Slate's Political Gabfest for Jan. 30.

Slate's weekly political roundtable.
Jan. 30 2009 11:25 AM

The Absurd and a Little Testy Gabfest

Listen to Slate's review of the week in politics.

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See all of Slate's inauguration coverage.

Listen to the Gabfest for Jan. 30 by clicking the arrow on the audio player below:

You can also download the program here, or you can subscribe to the weekly Gabfest podcast feed in iTunes by clicking here.

Get your 14-day free trial of Gabfest sponsor Audible.com, which includes a credit for one free audio book, here. This week's suggestion for an Audible book comes from David. It's On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, read by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz talk politics. This week: the stimulus package, presidential drinking and legislative civility, and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act.

Here are links to some of the articles and other items mentioned in the show:

The financial stimulus package passed the House of Representatives in a vote along party lines. David says that's partly because the rump Republicans (those Republicans left after the 2008 election) are more conservative than the Republicans who lost their seats in November. The remaining Republicans don't want to be associated with the stimulus bill. Rather, they want to position themselves as fiscal conservatives.

Public opinion polls, meanwhile, indicate that the public wants bipartisanship in Washington.

John talks about a visit by members of Congress to the White House, where they were served appetizers and, more important, alcohol. He wonders whether having drinks together will break down some of the barriers between parties.

President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act into law this week. The measure allows victims of pay discrimination to file a complaint within 180 days of their last paycheck, rather than within 180 days of their first unfair paycheck. Emily says the measure is a thrilling development for those concerned with employment discrimination.

Emily chatters about a Slate piece by David J. Morris, in which he outlines why the United States should close the military's torture school, known by the acronym SERE. Morris is a former Marine officer who graduated from the SERE program.

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David talks about how Pope Benedict XVI recently revoked the excommunication  of four bishops from a traditionalist sect. One of the four, Bishop Richard Williamson, recently said that he believes no more than 300,000 Jews died during World War II and none of them in gas chambers.

John chatters about a provision in the House stimulus package that would have prevented disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich from spending any of the stimulus money that would go to the state. The provision became moot after Blagojevich was removed from office this week by the Illinois state Senate.

The e-mail address for the Political Gabfest is gabfest@slate.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Posted on Jan. 30 by Dale Willman at 11:25 a.m.

Jan. 23, 2009

Listen to the Gabfest for Jan. 23 by clicking the arrow on the audio player below:

You can also download the program here, or you can subscribe to the weekly Gabfest podcast feed in iTunes by clicking here.

Get your 14-day free trial of Gabfest sponsor Audible.com, which includes a credit for one free audio book, here.

Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz talk politics. This week: surviving the inaugural crush, Obama's first week in office, and sacrifice begins at home.

Here are links to some of the articles and other items mentioned in the show:

The group discusses their experiences in Washington, D.C., during Tuesday's inauguration. Emily spent time in the crowd gathered near the Washington Monument. John had a better vantage point from which to watch the ceremony—sitting on the risers along the Capitol steps.

There has still been no official estimate of the number of people gathered on the Mall. However, some people used satellite pictures in an attempt to arrive at a number.

Some critics said Obama's speech didn't have enough soaring rhetoric at a time of crisis. John says it's very difficult to say a great deal in one speech.

The president quickly got down to business by issuing several presidential directives. Among them were orders to begin the process to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and to restrict the methods available for interrogation of prisoners. He also issued an executive order to freeze the pay of high-level government officials and improve the ethics of the White House.

A vote of the full Senate has now been scheduled for Timothy Geithner's nomination to be treasury secretary. On Wednesday, Geithner told senators that he regretted the tax problems revealed during his confirmation hearings.

David chatters about how a former Russian KGB officer turned businessman has purchased the Evening Standard. The Standard is London's largest regional newspaper.

Emily talks about how Michelle Obama dancing with her husband made a wonderful statement for tall women around the world. The first lady is more than 5 feet 10 inches tall and wore heels, not flats, to the inaugural events.

John chatters about a quick reversal by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass. Frank had wanted a law that, among other things, required any company that receives government bailout funds to sell off its private aircraft and to remove all aircraft leases. Frank changed his mind when a fellow representative pointed out that many of those aircraft were made in America.

The e-mail address for the Political Gabfest is gabfest@slate.com . (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Posted on Jan. 23 by Dale Willman at 11:30 a.m.

Listen to the Gabfest for Jan. 20 by clicking the arrow on the audio player below:

You can also download the program here and the Q&A here, or you can subscribe to the weekly Gabfest podcast feed in iTunes by clicking here. Get your 14-day free trial of Gabfest sponsor Audible.com, which includes a credit for one free audio book, here.

To hear the question-and-answer period that followed the discussion, click the arrow on the audio player below:

Watch the live Gabfest:

On Inauguration Eve, Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz talked politics before a live audience. They discussed the festivities, expectations for the first year of Barack Obama's administration, and the Obama BlackBerry.

Here are links to some of the articles and other items mentioned in the show:

The new president arrives on a wave of goodwill. John points out the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, in which even 58 percent of those who voted for John McCain in November say they are optimistic about the country under an Obama administration.

John says Obama will focus on a new era of responsibility for the nation. He will ask people to do more for their communities and to be prepared for some level of sacrifice. Among the potential sacrifices could be cuts to some entitlement programs. Obama has announced a "fiscal responsibility summit."

Emily says Obama must balance pragmatism with principles. Many on the left worry that Obama may be compromising too much in his attempt to appeal to a broad group of people. David suggests it's possible that Congress may push Obama to the left.

Obama says he hopes to continue to use his BlackBerry to e-mail friends while in office. However, as John points out, such a move could be fraught with problems, among them security issues.

The group discusses a recent New York Times Magazine spread with photos of more than 50 members of the new administration.

They also discussed Obama's audio book Dreams From My Father, for which he won a Grammy award (his first of two).

David chatters about the White House organic farm project, the Who Farm.

Emily talks about a Google Map that shows the homes of people who contributed money in support of California's Proposition 8 last fall. Those opposed to the map call it a major invasion of privacy. Others defend it on free-speech grounds.

John chatters about the CNN interview in which Obama talked about choking up while rehearsing his acceptance speech at last summer's Democratic Convention in Denver when he spoke about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Obama said he would "try to keep it together" during his inaugural speech.

The e-mail address for the Political Gabfest is gabfest@slate.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Posted on Jan. 20 by Dale Willman at 11:45 a.m.

Jan. 16, 2009

Listen to the Gabfest for Jan. 16 by clicking the arrow on the audio player below: You can also download the program here, or you can subscribe to the weekly Gabfest podcast feed in iTunes by clicking here.

Get your 14-day free trial of Gabfest sponsor Audible.com, which includes a credit for one free audio book, here.

Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz talk politics. In Barack Obama's final week as president-elect, the gang discusses the Treasury nominee's problems and the last days of the Bush presidency.

Here are links to some of the articles and other items mentioned in the show:

Obama moved his family into Blair House, located across from the White House, on Thursday. Obama and his family also visited the Lincoln Memorial, where he paid tribute to a president he says he turns to periodically for inspiration.

The group discussed Obama's dinner with a group of conservative columnists at the home of George Will. David says the meeting has symbolic significance for the president-elect, and John remembers Obama's earlier comment that although he "may not have won their [conservatives'] vote," it's important to hear their voices.

Emily wonders whether Timothy Geithner will survive confirmation hearings to become treasury secretary. Geithner's hearing was delayed after he revealed that he had failed to pay self-employment taxes for the years 2001-04.

President Bush held his final news conference this week, in which he acknowledged making some mistakes but said he was at peace with what he had done while in office. Emily said he had not owned up to the real messes he has created, while John called it the best public indication of what Bush is really like in person.

David chatters about a work of art commissioned by the European Commission. Czech artist David Cerny created Entropa, which bears the outlines of each EU nation on a grid. Germany's autobahns form the shape of a swastika; France is shown as being on strike; and Bulgaria is shown to be a squat toilet. The artwork has created a major controversy in Europe. Czech officials apologized for the work.

John talks about Obama and Joe Biden's visit to the Supreme Court. They met with all the justices except Samuel Alito. Obama will be the first incoming president to be sworn in by a justice whose confirmation he voted against.

Emily chatters about a Bush administration official's statement that a Saudi national was tortured by the U.S. military in Guantanamo. Susan Crawford is in charge of deciding whether Guantanamo Bay detainees should be brought to trail.

The e-mail address for the Political Gabfest is gabfest@slate.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Posted on Jan. 16 by Dale Willman at 12:09 p.m.

Jan. 9, 2009

Listen to the Gabfest for Jan. 9 by clicking the arrow on the audio player below: You can also download the program here, or you can subscribe to the weekly Gabfest podcast feed in iTunes by clicking here.

Get your 14-day free trial of Audible.com, which includes a credit for one free audio book here.

Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz talk politics. This week, the economic stimulus package, Bill Richardson's departure, and the too-long inauguration planning.

Here are links to some of the articles and other items mentioned in the show:

President-elect Barack Obama had hoped that his economic stimulus package would await his signature soon after his inauguration, but it now appears that the package will be delayed at least until February. This week, Obama warned of the possible consequences of a delay, saying the economy would become "dramatically worse" if Congress did not act quickly.

Meanwhile, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer wrote in Slate that any stimulus package should include spending on more than just basic infrastructure needs—it should also include "visionary" spending for things like Internet access and robots in schools.

Another part of Obama's stimulus plan calls for a faster shift toward the use of electronic medical records. Many experts feel this would improve medical treatment. It would also be a boon to a number of companies across the country.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew himself from his nomination  for commerce secretary. John says this is one instance in which the Obama team's vetting process failed.

Observers are wondering whether the Obama administration will take an active role in investigating possible wrongdoing by Bush-administration officials. Emily says one possibility could be a more passive role for criminal investigation but a broader public release of documents surrounding possible misdeeds.

John says all the discussion of the Obama inauguration has been going on too long. The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder and Slate's Mickey Kaus make good points about Obama's perpetual fundraising.

A historic moment occurred this week when all the living presidents gathered with President-elect Obama at the White House.

David chatters about NBC's Friday Night Lights. He says the relationship between Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his wife, Tami (Connie Britton), is the best cultural portrayal of a good marriage that he has ever seen

Emily talks about  Obama's choice for solicitor general, Elena Kagan. If confirmed, she would become the first woman to hold that post. Kagan is currently dean of Harvard Law School. Emily says it's an interesting choice, but she says that despite her broad legal experience Kagan has never argued a case before the Supreme Court—and may have never argued a case before any court.

The e-mail address for the Political Gabfest is gabfest@slate.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Posted on Jan. 9 by Dale Willman at 12:03 p.m.

Slate Senior Editor Emily Bazelon, Chief Political Correspondent John Dickerson, and Editor David Plotz host the Gabfest weekly.

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