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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 washingtonpost.com 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.

Here is a transcript of today's session. Please join Bob again next Friday:

Warrenton, VA : While I am outraged at Clinton's conduct and feel he should have resigned, I also don't feel the evidence is strong enough to remove him from office. Given that, and that they don't have 67 votes, do you feel the Republicans are way overplaying this hand?

Bob Levey: They've been overplaying it since the first cards were dealt. The original reason was that they thought they could make political hay by french-frying Clinton. But then the polls shouted otherwise. However, there's still a core of Clinton haters among Republicans who have to be kept "on board." So this whole extended gavotte is about them. They will be unmerciful at the ballot box in 2000 to any Republican who seems to let Clinton off the hook, polls or no polls.

Mount Rainier MD: Dear Bob,
I wrote a letter to the PG county head, Mr. Curry, a few weeks about some concerns I had regarding county paramedics. Just concerns, not hostility or accusations of incompetence or anything like that. I really wanted to know that he was aware of the situation as much as anything. It has been a few weeks now, and I haven't gotten the standard form letter saying that he's just so glad to hear from a constituent. Am I unreasonable to be unhappy about that? I think the issue I brought up is important. I guess he thinks it's impertinent.

Bob Levey: I'm amazed that Curry has been so slow to respond. He's known as one of the best letter-writers around. Perhaps you should follow up with a phone call. By the way, were you argumentative or obscene? That WILL get a letter chucked in the trash, regardless of how worthy your complaint may be.

bowie md: please recommend an
inexpensive car rental agency

Bob Levey: I've never met one

Montgomery Village ,MD: Dear Bob
Now that the POST has gone to front page color,you've eliminated one of the answers to every little kids'first riddle-"What's black and white and "red" all over? They're now left with sunburned zebras and embarrassed skunks.

Bob Levey: Glad you're so pleased with the new product! By the way, I haven't heard anything but raves. No, check that: Raves tempered with scratched heads about why The Post didn't do this 15 years ago.

Alexandria, VA: In his column today, Michael Wilbon basically blames the NFL for delaying the purchase of the Redskins by the Milstein/Snyder group. I blame the trustees for dragging out the bidding process for so long. What are your thoughts?

Bob Levey: I'm with Wilbon. I can't understand what the NFL is hoping to find. As Dave Johnson said on WTOP this morning, do they want to do a credit check on guys worth $800 million? By the way, the delays during the negotiations were not about anyone stalling. They were about the various bidders playing will-you-top-this. It was up to the trustees to come home with the biggest possible buck, and that's exactly what they did, by playing one bidder off against another.

Washington, DC: I spoke to you once. You have a great speaking voice. How come you're not in radio?

Bob Levey: I've been in radio for the last 19 years! I now do commentary for WTOP two mornings a week. I've spent nine of the last 19 years doing my own talk show, here and in Baltimore. I've done commentaries for four local stations. I adore radio and will always adore it. Thanks for the kind words about the pipes!

Downtown DC: So, my firm has reorganized and I am being pushed out of my position (which I have had for almost 7 years). My question is this.... at 34 years old, am I too old to pursue a career in commercial aviation (a career I regret never pursuing when I was younger.)

Bob Levey: I'm sure the law would say that you're not too old at 34. But reality says that most commercial pilots enter the system at a far younger age. Also, where are you going to get your training and certification? Most pilots come out of the military with training courtesy of the taxpayers. Recently, I sat next to a pilot on US Airways Express who was rating the guys up front (without their knowledge). This guy told me that you can learn to fly jets at community colleges! So perhaps this is how you can overcome the advantage that the military people will have.

Arlington, VA: Hi Bob,
How do I know when to leave my live-in boyfriend, who I am no longer in love with but, I still love him. We have a 3yr old together and he has cheated on me with someone we both know for 3yrs. He has gone through the "after process" but I still don't trust him and I fear he might go back to this girl. He said he would not and he can never leave me for this girl that's why their affair lasted for that long. She was just someone he goes to when we fight. But, I don't believe him at all. (FYI) I caught them together. If you understand my question, what do you think I should do?

Confuse in VA

Bob Levey: Hello, may I speak to Carolyn Hax, please?...... Hi, Carolyn, it's Levey.... Is your computer working all right?..... It is?.... Because I just got a question that has your name written all over it......

Leeds Englandby : What a furore over the use of the word "niggardly" by David Howard. As any well educated person knows this word is from the Icelandic "knogger", meaning stingy, and also the German "genau", meaning close, strict.
So congratulations David upon using the word correctly and in context.
Apologies are due to you I feel. The rest should remove the chip from their shoulder, and learn ENGLISH.

Bob Levey: Isn't it amazing that a man can lose his job because others don't know what the word "niggardly" means? We talk often on this side of the Atlantic about the effects of poor education. Here's a laboratory example.

falls Church, Va: unfortunately i find it exteremly hard to believe the medias claim, as im sure that everyone else is, of unbiased professional reporting. wouldnt it be better if viewers and readers alike knew the position and standpoint of the outlet they are utilizing ahead of time in order to get both sides of the issues rather than combing through the articles to do the same, excuse my message

Bob Levey: This may be tough for you to believe, but there is no agenda--and no tolerance for any agenda--in serious newsrooms like the one I inhabit. The problem is getting you to believe that. I don't blame you for being skeptical. But I do blame you for painting with such a broad brush. Recognize that many, many stories are not simple and not black and white. What may look like bias is just an attempt by a reporter, pushing deadline, to make sense of competing facts and competing spin. What we in the business should do is to open our newsrooms to the public so it becomes clearer how unclear "the truth" often is. How about it: Would you spend an evening in this newsroom, with an open mind?

Washington, DC: Wow, Bob, you get questions about sports, careers and now that query about a tortured love life. What's your secret? How come people trust you with such a wide variety of questions? You could start your own Levey Psychic Phone Line.

Bob Levey: As I always say, I have made a career as the last generalist. I don't have a secret--just fast typing fingers. As for the Psychic Phone Line, I'll never do it unless Linda Tripp will tape the promos for me.

Accoceek, MD: Pres. Clinton's personal lawyer, David Kendall, what is his approx. hrly. fee and where do the funds come from for "civilian,personal lawyers" for the President?

Bob Levey: I believe Kendall is in the $500-an-hour range, or darn close. His bills will be paid by the public, assuming the Clintons can raise the funds. Otherwise, he may eat a large percentage of the tab, in the name of getting his name out there (which he clearly has).

MCLEAN VA: There are several ways to amend the constitution. Is there a way that people, without Congressional involvement, to amend the Constitution so that an impeachment of the President would require a super majority
in the House.

Bob Levey: Nope, sorry, only Congress can do it. I'm afraid you're stuck with them.

Gaithersburg, Maryland: What do you think of the name of the Raven's stadium, PSINet?
And who do you think will win the Superbowl?

Bob Levey: PSINet doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but, hey, it's about money, so I'm sure neither PSINet nor the Ravens are complaining.
I say Denver, 20-10.

Farmville, Va: Does this crazy display go on in Congress when there is no TV
The world thinks that we are a bunch of clowns and dodos.

Bob Levey: Actually, most of the floor sessions in Congress are amazingly dull and amazingly poorly attended. I still remember the first day I covered the House of Representatives for this newspaper. I strode into the House Press Gallery, bound for my moment of historical truth. I peered down at the floor. Two guys were there. One was H. R. Gross, a legendary representative from Iowa who was always on the floor, lest someone try to spend a penny that didn't need to be spent (in his judgment). The other guy was from the midwest somewhere. He was asleep. So much for historical truth.

Arlington, VA: In reference to the Post's going to color, don't you think that the photos have to be worthy of color or we won't really pay attention to them? A good example of a photo that could have been in black and white is the one on today's front page of Secretary Albright. I did like the one of GW players on the front of the sports section.

Bob Levey: I'm sure there will be some variation in photo quality for a while. But please hang in there. Our shooters are excellent, and as soon as they really learn how to shoot in color, I predict some show-stoppers, on every section front.

DC: Okay, if using the word "niggardly" gets you fired in DC, then do we also have to be careful about using innocent references like "spic and span," "frog in the throat" and "chink in the wall"? What a politically (in)correct nightmare!

Bob Levey: My favorite so far was a Jewish guy who got incensed by a clerk in the D.C. government who said she had the "heebie jeebies." (true story)

Arlington: Trivial but annoying question for Mr. DC Know-it-all. What's the deal with shaved meat at deli counters? Before I came to DC, deli counters sliced everything to order. Here, they look at you funny if you want something sliced. Shaving produces a messy clump of meat and you never know how fresh it is. Plus it produces an enormous amount of waste because anything that's left over at the end of the day would have to be tossed (I hope).

Bob Levey: As usual, it's all about money. They can (and do) charge more per pound for shaved meat. Also, as you suggest, shaved meat cuts down on waste, so it bolsters profits. A small piece of advice: go for peanut butter. It's hard to shave.

Arlington, VA: Bob,

Constitutional Law is not your forte. Article V of the Constitution clearly allows two thirds of the state legislatures to request a constitutional convention to propose convention to make amendments to the Constitution. The states would then ratify, and if 3/4 agreed, it would become law. The only Congressional involvement would be scheduling the convention.

Bob Levey: True enough. But the Hill would still have to be involved, which is what the previous questioner wondered

fairfax, virginia: Of all the programs and proposals the President made in his State of the Union message, which ones do you think will actually make it through the congress. Hope you have a good new year.

Bob Levey: Few if any, because this President is dead in the water politically, regardless of how the trial ends up. We are heading for about 22 months of total nothingness here (not that that's any news, perhaps, but this time I mean real nothingness--no Social Security reform, no Medicare reform, no nuthin').

Fairfax, VA: I teach a fourth grade Hebrew school class and was discussing the concept of deeds of lovingkindness with my students on Sunday. When I asked them for an example of a selfless deed of kindness, you and your campaign for Children's was the first thing that came to their minds. Most of thier school's had made contributions and they all felt you were "really really nice" for putting such energy into the campaign. Just thought you'd like to know that the youngest folks around appreciate what you do.

Bob Levey: That means so much. Thanks more than you can know

Bob Levey: Half an hour remaining before they let me stop typing and grab some lunch. Keep 'em coming.

Arlington, VA: The whole "niggardly" debacle reminds me of the story about an election where the victor was able to smear his opponent and win by stating that his opponent's sister was a practicing thespian and his opponent's brother was a known homo sapien. What's this world coming to??

Bob Levey: A place where people are uneducated, and are not afraid to show it. Sure, you could argue that political reality is how things seem as often as it's how things are. But anyone who doesn't side with David Howard on this one is determined to be ignorant and unfair

Wash, DC: HI Bob,
Took your advice from last session and read a book by Lauri Colwin. Now I'm on another one by her. My question is: Did you recommend it cuz she mentions U Chicago often? j/k. So far it's 2 for 2. By the way, did she go there?

Bob Levey: She did go to The University of Chicago, and she mentions it (or the city) in just about every book she wrote. Thanks very much for taking my advice. Don't you just LOVE her descriptive talent? As an editor here once said, a great writer can turn a phrase without breaking the yolk. Laurie Colwin proves it.

fairfax, virginia: Do you think we have enough holidays here in the U.S. or should we take after the Europeans who seem to get twice the amount, plus six weeks vacation. Do we chase the almighty dollar here just too much? Shouldn't we smell the roses more...

Bob Levey: It depends on whom you ask. Many bosses complain about how MUCH time their staff takes. I'd say we get about as much time as we need and can use in a happy way. If I got two more weeks off every year, it would cost me money, because I'd use it to travel.

Washington, DC: Do you have a back-out plan now that it seems monkey cloning is tuffer than expected?

Bob Levey: Yeah, I may have to go medical school after all.

Brookeville, MD: I noticed that CNN's daily survey question today dealt with whether to use words that may sound like one thing, but be entirely different in meaning. Folks outside DC must be shaking their heads in wonder that some people here are so uneducated that anything that sounds like a racial slur must be one. Any comment?

Bob Levey: The whole Howard case is an image fiasco, made worse by the reluctance of Mayor Williams to take a forceful stand about it. How can the mayor, with his two Ivy League degrees, not get up in front of the TV cameras and say that the man used a perfectly good word and deserves his job back? Williams is obviously trying to pacify the black community, especially those parts of it that don't know what words mean. It doesn't become him. If he waffles all the way on this one, and doesn't rehire Howard, I'd say his balloon may already have burst.

Washington, DC: What's going to become of those giant newspaper presses at the Post now that the printing operation has moved to Maryland? Do the old presses go to the Smithsonian or the junkyard? And does their passing make you sad, given your long tenure at the paper?

Bob Levey: The great powers are trying to sell the old presses, either in pieces or as a package. No takers so far. Sure, it makes me sad to see this part of the business (and this part of The Post) pass. I've worked in this building for nearly 32 years, and I'm very used to the rumbles, the ink, the smell. Now our building looks and feels like some United Airlines reservation office. Not as soulful as I'd like.

bethesda, MD: Henry Hyde, had an affair 35 years ago and trashed a marriage. Why is not the house investigating him?

Bob Levey: Because he didn't lie under oath. However, even if he had, I'm not sure his colleagues would leap to the task, swords at the ready. There's a longstanding code on the Hill that you don't judge, lest ye be judged. Larry Flynt is proving (hilariously) how widespread "moral problems" can be on Capitol Hill.

Wash, DC: Hi Bob,
How much do Post writers make such as yourself?

Bob Levey: If I told you, it would embarrass both of us. Put it this way: I have two cars that might croak at any moment, two mortgages that might make ME croak at any moment, and no real hope that either of those will change soon, if ever. I'm actually having a pretty good week. I have $18 in my checking account.

Wash, DC: Hi Bob,

How much did you get from the Domino Pizza drive for the Children's Hospital?

Bob Levey: Ten thousand bucks! Believe me, we'll do it again next year

Annandale, VA: Hi Bob! Do you give your daughter's dates the third degree when you meet them?

Bob Levey: I swore to her years ago that I would never embarrass her. So I just shake hands, make a little small talk and recede. So far, so good.

Alexandria, Va: I've been increasingly annoyed at my representatives in Congress for not voting the way I would like them... What, in your opinion, is the best way to get through to them and illicit a response, i.e. get under their skin?

Bob Levey: Give them money and then threaten to stop doing so if they don't "cooperate."

fairfax VA:
What should be the punishment for Monica S. Lewinsky!

After all without her involvement,there would be no conversation, etc. concerning our President!

Bob Levey: It may sound a bit facile, but I believe Monica Lewinsky will be punished for the rest of her life. She will always be subject to catcalls and lewd comments in public. She will probably never marry (would YOU marry her?). And who would ever hire her for a serious job (please, don't be a wise guy and say Vernon Jordan)? She is a prisoner of her own notoriety and behavior. It's a shame to see it happen to a 25-year-old, regardless of what you think of her judgment and behavior.

Washington, DC: Hi Bob,
I've enjoyed your column for many years. Have you given any thought to retirement? What would you do then? Thanks. Don

Bob Levey: I try not to think of retirement more than once every 20 minutes. What would I do then? Certainly I'd have to stay very busy, because it would feel like utter boredom if I didn't. After all, I've been hacking out columns for nearly 18 years now, one a day, so my dials are set for hard, regular work. I could never hit golf balls and feel fulfilled. By the way, I'm only 53, so I'm ages away from actually hanging them up. And (see previous answer) unless someone wants to make me a movie star, I'll probably work until a ripe old age, so I can at least START on those two mortgages.

Annandale, VA: As a father what is your biggest fear for your daughter?

Bob Levey: That she will be limited by her gender. It is far less likely to happen to her than it was for her mother or her grandmothers. But I really believe that every woman pays for being female, sometime, somewhere

Arlington, VA: Are the rumors true? You're forming an exploratory committee? Levey for Prez in 2000! (Any speculation on your VP pick yet?)

Bob Levey: Please! I'd last ten minutes as a candidate. They'd see my gray hair and start comparing me to Gingrich again. But I do wish I could give it a shot, if only so I could persuade Larry Flynt to be my running mate.

Wash, DC: Don't you think your comment on Monica was a bit harsh esp. about her not ever marrying? All of us make mistakes, maybe not as public as Monica's but don't be so mean. I gasped when I read that. Usually, you're so nice.

Bob Levey: I wasn't trying to be hard on her--just realistic. The only men who will ever consider marrying her will be gold-diggers or publicity hounds. I'm sorry for her sake that this will be true--but believe me, it will be

arlington,va: Hey Bob,
How does the Post expect people to get any work done with all these on-line chats?

Bob Levey: The great ones here always know how to do 11 hours work in 8. This chat is proof.

Mt. Rainier MD: I feel as though a Post reporter added some heat to this whole race-baiting situation by reporting a 'movement' of people who think the mayor isn't 'black' enough (stupid thought) when in fact one individual said it. There's not a clue that one more person in or out of DC has the same foolish notion.

Bob Levey: You must have missed our months of primary and campaign coverage, when the is-he-black-enough issue was front and center. Even that great leader, Marion Barry, flogged Williams with it.

district of columbia, no state: Dear Bob, do you think the D.C. area has grown too much in the past 5-10 years. When i first came to DC from NY, this was kind of nice. Now I wonder if I haven't moved back to the big apple. Shouldn't we cut it off now before more people come?

Bob Levey: How do you propose to do that? A wall along New York Avenue? Nope, I'd rather see this area grow, sensibly if possible, because it'll confirm my view: This is a fully-fledged metropolitan area, full of great variety and VERY smart people. That's why growth is happening. So if growth continues to happen, variety and smarts must also be happening.

Seattle,WA: Why is Washingto DC people
so......INTO the Clinton mess.
In other Cities they are not
even impressed by it?


Bob Levey: Because politics is our living and our life. I don't doubt that it all seems a bit remote from 3,000 miles away. But we are three miles away.

Wash, DC: Hi Bob,
Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer/reporter? What was your first job out of college?

Bob Levey: Wanted to do this since I was 6 (or since the Yankees did not return my phone call offering to report for spring training). My first job out of college was as a police reporter for The Albuquerque Tribune. Great place, great experience.

Annandale, VA: What's your most embarrassing moment?

Bob Levey: There are too many contenders to choose just one.

milton, ma: Why are all of the pundits so sure that no further information will be elicited from the three witnesses the House Managers are going to question?
Everyone knows that there are questions that were either never asked or asked in a different way. Therefore, no one knows what the outcome of this trial will be.

Bob Levey: The best we (or anyone) can expect is slight gradations of what we already know. Do you really think slight gradations will change anyone's vote, especially in this partisan stewpot called the Senate?

Falls Church,VA: In reguards to that terrible accident in Lusby [Md.] do you believe age is a factor in these teen auto accidents or inexperience of a combination of the two. In your opinion, would raising the driving age to 18 help, or allow for more training and education for the drivers to help gain experience. I constantly hear from friends how the U.S. weighs on the low end of Drivers Education.

Bob Levey: In most of Maryland, driver's education is no longer offered by the public schools for budget reasons. Isn't the death of three kids reason enough to find the money?

Bob Levey: That's it for today. Thanks for being with us. Be sure to join us for the Tuesday edition of "Levey Live." On Feb. 2, from noon to 1 p.m. Eastern time, our guest will be the new police chief of Fairfax County, Thomas Manger. "Levey Live: Speaking Freely," returns next Friday (and every Friday) from 1 to 2 p.m. Eastern time.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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