The Washington Post

The Live Fix with Chris Cillizza

Mar 12, 2010

Every Friday, The Fix goes live, as Chris Cillizza discusses the latest news about Congress, the Obama administration, upcoming elections and all the latest political news.

I realize that it is fun for one party to flog the other's problems but isn't the Eric Massa story a bit much? The guy hasn't served a full term. He is not part of leadership and before last week did leadership even know the guy? This looks like a case of someone with some psychological problems who should be left alone to sort it all out. Let him go home quietly.

I agree that he is backbencher and not a serious voice within the Democratic Party.

That said, he was making some pretty bold claims about Rahm Emanuel and the leadership's approach to the health care debate that was deserving of coverage.

Of course, as Glenn Beck learned, Massa talked a bigger game than he actually delivered.

Also, tickle fights. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Republicans want more probes (so to speak) regarding Massa. Do you think if he'd been explicitly critical of the Obama Administration-- as Glen Beck obviously hoped-- the GOP and Fox News would be trying to make Massa look like a heroic victim rather than a really strange guy whose misdeeds need to still be investigated unless those horrible Dems want to cover them up?

Not sure.

The Republican push for an investigation into Massa is largely about politics. They know that the longer Massa stays in the national spotlight, the better it is for Republicans at the ballot box.

Democrats, on the other hand, are hoping that Massa is good to his word -- that he would "go away" after his interviews with Beck and Larry King earlier this week.

Can the "ethics issues" of the last couple weeks be used to tarnish Speaker Pelosi et al? It seems to me that there were quick results: Once there was an ethics ruling, Rangel gave up his chairmanship; Massa was gone quite quickly. Am I forgetting or didn't Craig keep his positions a good bit longer; Vitter is still in the Senate and is running for reelection; Ensign; etc. Don't the facts undercut the criticisms? I guess the unfortunate follow up is -- does that matter?

Well, perception matters -- a lot -- in politics.

And while any one of these issues would not necessarily hurt Democrats (and, by extension, Pelosi) when they happen in quick succession -- no matter what Pelosi did to deal with them -- in presents political peril.

All you need to do is look at the RNC's ad earlier this week featuring Pelosi in 2006/2007 promising an ethically clean and transparent Congress to see where Republicans are headed.

I am still skeptical that GOPers can make this election a referendum on Pelosi but they certainly seem to want to try.

Welcome to NYC - for all Fix fans in the Tri-State area, where's the Live Fix coming from this rainy Friday? Next time you're in Manhattan, you should schedule a Manhattan "Politics and Pints"

I was in the Big Apple for less than 12 hours!  Arrived at 8 am, left at 4:30 pm...but I did make time to stop for a dozen cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery, which me and Mrs. Fix believe are the best cupcakes out there.

Quick cupcake rankings:

1. Magnolia

2. Hello Cupcake

3. Lavender Moon

4. Georgetown Cupcake

5. Buzz

Isn't blocking the health care reconciliation bill potentially bad politics for the GOP? Won't they look bad blocking a bill that eliminates the Cornhusker Compromise and all of the other sordid provistions they've been complaining about?" Once the XMas Eve bill is approved in the House, health care reform is a reality, so it seems to me that no Republican would want to vote against a bill that would clean it up. .

Good question.

What Republicans are banking on is that public opinion, which has hardened in opposition to the bill in the last six months of or so, won't change in any substantial way whether or not the bill passes.

The White House -- in a memo sent to Capitol Hill yesterday -- makes the opposite argument, pointing out that the approval numbers for the bill have been trending slowly but surely upward since President Obama's state of the union speech.

Judging from my conversations with party strategists on both sides, the big sticking point for voters is not the provisions of the bill -- many of which they support -- but rather the cost, which could approach $1 trillion before it's all said and done.

The White House and Democrats in Congress have to figure out a way to sell the cost to the public if they want to transform attitudes about it in the electorate at large.

Some recommended reading for a rainy weekend in DC: A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn. Its an unvarnished history of the U. S. told from the perspective of Americans who had little voice and built this great country with the sweat of their brow. Mr. Zinn who was a retired Boston University professor died in January 2010. Speaking In Madison, Wisconsin shortly before his passing in 2009 Mr. Zinn said "People should not be retreating from the word socialism because you have to go beyond capitalism." Perhaps with a broken economy offering few jobs and a dilapidated health care system leaving millions with no insurance he has a point.

Always happy to hear a book recommendation.

My plan for this rainy weekend: Watch the Georgetown Hoyas win the Big East tournament. Big one against Marquette tonight.

What are your thoughts on today's opinion piece that says the Dems are basically marching their members off a cliff by trying to push through health care.

It's an interesting point of biew and one that has been expressed publicly by lots and lots of Republican strategists and privately by some Democratic operatives as well.

It seems to me that looking at this through a rawly political lens, Democrats have two not-very-savory options.

1. Walk away from the President's main domestic priority even though many of the most vulnerable Democratic members have already voted for some form of health care reform.

2. Pass a bill that a majority of the American public doesn't want and doesn't think we need in hopes that it can be sold to them between now and November.

Democrats are playing a dangerous game it seems to me.

How 'bout tham Hoyas! Seriously, why was Bill Clinton talking up Syracuse last night on ESPN? As a Hoya, were you personally offended? And why wasn't he at the Georgetown game? We need some serious investigative reporting on this issue.

Um, YES.  Why the heck was Bubba watching Cincy-WVU -- ad admittedly great game -- but was nowhere to be found during the Hoya game?

It's bad enough that Veep Biden is a Cuse grad, now we have one of our own talking up Syracuse?


During his "Mr. Smith" speech Patrick Kennedy this week, alluded to only one or two reporters being in the press gallery covering this important topic under debate (as opposed to the pack chasing down the Massa slap-and-tickle story). I'm unable to find out who the reporters in the House press gallery then were. Do you know, or could you please find out? Thanks.

I don't know. 

But I thought Kennedy was a little bit out of line with his comments. Sure, there were only a few reporters in the gallery but how many of his colleagues were in the chamber? None? A handful?

The truth -- and anyone who has covered Congress for 5 minutes knows this -- is that members speaking on the floor is largely for their own satisfaction (and re-election prospects) not for the edification of their colleagues.

for the Elvis Perkins recommendation; I'm really enjoying 'Ash Wednesday.' I also have a crush on Paul Kane.

1. Elvis Perkins is amazing. AMAZING. Go see him live.

2. Who doesn't have a crush on Paul Kane?

So, for the most important question: How about them Hoyas!

Just an amazing game that put the memories of those losses to Rutgers and South Florida WAY in the rear view mirror.

I worry a little bit about a letdown today against marquette since the Hoyas are maddeningly inconsistent. Chris Wright is, no secret, the key. If he plays well, scores and moves the ball we can beat anyone. If he is off, it is tough.

HMBS (I hope you know the reference...), Thinking about the success of John Thompson III and the great tradition of the John Thompson at Georgetown makes me wonder about the best parent/child combo in Washington. John and John Quincy Adams? George H.W. and George W. Bush? The Dingells? Bayhs? What are your thoughts?

LOTS of good ones.

The Adamses and the Bushes were presidents -- hard to top that.

Dingell and Alan Mollohan both took over their dad's seat and have kept them in the family for decades. There's also the Murkowskis of Alaska.

Then there is the mother-son combo of Carrie Meek-Kendrick Meek. Or Jean Carnahan-Russ Carnahan and (maybe) Robin Carnahan

Weirdest mother-son Congress thing: Pat Danner's tepid support for her son's unsucessful candidacy for her seat.

Even with all the bad press, State Treasurer Giannoulias is polling ahead of U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk. Have you been too hard on Sexy Lexi?

This is a transparent attempt to get Sexy Lexi into the chat. Well done.

On the race itself, Republicans are increasingly confident that Giannoulias' family bank -- Broadway Bank -- is going to be a stone that hangs around his neck.

Giannoulias tried to explain it all and get the story behind him in an ed board with the Trib recently but it didn't work. That's trouble.

Whatever came of your efforts to host the chat there? I want to know your thoughts on the place.

I STILL haven't gone. I wound up at Caribou by the Post for this chat because a) I needed some caffeine and b) I had meetings downtown today.

But, I see Jammim Java as the shining city on the hill for the Live Fix chat -- the place where I want to make my home in the long term.

Side bonus: Fix Jr is interested in going to Jammin Java to catch a Rocknocerous show.

The D.C.C.C. listed its "Red to Blue" candidates list this week. Just curious what you thought of the list. I think you and your chat were a major factor why Kansas' Raj Goyle made it to that list.

It's clear that the regular Goyle mentions in the Fix chat propelled him to national prominence.

I think it's smart for House Dems to pick a few targets of opportunity rather than simply accept the fact that they will be on defense in lots of places this fall.

Remember that Republicans need a 40 seat gain to take over the House; if Democrats can cherry pick 5-7 seats, that GOP bar goes a little bit higher.

I've never had a more overrated cupcake in my life. You are denying yourself if you haven't made it out to Fairfax Town Centre and tried out Cupcakes Actually. It's become our household favorite of all the DC area cupcakeries.

1. I will tolerate no blasphemy of Magnolia. None. Say it again and run the risk of Mrs. Fix showing up at your door with a baseball bat.

2. Cupcakes Actually eh? That interests me.

Paul Kane told me yesterday that I ought to ask you this question. As a constituent of Eric Massa, I'd rather Rahm Emanuel twisting my U.S. Represtative's arm rather then then one of the zillion and one corporate lobbyists running around Capital Hill. Just my thought. Also curious if our own special election will be as much of a media circus as the special election in New York's 23rd congressional district. Maybe Doug Hoffman will run here. He doesn't live in our congressional district, but he didn't live in or know much about N.Y.'s 23rd and that didn't stop him.

Paul kane told you that huh?

Well, let me try.

I think much depends on when Gov. David Paterson aka the king of unpredictability decides to call the special. Paterson has wide leeway to wait to call it but once he declares the seat vacant the election has to happen within 30-40 days.

My guess is that Paterson will come under serious pressure not to leave the seat vacant in the fall and -- political junkies rejoice -- we will have a special election this spring/summer.

Republicans seem to be lining up behind Corning Mayor Tom  Reed as their candidate.  The Democratic field is less organized as the Massa implosion caught many people up there by surprise.

On its face this is not a great district for Democrats as John McCain carried it in 2008. And, if the special election does happen in the spring/summer, the national political environment won't likely help Democrats either.

I just posted my Friday Line ranking the top 20 House races in the country. Go to the Fix, check it out.

Well, I did what you recommended and devoured "What it takes" in a few sittings. You were correct. What a comprehensive overview of the campaign, candidates, families in the 1988 election. Biden the house mogul. Hart the wierdo. Dole the workaholic. Dukakis to perfect for his own good. Bush the (supposed) wimp. Who knew that Kitty Dukakis was so fragile? The only problem is we are talking about 1988. THANKS FOR THE RECOMMENDATION. I'd love to read a 2008 campaign there one?

It is an absolutely astounding accomplishment of reportorial chops by Richard Ben Cramer.

There are scads of 2008 camaign books but two I read and enjoyed:

1. The Battle for America 2008 by Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson

2. Game Change by John Heilemann an d Mark Halperin

So when is she resigning?

Don't hold your breath.

As regular Fix readers know, I have long been skeptical that KBH would resign -- as she said she would -- if she lost the primary to Gov. Rick Perry.

Now that she has lost (and lost badly), Hutchison has gone mum about her political future -- although some of the GOP Senate leaders have said they hope she reverses course and decides to stay in the Senate.

At this point, I would be stunned if she did resign. That said, I have been stunned many times before. That's what makes politics great.


I had a (admittedly opening-day-free) cupcake from the Georgetown Cupcake in Bethesda and it tasted strongly of sour cream (which I assume they used in the icing). For my money, the best cupcake in DC is Baked and Wired in Georgetown.

Can't believe I forgot Baked and Wired the (un)official cupcake sponsor of Fix Jr's 1st bday party.

Let me re-orient my ratings:

1. Magnolia

2. Hello Cupcake

3. Lavender Moon

4. Baked and Wired

5. Gtown cupcake

6. Buzz

1. Crumbs 2. Baked and Wired 3. Georgetown Cupcake 4. Buzz

I have heard much good about Crumbs. I meant to go yesterday in  NYC but I thought buying TWO dozen cupcakes might be regarded as overkill.

In hindsight, that was a poor decision.

Isn't the ethics probe being pushed by Republicans consistent with the House Dems' efforts following the accusations against Mark Foley: that House leaders did not pursue the allegations of harrassment thereby allowing interns and staffers to continue to be exposed to improper advances/groping/etc. Why should Pelosi and Hoyer be held to a lesser standard than they applied to House Republicans?

Fair point. I think we are headed for a lot of what did they know/when did they know it questions inre Massa.

When is it coming out?

You can get The Fix on the new Washington Post iPhone app.

It's already here! Next up: world domination.

"In a truly surprising comeback, since the Massachusetts Special Election seven weeks ago, Health reform has gained a net 7% in national popularity, and a majority no longer opposes it. : Health reform popularity trendline, January 21-March 10 The Democratic Health reform bill is actually 2% more popular on net now than it was back in early November, when the House first passed a bill."

I mentioned this in a post above. These numbers mirror a memo put out by the White House yesterday that suggestsed some momentum for health care.

Hi Chris -- Thanks for taking questions today. Did things just get worse for Sen. Ensign this week, or doesn't anybody really care?

1. Yes. Emails trails never end well.

2. LOTS of people care. Most notably Rep. Dean Heller who would be the strong GOP frontrunner is Ensign went out.

Howard Zinn died in late January 2010 (just a day before J.D. Salinger), not 2009 as a previous poster indicated.


So former Obama campaign adviser (he was a deputy of some sort I think) says the dems could be slaughtered in fall elections if they don't bring real reform to d.c. Any chance he has some ulterior motive in making this statement? If so, what do you think it could be?

I have known Steve all the way back to 2002 when he ran Tim Johnson's campaign against John Thune.

I think he is a genuine idealist who has grown increasingly unhappy with what he believes are the compromises being made by the Obama Administration.

He speaks for a decent sized chunk of the liberal base of the party who fell deeply in love with Obama during the campaign  but feel as though they were misled a bit.

To me, that's the difference between campaigning and governing. No matter how you govern, you are bound to disappoint some people. Its the nature of the beast.

Don't knock Bill finding a team that is winning - he has to root for someone with the sorry state of his beloved Razorbacks.


The way he delievered his speech was handscratching. If you actually read what Congressman Kennedy's speech, it's not a particular "out there" point. There is a major focus on Eric Massa (I don't think it's important or desivive in the healthcare vote or 2010 federal election results, but I'm not making the big bucks at The Washington Post so what do I know).

1. What is handscratching?

2. You assume I am making "big bucks".

Book Recommendation: Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway!

Dave Barry is the Fix's 4th favorite humor writer.

1. Weingarten

2. Achenbach (when he writes funny)

3. Mr. Tony

4. Dave Barry

And, yes, I do have lists and rankings for every aspect of my life. To wit, the best Idol judges:

1. Simon

2. Randy

3. kara

116. Ellen

Two installments of the House version of The Line have gone by now without Colorado's Fourth Congressional district appearing on it. What gives? Cory Gardner is a state legislator who has a good profile in the district, nominal primary competition, the luxury of running against a freshman Democrat in a district McCain carried, and decent fundraising numbers. Betsy Markey does not seem to have the moderate profile that would be advantageous for a Democrat representing this district.

Colorados 4th is absolutely a pickup chance for Republicans. But, there are SO many races out there this year that it didn't make it into my top 20 this month. (Sort of like how Lily Allen didn't make the top 12 in Idol last night.)

Cory Gardner is VERY heavily touted by national Republicans but he still has to win a primary. I am in wait and see mode.

The Begichs. The Boggses (incl. Cokie Roberts' husband, and their daughter Rebecca at NPR, as well as Hale, Lindy and Tommy). Ted and Patrick Kennedy.

Yes, yes and yes.

As messy as it looks, this used to be called "leading". It's unfortunate that the media has taken to valuing short-term political survival above long-term national gain. Enjoy them cupcakes!

Don't disagree. But remember that Obama is on a 2012 timeline where the rewards for leading (if they are indeed there) might be realized.

House and Senate Democrats now stand eight months away from an election. That's a MUCH more abbreviated timetable in which to reap the rewards of leading.

But Sexy Lexi point was that the polls showing him ahead (a Rasmussen poll no less) were conducted after the Broadway Bank potential failure and Giannoulias' somewhat weak media damage tour as well as Republican attack ads about it. So while you make the point about his potential difficulty, the polls aren't reflecting it.

Not yet. But Republicans haven't spent millions of dollars on tv ads making voters aware of the Broadway Bank problems.

And, they will.

Here are my nominations: William Harrison (Potus) - John Scott Harrison (US Congress) - Benjamin Harrison (POTUS) Prescott Bush (Senator) - GHWBush (POTUS) - GWBush (POTUS) J Adams (POTUS) - JQ Adams (POTUS) - Charles Adams (US Congress)

Dang, that is good.

Also, William Henry Harrison "he died in 30 days".

Thank you Simpsons "we are the mediocre presidents" song.

While I wish him many more years of health, Andy Rooney can't live forever. Would you consider taking over his job of 5-minute "rant" on some normal part of daily life?

That would be AWESOME.

I already have LOTS of household appliances that I a) don't know what they do and b) don't have much use for.

Also, I have been practicing saying this phrase a lot lately: "You know what else bothers me?"

Seriously, how do you know this stuff? How can you rattle off the top of your head the names of the most likely candidates for the most random Congressional districts? That's nuts. I hope you use your powers for good.

It amazes me every week.

1. I am a huge nerd. Hard to overstate that

2. They pay me to know this stuff

3. Did I mention I was a nerd?

Any truth to the rumor that Jerrold Nadler is going to challenge Kirsten Gillibrand in the Democratic Primary?

I don't think so.

As the top political writer that covers Indie/Alt rock, where do you stand on Passion Pit? The masses need an answer. Also, the video is kinda cool.

I don't know how to feel about Passion Pit.

I know Pitchfork -- the arbiter of all that is cool in alt music --  worships at the altar of Passion Pit. But I am just not there.

To me Passion Pit is like, Animal Collective. I just don't get it -- yet.

Sidenote: My new hangup is Ryan Bingham. How did I not know about this guy before?

at the aforementioned Cupcakes Actually is gonna blow your mind. I want to leave work and go get 6 of them now.

Dangerously raising expectations...

Wouldn't the slightly alternate universe of "Tanner '88", the Robert Altman/Gary Trudeau HBO political mini-series (find it on DVD) be the perfect counterpoint to "...Takes"?

YES. And, in case you haven't already, make sure to check out our best political books and best political movies lists on the Fix.

Good stuff.

Since you claim to the poor mans Bill Simmons, which I would agree with. Do you plan to advance any political theories, like Simmons has his sports theories...i.e. the Ewing effect, etc.?

Already have my Fix endorsement hierarchy and the Fix political Hall of Fame.

Am weighing a book of political lists. Best hair on a candidate. Best ads. Worst ads. Best campaigns.

Would anyone publish that? And would anyone buy it?

...he lives in New York, where Syracuse is located, and which his wife represented in the Senate.

Ridiculous explanation. I am FROM Connecticut where rooting for the Huskies is de rigeur.

Do I root for them? Hell no. Because I WENT TO GEORGETOWN.

Hoya. Saxa.

Headscratching is when you're confused, handscratching is when uncomfortable. Thank you Urban Dictionary.

I never knew that.

Urban dictionary helped me understand what "gettin' jiggy with it" meant.

Man was that a load off.

10. Ninth 9. Eighth 8. Second 7. (unranked) 6. Fourth 4. (tie) Seventh 4. (tie) Tied for Fourth 3. Fifth 2. Third 1. First

Yes.  Very thoughtful rankings.

In This Chat
Chris Cillizza
Chris Cillizza writes "The Fix", a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House for the newspaper and website. Chris has appeared as a guest on NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and CNN to talk politics. He lives in Virginia with his wife and son.
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