ComPost Live: Your weekly digest with Dana Milbank and Alexandra Petri

Dec 10, 2010

The Compost, written by Dana Milbank and Alexandra Petri, offers a lighter take on the news and political in(s)anity of the day. If you believe life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it, this is the chat for you. Join us every Friday at 11:30 to laugh, cry, and dish about the moments that amused you, shocked you, or caused you to yell things that frightened the other people on the subway.

Good morning, readers.  There will be no compromise when it comes to answering your questions.  What's on your minds?

I cannot believe all the folks who did not get the post on Lennon's "Imagine." Wow. Wow. I am speechless.

In my hypothetical alternative version of the song, there's a line about "Imagine all the people... writing positive comments on your piece." It doesn't quite scan, but it fits with the general theme of "inaccurate visions of a nicer future."

You're contending that dems should be pleased that Obama has finally started growing a spine? Virtually every horse--true health care and financial reform--has left the barn, perhaps never to be corralled again...and you write as if there is hope? What's wrong with you?

On the contrary, the largest beasts of them all remains in the stable: entitlement reforms, the federal debt, the tax code, immigration and climate change.   I have a new sense of optimism.  But maybe you're right and there is something wrong with me.  What kind of illness causes this irrational optimism?

Front page has been referring to you as Milkbank all morning, Dana. Must be them wiki-hackers!

Luckily I have overcome my lactose intolerance.  In fact, maybe it is the recovery from lactose intolerance that is causing my irrational exhuberance.

Hey Alexandra, per your post on Imagine this week, I think you should check out a book by Leo Tolstoy called "The Kingdom of God is within you". It gives the best possible answer to many of the questions you raised in your post.

I'll have to check that out. So far my only encounter with Tolstoy has been "The Death of Ivan Ilyich." The title was sort of a spoiler.

Apparently, Baltimore Orioles outfielder Luke Scott has now stated, with great certaintity, that President Obama was not born in America, stating that "if someone asked him to prove his citizenship, he could go to a file cabinet and verify his birthplace in 15 minutes" Having spent a baseball season in Houston, sitting behind Mr. Scott trying to find fly balls in right field, I seriously doubt that his ability to find anything is that certain. That being said, what can I, as an informed reader of the weekly digest, do to put this silliness behind us?


I hope that what he means by this is that he was born in a file cabinet, because that could generate some serious excitement!

Maybe he just figured that since the president is entitled to throw out the first pitch at baseball games, even if the pitch is way off and terrible, he was entitled to do the inverse and throw out a political statement, which happened to be wildly misinformed.

Otherwise, Go O's!

Before the White House's Christmas party for the press on Tuesday, I was trying to convince my six-year-old to ask President Obama if he was born in Kenya.   Instead she wound up talking with the president and the first lady about her Uggs.

Do you think he has a first amendment defense to his actions? Daniel Ellsberg seems to think so. Where is the journalistic solidarity?

Ellsberg should see a psychiatrist!

The Pentagon Papers had journalistic value because it exposed that the government was lying.   The Wikileaks dump had only the purpose of damaging the United States and undermining our diplomacy.   It showed that, in secret, our diplomats are doing exactly what they should be doing -- being candid with each other.

Or maybe I'm just jealous because Wikileaks collaborated with the Times.

Have you ever seen the film with Chevy Chase called Funny Farm? Well, we have discovered the real life version. One difference, instead of burying a relative in the back yard, the previous owners tore down and buried a barn.

I believe that, hidden in this question somewhere, is the secret to life, the universe, and everything.

I have so many questions. First, how do you bury a barn? What? Who are these people you are talking about? I googled "Patrick Springs funny farm", but all I found was this, which makes me think this was a metaphor, but I honestly have no idea.

Also, what?

Dana, How did you get in? Did you have to show a birth certificate?

I believe my civil action outside of last year's Christmas party (I picketed because I wasn't invited) resulted in my invitation this year.  It was all suspiciously easy.  But now that I think about it, since the party on Tuesday night I have written two columns in defense of Obama, and I am feeling irrationally optimistic.  You suppose they slipped something in my eggnog?

What would you do if several strangers - at different places - stop you and say they saw you on a television reality show? One asked for an autograph...I just laughed and said it wasn't me. At first I dismissed it thinking I just looked like someone else. But if it happens again I'm going to ask about the show - and perhaps write the producers?

I would definitely do both of those things.

But I would also look into my past and really examine my memories, keeping in mind the question: Is it possible that I've been living a reality show, Truman-like, for my entire existence? If so, how do I proceed?

I think my first move if I ever discovered that I'd been on a reality show without knowing it would be to make a lot of customized merchandise around my catchphrases. And to come up with some catchphrases, ideally ones that were long and sort of unwieldy, like "Sign me up for that mailing list!" or "I have an uncle who once went through something similar!"

I'm glad you're optimistic because I can't find too many rays of sunshine. I just don't see how we'll ever cobble together a Congress and Executive serious about the nation's long term problems. It's going to be bizarre watching the President's State of the Union address on debt reduction just weeks after everyone got together to pass nearly a trillion in unfunded tax cuts and stimulus.

Have some eggnog!

Where are the Tea Party when you need them? This new tax -cut deal adds more $$$ to deficit than the stimulus did? and the GOP is crowing about it? and the Dems are upset that they have 900 mil $ in stimulus to reboot economy before the 2012 election? Am I in Topsy- Turvey land?

Turns out it was the Mad Hatter's Tea Party all along. 

Enjoyed your bit about Facebook. I don't even say that much. I just say "LIKE BUTTON!"

Alexandra Petri likes this.

From my office, I have a lovely view of my Bieber and Bush autobiographies, but they don't really provide much insight into the outside world, and DC snow always has such delightful geopolitical implications!

So, what's the word?

The government-run socialist public health care option program is comprised of death squads that will kill you if your health problem is deemed too expensive.

I think that was #12.

That was supposed to say: "Topical question: Is it snowing?"

From the column "The rule of three in tragedies implies that two like things are followed by another of the same kind." Yes, and I think also the three things have to actually happen on the same day (or very close together), as opposed to counting the anniversary of the thing that happened. If we're allowed to count anniversaries of tragedies then it waters down the impact and magic of it all.

I concur. Otherwise almost anything becomes fair game. Unless the fact that it's an anniversary is itself tragic, and I can't think of an example of that.

Obama is compromsing on tax cuts to the wealthy and emission rules in compromising with Republlicans who want to see him defeated in 2012. I still wonder what the political climate would be like if, instead of compromise, he chose to stand firm and even if his view is defeated, he has set the distinctions upon which voters may choose in 2012?

That's exactly what Paul Ryan said in explaining why he wasn't backing the debt commission proposal: He'd rather "accentuate the differences" between the two parties in 2012.    If we're all about making distinctions every four years, we'll never get anything done, because no party will become so dominant that it can unilaterally impose its agenda.   So I'd rather have fewer "distinctions" and more agreements.

Please place your bets. Is Sarah Palin going to run for president? Will she win the nomination?

She will if I have anything to do with it.

I think she'll run. And I can picture her winning the nomination if the Republican party decides it wants to optimize itself for search.

There was some great, moving, black-and-white footage of her with her father talking about the lessons she'd learned at the end of "Sarah Palin's Alaska" this weekend that I assume she can just take bodily and use as an ad.

This reminds me of something else that stuck out in the episode but I couldn't work into my piece: her father referred to her as "My daughter, Sarah Palin," throughout the episode. Not Sarah, "Sarah Palin." It was almost like he'd heard that saying "Sarah Palin" a lot was a good way to attract viewers.

Sarah Palin Sarah Palin Sarah Palin.

I note many mentions of eggnog in this chat (not unlike CC and his pumpkin spice lattes). Is there a brand of eggnog you recommend, or do you prefer the homemade version with a dozen raw eggs and enough liquor to kill the salmonella bacteria?

Salmonella!  Now you've got me thinking the White House was trying to kill me.   Still, what doesn't kill me makes me stronger.  Hence my exuberance and optimism today.

In addition to applauding a tax package that adds huge amounts to the deficit, it seems the new fire breathing revolutionaries now in the national legislature made it a priority to (1) have lobbyists thrown big parties to help them retire their campaign debts and (2) hire lobbyists for their Congressional staffs. Good lord, it didn't even take them a month to "go native."

You forgot one: installing the Prince of Pork as chairman of the appropriations committee.

I feel the need to refudiate the phenomenon of making up words such as 'punditize'. The English language is not in need of such enhancification.

Thank you for questionizing, but I must refudiate.  After years of efforts to make English the only language used in America, I think it's terrific that people such as Sarah Palin are introducing other languages to the national discourse.

I had to deal with these birthers when I was a kid. Even though Hawaii had already become a state, AND I was born on an air force base, I got teased often at school about being the only one who wasn't a US citizen. Now I find out these kids have grown up and still haven't learned anything.

President Obama, I am honored that you have taken the time out of your schedule to join us for the chat today. What's this about an air force base?

I guess she missed that day in Kindergarten.

It really is true that everything you need to know, you learn in Kindergarten.

Except of course economics. And The Craft.

Alexandra, are you now channeling Zippy the Pinhead?

I hope not!

As an avid reader of the comics page, I know exactly what you're talking about, and that comic strip always terrified me. For years, I made a point of reading every strip (including and especially Mark Trail!) but I always skipped Zippy after a frightening incident with a giant clown-bear-entity appearing in the last panel to comment on consumer culture. At least I think that's what it was doing. Zippy was always a little too meta for me, or whatever the appropriate adjective is.

The Presidency is not a popularity context like Prom King, but how many groups can Mr. Obama vex thoroughly before his political survival becomes problematic?

I am all for a vexatious president. But once he starts poisoning people with eggnog at White House Christmas parties, I think he will have gone too far.

Enjoy the weekend, dear reader, and thanks for chatting.

On a somewhat related note, this eggnog thread really makes me wish I'd been at that party.

Played All-Gone before kinder. Could dead reckon before I could count. Still playing All-Gone and got a lot better.

As someone who's never played All-Gone, I first thought it sounded like a vaguely ominous euphemism, especially in association with the concept of  "dead reckoning." But a cursory Google proved me wrong, and it sounds like it's come in handy.

Circulation is good for health. Have a blood drives and turn newsroom into a bloody mess for holiday cheer and share optimism with blood. People in hospital can read paper with Post blood pulsing through veins.

Intriguing circulation pun...

The cup my coffee came in this morning infomed me that I should "Donate Blood-- You Have Plenty," which I thought was sort of presumptuous, especially coming from a coffee cup.

Weekend is same as the week. End is near.

I feel like I've read this on a sign somewhere.

Forget the nog. Go right for the Puerto Rican coquito, a devilish brew of cream of coconut and rum.

Well, now I've got a plan for the evening! Dana won't know what he's missing.

I remember fondly the Kindergarten lessons on the rule of threes. And the rules of the rule of threes.

I'm sure they gave him a memo with a list of acceptable phrases he could use to refer to his daughter.

Perhaps next season when the President is throwing out the first ball, Mr. Scott would be willing to dig in at the plate sans helmet.

Philosophical question: If a person sits in an office without windows and cannot see the supposed snow, is it snowing?


I still don't know if it's snowing. I'm going to go do some old-fashioned reporting on this question and bid you all adieu for the week!

Keep reading, follow me/Dana/Compost on Twitter, and see you next week!

In This Chat
Dana Milbank
Dana Milbank writes the Washington Sketch column about political theater in the capital. He joined The Post as a political reporter in 2000, after two years as a senior editor of The New Republic and eight years with the Wall Street Journal. He is also author of two political books, Homo Politicus (Doubleday, 2008) and Smashmouth (Basic Books, 2001). He lives in Washington with his wife and daughter. • Dana Milbank Bio & Archive
• Milbank Q&As
Alexandra Petri
Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost, a lighter take on the news and issues of the day, and she contributes to the Post editorial page. Her work has appeared in venues such as The Huffington Post, The Week,,, Collegehumor, and The Harvard Crimson. She has appeared on Jeopardy!, Showbiz Tonight and Canadian radio, and she has performed at Boston's Comedy Studio and Comedy Connection. She would love to be on your TV show, radio show, Daily Show, HBO special, or to be an honored guest (or regular guest) at your Bar Mitzvah. She is the author of two books (unpublished, but contact her!), two screenplays, three plays, one musical, and one memoir (Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast.)
Recent Chats
  • Next: