!!!!

    Bob Levey: Lawyers tell me this is standard procedure, because anything he says could be used against him in a civil suit.

    Rockville, MD: Earlier this week you reported on the woman whose car was vandalized as well as left with angry messages for straddling lines in a Metro parking lot. While I do not condone inflicting damage to her car, the notes were warranted. Parking is at a premium in (most) Metro lots. It only takes a second to make sure you are parked between the lines. Your comment that one less space is no big deal is wrong. You try finding a space and then see one car taking up two spaces and see how you would feel/react. (Being tired or in a hurry is no excuse.)

    Bob Levey: You're right that it takes only a second to make sure you're between the lines. But how can it be warranted to threaten life, limb and paint job via notes-under-windshield-wipers? You're advocating vandalism and violence, pal. Both are (and should be) illegal. Besides, is taking up an extra parking space really the worst crime in the world? The woman made a mistake--a very minor mistake. Why treat it as more than it is?

    Falls Church, VA: I'm Glad to see Maureen Bunyan back working on local news here. My misgiving is that they've retitled the show on WJLA to "News7 @ 11 with Maureen Bunyan". Maybe I'm too old-fashioned (at 20) but with that title blazoned at the beginning, I almost expect to see something like the "Rosie O'Donnel Show" or the "Daily Show with Jon Stewart" hybrid news-chat show.

    Bob Levey: No offense, but aren't you being a bit naive? TV news is all about ratings. If you were trying to hype the ratings of your show, wouldn't you advertise the chief attraction, especially if she's new to your station?

    Bob Levey: Half an hour remaining in today's festival of frenetitude. Keep 'em coming.

    Burke, VA: Hey Bob,
    By now you've learned that one way to make sure that your e-mail box is never empty is to criticize auto racing. You ought to see what happens if you criticize their favorite driver!
    I'm not writing to defend auto racing. I am writing to say that I really can't understand why people feel the need to criticize other people for their tastes.
    For example, I hate soccer and basketball. I find fishing shows on television bizarre and televised golfing a total snooze. However, I will never criticize someone for finding these sports interesting, nor question their motives for watching. Having different likes and dislikes is what makes the human race so interesting. It just irks me when people try to tell me why I like the things that I do. Were you just reacting to the inflammatory comments from the guys that wrote to you, or exercising your columnist's license to speak on any topic?
    P.S. Both auto racing and hockey get a lot more air time and ink in other areas of the country. They're just not as popular here in D.C.

    Bob Levey: I never meant to suggest that those who love auto racing don't have the right to love it. But at least lovers of football, basketball, etc. have reasons that make sense-- e.g., they like soaring athletes, or strong ones, or clever ones. But in auto racing, ALL THEY EVER DO IS GO ROUND-ROUND-ROUND SOME OVAL! This is a sport?

    bethesda MD: Why would the media(ABC) take two hours to for ML? The country is sick and tired of this scandal and wants to move on but the media cannot let it go.

    Bob Levey: Just watch--the Monica-and-Barbara Kleenexathon will pull the best ratings of the night, and probably the best of the month. America will never be so sick of this story that it will dump it like a Car 54 re-run. For one thing, America loves to watch Barbara belabor the obvious (her chief skill). For another, this is the first time Monica has discussed her FEELINGS about Clinton--and in this nation of constant Oprah-ization, we all know that's what counts.

    Gakona, Alaska: Given the fact that the political interests of the democratic party out weigh their sense of justice, right or wrong it is apparent that the sitting president will just have to sit there until his term is up. I am very concerned that with the mood of the country after the impeachment process, we will see a back lash against the prosecutors that will result in four more years of Clinton in NY and eons of liberal rule in the house, senate and/or the White House.

    What is your assessment of the future as we approach the elections in 2000? Will Y2K or the elections be more devastating to the country (and the world for that matter)?

    Bob Levey: I'm concerned with the mood, too. I think we're in a frame of mind to doubt our leaders, to be cynical about our institutions, to want to hunt the worst in everyone. Don't take this the wrong way, but we'd pull together as a nation very, very quickly (I hope) if there were a war, or if the economy went into the tank.

    Fairfax, Virginia: Hey, Bob, have you ever BEEN to an auto race or are you simply judging the sport based on what you've seen on the tube? btw, automobile racing IS a sport as opposed to most of the past-times you mentioned, which, in my book, are games. Racers don't play games!!

    Bob Levey: I've been to many races. Slept through every one of them

    Boston, MA: Hello Bob... Say I were interested in seeking a job with Central Intel/State Dept., what would be a "marketable" language to have.
    Middlebury College

    Bob Levey: Chinese couldn't hurt. Billion of them last time I checked. Surely we will have some "business" there

    Annandale, VA: Last week, you had several questions/comments regarding your statement about moral decline in this country in the last 50 years. Here's another one: I agree that divorce and out-of-wedlock births have increased. On the other hand, 50 years ago, it was the norm in this country for white Christians to openly discriminate against black and hispanic people. Where's the morality in that? Certainly the Bible doesn't condone such behavior. Anyone who speaks of the "Happy Days" of the 50's is probably white and male. For the record, I happen to be white, male and Christian.

    Bob Levey: Very good point. I was referring to intra-family and personal morality. But you are certainly correct that we were a far more racist society then than we are now.

    Falls Church, VA: How do you screen questions for your Monday Guest chats? Does your guest choose which questions to answer or do you screen them first? I ask because your previous guest, the U-MD Pres, answered questions specific to U-MD but didn't answer mine (boo-hoo) or others which were more general regarding higher education.

    Bob Levey: It's Tuesday, not Monday, but I'm happy to answer anyway. I screen the questions at my computer and toss them throughout the hour to the guest, who sits at a second computer in my pigpen of an office. The guest chooses which questions to answer, although we often consult about which questions look best. Our producer gets her say, too. Sorry we didn't take yours last week. Keep trying!

    New Orleans, Louisiana: Bob,

    I just move here from Russia.

    Who is Howard Stern and why so
    many people say he is best on radio?

    Where can I meet this person to talk to?

    Thank You Nice Day.

    Bob Levey: Howard Stern is one step this side of Greaseman. So far he has respected the line. That may not last. I'd suggest going to New York as soon as you can to shake his hand (New York is where he lives and works). That hand may not be around to shake for much longer, especially if radio station managers decide to buckle down in the wake of the Greaseman fiasco. To say the least, a) you will never hear anyone like Stern in Russia and b) you will never want to. I just don't see his appeal, to be very honest with you. I once rode in a cab for ten minutes. Throughout the entire ride, Stern was talking about Dolly Parton's breasts. I was so bored I could hardly stand it. But Stern was yucking up a storm, and the driver was loving it. So maybe I'm the one who's out of step.

    Colesville, Md.: Do you think MLB has any interest in bringing a team to Washington given the Mayor's recent support of such a move?

    Bob Levey: Major League Baseball would be crazy not to look long and lovingly at the seventh largest city in the country, and the mean household income here. However, Mayor Williams' plan for a stadium lacks several fairly basic elements: 1) THE MONEY!, 2) a team to put in the stadium, 3) a Metro stop near his proposed site, 4) an Interstate highway near his proposed site. Fix all four, and I think you're talking turkey. Fix fewer than four, and it's another phantom

    Berkeley, California: Bob-

    How do you feel about Israel refusing to extradite the 18 year old male wanted for murder in the US?

    Will any politicians speak out against this?

    Bob Levey: This one isn't over. To say the least, we have a little diplomatic pull with Israel. We will be exerting it, I'm sure, in an effort to return Sheinbein to Maryland. By the way, many politicians have spoken out about this--all in favor of Sheinbein's return, to my knowledge.

    Bethesda, MD: So how exactly did you get the chat gig, Bob? Did the Post draft you to be a guinea pig, did you volunteer, or what?
    I'd love to see some other Post people join you in cyberspace - who do I send requests to?

    Thanks much!

    Bob Levey: I volunteered 14 months ago, and those silly ducklings over in cyberland went for it. Proves that old dogs can swing new tricks. By the way, many fellow Posties do similar shows. We average about three hours of live programming on each day--and most of our "talkers" are the same people whose writings you know and love. Send requests for new hosts/shows to Vic Sussman, the Chief of All That Is Interactive, at

    Herndon, VA: Why does the NFL want to investigate the Millstein group that wants to buy the Redskins for $800 million? Do they suspect something fishy?

    Bob Levey: They must, or they wouldn't have put that supersleuth Lenzner on the case. What a joke, when you consider that a) the bid was $800 million in cash, and b) the NFL was founded by gamblers and booze runners (Mara in New York, Rooney in Pittsburgh, a whole army of them in Philadelphia)

    Colesville, Md.: Do you think Washington's NBA team looks foolish for having traded Chris Webber?

    Bob Levey: No, because he hasn't won anything yet

    Fairfax, VA: Regarding your Tuesday article entitled "At the Vienna Metro, `Parking Lot Rage'," if we agree that vandalism is a misdemeanor, how is it that THREATENING to vandalize a car can be considered a felony?

    Bob Levey: Vandalism grows to a felony if you cause enough damage. Any threat is a felony because it carries the possibility of harm to a person

    Washington, DC: Do you have an opinion on whether the death penalty should have been meted out to the convicted racist killer in the dragging death? Doesn't state-sponsored killing extend the cycle of violence?

    Bob Levey: No one will ever convince anyone else that his view of the death penalty is correct, but.... I can't see how putting that Texas racist to death will stop racism, or bring the victim back to life

    Bethesda, MD: Bob,
    What do you make of Jerry Falwell? He's selling tapes saying the Y2K issue is God's way of punishing us for inventing technologies and deeming a Teletubby character as homosexual, and therefore a "poor role model". What makes this guy tick?

    Bob Levey: Falwell is a sincere advocate for what he believes, even if you don't happen to share those beliefs. And he lives what he preaches. You haven't seen him get caught in some fleabag motel with a prostitute, have you? Nor have you seen him on trial for millions in corruption, like the man who runs the black Baptist conference.

    Colesville, Md.: How much longer do you think Pollin's going to own his teams? Any predictions on who (La Sooz) he will sell to?

    Bob Levey: He'd have to consider selling them if either or both lost major money. In any case, I'm sure he'd sell to a Washingtonian who committed to keeping the teams here. He is a hometown guy, first, last and always

    Washington, DC: The left lane, of a multiple laned road is for passing and passing only. Read any driving manual or state regulation. It will associate or affirm this courtesy and "rule of the road". I'd like to know "Why do people 'ride' the left lane, when they know that it impedes traffic, makes people angry, causes 'road rage'; to the narrow minded people in a hurry and consider themselves more important than their fellow 'roadwarrior'.

    Jim Mattingly and a 'neighbor of yours too'.

    Bob Levey: The sheer volume of traffic has made the left lane a "riding" lane as well as a "passing" lane. However, the keep-left-except-to-pass language is still on the books in every jurisdiction, as far as I know.

    Bob Levey: That'll do it for today. Join us again next Friday, from noon to 1 p.m. Eastern time, for "Levey Live: Speaking Freely." And be sure not to miss the Tuesday version of our show. It appears from noon to 1 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesdays. Our guest on March 2 will be David S. Broder, the well-respected Washington Post political reporter and columnist.

    © 1998 The Washington Post Company

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