The Live Fix with Chris Cillizza: Elizabeth Birnbaum's bad week, Sestak's White House job offer, more

May 28, 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.


Sorry for the delay. Blame Joe Sestak. Let's get to it.


Have I gone completely tone-deaf politically, or is there something strange here? How does it reflect badly on Sestak if the White House offered him a job to get out of PA Sen? It seems like he would have no control over what the White House does...

I just wrote about this on the Fix.  (Super-chat-producer Andrea can you link to it?)

I think the impact on Sestak, ultimately, is pretty minimal.

On the negative side, this boil -- now lanced -- has made it difficult for Sestak to capitalize on the momentum he would have likely enjoyed coming off the defeat of Specter last week.

On the positive side, it's not really a bad thing in this political environment to have it out there that you stood up to the White House and former President Clinton when they tried to push you out of the race.

So, all in all, probably not a bad story for Sestak. For the Obama White House on the other hand....

Did you get a haircut this week?


Yesterday. Went short for the summer. Plus it was like 150 degrees out yesterday so I may have overcompensated.

I feel like I watched a completely different press conference than what some of your colleagues and other members of the press watched. I watched because I was mad at him and wanted to hear what he had to say, and then he came out and took responsibility, answered most questions with actual facts instead of soundbytes, and barely dodged anything (he did dodge some stuff but I was surprised that he hadn't dodged much more). The thing where he didn't know whether what's-her-face had resigned or was fired was weird, but I didn't think it was that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. When it was done, I was still mad at the situation and still frustrated at some of the missteps, but I had a lot more respect for the position he was in and what he was doing. Then I read and heard some of the post-press conference coverage (including the Post's press conference coverage), and...all of a sudden, he was supposedly too defensive, his answers were too muddy, he was struggling to get his message out, and the resignation thing was somehow concrete proof that he was totally disconnected with the spill. Nobody explains why it's supposed to be proof, they just say that it is. And honestly, it sort of looks like most of the press criticism I've seen is over him not putting on a better dog and pony show.


I'm not saying he doesn't deserve criticism, he does, but criticism based on giving a lot of details on the things that matter while not really knowing one thing that barely matters just seems weird. So who had the worst week, or at least worst Thursday? The president for, I guess, being the green-blooded Vulcan that everyone's known him to be for the past two years, or certain members of the press for looking like a bunch of jabronis who seem more focused on tone than content? You can see what I think, but I'd like to know what you think.

WHOAH. This is a long "question".

I think that Obama started out slowly -- trying to make a distinction between who was in charge of the overall strategy regarding the oil spill containment and cleanup (his Administration) and who was leading the technological approach to the effort (BP).

By the end of the press conference, I thought Obama hit his stride -- his anecdote about one of his daughters asking him whether he had plugged the hole yet was quite good and his embracing of responsibility was too.

I thought the tenure of the press generally though was evidence that the President recognized he had lost control of the political narrative of the story and was doing what he personally could to wrest it back.

Does the "Alleged" Offer have legs? If so, who does it hurt? The White House, or Sestak if he keeps mum?

My conclusive answer is: it depends.

These sorts of stories -- in my experience -- tend to take on a life of their own that is VERY unpredictable.

The goal of the White House's release of their findings (Andrea, can you link to the report?) is to put the entire matter to rest by offering as exhaustive a picture as possible.

Republicans won't be satisfied and Rep. Darrell Issa is already calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor.

Sometimes small things turn into quite big things. Other times they disappear with more a whimper than a bang.

Not sure which category the Sestak story falls into.

Isn't there irony in Bill Clinton being the envoy to both Kim Jong Il and Joe Sestak?

Yes. But it is Bill Clinton. Also, he is in Arkansas today stumping for Blanche Lincoln. Who said he was going to disappear off the stage when Hillary Clinton lost?

Are you full blooded? There aren't many 6'2" full blooded Italians.

Um, ok.

And, no. Mom is irish.

I know it is a Holiday weekend but dropping the Clinton bombshell at noon instead of 5:00 pm ! Can these guys do anything right ?

I think the plan was to dump this out far later in the day -- after the Obama visit to the Gulf -- but reports of the Clinton involvement started to seep out, which forced the White House's hand a bit.

Sometimes events overrun even the best laid plans.

New Buzz coffee shop branch is opening in Ballston. Not sure when it will open, but sign says summer 2010.

I think this will make Chris very happy.

WHAT! Holy cow. This is huge. Can anyone provide any moe details.  In Fix world, here's the rank order of things today

1. Buzz news

2. Sestak

3. Friday Night Lights

4. The "do I buy an iPad or not" internal debate

how do you view the senate race in CT? will blumenthal survive McMahon's "smackdown" campaign? I always thought she was really running for the open seat in 2012 when Lieberman will be gone

What Blumenthal has going for him: 20+ plus years in a high profile statewide office, very well liked and trusted.

What McMahon has going for her: $50 million in personal wealth that she has pledged to spend on the race.

Both candidates have obvious weaknesses that will be exploited by the other side. For McMahon that's her involvement in World Wrestling Entertainment; for Blumenthal it's his misstatements about his Vietnam service.

Given Connecticut's Democratic lean and Blumenthal's current lead in polls, he has to be considered the favorite.

Thanks for taking my question Chris, and go Cardinals! A Las Vegas R-J poll published yesterday shows Harry Reid within the margin of error against all three Republicans, even leading Sharon Angle. Is there finally a potential light at the end of the tunnel for the Senate Majority Leader, or should we Reid fans not get our hopes up quite yet?

Gratuitous mentions of the CUA field hockey team will get you everywhere in this chat.

I am working on a piece about Reid as we speak. I think the RJ poll shows some light-at-end-of-tunnel-ness for Reid but comes with majpr grains of salt.

Reid's standing with voters hasn't gotten a whole heck of a lot better in the data but rather the Republicans running against him have taken on water.

The question is whether once Republicans pick a nominee on June 8 it will change anything or not.  Reid has to hope the answer to that question is yes.

Fix - have you tried the new Northside Social, which replaced the old Murky coffee in Clarendon? Caffeinated heaven.

Oooh. Another like!

Supposedly across from the Ballston Mall. There will also be a Rustico opening there as well. I can recommend Northside Social (old Murky Coffee space) for good coffee/pastries. I know you're always looking...

That's two votes for Northside Social. And thanks for info on Buzz.

Only a matter of time before they start officially sponsoring the Live Fix chat. We can make this happen right?

Live Fix readers are VERY influential in this town ;)

I've been trying to figure it out too Chris! And who better to ask than Mr. Fix himself! I love apple products despite their cost. And was planning to get an ACER laptop to type while traveling. Probably similar to writing and web surfing you do - Do you think the iPad is the way to go? How are you leaning?

I have said on Twitter -- and I repeat here -- that resistance to iPad is futile. I keep trying to tell myself I will just wait, play it cool etc.

But, I know in my heart of hearts that I am going to break down. Maybe this weekend. Maybe tonight.

In truth, I am just getting it a Fix Jr. He REALLY wants one. He told me. It was his first word. I am serious.

I just wanted to give a big electronic hug to whoever wrote that long comment about the coverage of Obama's press conference. It was right on the money. This country has gotten way, WAY too focused on the silly political fallout from events rather than on the actual events themselves.

Isn't an electronic hug illegal? Should it be?

I know this is a national politics chat...but...Fenty is going to win, right?

I defer to my colleagues Nikita Stewart and Tim Craig who know this stuff WAY better but it seems to me that Vincent Gray sure didn't help himself with his abrupt reversal on funding for the D.C. streetcar project this week.

In fact, that "against it before he is for it" move made him a runner up for the Fix's "Worst Week in Washington" award. (Andrea, can we link?)

So how did we get into this fix, and how can we get out of it?

Why would you ever want to get out?

Have a seat, grab a raspberry truffle latee (awesomeness from McLean Greenberys) and turn up the Elvis Perkins music.

I call it home.

Chris, tell me one thing that's different about the alleged job offer Sestak received and all of those "Cabinet" posts that were offered to candidates and politicians in years gone by? Isn't this the exact same thing as Obama naming Hillary Clinton Secretary of State? Actually, I have two things that make it different: 1) The Republicans, in their never-ending game of "Attack Obama on everything" drummed up some mock outrage, and 2) the Washington media, with people like you leading the way, rolled over and started reporting it, ignoring all historical perspective. Why? You tell me. Either you're scared to stand up to the right wing mob, you're lazy or you don't really understand the true meaning of objective journalism.

There is a right wing mob? Is that different than La Cosa Nostra?

And, if you read my piece on the Fix on this (do it...Fix Jr needs the page views) you will see that my first line is that this sort of horse-trading happens constantly.

What the White House did poorly was handle this from a PR perspective. If they had simply said at the outset "Yeah, we think Specter is the better nominee and want to keep Sestak in what could be a swing seat" then I think they could have avoided the PR problem this has become.

By stonewalling about the issue they MADE it into a big deal. As one D strategist told me today: don't act guilty when you are innocent.

Wrestling magnate chosen instead of a war veteran to tackle a vulnerable Democrat? Connecticut must be feeling its inner Minnesota!


"OMG I sat next to Bristol during Mr. Souder and Mrs. Haley's Sex Ed Class!" - I used that as a pub trivia team name on Wednesday and it was met with the sound of crickets. If you were there, would you have viewed it as witty or "you have too much spare time on your hands".

I like it but it may be a little too involved.

And, thanks for giving me the chance for a gratuitous plug (is there any other kind) about the next "Politics and Pints" trivia night hosted by this guy.

It's June 14. Capitol Lounge. 7-9 pm. Come one, come all.

This cat loves his iPad.

To paraphrase Bob Dole, where was the outrage when the White House muscled out of the NY senate race Steve Israel and Carolyn Maloney? Wasn't that a more egregious exercise of power that the job offer to Sestak?

As I have said, this sort of thing does happen a lot in politics. And that's what makes the White House's handling of this all the more to blame.

The person who had the worst week? Linda McMahon.

Remember that third "W" though: it's "Worst Week in Washington".

Not sure whether we can include McMahon as she isn't in Washington these days. Or can we? Can I get a ruling?

Here's why Sestak looks bad: he overplayed his hand, he shot off his mouth; and he tried to make the WH look stupid and as if they'd done something illegal. Instead, there was no job offer, just chat, he's shown he has no discretion and there was no illegality. Sestak talked a big story, but couldn't back it up. He's the boy who cried wolf.

Ok. I tend to disagree but always like to hear other opinions.

In the spirit of the Indianapolis 500 this weekend, curious as to how your Pole Positions would look for 2012?

Front row: Romney, Palin

Second Row: Tpaw, Mitch Daniels

Third Row: Haley Barbour, Thune

Fourth Row: Huck, Newt

Thoughts?  And, I am not sure whether some of these cars get to the starting line -- Palin and Huck in particular.

I was over on the BOG's chat this morning, and one of the chatters said he had a dream where he woke up with Steinberg's bald head and your body. Me thinks some people need to lay off the chats (says the guy who has been on two chats this morning).


Judging from the results of my hair cut yesterday, he may not need to imagine Steinberg's bald head....

What's Wrong With Him? Sure Whitman spent millions of her Billion - BUT Poizner also has close to a Billion in fortune and was the only R besides Arnold to win statewide in 06. Why the hell was he dragging his Arse so long? (When campbell was in the gov race, even he was ahead of Poizner!) And why does he refer to himself as The Poiz?!

The Poiz really is a great nickname.

As for why he ins't doing better...Whitman is richer and spending more of it. And has been for a long time.  Poziner had an opening when he turned to immigration but probably peaked too early as Whitman has responded and re-opened her lead.

If Crist wins, not a loony idea at this point, with which party would he caucus, as your best guess?

Based on the positions he has taken (teachers bill, DADT)?  The Democrats.

He just does not seem all that interested.

Not sure. I think lots of Republican elected officials are looking at the potential 2012 field and thinking: "Why not me?"

I would put Daniels in that category. He has a strong record as governor of Indiana on which to run and is a known commodity in GOP circles.

Biggest Issue: Can he raise the money?

Have you seen the previews for tonight's episode? Are you prepared to cry???

I have NOT. Say nothing!

And, I cry at least once in that show. Also, I cried when Lee DeWysze, Crystal Bowersox and Casey James went back to their home towns.

I am a GIANT sap.

Since I agree that Palin and Huck never enter the race, I'd replace with Cantor and Perry. (And since poll this week shows Tpaw has NO CHANCE of carrying MN, I move him WAY back. Front row: Romney, Rick Perry Second Row: Eric Cantor, Mitch Daniels Third Row: Haley Barbour, Thune Fourth Row: Pawlenty, Newt

Cantor no. Perry (if no Huck/Palin) is in the first three rows.

Got to run to a lunch. Sorry for the lateness and thanks for sticking with me.

Buzz Bakery in Ballston!!!!

Have a great weekend.


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.
Recent Chats
  • Next: