Q&A With Guy Gugliotta
"Levey Live," appears each Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m. Eastern time. It is a live, moderated discussion offering washingtonpost.com users the chance to ask questions directly of the people who make the news and the people who report it.
Bob's guest was the Post's congressional reporter, Guy Gugliotta. Before covering Congress, Guy reported on poverty issues and agriculture.
Bob and Guy discussed the change of leadership in the House of Representatives and the impeachment hearings.
Here are your responses:
hi. I would like to know what in the impeachment process changed after mid term elections? Will it be faster?
Guy Gugliotta: hi, yourself. there is a general feeling that the elections made the republicans more reluctant to pursue an impeachment inquiry beyond the end of the year. the biggest question is how to get out of it. thus far, there is no answer
Bob Levey: Why is Henry Hyde acting as if the Republicans got clobbered on Nov. 3? They won! If he's so serious about not doing business according to the polls, why is he doing exactly that?
Guy Gugliotta: The Republicans had a really narrow majority leading up to the elections. now its tiny, only a couple of months after ken starr made the impeachnment referral. The Republicans had predicated they could gain "up to 40 seats". Instead they lost five. they're about to jump off a cliff.
Energodar, Ukraine: As an American working under a US government project, I am more than curious on how strong will this congress continue to support the programs aimed at helping the Eastern European countries? It is clear from my travels that these countries are entering a crucial time period. How is this viewed on the Hill?
Guy Gugliotta: I do not see that the incoming Congress will appreciably change policy toward Eastern Europe. In the House's case, Bob Livingston, the speaker-to-be is just as much of an internationalist as Gingrich before him, so I think we will see a continuum in Eastern European policy
Bob Levey: About Bob Livingston, who looks like a sure thing for Speaker: He said on TV the other day that Newt Gingrich "is a revolutionary. I am a manager." Isn't this exactly why he is so unappealing to the more doctrinaire Republicans?
Guy Gugliotta: Not really. the main knock against Livingston from the right wing of his own party is that he's an appropriator-- in other words, he spends money rather than saves it. although Livingston is very conservative and probably responsible for shrinking discretionary spending in the last four years by perhaps one-third, the right will always be suspicious of him
Bob Levey: Our own newspaper reported on Nov. 12 that Bob Livingston has decided to leave the entire impeachment question to Henry Hyde. Does this mean that Livingston is trying to duck the fallout from the hearings?
Guy Gugliotta: Yes, I think so. Livingston is not interested in having to deal with impeachment when he takes over as speaker, so he wants Henry Hyde to deal with it -- as long as he deal's with it before Christmas
Merrifield, VA: Do you suppose Bill Paxon is kicking himself right about now? Any speculation on his chances at either Speaker or Majority Leader if he had sought and won re-election?
Guy Gugliotta: he may be kicking himself. Problem is, he got cold feet. At this point, I think majority leader probably would have been his for the asking
Bob Levey: I'm kind of intrigued by the idea that Congress can hold hearings on impeachment and then just choose not to impeach. Is support for this option growing?
Guy Gugliotta: Yes, I think that's where the House is tending. At first there was a lot of talk of censure or some other punishment short of impeachment. Now, however, most members, on both sides, seem to believe that it must be impeachment or nothing, and increasingly, the answer seems to be nothing
Alexandria, Va: How will the effect of self-imposed Term Limits affect the make-up of the 107th or 108th Congress ?
Guy Gugliotta: Good question. The feeling is that the self-limited people who will leave in 2000 are going to be more hard-line on the REpublican side because they don't want to leave Congress as the same old shabby, corrupt place they encountered six years ago., Most of these seats, however, are solid republican, so the GOP is not in much danger of losing them. Still, Democrats are eagerly awaiting some opportunities they think will be there beginning in 2000.
Washington DC: Here in Washington DC we seem to have gone from “Mayor for Life” to “Congresswoman for Life”. Any chance on term limits once again becoming an issue?
Guy Gugliotta: I would say none at all. The revolutionaries are no longer in charge, and the pros are back. I would be amazed to see term limits return to the floor of the House in the next two years. or the Senate, for that matter
Catharpin, VA: Why is the Washington Post coverage so consistently and embarrassingly liberal? Have you folks never held any real jobs before?
Guy Gugliotta: Since I got out of the Navy, I have always worked for an organization that pays taxes. At this point, too, I can say, that for every person who calls me up to complain that I'm a lefty, someone else calls up right behind to find out if Newt Gingrich is paying my salary.
Bob Levey: Sen. Arlen Specter advanced an interesting idea last week: Drop impeachment hearings in exchange for the threat to charge Clinton as a civilian once he leaves office. What has Congressional reaction been to this?
Guy Gugliotta: Zero. Republicans think Specter is a turncoat, democrats think that what happens to Clinton after he leaves office is his problem
Bob Levey: How about Livingston and Democrats? Mutual respect? Mutual suspicion?
Guy Gugliotta: Mutual respect. As one Democrat told me today: "Newt Gingrich never had a relationship with a single Democrat in the House. We are very, very happy to see him go." Livingston, by contrast is "a members' member."
Washington, D.C.: It's my understanding the Henry Hyde is giving the Democrats 30 minutes to cross examine Ken Starr on Thursday. And now the Democrats are threatening to boycott the hearing. What are you reporting on this?
Guy Gugliotta: WE'll report on it today for tomorrow's paper. It is true that the REpublican's are offering 30 minutes, and it is true that Democrats are furious, but they have not threatened to walk out, as yet. They're chief complaint is not the 30 minutes the White House is getting as much as the two hours that Starr is getting to say whatever he wants without interruption. But wait until tomorrow's paper.
Guy, do you foresee the upcoming changes in the leadership of the House as a sign the impeachment proceedings are merely now rudimentary follow through?
Guy Gugliotta: I agree that nothing will be done, and I think the new House leadership would be happy to have it end as rapidly as possible. The Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, however, are of a different mind, and seem fairly determined to let the whole process play out. The way the process is currently outlined, the procedure could be rudimentary or it could be very detailed. WE should get a better sense by the end of the week.
Half an hour remaining with our guest, Washington Post congressional correspondent Guy Gugliotta.
Half an hour remaining with our guest, Washington Post congressional correspondent Guy Gugliotta.
Bob Levey: What do people on the Hill make of Starr dumping the Kathleen Willey stuff on the committee just before hearings begin? Was this a last gasp by Starr to try to stiffen the backbones of Republican committee members?
Guy Gugliotta: Democrats contend that Starr dropped the Willey material now just to make yet another splash before he comes to testify. Republicans believe he sent it over to the Capitol because he had it, and he wants to be questioned about it.
Tampa,Fl.: Do you think that the passing of all the marijuana initiatives ie as in Alaska, Oregon, Washington state and D.C. according to exit polls,Nevada, Colorado and Arizona, will be a strong enough message to congress that we the people don't want their costly drug war?
Guy Gugliotta: Not a chance. Or, should I say, don't hold your breath
Bob Levey: Assuming the incoming Congress ever does anything other than talk about impeachment, where do you see Social Security reform going?
Guy Gugliotta: Social security reform is probably not going to be a front-burner issue in the upcoming Congress. What will be an issue is making sure the budget busters don't go hog wild because the surplus "must be used to protect the future of social security
Bob Levey: Steve Largent of Oklahoma is one of the true-believing Republican firebrands who first came to Congress in 1994. But true belief seems to be out of style in 1998. Do you think Largent really believes he can win a Republican leadership position, or is he running "for show?"
Guy Gugliotta: He's running to win. The prevailing belief among House REpublicans is that he won't.
Bob Levey: What are they saying on the Hill about why Newt Gingrich missed the boat so badly with his Election Day strategy? Did he just not listen when his flock told him that Clinton/Lewinsky wasn't going to be a crossover issue?
Guy Gugliotta: They're saying he didn't listen to the polls, but then neither did the rest of the Republicans in the House. Many of the Conservatives still believe that it was the messenger (Gingrich) rather than the message (Lewinsky/Clinton doesn't matter).
Bob Levey: Tell us about Rep. Jennifer Dunn, who's running against Armey.
Guy Gugliotta: She's been in the leadership for several years. She's the chair of the Washington State REpublican Party. She is viewed as a Gingrich favorite, sound on fiscal issues from a conservative point of view, but iffy on abortion. Not much experience as a legislator. Known for a terrific wardrobe.
Bob Levey: Serious question: Could Henry Hyde just drop the whole thing? Could he just wake up one morning and say he has thought about it, and the charges aren't impeachable, and let's all go to the beach?
Guy Gugliotta: He could. He's maybe the only REpublican member of the House with the stature and lack of a personal agenda who could do that. But he, like many Judiciary Republicans, is not kindly disposed toward the Clinton administration because of what he sees as stalling and prevarication on a whole host of issues. He may soften up, however, particularly if Livingston has a chat with him
Bob Levey: I'm sure Republican members of the Judiciary Committee will slather praise on Starr on Thursday. But might that not backfire somewhere down the road? The polls say most Americans don't approve of the way Starr did business, or the power and budget with which he did it.
Guy Gugliotta: It could backfire, but it probably won't. The belief now is that Republican political fortunes are down so far at this point on impeachment, that Starr's appearance can't hurt them any worse, and may help
Bob Levey: Rep. J. C. Watts of Oklahoma has gone a long way in a very short time. Can he win a leadership position in this Congress? Is he being pushed because Republicans need to do better with African-American voters?
Guy Gugliotta: He can win, and he is being pushed in part because he is black. He is also an excellent speaker and a sharp fellow. Finally, he is a conservative, and if the young conservatives are going to get a seat at the leadership table, his chances are better than Largent's. If Largent wins Majority leader, however, Watts probably won't in as conference chairman (same state)
Bob Levey: Will John Conyers (the ranking Democratic member on Judiciary) go after Starr on Thursday? Or will he wait for the White House lawyer(s) to do it?
Guy Gugliotta: I'd be amazed if Conyers didn't try to take Starr apart on Thursday. He's been promising to do it for months.
Bob Levey: It's going to be mighty strange for Starr to be the only witness on Thursday. Why did Hyde choose to play it this way?
Guy Gugliotta: He's the only witness they have time for. There will be others if the committee wants others. Having only starr is Hyde's way of opening the door to a quick settlement of the whole matter. Leaving open the possibility of further witnesses is a way to expand the process, if members wish. Right now all options are open. We'll have to see what happens after Thursday.
Bob Levey: There's been a ton of talk about "cutting a deal" on impeachment. But who's doing the actual negotiations--Hyde and John Podesta? And what has the tone of the talks been like? Bitter? Sweet? Bittersweet?
Guy Gugliotta: Probably no deal. There are no substantive talks about a deal. Generally speaking, when members are publicly asked about it, the tone is strident and not conciliatory.
Bob Levey: If Armey wins, can he work closely and well with Livingston?
Guy Gugliotta: He better learn
Bob Levey: Majority Leader Dick Armey is being challenged by at least two fellow Republicans, who are painting him as a Gingrich ally (and therefore ineffective). Isn't the real problem that Armey is positively awful on TV, in an age where TV is the key way to get a message across?
Guy Gugliotta: TV is one difficulty, but Armey's biggest problem is that he has no base of support. He used to be the darling of conservatives, but they believe he betrayed him during the attempted coup against Gingrich in 1997. Now they can't stand him, so his only sources of loyalty are his identification with Gingrich and the money he is able to raise for Republican candidates. These are not inconsiderable assets (particularly the last)
Bob Levey: I realize that it's still 1998, but what's your best guess at who will control Congress in 2000?
Guy Gugliotta: I won't hazard a guess. A lot will depend on the presidential race. Safe to say, it's likely to be very tight again.
That's it for today. Technical problems have prevented us from answering as many questions from the public as we normally do. Very sorry. We'll try to do better next week. Be sure to join us then, when we'll discuss Arab-Israeli peace prospects. Our guest will be former Washington Post Jerusalem correspondent Barton Gellman