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.
"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 is here--live online--his coffee pot bubbling merrily as he types at you from his palatial penthouse office high atop Babylon-on-the-Potomac.
Here's a transcript of today's session. Please join Bob again next Friday at 1 p.m. ET or on Tuesday, December 22 at noon, when his guest will be The Washington Post's executive editor, Leonard Downie Jr.
Olympia Washington: For high ranking members of Congress to question the policy and the motives of our commander in chief during a military operation: does this not constitute treason or other high crimes or misd's and qualify for impeachment under the very low bar that has now been established?
Bob Levey: I wouldn't call it treason but I would call it amazing and potentially very dangerous. Whenever there's international conflict, decisions are made on the basis of how reality seems, not necessarily on the basis of what it is. Any American leader who does anything to stiffen Saddam's backbone is playing with fire. There has been a very good reason why our political leaders have always rallied behind the president when the shooting starts.
jacksonville, Fl.: What chance is there that the President will resign for the good of the country after the House impeaches him?
Bob Levey: Quite good, I'd guess. Even though he is an immensely vain and proud person, he might finally see that this isn't just about him. It's about the job he holds. I have said for months that Mrs. Clinton holds the key. If the House impeaches, and she says to him, "All right, Buster Brown, it's time to take our toys and go home," I believe he'd do it. She's the only person he still listens to. By the way, I vehemently disagree with Gregory Craig, the president's lawyer, who said the other day that the Republicans created this crisis and now they want Clinton to resign to spring them from it. Not so. Clinton created this crisis--no one else.
Bob Levey: You are the brilliant, incisive voice that America seeks at this troubled time
London, England: Who are you? I have never heard your name before!
Bob Levey: The way things are going, I may be speaker of the house by the end of the week. I am a five-day-a-week columnist for The Washington Post. My column, "Bob Levey's Washington," deals with whatever washes up on shore in the nation's capital. Yes, that includes untreated sewage as well as pearls. I also have spent 20 years as a talk show host and commentator on radio and TV. I am strictly nonpartisan, which is more than anyone else in this city can say these days.
Herndon, VA: Dear Bob, In a city full of bombast, your breezy straight talk is refreshing and I appreciate it. In a town gyrating wildly between impeachment, revelations about Livingstone's "indiscretions" (about which he lied indirectly to Wolfe Blitzer), and a showdown with Iraq, what are the chances of a restoration of sanity once the impeachment goes to the Senate? Will we ever return to the days when public servants were judged on public performance?
Bob Levey: Thanks for the kind words. I don't believe the bombast will die down soon, if at all. I said to a friend yesterday that I expect partisan payback to go on for the rest of our lives. I do believe that the volume could diminish if the right president were elected--one who appealed for reason, and exercised a bit of it himself.
It amazes me that a president can cheat on his wife, lie to the american people, wag his finger, lie under oath to a grand jury and arrogantly hint that he would accept censure. Furthermore, it makes me cringe an an American that when we finally bomb Iraq, millions believe that it was politically motivated. That alone shows his political impotence....he has to go! What do you think? Merry x-mas !
Bob Levey: I've long thought that he has to go, not because "everybody does it" but because he can no longer govern effectively. I don't happen to think that his offenses are impeachable--I do think resignation is the proper way to go, and it will leave far fewer bloodstains. But I'm a big believer in process, and if the elected leadership in Congress says impeachment is the only avenue they'll consider, then that's the bed we'll all have to lie in
Washington, DC: I have been reading you since I was in high school and was very surprised that Emily is now a teenger. Where have all the years gone?
Bob Levey: If you find a few spare years, let me know. I'll buy some wholesale. Yes, my daughter is 17. Wonderful kid. Been writing about her since before she was born. Thanks for hitching a ride with me all this time
Dunmore, PA: Why do you think the members of Congress are so intent on impeachment when their constituents would much rather they address campaign spending reform, health care, or some other concern vital to the public interest?
Bob Levey: Because they think (erroneously) that there is political capital to be made from this mess. But what's going to happen is that everyone will be so disgusted that they won't vote.
Arlington, VA: What about Bob Livingston? I'm not defending Clinton, mind you, but does the country need someone third in line for the Presidency who acknowledges that he has violated the sanctity of marriage at least four times? What will Mary Bono tell her children?
Bob Levey: A measure of how insane things are in Washington: Livingston french-fries the president for poor and suspect timing in launching the bombing of Iraq. What about his own timing? Couldn't the Livingston bimbo eruption have been announced 30 years ago? Did Jay Leno really need that much new material? Again, this kind of nonsense makes possible voters SCREAM for the exits
washington, dc: Bob, I ask you this at least once a month. What is your favorite food? Do you like soul food? If so, what is your favorite soul food? I love your column! What do you think of Chris Rock?
Bob Levey: My favorite serious food is fish. My favorite junk food is pretzels. I adore soul food--let me AT those collard greens! I'm glad my column is "soul food for thought." Believe me, I never get tired of hearing such compliments. You keep reading 'em and I'll keep writing 'em--deal? As for Chris Rock, I'm afraid ya got me. Don't know who/what that is. Perhaps one of those rap singers I refuse to let my children listen to?
I spent yesterday morning in line waiting for Van Gogh
Bob Levey: Why do we need a better way when you say it all went peacefully? Please don't tell me they should have been sold through Ticket Master, with their $5 service charges!
Northwest, Washington DC:
We're bombing Irag because they threaten to bomb Isreal and because Saddam has not cooperated with UN inspectors.
Bob Levey: Israel is doing just fine at handling its own problems. And Israel is not the only country in the Middle East that receives money from Congress. We have a stake in democracies all over the globe. Israel is a special one, but not the only one. So please, no more of this barbed nonsense about how we are wrong to support that country. We are right, for their sake and our own
Dale City, VA.:
Bob Levey: Very, very right about Cohen and the national security advisers. I can't imagine they would have sold out for the sake of Bill's hide. I think the people on the Hill who doubted Clinton's motives are just shoot-from-the-hip fools. They didn't stop to consider a key point: even if Clinton wanted military success in Iraq to block or blunt impeachment, it couldn't happen. The one has nothing to do with the other. The impeachment charges will be staring at Clinton the minute the shooting in Iraq stops, no matter how it turns out.
Baltimore, MD: I'm listening to the debate on the radio, and not hearing anything new - just more of the same two songs...I still think all of this comes back to a very simple principal - of taking responsibility for one's actions, and recognizing that it isn't always up to the transgressor to determine what the consequences will or should be - we don't ask criminals what kind of punishment they would accept. If the President does not find the process to be going in the direction he would like, that is part of the consequences of his actions. He should do the right thing - for his country and his party - and his family - and resign.
Bob Levey: It's all pointing toward resignation, for sure. I agree that misdeed doers don't have the right to name their punishment. To me, the lowest moment in a low year was Clinton begging the Hill to censure him the other day. If he were a big boy... but he isn't one, is he?
Washington, D.C.: I'm just saddned that our country is and always has been run by adulters, liars, thieves and persons of low morals. I guess the utopic idea of a morally righteous United States never existed. I'd be horrified if I was of a religious faith that believed in commandments that dictate you don't do things like lie, cheat, steal and commit adultery. For God and country, hmmm?
Bob Levey: Always has been? You'd better show me some evidence. I'm afraid you're being swept out to sea by the same cynicism that addled the brains of Trent Lott and Co. Did Jimmy Carter lie, cheat and fornicate? Did Ford? Did Truman? I could go on--which is the whole point. That isn't to deny that you're right about some of our leaders. But only some.
Baltimore, MD: Many people my age, 20, are very sick and tired of this politcal agenda that our elected officals are participating in, but you know what, the old saying "Vote for the lessor of the two evils" is clearly at play. Do you think that we will ever be able to find another politican who will actually follow what his voters believe?
Bob Levey: Bob at the crystal ball: We are moving toward a time when we will elect leaders who have a moral component in their backgrounds. Yes, I mean religious leaders. No, I don't mean partisans like Falwell or Pat Robertson. Nor do I mean Jesse Jackson--way too controversial and by now a bit shopworn as a candidate. But some young, fresh, honest, genuinely family-oriented person? Absolutely. If it heralds more of same on Capitol Hill--leaders who aren't professional politicians--I say hooray.
Hey Bob, I parked downtown twice this week and each time ran over the metered time by 15 to 20 minutes. And guess what?
Bob Levey: Nah, they just got cold and went for a coffee. Don't try it if the mercury is in the 50s!
Reston,Virginia: Why didn't Rep. Livingston admit to his affairs before he was elected to be Speaker? Why does his late confession rate a round of applauds? Was he afraid the truth was about to come out? The reaction to his confession shows how partisan the Republicans are.
Bob Levey: A room full of Republicans gives their adulterous leader a Standing O and a ringing vote of confidence. Did you ever think you'd live to see the day? Orlando and Anaheim have nothing on us. Yes, Livingston was definitely afraid that the truth was about to come out. He said so. He said Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler, was about to "out" him as having had affairs. Remember that offer Flynt made of $1 million to any woman who came forward with proof of an affair with a member of Congress? Livingston said yesterday that he was about to be Flynt-ed. So now we've got government-by-fear-of-Flynt. Incredible!!!!
wash, dc: are there bios (particularly, educational background) of Post writers? i'm asking cuz it'd be interesting to know.
Bob Levey: Several years ago, the managing editor asked us to do one-page self-bios. I believe they're on the Web someplace, although I couldn't tell you where. They were bound into a book, for Post eyes only. I must have read my copy six times. Great read! By the way, if you're one of those people who thinks that everyone at The Post went to an Ivy League school, I urge you to get over it. The self-bio book proves otherwise. Just a new nuggets along that line: the executive editor, Leonard Downie Jr.(who'll be my guest here next week, by the way) went to Ohio State. Steve Coll, the managing editor, went to Occidental. JoAnn Armao, the Metro editor, went to SUNY. I went to The University of Chicago. I haven't seen a Harvard tie in the newsroom since I-don't-know-when.
Bob Levey: I'll be typing fast and furious for about another 22 minutes. Keep 'em coming.
Bob Levey: He will hang on and continue as president under a cloud. But he ought to resign--and soon
Silver Spring, Md:
I got an email from a German friend yesterday. He is educated, young and sophisticated and he is completely confused by what is going on with impeachment and the Iraqi bombing. He--and I suspect many other Europeans--believes the sex scandal is ridiculous and that Clinton has ordered the bombing to take the pressure off domestically.
Bob Levey: It's about law, not sex. Sure, what we're seeing in Washington is partisan. But politics always is. That doesn't mean the anti-Clinton arguments are invalid. Obviously, he's a liar. Obviously, he can't go unpunished. Obviously, censure would be just a slap on the wrist, and not stern enough. I never understand why it embarrasses the U.S. in the eyes of foreigners to stand for principle. Should we stand for lying instead?
Pls give us a bio. on yourself, so that we might evaluate your answers with the bio as a background.
Bob Levey: Born and raised in New York City. Honors graduate of The University of Chicago. Battle-scarred veteran of 32 years on The Post's staff, including nearly 18 as a daily columnist. Not a registered Democrat, Republican or anything else--I call 'em as I see them.
College Park, MD:
A month or so ago you put down the effort in Fairafax County to control the deer populations. Do youhave idea what damage deer can do to the urban ecosystems in this area? It's a shame that someone as well respected as you could not educate himself enough about such an issue to be better prepared to comment on it.
Bob Levey: I'm very well educated on the issue. I just don't happen to agree with you. What I said was that pea-shooting a few deer won't solve the problem, and will endanger people, even though plenty of precautions were taken. The real answer is to prevent them from procreating at such a rapid rate. That can't be impossible.
Arlington, VA: As a sometime folksinger yourself, would you please recommend some good local (N. VA, NWDC, Bethesda) places to hear acoustic folksingers at reasonable prices ($8-$15). Thank-you.
Bob Levey: My shower. Concert every morning. But only my closest friends are invited
Bob Levey: The whole problem is that there's no clear majority, on this issue or many others. I hope you're not going to tell me that the Republicans "lost" the elections in November. They're still in power, aren't they? The only thing they lost was a few seats that some genius pollster thought they'd win. It's amazing to me that this somehow means that the will of America is pro-Clinton. Maybe if the Dems had won 40 seats or so
As a Post man, who will
Bob Levey: Woodward and Bernstein did their work before the Nixon impeachment hearings. W and B didn't even cover those hearings. So I'm afraid your analogy is mistimed
Arlington, VA: What's going to happen with the NBA lock-out? and what do you see in the future for professional sports?
Bob Levey: All I see is tunnel--no light at the end of it. New proof of old saw: Absolute money produces absolute stupidity. As for the future of professional sports, I'd say it's bright. But I wouldn't use that word to describe David Stern or any of the NBA stars who think having eight cars is normal
Pomfret, MD: Why must we play these little political games on a national level, when clearly they are only hurting us. Any Republican would have launched the same type of action against Saddam. When will the politicians realize that we cannot preform slash and burn politics anymore?
Bob Levey: I think slash and burn is here to stay for a good long while, although I was cheered to see that Dick Gephardt got applause from both sides of the aisle today when he said S-and-B must stop.
Of Course it's about SEX! Why else are the American people interested?? If it was about LAW they'd turn off the tv.
Bob Levey: It started as sex. But it isn't still about that--unless you count the Livingston fiasco. Have you made reservations for a copy of the next Hustler yet?
Washington, DC: Now that Bob Livingston has admitted that family values are for show and he's a ho', do you think we'll get to see a chronicle of his advertures on the Internet?
Bob Levey: I'd say to expect it in microseconds. If the nude photos of Dr. Laura were up within five minutes, bib Bob can hardly be far behind
Frostburg Maryland: If either impeachemnt, or resignation take place, do you believe that the crusade from the Republicans will stop here. Or is the Independent Counsel going to find out that Al Gore maybe did inhale....
Bob Levey: The Republicans had better enjoy themselves while they can. Every poll I've seen and every pol I've interviewed thinks the Democrats are a big favorite to recapture the House in 2000, whether Gore wins or not
Washington, DC: Wasn’t Nixon impeached DURING the Vietnam WAR or doesn’t that count?
Bob Levey: Excellent point. Yes, he was--while we still had more than 200,000 men on the ground there
Why are people so lenient toward Pres. Clinton? If the same perjury charge were filed against any member in the Congress, he/she would have been ousted a long time ago.
Bob Levey: Lenient? Threatening to cast you into the dustbin is lenient? You've got me shaking my head--not for the first time this week
Bob Levey: As I pointed out on Tuesday's Levey Live, most undergraduates at Ivy League schools never see a real member of the faculty. They see 24-year-old teaching assistants instead. And they seldom sit in classes of fewer than 50. This is an elite, $120,000 education? I hope my daughter goes to a school that is right for her. I don't burn candles at night and pray for Yale or Princeton. I only hope I can come up the money. Believe me, I ain't got it yet.
Somewhere, USA: Bob, what do you believe should be done in the matter of the President?
Bob Levey: He has to go--sooner rather than later. But how do we arrive at that point? I still hope he will resign, regardless of what the House does. If he won't, I hope he will keep a very low profile. The last thing we need is further Oprah-ization of the process. Please, no more addresses to the country about how much pain he has caused his family. Do the job and keep your personal affairs personal.
Washington, DC: How come all top executive level positions at The Post are held by white men?
Bob Levey: Have you heard of Katharine Graham? I think she'd be very surprised to learn that she's a man. By the way, four assistant managing editors are women
Mathews, Va.: Mr. Clinton is the one who initiated the attack on Irag at this time. Mr. Clinton is the one who had the affair, lied to two grand juries, lied to his cabinet that they would lie and mislead for him, and obstructed justice.Yet, the democrats want to place all of the blame for Mr. Clinton's lack of character on the impeachment process and the Republican party. What bothers me and that the American public buys this total lack of an understanding of justice. People are rather lead like sheep by an abuse of media and polls that form their opinion for them. We must remember that there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. We are being shown the reality of the quote, "there is a sucker born every minute."
Bob Levey: I've never seen what's in it for Congressional Democrats to back Clinton absolutely. He isn't even a real Democrat, and he certainly hasn't coat-tailed other Democrats into office.
Mt. Rainier MD: Bob, one amusing consequence of the rapid politics of the day is reading (in WP's letters to the editor) a pro-impeachment quoting Benjamin Franklin as an examplar. I guess the writer wasn't aware of Franklin's reputation in France where it seemed like he had affairs with everything that wore skirts.
Bob Levey: Ben had better not run in 2000, or Larry Flynt will wallop him
Bob Levey: That's it for today. Thanks so much for your excellent questions. Be sure to join us Dec. 22, for the Tuesday edition of "Levey Live." Our guest will be the executive editor of The Washington Post, Leonard Downie Jr.