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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 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 is here--live online NOW--his coffee pot bubbling merrily as he types at you from his palatial penthouse office high atop Babylon-on-the-Potomac.

    Here is a transcript of today's session.

    Please join Bob again next Friday at 1 p.m. ET or on Tuesday, December 29 at noon, when his guest on "Levey Live" will be Herblock, The Washington Post's celebrated editorial cartoonist.

    Goldsboro NC: Mr. Levey, have you ever got a tip from the White House and published same and the White House blamed Ken Starr's office for the leak...

    Bob Levey: No, I never have. But thanks for the chance to comment on leaks in general. They are the beginning of the reporting process, not the end. There is nothing automatically and absolutely pernicious about them. The real issue is whether reporters take a leak and filter it for self-servingness--in other words, if the White House leaks, we have to be extra-sure the "information" doesn't place the White House in an unfairly positive light. Leaks will always be with us, and I for one am glad of it. I'm always for more information, not less.

    Warrenton, VA: Happy Holidays Bob:

    As a Democrat angry with Clinton (and I may be the only one!) I am bewildered at the high approval ratings. Is it because people are selfish that the economy is good and they don't want to rock the boat? Or does it signal declining morals in our society? What are your thoughts?

    Bob Levey: First of all, you're not the only Democrat who is furious at Clinton. I'm bewildered at the polls. I suspect the language is too imprecise to measure people like you. It probably asks whether you're happy with your own life under President Clinton--something like that. But, yes, I think economic happiness has a lot to do with it. I was a guest on a radio talk show in Minneapolis earlier this year. I took a call from some idiot woman who said, straight up, that everyone ought to leave poor Billy alone because her mutual funds were already up 15 percent for the year. What are you going to do with totally moronic people like that? Doesn't it occur to her that she needs a country in which to spend all that dough, and the mess in Washington is undermining the country?

    Clinton, Maryland: Whenever you write about your children, I find myself with a lump in my throat. Frankly, it's refreshing to read about such close relationships. Did you just stumble onto this lifestyle or was it something to which you aspired all your life? And with all of the many demands on you professionally, how do you manage this kind of closeness?

    Bob Levey: I suppose you could say that my wife and I stumbled upon each other, but it's also true that I wanted a close family all my life, and I'm deeply richer for having it. Our kids are astonishing--alert, bright, forward-looking, giggle-producing. I can't wait to get home at night to see them. As for professional demands, they really do get easier the older you get. I often say to journalism students that the largest part of the drill is using time well. I use it about 400 times better than I did at 25. So I do manage to get home for dinner most nights.

    North Potomac, MD: 40 years ago I bought a record for my children: "come and See the Peppermint Tree." It was issued by Washington Records, Inc., copyright 1959. What happened to that company? Is there anyway I can contact them or their successors? The recording artist was Evelyn Lohoefer. - Thank you for any help you give.

    Bob Levey: I'll check into it during column time (this is now Web time!). Anyone out there in Web-land who can help?

    Columbia, SC: Bob!! You workaholic!! This is your old pal Lisa Dickey, writing from my aunt's house in SC... Get home and have some turkey, big guy!! It's Christmas!
    My mom's sitting right here and says you can come over and have Christmas dinner with us if you've got nowhere else to go!!
    Have a great Christmas, Bob! You're the best

    Bob Levey: Let me get this straight: Lisa is on-line on Christmas Day, and LEVEY is the workaholic???? Tell your Mom I'll take her up on the offer in April, when my wife and I will be spending a week in Columbia as a visiting fellow at Columbia College. In the meantime, happy holidays to the entire clan, and thanks for the kind words.

    laurel, md: there are many physicians who do not have private practices who are victims in our society and I am one who has written you before..It is difficult to find any work for some and for adequate compensation for all of us. I would like to find someone in the media who will cover this subject adequately...Are you aware of any investigative journalist who will do it? I am at 301-725-0148 and can provide at least 10 maybe 50 other physicians who are very sad about their treatment at the hands of our society.

    Bob Levey: I know many investigative journalists who would like to poke around this story, but i've got to say I find it a little hard to believe. Sure, many physicians (especially young ones) face titanic debts after medical school. And many residents don't have much of a life outside work. And many medical students fall asleep on the Beltway because they've just done 48 hours in a row on duty. But I have never met a doctor who can't find some sort of a job. Meanwhile, the profession still carries an oooh-wow factor that few others do. So I'd have to know in much greater detail how the victimization works exactly

    Silver Spring, MD: What is it about the holidays that brings out the rudeness in people at the shopping malls?

    Bob Levey: They're trying to get it all done, and they have neither the money nor the time. Also (pet Levey theory), I think piped-in music at shopping malls secretly turns shoppers into snarling beasts. Hey, what would it do to you if you heard Mantovani playing "White Christmas" 14 times in a row?

    Nazareth, PA: Why is it that the Washington Post cancels good comic strips but refuses to cancel bad ones like Snuffy Smith? Emily

    Bob Levey: If you want to identify the slipperiest slope of all, ask which comics are "good" and which are "bad." There's no way to answer. Therefore, I always wonder why the comics generals at The Post ever delete any strip or any panel. The plot always plays the same way: 5,000 readers are furious, they call and write, the strip or panel is restored, then 5,000 more people call and write to say that The Post has no backbone (or taste, or consistency). Why not just keep adding comics? It has to make at least some people happy, and it'll never make people sad. If they don't like the new feature, they'll just skip it.

    Bob Levey: Just before I went "on the air," I got an e-mail from some weary soul who surmised that today's show would be wall-to-wall Clinton. It hasn't been, has it? But I'm still bothered/amused by some of what happened last week, post-impeachment, so I'm going to throw it out as possible raw meat.

    Clinton just can't keep quiet when he should, can he? Why in the world did he urge Bob Livingston to reconsider his decision to drop out of public life? First of all, it's none of Clinton's business. Second, it looked as if Clinton was saying that he needs all the adulterers around him that he can get. Very, very weak.

    But Tom Delay was almost as weak, and maybe weaker, when he said that Livingston demonstrated "principle" by dropping out. How is it principled to be an adulterer? And how is it principled to be exposed as a guy who thought he could get away with it until Larry Flynt got cooking? Any comments, gang?

    New Baltimore, MD: Hey Bob, what have you got against me? Sincerely, Mantovani

    Bob Levey: You're a bit gooey, my man. Maybe you'll drop arpeggios in 1999.

    Nazareth, PA: Yeah, but if you just keep adding comics there will be no room for Bob Levey's Washington!

    Bob Levey: Never, never, never will such an abomination be allowed to happen

    London, England: Do you think the president's goose has been cooked? Ebenezer S.

    Bob Levey: I think you need a few more pints, Ebenezer. Perhaps you'll see American politics more clearly.

    Columbus, OH: in regard to Iraq bombing, British media has been more critic about it than American media( some respectful British newspapers such as the independent, the guardian, etc.)
    If you think that is true, Why is that?

    Bob Levey: You're right that American media have been almost wholly supportive, even though the Administration cannot seem to answer the question, "What now?" The saving grace on this side of the Atlantic has been zero American casualties. If there had been even a handful, you'd see much howling. Also, I believe you'd see Clinton much farther down in the polls, and 67 votes against him looking very possible in the Senate.

    Falls Church, VA: LAst week sometime, this paper reported an article about how Virginia's DMV has allowed outside companies teach teenagers how to drive. As an 18 year old who is still learning, some of this scares me. I've rode with my peers who's ability with driving is, lets say . . . frightful. (This is from riding with someone who, not once, twice but thrice drove down the same one way street, the wrong way.) The DMV test is not the most comprehensive test out there, but some of these schools more or less give these licenses out like candy. What's your word?

    Bob Levey: There's nothing automatically wrong with learning to drive at a school. Still, as far as responsibility is concerned, I'm with you all the way. A license shouldn't be candy. It should be earned, and the lessons should be drummed home: you can cause death (yours and those of others) if you aren't responsible all the time. It may strike some as ghoulish, but I'd like to see every teenaged driver forced to spend a few minutes with a quadriplegic who thought driving was going to be a breeze. Food for thought. And what about re-testing? Many states do it for oldsters (and more are about to start). Why not the same drill for youngsters? Old saw but true: a license is a privilege, not a right

    salt lake city, utah: Why can't those idiots of the NBA--all of them--get it together so I can see Carl Malone?

    Bob Levey: I wish I had an answer. I miss the NBA terribly. College hoops? Fine until you realize that zone defenses really do make the game tedious. There are no zones in the NBA. By the way, Malone spells his first name with a K. You don't want to make him mad. He's 6-foot-9 and very mean, I'm told.

    Herkimer, New York: For some time, I've watched George Will on TV and for the life of me, can't understand what he says...Do you know him and is he like that all the time?

    Bob Levey: I do know him and like him, although I've got to say that his TV stardom mystifies me. He marble-mouths half his words and his eyes never seem to go where either he or we want them to go. But as far as insight and eloquence go, the guy is by himself. A truly incisive commentator. Never echoes conventional wisdom. Always original and fresh. Now if someone would only give him an hour with a TV coach for Christmas....

    Falls Church, VA: You've got to wonder, whether or not this system of destroy your opponent for political gain is productive at all. I see on Tv simply legislator argue past each other. It seems that only the two craziest constituents in America are represented, and they hate each other.

    But then I turn to Wile E. Coyote cartoon to see something a little more realistic.

    Bob Levey: The way things are going, Brother Coyote may get the Democratic nomination in 2000. Hey, if Jesse ventura can be elected.....

    Bob Levey: I'll be hacking at this keyboard for about 24 more minutes. Keep 'em coming.

    Providence RI: Are we to presume that American legal education is has been lacking for many years when MS Holtzman equates not one shred of evidence with not enough evidence to convict, in relation to Whitewater, Travelgate and Filegate. Or is she on Prozac?

    Bob Levey: Good point, yet she's not the only lawyer who has been badly out to lunch for weeks. What about Craig, who said that the president misled people in "maddening" fashion, but doesn't believe he lied. Does that mean he did or didn't, counselor? What about Hyde, who lavished love on Starr during the hearings without ever clarifying how partisan both of them are? I dunno about Holtzman and Prozac, but any theory is possible in this day and age

    Washington, DC: I have a beef with the Post. Every time they do a story about some pedophile meeting a child he's met in what your paper calls "an Internet chat room," they fail to tell the truth: The so-called chat room isn't really on the Net, it's on AOL. Why not just say that? Maybe cause your reporters don't know the difference between the net and AOL? Well, duh.

    Bob Levey: Isn't it both? There'd be no AOL without the Internet (and out at AOL, they'd like to believe that there'd be no Internet without AOL). I think you're splitting hairs.

    Bob Levey: On many previous "Levey Live" shows, we've gotten into debates about the merits of public transportation (I'm a huge fan). Did the ice storms on the East Coast over the last two days persuade you car-heads? As I came home on Wednesday night (by bus, of course), the backups around the Washington area were terrible. It wasn't just because of the snow and ice (there wasn't much of either, incidentally). It was because the delicate balance had been tipped just slightly by extra traffic and extra caution. Lesson: there are so many cars on the roads that we are always just one small happenstance away from gridlock. Yet the same people who were willing to sit in traffic for two hours claim that buses are too slow! Comments, anyone?

    Damascus, MD: How do you think the Redskins sale will go? It seems John Kent Cooke will lose the team. How do you think Washington will be without a Cooke dynasty to talk about?

    Bob Levey: Probably better off. New ownership always leads to new and better vibes. I say the Redskins could use some.

    Washington, DC: Me again. Splitting hairs? I don't think so. Nobody runs the Net so nobody takes responsibility. But AOL is a business that makes tons of money on chat rooms. Shouldn't they own up to the fact that those rooms, which AOL doesn't seem to monitor very well, are havens for child molesters. Bob, AOL is a PROPRIETARY system. The Net isn't. It's the difference between a public space and a private business. Get it?

    Bob Levey: Yes, I get it. But policing chat rooms poses huge problems. Do you want AOL to hire a cyber-cop for each one of them 24 hours a day? Then there's the issue of free speech. Shouldn't it be permitted on AOL, as it is elsewhere? I'm no lawyer, but I can't imagine AOL being sued and beaten because of child molestation on its proprietary system. It'd be like suing the owner of a kiosk because I tacked a poster on it that charges you with beating your wife.

    Ontario California: What did you think of former Senator Alan Simpson's remark, in so many words, that the American people have a short attention span?

    Bob Levey: How can you doubt it? I miss Simpson. One of the few Washington "hands" who didn't gussy up what he thought for the talk shows.

    Elkridge, Maryland: It positively chills my blood to watch what the partisan political system is willing to do when one side's candidate loses. Where did we get such a crop of vindictive losers? The American system of government provides a remedy -- try again in 4 years. The Democrats certainly suffered through 8 years of Reagan without impeaching him.

    Bob Levey: Exactly right. And you know what's worst of all? The lesson that some losers take away is: all it'll take next time is spending more money. That means more attack commercials, more campaigns without serious debate on serious issues--the whole delightful spiral.

    Alexandria, Va: Public transportation is simply too inconvenient for most people to leave their cars. It works in some situations, but so many people live so far out past Metrorail and most bus routes. Metrorail is very expensive to build on a per mile basis. What do you think needs to be done? (Also, I support the biggest Wilson Bridge you can build)

    Bob Levey: A vast network of mini-buses in the suburbs would do it faster and better than anything else, I think. I agree that subways are very expensive (and they take 20 years to build, too). But wouldn't you be at least tempted to keep the buggy in your garage if you knew that a bus came within three blocks of your house and could get you to work and back home again--without parking hassles, without expensive fuel, without incredibly expensive insurance, without worrying that Old Nellie will throw a rod on Shirley Highway?

    Greensboro, NC: We just got a bad ice storm and nobody here can drive. What do you think the secret is to being a good driver in the snow and ice?

    Bob Levey: Patience! Alas, that's the rarest of rarities.

    Doylestown, Pa: Don't you think 18 years should be able to drink if they can vote and serve in the military? Wouldn't help to demystify drugs and alcohol for youth instead of making it 'forbidden fruit'?

    Bob Levey: A toughie, because there's such a wide variation among 18-year-olds. My answer would be yes for those who can handle it and no for those who can't--but I realize that's no answer at all. In general, I would disagree about demystifying alcohol and drugs. The more you make it available, the more you tempt otherwise solid kids into life-destroying situations.

    Arlington, Va: Whats the best way to meet men in Washington? I work for a lobbying organization and only meet married men!

    Bob Levey: Hobbies. Community service. Go to church or temple. Co-ed softball. But the best answer of all may rest with those married men. Don't they have single buddies? Drop a hint, and ya never know....

    Dallas, Texas: Bob: Who in the Senate has enough influence and power to get the Senators to go to the Ford building to see 'the rest of the evidence' on Clinton's behaviour. We've had enough of his pernicious ways. The Senators should be wary of their own jobs, if they keep this guy in office.

    Bob Levey: I'm sure Trent Lott has already organized car pools. Don't worry, the Republicans will not miss a single chance to fry Bill Clinton.

    Bob Levey: That's it for today. Be sure to check out "Levey Live" this coming Tuesday, Dec. 29, when our guest will be The Washington Post's Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist, Herblock. And join us again next Friday (yes, on New Year's Day!) for "Levey Live: Speaking Freely," our weekly no-holds-barred show.

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