Q&A With Bob Levey
Bob is doing something a bit different today, hosting what talk radio folks would call an "open mike" show. But, hey--this is the Web, so think of the next hour as "open mouse" time--your chance to ask Bob about anything in his daily column or in the news.
Got a question about the D.C. mayoral race, a gripe about the Redskins or a comment about area schools? Or maybe you just have a simple query about the nature of the space-time continuum and your place in a random universe.
Never fear, Levey was here with his coffee pot bubbling merrily as he types at you from his palatial penthouse office high atop Babylon-on-the-Potomac.
Read the discussion.
Herndon, VA: Bob, We have been told that impeachment is essentially a political procedure and that is why the Constitution empowered the Congress with this responsibility. Yet with polls showing 53% of Americans do not favor impeachment. Republicans in the House are intoning loftily that they are not driven by the latests polls but are performing their solemn constitutional responsibilities. What do you think is motivating the Republican leradership of the House?
Bob Levey: I haven't met a politician in years--Republican, Democrat, Whig, whatever--who does ANYTHING without consulting polls. I can only assume that Republicans are getting different numbers from their own pollsters. I haven't talked to a Republican in ages who thinks he can do anything but profit from Clinton-Lewinsky. I don't hear a lot of high-mindedness on the Hill.
Bob Levey: Thanks for assuming I was a kid in the 1960s. For the first half, yes. For the second half, not close. I hate intrusive searches under any circumstances. I can't imagine why a school would WANT to conduct drug searches of kids. Can't they tell in some other way who's doing drugs? Can't they offer counseling? Mandatory tests criminalize the atmosphere, and stigamtzie the child.
17th & M, DC:
Bob Levey: Maybe George Sr. is scouting apartments for George Jr., who looks like a formidable 2000 Presidential candidate to me. As for Larry Flynt, I'm vastly amused at the whole business. He'll get mostly scurrilous rumors and outright falsehoods. I hope his libel insurance is paid up.
Bethesda,MD: Where is Glendening?
Bob Levey: The governor cancelled because he's trying to keep the Kelly Springfield plant from leaving Maryland, I was told. We'll try to reschedule him.
Bob Levey: I'd need to know how many bottles of wine these women had been through. If more than two, no reasonable discussion would have been possible. If fewer than two, perhaps you've bumped headlong into a truth of the 1990s: No one is ashamed to discuss his or her sex life, anywhere.
Bob Levey: I prefer to be on the comics page. It doesn't imply any lack of respect for my writing (or at least I've never been told that). It implies that the Great Powers think I'm fun to read, same as most strips. By the way, it's a great neighborhood to inhabit. I get a lot of "drive-by readers," as a former editor used to put it. I get kids who are just starting their newspaper-reading lives. Why would I want to be anywhere else?
Arlington, VA: Hi Bob, What are your thoughts about the relationship of "lying under oath" and "subject matter" as it pertains to the President? Some are saying that lying is lying, no matter what, and some say it's not so bad because what he lied about is non-consequential to the management of the nation.
Bob Levey: I'm a firm member of the lying-is-lying school. I don't see any way to dismiss the huge, repetitive, cynical, manipulative barrage of lies that Clinton told.
Hi, Bob. Thanks for doing this. I was wondering what your spin is on the Redskins' bismal start this year. Do you think Norv Turner is losing his touch or do you feel that it's the head office? I know we have some seriously talented players, but it seems like the team has no heart anymore. It's like the wind has mysteriously been taken out of our sails!
Bob Levey: Any NFL team with an unsettled quarterback situation is going to lose. I'm not arguing that Green is better than Frerotte, or vice versa. But you can't changes horses after one game. Either you designate Green the starter in training camp, or you suffer with Gus longer than they did. But that's only the beginning of the trouble. The team seems slow at every position, and incredibly old at cornerback, where most dramatic touchdowns are given up. If you told me right now that the Redskins will finish 5-11, I'd accuse you of being an optimist.
Washington, DC: How come the Big Grab bag of Fritos barbecue corn chips contain half of an once less Frito product than the regular Fritos Big Grab bag? Both varieties are offered at the same price—what gives?
Bob Levey: We'd better alert the special prosecutor! Seriously, many products are marketed in a tricky way. You're already practicing the best medicine: Read the ingredients on the label, not the adjectives inserted into the product's name by some marketing whiz.
Arlington, VA: I liked your story about the VRE the other day. There's no doubt that this town needs more, better public transportation. Do you ride to work or drive?
Bob Levey: I take Metrobus and Metrorail to and from work almost every day. I drive only when I'll need the car for some farflung appointment. I attribute whatever sanity I still possess to the fact that I almost never touch a car between Monday morning and Friday night.
DC, Ward 2: I voted for Carol Schwartz in the last election, primarily as a vote against Marion Barry. I also voted for her for at-large council. Quite honestly Ive been disappointed that she hasn't used the council seat as a pulpit to be a point person articulating how the District government can get back on course. In a way her Republican colleague David Catania has been much more effective at this than she has. Aside from having an engaging personality and a genuine concern about the District, how deep is her record realistically in terms of specific accomplishments and in leadership during her at large tenure?
Bob Levey: Not tremendously deep--but that may have more to do with the council's lack of power than with Schwartz's initiative, or lack of it. When the Mayor and Control Board have most of the administrative power, and Congress controls the purse, the Council isn't a place for huge strides. I agree that she might have made more noise about how even a Republican council member doesn't want a city run by people whom D.C. voters didn't elect.
Upper Marlboro, Md: The DC control board's recent announcement that they are looking forward to working with the new mayor and may possibly grant more power to the mayor suggest to me that their intention has always been to hurt Barry not to do what was best for the residents who elected him. What's you assessment of this?
Bob Levey: The control board exists to put itself out of business. I would HOPE they will work more closely with the next mayor and begin to share more power with him or her. Otherwise, it would be a sign that the board still thinks D.C. needs to be babysat. There couldn't be worse news.
Annandale, VA: In your opinion, what is needed to improve the current beltway traffic snarl? Perhaps another larger beltway? Double decker highways? More metro lines? Extending I-395 from New York Ave to the northside of the beltway? What will it take?
Bob Levey: Public transportation, public transportation, public transportation! Don't tell me "it doesn't work for me." Don't tell me "it doesn't go where I want it go." Don't tell me that buses sometimes are 10 minutes late. So are you. Understand how desperate matters will be if everyone keeps trying to drive everywhere. If Metro would give a week of free rides to anyone who vows to give up driving, so they could see just how great our buses and subways are, the town would be full of converts.
Frederick, MD: Is it me, or is this impeachment thing a Republican-instigated witch hunt? I am so sick of the way Clinton's presidency has been filled with attempts to undermine him. First Whitewater, then the Republicans stooped to mudslinging during the '96 election, and now this! Am I the only one who finds this to be a witch hunt?
Bob Levey: You're hardly alone in smelling a witchhunt. But that doesn't explain the entire story--only half of it, at best. There have always been partisans who want Clinton out, regardless--who want to rewrite the results of the last two presidential elections just because their guy didn't win. But there is also a ton of evidence that Clinton has brought all his troubles on himself. You can't explain the whole mess JUST by crying witchhunt, or JUST by pointing out how big a fool Clinton has been.
Half an hour remaining with Bob Levey.
Washington, DC: Your thoughts on the race for Mayor of DC? I enjoyed Robin Ghivan's article in Style today about characterizing the way a person dresses... she had quite a lot of speculation about bow ties.
Bob Levey: Don't sell Schwartz short (I dare you to say that three times fast!). Williams is an unknown. He has taken a lot of flak from some likely voters. He isn't a cinch
Bob Levey: Who has time to watch TV? I don't have regular favorites because I don't have regulars. I tend to watch news and sports--period. I watched ten minutes of "Seinfeld" once--and not twice. I am mystified by that show's appeal. Same with "Friends" and "Home Improvement."
Burke, VA: Bob, how does an old time journalist like yourself view The Washington Post on the Web. This on-line dialogue shows you can adapt, but does the Web make you concerned about the future of newspapers in general? The Post site is among my favorites, but is producing net revenues for your employer?
Bob Levey: I'm not at all concerned about the future of GOOD newspapers. They will always fill the need for thorough coverage--and that need will only get greater, as events become more complicated and as readers become better and better educated. The Web doesn't offer the same service as a newspaper. It's a quick hit, where a newspaper is something you linger over with your second cup of coffee. The Web doesn't feel the same as a newspaper, or look the same. It doesn't land on your lawn with a thud. And it doesn't make money--at least not yet. I have adapted to the web because it's enormously intriguing and powerful. But the very speed of it strikes me as a liability. The best newspapers TAKE THEIR TIME, and give you careful work. The Web invites us all to type the first thoughts that bounce into our heads. Often, the second and third thoughts are more valuable.
Washington D.C.: I despise Larry Flynt, but I think his ad was just brilliant! At least Clinton is being judged by a jury of his peers. I'd like to see Hyde and the other adulterers step down if they are going to put this kind of punishment on Clinton - let them take their own medicine.
Bob Levey: I'm not going to damn Hyde and company because of extracurricular affairs they may have had. That doesn't change the fact that they are elected, and legitimately in charge of the inquiry. But I do have to say that the funniest moment in this entire mess (so far) was Henry Hyde declaring that his affair, at age 41, was a "youthful indiscretion." The guy was almost twice as old as Lewinsky, and still youthful!
Bob Levey: I'm never surprised when a country seeks new leadership. But I am surprised that the new regime isn't better able to articulate where it wants to go economically. Like the U.S., Germany stands to get drowned if the trouble in Asia gets worse. But I don't hear a plan from Bonn about how to cope.
What do you think of the Clinton Terminated/Suicide list that is being passed around? If you are not familiar with it, it lists all the people involved with the Clinton administration that have died either to mysterious circumstances or have comitted suicide. Has there ever been a president with more scandal such as Clinton? Or is this just an example of how our society has
Bob Levey: I have seen this list all over the Web. Don't people have anything better to do? It's the sort of thing that Rush Limbaugh zealots believe in, without the slightest proof. It seems like a string of coincidences to me, put together by someone who has read too much Tom Clancy.
London, England: Aside from the Post, what are your favourite newspapers? And separately, do you understand quite how silly a lot of the rest of the world thinks the U.S. House of Representatives is right now? So censure him. Rebuke him. He had an affair and lied about it.
Bob Levey: I read the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Times and "a surprise" (usually a paper from Philadelphia or the West Coast) every day.
Walnut Creek, CA:
A message from far outside the beltway: Today's Contra Costa Times released its poll on the 10th district Congressional race. This is a swing district with a slight Republican regristration majority. Democratic incumbent Ellen Tauscher leads challenger Charles Ball 2 to 1. Of interest 77% of Tauscher supporters an 76% of Ball supporters said that the Clinton scandal had no bearing on theisr choice.
Bob Levey: I'm sure we'll see stories of the sort you mention. By the way, many congressional races will be won and lost on issues that don't involve sex or lies. Local issues bring people to the polls far more readily--and far more reliably. Besides, how can your vote undo (or forgive) Clinton-Lewinsky? This isn't a national referendum on adultery or oral sex. It's an election of representatives who will consider big, bad problems--war, peace, environment, many more.
Bethesda, MD: Thank you so much for promoting public transportation. I've never had a driver's license and get along just fine, even though most people think I'm crazy. I also strongly believe that if more people tried leaving their cars at home they would love my lifestle too.
Bob Levey: The best part of public transportation: You can read as you go! One of my biggest sneaky kicks is to be standing in the packed subway, to glance down and to see someone reading my column. I never interrupt--too holy a moment! But I always blow a silent kiss at the reader.
Arlington, VA: Bob, have you heard anything about a possible government shutdown? The media has been surprisingly silent on that topic--and if I'm not mistaken, I think the Continuing Resolutions only extend through this Friday, 10/9/98. What gives? Thank you!
Bob Levey: 10/9/98 is indeed the deadline. As of this morning, Congress had passed only two of the 13 necessary spending bills. But there are still three days to go. When the Hill really wants to move,. it moves like a freight train. Just as important (and maybe more important): Everyone on the Hill remembers the p.r. disaster that the previous shutdown caused--especially Gingrich and Co.
Rockville, MD: What gives with the water around these parts? - i.e. - the Oriole's collapse, the Redskin's collapse, the administration's (probable) collapse?
Bob Levey: I say it's sunspots. Or maybe bad pizza. Only one sure antidote: a settlement of the NBA strike, so we can see the Wizards climb above .500 for the first time since the Civil War.
Bethesda, Maryland: What do you think about Montgomery County's attempts to leash cats?
Bob Levey: I asked our cat about it. She yowled. Something about Doug Duncan being outta touch
Hyattsville, MD: I have noticed that elected officials visit the public only around election time. To alot of Marylanders you are only out to get their votes, after you win or lose,we never hear or see you in the public's eye until the next election. WHY?
Bob Levey: Perhaps we media-niks bear some of the responsibility. We tend to cover the dickens out of campaigns, and then pick and choose the way we cover actual governance.
MC LEAN VA: YOU SAID YOU BELIEVE LYING IS LYING. YOU WOULD CONDEMN COVER STORIES WHICH ARE UNTRUE (LIES) DURING NATIONAL CRISIS AS WRONG?
Bob Levey: Wrong in an absolute sense, yes. Tactically justified, perhaps.
Rockville, MD: What's up with the Redskins?
Bob Levey: Put it this way: When they're wearing paper bags over their heads at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, nothing good is up. Nothing at all.
Thanks for joining us. Be sure to join us next Tuesday when our guest will be Anthony Williams, the Democratic candidate for mayor of Washington, DC.