Dana Milbank's Washington Sketch

May 03, 2010

The Post's Dana Milbank discusses his recent columns about and all the latest political news.

Today's Sketch will be about how the oil spill has turned all those limited-government conservatives into admirers of big government.  A foreign oil company has made a mess of the Gulf of Mexico?  Let's spend taxpayer dollars to fix it.    Please send your thoughts on that topic for the column.

What else?  The botching of immigration in the Senate?  The Times Square bombing attempt?  The c.w. now is all these problems argue against Obama nominating a Supreme Court justice this week -- though I could also see an argument that it might be a good time for a diversion. 

Talk to me.


The Reliable Source report from the "Nerd Prom" after party describes a drunken Ana Marie Cox. My question: what is the proper blood alcohol level to produce prose that sings but doesn't puke on its date's shoes?

Well, I'm in a bit of a glass house on this one, because as I was leaving the New Yorker party at the W on Friday night, I greeted my friend Austan Goolsbee in such a boisterous manner that he informed me that "you've had too much sushi."

I skipped the WHCA dinner again this year for reasons of peace and sanity.  However, I do have a nugget that is in need of urgent reporting.  A comely correspondent for Nippon TV approached Chris Cillizza at the dinner and was very interested in talking to him, which I am told was very satisfying to the Fix.  Then the correspondent said to him: "Are you Al Kamen?"


You should place the blame squarely where it belongs, on Justice Stevens. If he had not retired, or had retired with Justice Breyer, then the Republicans might have been in a mood to talk rationally about immigration reform. As it is, they will be so caught up in yelling themselves red in the face over the court nominee, whoever he or she will be, to have any breath left over to talk about immigration. It's Stevens's fault.

I blame Goldman Sachs.  They seem to be the perfect villain for everything this season.

Is Goldman Sachs glad the oil rig explosion and NYC bomb pushed them off the front page? Maybe THEY caused it!!!


Has Sarah Palin released her schedule of when she'll be on the Gulf Coast to help with the cleanup? Will she bring a boom of tea bags to contain the spill?

I think the more useful thing would be for her to start drilling a really big well in Alaska and see if that could reduce the flow of the oil spill in the Gulf.

It seems to me that Mr. Obama's problems may stem from the #1 issue that many voters had in the election, experience. The issue was used to debunk the Republican Vice President nominee and repeatedly used against Mr. Obama. Yet, now that we see it in action, no one seems to remember. Senators can waffle and be indecisive for votes, Presidents must lead!

I think it's temperament more than experience.   Of course, there's something to be said for being deliberative and compemplative.  But in the case of immigration it made the politics of it worse in the Senate.  In the case of the Gulf spill, it makes Obama look a bit wishy washy, even though there's not a whole lot he can do about the problem in the Gulf.

Hi Dana -- Over on his chat this morning your colleague Perry Bacon maintains that the failed Times Square bombing won't be exploited for political gain, but I happen to think that a certain father/daughter dynamic duo will find it too irresistible to pass up. What do you think?

I think Bill and Chelsea are too busy getting ready for the wedding. 

Oh, that other father-daughter duo?   It is but a matter of time until they or others use the bombing attempt -- and the oil spill! -- to prove that Obama has made America less safe.

Dana, I guess you're acting up on behalf of peevish White House reporters everywhere, but aren't there other perhaps more logical lenses through which one could see Obama's comments on immigration? Perhaps he's trying to manage expectations better than they were managed last year in the HCR debate. Perhaps he's trying to challenge moderates of all stripes to step forward. After all, we know he's been calling Republicans to enlist interest. Why ascribe to him some nefarious intent when there are other explanations that better jibe with reality? Or is this what happens when reporters get scorned?

Well, let's see.

1) I am not a White House reporter. (Although I am certainly worthy of scorn.)

2) I wasn't ascribing "nefarious intent" to Obama when he said those words that killed immigration reform.  He may have had the highest and purest motives.  I merely said he killed immigration reform -- which he did.

The President has this annoying habit at these dinners at laughing at his own jokes, as if he's hearing them for the first time. I know President's don't write their own material for these things, but if you must laugh at your own material - don't start chuckling before the punchline!

But more importantly, why did the organizers go with Jay Leno this year? And Rich Little in '07 for that matter. Aside from you, does anyone in the White House press corps have a sense of humour?


The really weird part is a chunk of the material -- the Boehner tan, for example -- is recycled.

As confessed previously, I wasn't in the hall.  But surely even a lame Leno wasn't as bad as Rich Little. 

Many very funny people in the White House press corps, and some who even are funny intentionally.  But their jobs require them to conceal this blemish.


You said "Oh, that other father-daughter duo? It is but a matter of time until they or others use the bombing attempt -- and the oil spill! -- to prove that Obama has made America less safe."

Somehow I don't see Cheney putting his oily foot in that one?

Good point, that.  But surely Halliburton has some sort of equipment the government could buy to shut off the oil?   Maybe Blackwater could install it.

Dana: A few years back, BP generated a lot of favorable press with a PR blitz called "Beyond Petroleum." It positioned BP as the first big oil company to say oil was a finite resource, we are investing in alternative fuels and--look!--we're even opening solar powered gas stations! (No kidding, they did.) How would you, as a long time observer of the DC and corporate zig-zag, suggest BP PR its way out of this one?

They are so convinced that alternative fuels are the future that they are deliberately draining all the oil out of the Gulf of Mexico.

By the way I think we should revert to calling BP British Petroleum.    Bunch of furners spilling in our water (even if they were trying to get oil for us).



Will Republican leadership denounce claims that the White House or environmentalists CAUSED the oil rig explosion as Rush has claimed?

We have already established that Justice Stevens and Goldman Sachs caused the oil disaster, so I think the environmentalists are off the hook.   ?Although that is an excellent theory; by the same logic the environmentalists should all buy SUVs and run them 24/7 to hasten the ill effects of global warming.

Do you have a brother in Maricopa County, Arizona who wonders if the illegals walking through his property will ruin his garden again or what they will take or destroy TONIGHT? Do you have this "hands-on" situation that you live with on a daily basis? I think you need to visit my brother! They you can talk about illegal immigration reform.

What a kind invitation!  I would love to visit your brother in Arizona.   But first I want to see how it goes in Arizona for my wife, who is in Phoenix this week.  She is Italian and her complexion is a bit olive, so we don't know if that will land her in the pokey.   But if she gets back without incident I will make quick arrangements to visit your brother.  Does he cook?  Is there a comfortable guest room?

"I think it's temperament more than experience. Of course, there's something to be said for being deliberative and compemplative. But in the case of immigration it made the politics of it worse in the Senate. In the case of the Gulf spill, it makes Obama look a bit wishy washy, even though there's not a whole lot he can do about the problem in the Gulf."

Dana, what are you even talking about? Wishy washy about what? The politics of immigration reform are difficult. He's acknowledged that. He's also called for a bill. Do you want him to give a bunch of unmeetable deadlines like he did with HCR? Because I don't recall you ever giving him credit for that last summer.

Maybe the issue here on timing is with Sen Reid, and that Reid is the one who misunderstands the landscape and is pushing immigration reform at the wrong time (except to help him politically). Why is it a failure or even a short-coming to be a realist and to show an understanding of what needs to be in place (like, a bill) before a major push is made???

 I think you ought to read the column that this exchange is about.  It did indeed point out Reid's role in the debacle.   Obama's problem, as the piece goes through, is he needed to do one of two things: Tell the immigration advocates that they'd have to wait until 2011, or make a serious legislative push for it.  Instead, he made his casual remark about there being no "appetite" for immigration on the very day the Senate Democrats' proposal leaked out. 

That's clear enough. They've been yowling about lack of access, Obama never takes impromptu questions, yada, yada, but the one time he does, you slam him to the wall. Yup, *that'll* happen again real soon.

I fear you may be right.   He stopped doing the press conferences after the Cambridge police incident, and the White House Correspondents Association finally convinced Gibbs to have Obama open up to the press a bit more -- and then he steps in it with this immigration question.   The conclusion that should be drawn is that these mistakes wouldn't happen if Obama were more accustomed to taking questions off the cuff, but I have a feeling you are correct and the reaction will be to insulate him from questions again.

As for the "slam him to the wall" bit, I don't think the slamming he would care about would be from columns like mine, but the earful he's getting privately from Senate Democrats for undermining them on immigration.

Well it's obvious that illegal immigrants - those British oil redcoats - caused the spill, so we just need them to hold a meeting in Arizona where they can be rounded up and deported. Then the Tea Party can hold a really authentic Anti-Britain rally where they wear their tricorn hats and read scrolled papers railing against the British tyrants.

I like it!  And I've already got a place to stay in Arizona, thanks to that previous questioner offering up his brother's place.

By that logic, we should also deport all teenagers. The neighborhood kids trample through my garden all the time.

My puppy just trampled the water lillies at my friend Glenn Simpson's house.  You think I should be deported?  Or maybe I'm safe because it was in the District of Columbia which is not really part of America.

Dana, Lennie Bernstein is conducting an online discussion about training for a marathon. As someone who has endured the utlra-marathon that is DC politics, what advice might you give someone who wants to train for a marathon?

Carbo loading.  Early and often. 

"John McCain, who once nobly led the fight for immigration reform". Really? Supporting yet another needless, senseless amnesty is "noble"? In 1986, America was promised that the borders would be secured and, according to Ted Kennedy, we'd NEVER need another amnesty. What's so "noble" about a constant stream of lies and deceit?

Fascinating mix of questions.  That column seems to have angered people on completely opposite sides of the issue.  I have renewed admiration for what Schumer and Graham tried to do in navigating this -- and a renewed sense of hopelessness about them succeeding.   I need a vacation.  Someplace where people don't trample gardens.

WaPo needs some. Here's the caption to the main photo on the website: "POST MORTEM | Actress, part of British acting dynasty, dies following long battle with breast."

Thank you for keeping us abreast of that one.

Speaking of obituaries, it is time to pronounce this live online dead.  Thanks for chatting. 

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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
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