Questions, Kudos & Complaints: The Readers Write

A Friday look into the Political Junkie mailbag:

This question is from Chris Michael of southern California:

Which Democratic senators changed their votes on the health care bill (H.R. 4872) after the student loan bill was added?  And would you happen to know what their reasoning was?

I forwarded your question to Julie Rovner, NPR's all-things-health-care expert, who responded with this:

There were three Democrats who voted against the reconciliation bill (which included the student loan provisions) who earlier voted for the health bill.  They were Blanche Lincoln and David Pryor, both from Arkansas, and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.  All three were from states (well, 2 from the same state) that would be affected by the switch from private to public student loan providers and complained about it loudly. Well, at least Lincoln and Nelson complained about it loudly; I presume Pryor shared Lincoln's reasoning, though I never saw him quoted.

Lots of questions about the ScuttleButton process, my Friday puzzle.  Tess Linden of New York City asks:

How many answers do you get for each puzzle? It's hard to know how much hope I have of actually winning. (Not that it would change how addicted I am to scuttlebutton-ing. I'm afraid that's a lost cause.)

That number always depends on the amount of difficulty of the puzzle.  The easy ones will bring in a thousand or so responses, the tougher ones considerably fewer.

And Bunny Salter of Cumming, Ga., wants to know:

Which comes first, the buttons or the phrase?  In other words, do you have a phrase in mind, then go hunting for buttons to create it, or do you see a couple of buttons that remind you of a phrase?  It’s amazing to me that you can come up with these week after week.

Actually, that is a question I get a lot.  And the answer is ... yes to both.  I'll be in the middle of a conversation with someone and I'll hear something that sets off alarms and I'll say, whoa, that would be a great ScuttleButton puzzle!  Or I'll see a button and it will make me think of how I could use it — which is what happened the other week when I saw the "Voorhees" button and I came up with "Voorhees a jolly good fellow" puzzle.  Or, I could just be having an acid flashback.

New puzzle up momentarily.

Here's a question from Laurie Larson of Princeton, N.J., regarding a recent episode of our "It's All Politics" podcast:

Who on earth was singing "hey nonny nonny Ronnie Reagan" at the end of the April 15 podcast?  Astonishing.

I found it astonishing too!  That song was another find by our indefatigable producer, Evie Stone.  It's called, "Hey Ronald Reagan" by James Kochalka Superstar, and it's from the album "Monkey vs. Robot."  And yes, it's available on iTunes!

There are always questions coming in about our opening montage of classic soundbytes in the Political Junkie segment on Talk of the Nation every Wednesday.  Often they refer to the Howard Dean "scream" that is part of the montage.  Gary Tartakov of Amherst, Mass., asks:

You use the "Dean Scream" as part of your intro on Wednesdays.  I'm wondering about whether or not it was like that darker version of Jesse Jackson on the New York Times magazine cover a few years back.  How do we know if the sound you are using truly reflects the real event?  I mean, how do you know you aren't broadcasting a miscarriage?  Do you know?  This is an important issue.

The "Dean Scream" is real and not altered or doctored in any way.  Mara Liasson, NPR's national political correspondent, was at the Dean event on caucus night in Iowa in 2004 and recorded it from there.  While there are "versions" of the scream on YouTube — some funny, some not — the one we use on TOTN is completely legit.

Also, I could be wrong, but I think you're thinking of when Time magazine "darkened" the photograph of O.J. Simpson on its cover; it wasn't the New York Times and Jesse Jackson.

Staying on the subject of the Dean Scream, Siobhan McLaughlin of Hollywood, Fla., writes:

Is it too much to hope that we can change your intro?  The Dean Scream is sooooooooo bad, I'd even be willing to give up on the Bush "I'm the decider here" if it meant we would lose the scream.

And Liz Dennis of Boston, Mass., adds:

I think Howard Dean was a great leader for the Democratic Party.  Surely you can do better than summing up his career other than his Iowa scream!

I do know the Dean Scream is upsetting to his admirers, but the fact is, it's become a signature soundbyte for him ... just as the "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore" is for Richard Nixon.  And both fit the theme we were looking for in putting together the Junkie montage.  Certainly there was more to Nixon than his bitter "kick around" comment (said after he lost the race for governor of California in 1962), and there's more to Dean than his post-Iowa scream.  Just not in the opening montage.

One more on the montage.  Gary Apter of Boise, Idaho — who says, "You'd smile if you knew how hard I work to be in reception range for Political Junkie each Wednesday" (thanks, Gary!) — writes:

Is there a chance I can persuade you to delete the part of your intro that includes Barry Goldwater saying, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice?"  I think the fact that the TEA Party folks and the likes of Ms. Palin have such fans who believe in that Goldwater line about extremism.  I know he said that at the '64 convention, but maybe you can find something else to use?  I am very concerned about the polarization we face these days.

And speaking of the Tea Party, this question arrived this morning from Chris Conley of Rockledge, Fla.:

During today's "Morning Edition" segment, you made a comment to the effect that the Tea Party is making a statement by forcing Charlie Crist out of the running for the Florida Senate Seat and Bob Bennett out of contention for another Senate term in Utah.  Do you really think that the Tea Party is that organized?  It seems to me that all the Tea Party knows is what they don't like.

Actually, what I said is that "Tea Party folks" had successes with what happened with Crist in Florida and Bennett in Utah.  I agree with your point that the Tea Party as such is not "organized" in the same way the Democratic or Republican parties are.  But even if its members, or supporters, or advocates — whatever you want to call them — know what they don't like more than what they do like, they clearly have the power to be effective.  The next test for them is on Tuesday, especially in the special congressional election in Pennsylvania and the GOP Senate primary in Kentucky.

As for this morning's three-way conversation with Mara Liasson and me on "Morning Edition," you can listen to it here.  Even if you heard it this morning, trust me, it's worth hearing over and over again.

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