Political Junkie: 'The Wild Thing' Edition

Guests:

Ken Rudin, NPR political editor
Irene Jay Liu, political reporter for the Albany Times Union and blogger at Capitol Confidential

The president has taken some hard punches over health care, but he can still deliver a punchline on Letterman. Tom Delay was a "Wild Thing" on Dancing With The Stars, New York's governor won't two-step aside, and both parties fill their dance cards for 2010.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Mr. Dukakis apparently won't go to Washington again. Ms. Whitman wants to go to Sacramento, and The Hammer goes dancing.

(Soundbite of television program, "Dancing With the Stars")

Unidentified Woman: Left, left, left, that way.

Mr. TOM DELAY (Republican, Former Representative, Texas): Going left for me is absolutely outrageous.

CONAN: It's Wednesday and time for a wild-thing edition of the Political Junkie.

President RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

Former Vice President WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: Where's the beef?

Former Senator BARRY GOLDWATER: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

Former Senator LLOYD BENTSEN (Democrat, Texas): Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

President RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska): Lipstick.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: But I'm the decider.

(Soundbite of scream)

CONAN: Every Wednesday, NPR political editor Ken Rudin joins us for a round-up of all things political, and what a week. Somebody leaks the confidential McChrystal report to Bob Woodward, the Value Voters gather in Washington, one new book has a damning quote from John Edwards, another quotes President Bush on Sarah Palin: What was she, the governor of Guam? And in a few minutes, to Albany, where New York Governor David Paterson turns a deaf ear to the White House.

Later in the program, technology columnist Farhad Manjoo wonders if the golden age of Wikipedia is over. But first, political junkie Ken Rudin joins us here in Studio 3A. Hey Ken, and as usual, we begin with a trivia question.

KEN RUDIN: Hello, Neal. Just by the way, that edition of Lloyd Bentsen in the - that was by reader demand. There were some requests saying…

CONAN: I think it was probably a listener request.

RUDIN: A listener request, but that's - I just want to let people know that we respond to emails.

CONAN: Every once in a while.

RUDIN: Okay, trivia question today: Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis has been named, or at least mentioned, as a possible Senate appointee by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. And so the question is: Name the last former governor appointed to the Senate and also name the last person who ran for governor who was appointed to the Senate.

CONAN: So if you think you know the last governor, former governor, to be appointed to the United States Senate and the last person to run for governor to be appointed for the Senate - got to get them both…

RUDIN: Two answers.

CONAN: …give us a call, 800-989-8255, email is talk@npr.org.

And Ken, the Massachusetts legislature did vote to give Governor Deval Patrick the power to name an interim successor to the late Senator Ted Kennedy, and reports say that the Kennedy family has made its choice.

RUDIN: Well, that's very interesting. I mean, for the headlines for the longest time was that Michael Dukakis would - the former governor, 1988 presidential nominee - would be the choice. And now they're - and the Boston Globe gave a big editorial push for Dukakis yesterday. And today, it seems likely news, is that the Kennedy family, specifically Congressman Patrick Kennedy…

CONAN: Former.

RUDIN: No, Patrick - Congressman - what?

CONAN: Go ahead.

RUDIN: Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Teddy Kennedy, Jr., the two sons of the late Edward Kennedy, both want Paul Kirk, the former Democratic national chairman, very close to the Kennedy family, worked on the Kennedy staff from '69 I guess to '77 thereabouts, to be the appointee who would serve until the January 19th special election.

CONAN: And will Governor Patrick listen to their recommendation or make his own choice?

RUDIN: Well, that's a question, too. There's the Harvard law professor, Charles Ogletree. There's former Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Murphy, who's on the list. And you know, remember when the Kennedy family were pushing Caroline Kennedy to replace Hillary Clinton in New York, we saw David Paterson, the governor of New York, say well, I think I want my own choice. And of course, he picked Kirsten Gillibrand.

Of course, it's different in Massachusetts, when the Kennedy name was so much more magical, and it seems like they are pushing Paul Kirk.

CONAN: And this again is for the interim appointment, primarily to vote on Senator Kennedy's most-passionate issue, health care, when that comes to the Senate floor. In the meantime, though, there is going to be a Democratic primary, no real election in Massachusetts in December, and then the actual election in January. Could the person named interim senator run in the primary and in January?

RUDIN: Well, of course, there's no constitutional barrier that would keep that person from running in the special election. Of course, if it's Michael Dukakis, who's 77, if it's Paul Kirk, who's 71, it's unlikely they will serve, you know, try to run in the special election. But there is a very strong battle going on, a fierce battle in the Democratic primary December 8th.

State Attorney General Martha Coakley, who is the only statewide candidate running and the only woman running in a state that has never elected a woman to the Senate, and Congressman Michael Capuano, who basically has been criticizing Coakley for one, how dare she announce so soon after Ted Kennedy's death, and where is she on health care, and where is she on Iraq? He's saying she's too cautious to be a U.S. senator. So it's a pretty ugly battle there.

CONAN: And there was a decidedly chilly handshake in New York as President Obama greeted Governor David Paterson.

RUDIN: Yes, it seems the New York Times reported over the weekend that the White House and President Obama has made it clear - to have made it clear to Governor David Paterson that he cannot win in 2010. Of course, he became governor when his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, was ensnarled in a prostitution scandal. David Paterson, being one of two African-American governors in the country, that's worth pointing out because, of course, Obama…

CONAN: The other one's Deval Patrick.

RUDIN: Right, and Barack Obama is, I think, as I recall, the first African-American president in the nation's history.

CONAN: I've heard that.

RUDIN: So anyway, so there's pressure on David Paterson to not run. He probably - look, he's doing very poorly in the polls. Eliot Spitzer remains even more popular than Paterson. He's had a lot of missteps, David Paterson has, and there's a lot of pressure that he would bring the party down to defeat in 2010. They want Andrew Cuomo, the state attorney general, to run instead.

CONAN: And we'll have more on that later, but in the meantime, over the weekend, one of those unprecedented things. President Obama, who as you mentioned is an African-American…

RUDIN: That's right, first one.

CONAN: First one - made all of the talk shows.

(Soundbite of television program, "Face the Nation")

Mr. BOB SCHIEFFER (Host, "Face the Nation"): Today on "Face the Nation," the president is all over television this morning, including right here.

(Soundbite of television program)

Unidentified Man #2: We begin with President Obama. We met in the Roosevelt Room, just off the Oval Office, for a spirited conversation on several topics.

(Soundbite of television program)

Unidentified Man #3: I sat down with the president in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.

(Soundbite of television program, "Meet the Press")

Mr. DAVID GREGORY (Host, "Meet the Press"): Mr. President, welcome back to "Meet the Press."

President BARACK OBAMA: Great to see you.

(Soundbite of television program, "Late Night with David Letterman")

Mr. DAVID LETTERMAN (Host, "Late Night with David Letterman"): It's a genuine thrill for all of us, and an honor to introduce our guest tonight. Please welcome the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, ladies and gentlemen.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: And now here for a surprise appearance on TALK OF THE NATION, Ken Rudin.

RUDIN: Yeah, no, it was a whirlwind event, historical in many ways, and of course, Fox News was - I didn't hear Fox News in that montage. I guess that was done on purpose. And I don't think he made news, but obviously he's trying to reach out again, once again, to the many people, and perhaps growing number of people, who are concerned about his health-care initiatives.

CONAN: In the meantime, we have some people on the line who think they know the answer to today's trivia question, which is the last former governor to be named - to be appointed to the United States Senate and the last person to run for governor of a state and then be appointed to the United States Senate. And let's get some listeners on the line, Roger(ph) with us from Phoenix.

ROGER (Caller): Hi, guys. My guess is going to be Wendell Anderson from Minnesota. He was still sitting as governor, but he self-appointed himself for Hubert Humphrey, and I think in 1976. So I'm hoping to get that on a technicality.

RUDIN: Well, you won't because - I mean, your answer would be correct, and it was 1978, actually, and he resigned, and Governor Rudy Perpich then named Wendy Anderson to the Senate seat, but he was not the last one. So it's not Wendy Anderson.

CONAN: But very good. Very good, Roger, thank you. Let's go next to - this is Patrick(ph), Patrick with us from Fort Collins in Colorado.

PATRICK (Caller): Gentlemen, so here's the deal. I think it was Jerry Brown, who was former governor of California who became appointed as a senator. I could be mistaken, but I do know, you know, the answer for sure for number two, I'm pretty positive on number two.

RUDIN: Well, actually, Jerry Brown, who was governor, first elected governor in 1974, and then it looks like he's running again in 2010. That's pretty remarkable. He did run for the U.S. Senate in 1982 against Pete Wilson…

CONAN: But didn't make it.

RUDIN: He lost to Pete Wilson, was never appointed to the Senate.

CONAN: Nice try. Thanks very much. Let's see if we can go next to - this'll be Dan(ph), Dan with us from Buffalo.

DAN (Caller): Hi, I also thought of Anderson and Landau(ph) from Louisiana.

CONAN: Landrieu, do you mean?

RUDIN: Mary Landrieu did run for governor, and then she was elected to the Senate, but she was never appointed to the Senate. She won election in 1996 but was never appointed to the Senate.

DAN: Okay, thank you.

CONAN: Good try, Dan. Let's go next - this will be William(ph), William with us from Pierson in Georgia.

WILLIAM (Caller): Yes, I'm calling from Georgia. I think it might be Zell Miller and Johnny Isakson.

RUDIN: Well, two things. First of all, we'll give you Zell Miller. Zell Miller was appointed to the seat following the death of - oh, what's his name, the Republican who died in 2000, and his name was - I'm forgetting.

CONAN: There was probably more than one.

RUDIN: But Zell Miller was a former governor who was appointed to the U.S. Senate, but Johnny Isakson was not appointed to the Senate. Johnny Isakson won a Senate race on his own.

CONAN: Close but no cigar, William.

WILLIAM: Okay, thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's go next to - this is Keith(ph), Keith with us from Freeport in Illinois.

KEITH (Caller): Hi. Well, Zell Miller was my guess for the first one, and I know the second one, for better or worse, is our very own Roland Burris.

RUDIN: You should be very proud, not because you have Roland Burris as your senator but because you got both answers correct.

CONAN: Well, ding, ding, ding, ding, Keith. You win a fabulous no-prize T-shirt. If you will hold on, and we'll take down your particulars, and you have to promise to send us a digital picture of you to put on our wall of shame.

KEITH: All right, thank you.

CONAN: Well, nice job. Thank you very much.

RUDIN: And it just occurred to me it was Paul Coverdell who died, and that's who Zell Miller's - Senate seat he was appointed to.

CONAN: All right. Let's see if we can go back to actual results. A mayoral race last Tuesday in Boston.

RUDIN: Yesterday, right. Thomas Menino, the longest-serving mayor in Boston history, they have an interesting election in Boston. It's nonpartisan, even though everybody's a Democrat.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: But they all run on the same ballot, and then the top two contenders go on to a November 3rd runoff. Thomas Menino, who's been elected, is seeking an unprecedented fifth term, got over 50 percent of the vote. City Councilor Michael Flaherty, who's saying it's time for a change, he finished second. The two of them will go into a November 3rd runoff.

CONAN: And the Values Voter Summit here in Washington, D.C. We saw both Mike Huckabee and Tim Pawlenty here in town to speak, and there was a straw poll, and who won?

RUDIN: Well, it was a very influential straw poll. Over 597 people voted.

CONAN: Whoa.

RUDIN: Yeah, exactly. So anyway, Mike Huckabee won with 29 percent, and a bunch of candidates - Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Sarah Palin, Mike Pence the congressman from Indiana - all finished in second place with about 12 percent each.

Tim Pawlenty this week, by the way, just started a new PAC, a Freedom First Political Action Committee, obviously prefacing a potential 2012 run for the presidency.

CONAN: And while the appointment, when it comes down, and I understand in Massachusetts there is a 90-day waiting period unless the governor declares an emergency, which I guess the governor is expected to do in this case, so we should have an appointment of an interim senator soon. That would give, of course, the Democrats the 60 votes they need to vote cloture and put down Republican filibusters on the health-care bill. However, sad news from West Virginia, where Robert Byrd is back in the hospital.

RUDIN: Well, yes. Don't get people panicking. Nothing has happened yet. Of course, yesterday he stood up, Senator Byrd who is 91 years old, the longest-serving senator in history, stood up at his home and fell down. They brought him to the hospital just in case. There were no broken bones, no bruises or anything, but they're keeping him in the hospital for a possible infection.

CONAN: All right, so we'll keep our eyes on Senator Byrd and hope that everything goes well for him. Ken Rudin, our political junkie, is with us. Up next, New Yorkers have more to talk about than just that Yankees game. How about the governor? The White House reportedly wants him to bow out. Should he?

If you're in New York, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. If it's Wednesday, it must be the political junkie. Ken Rudin, NPR political editor, with us as always.

On Monday, President Obama traveled to Troy, New York. On the tarmac at the Albany International Airport, he was greeted by New York Governor David Paterson, a man whose popularity is not high amongst New Yorkers and the White House. According to several news organizations, the White House political director met with Governor Paterson to encourage him not to run for governor in 2010. The governor says he has every intention of staying in the race.

So New Yorkers, should Governor Paterson listen to the White House and bow out? 800-989-8255. Email is talk@npr.org. And joining us now from our bureau in New York City is Irene Liu - excuse me, Irene Jay Liu, a political reporter for the Albany Times Union, and it's nice to have you back with us on TALK OF THE NATION.

Ms. IRENE JAY LIU (Political Reporter, Albany Times Union): Thanks so much.

CONAN: You escaped downstate for the day.

Ms. LIU: I did indeed.

CONAN: And now, you were on the tarmac as the pool reporter when President Obama came to upstate New York, and well, what was that like?

Ms. LIU: It was great. I actually wasn't on the tarmac. I was - I did - I was there to cover when he did a class walk-through, and he spoke with students, and it was great. You know, it was very - he has a very easy way with people, and so it was pretty interesting to see him in action.

CONAN: Well, did he have an easy way with Governor Paterson?

Ms. LIU: Well, that's another question. I mean, you know, personally from the perspective of an Albany reporter, you know, this was - we were really excited because this is the - coming up, he's highlighting something that we're really proud of in terms of our community colleges. And then, of course, two days before, you know, he steps on his own message by having this story leak out.

And so, you know, it was a very - you imagine if you have two people who break up very publicly, and you know, the last thing you want to do is be on national television with a bunch of cameras snapping photos, looking at every movement right after. Really, what you want to do is you want to stay home and eat ice cream, right? So…

CONAN: In the meantime, the governor has said, well, whatever the White House may have said, I'm not listening to them.

Ms. LIU: Right. I mean, and I think that a lot of people recognize that this is certainly - you know, his numbers are very, very - I mean, he hasn't been able to pull them up for four months. His numbers have hovered around 20 percent, according to a Marist poll that came out last week. And you know, no matter how hard he's been trying to sort of refocus his agenda and refocus his campaign, he's just - he hasn't been able to pull up those numbers. And so as a result, a number of people from all the way to the top of the party down are very concerned because while - because of sort of the Obama election in 2008, the Democrats really started to take - they took control of pretty much every statewide seat, all but three congressional seats, and control both parts of the legislature, and so…

CONAN: Sometimes.

Ms. LIU: Well, sometimes, yes, when they're not fighting and not doing any work.

CONAN: Bickering amongst themselves, yes.

Ms. LIU: Exactly. And so next year's a very, very important year for New York, especially because redistricting is going to come up. And really what this means is if the Democrats can keep control of both the Senate and the Assembly next year, essentially New York will officially become a blue state. I mean, they'll redistrict the congressional districts and everything else to favor the Democrats, and so that's why it's such a crucial year.

And the governor is - everyone is very, very concerned now. But you know, having this come out so early, which according to people that I've talked to was not the timing of the White House, this really came out from other camps, is - puts Governor Paterson in a difficult position.

He has one more budget that he needs to deal with next year, and of course, as with many other states, a very, very serious budget deficit. You know, they just had a leaders' meeting this morning to talk about the estimated $2.1 billion budget deficit in this year's budget alone, not talking about next year.

So you know, he has a lot of governing left to do, and so this certainly puts him in a tough spot. If he were to say oh, you know what, maybe I won't run, then that essentially makes him lame duck and will make it that much harder for them to do the work that needs to be done.

CONAN: Ken?

RUDIN: Irene, it was interesting to me that the first thing that President Obama said when he arrived in Troy was to say I noticed that Governor David Paterson is here, and the next thing he said, I also notice that Andrew Cuomo is here, the state attorney general. Cuomo has done nothing overtly or even covertly to run for governor, and yet everybody expects he's going to do it.

Ms. LIU: I mean, it's sort of been this very open secret that he has harbored ambitions for governor. Certainly, he ran in 2000, and it is something that he's wanted to do - oh, I'm sorry, 2002, I apologize, and he did not win the primary against Carl McCall at the time. He's harbored ambitions. You know, at that point, he sort of left, went to Washington for a while, came back and has seen his political capital soar. And really at this point, I mean, he's doing what he needs to do, which is to not say anything and just keep on going, keep on doing his job and just wait for the party to come knocking on his door.

RUDIN: One thing I did notice that, of course, when you talk about the 2002 primary and Carl McCall, Carl McCall was African-American. David Paterson is African-American. Charlie Rangel has made the point that black voters are not going to look kindly on Andrew Cuomo if he does take on David Paterson.

Ms. LIU: Well, I think that that's why you see him, I mean, not really campaigning, not making a point to even put himself out there so much. I mean, really all - you know, he's mastered the art of sort of letting everyone come to him. And I think it is an issue, but at the same time, right now Governor Paterson really doesn't have - he doesn't have very much support overall, but he also doesn't have very much support in the black community. According to numerous polls for the past few months, I mean, black voters support Cuomo running for governor next year more so than they even support Governor Paterson.

CONAN: Well, let's get some listeners in on the conversation. We'll go to John(ph), John calling us from Bloomfield, New York.

JOHN (Caller): Yeah, I told your screener I'm on a fixed income. I'm retired. And with the taxes and fees that that man has put on, and a lot of them are just upstate, not downstate, he couldn't get elected dogcatcher in an apartment building that only allowed cats.

(Soundbite of laughter)

JOHN: So it really doesn't much matter whether he runs or not. He's not going anywhere.

CONAN: All right, John, thanks very much for that terse political analysis there. Let's see if we can go to Justin(ph), Justin calling from Long Island.

JUSTIN (Caller): How you doing, Neal?

CONAN: I'm doing well, thanks.

JUSTIN: Great. Governor Paterson basically, as I'm sure you all know, has an approval rating of 20. I would basically - I would support you for governor of New York before I would support Governor Paterson.

CONAN: I'd have to relocate, Justin.

RUDIN: Damn praise indeed.

JUSTIN: He just consistently, when leadership is needed, it's not there. I don't think he was ever meant to be governor. He was supposed to be in Spitzer's shadow, and of course Spitzer resigned in disgrace. And I think you guys were talking about earlier, people support Spitzer coming back over Paterson. I would vote for Andrew Cuomo. I would vote for H. Carl McCall if someone could convince him to run again. I would basically vote for anyone before I re-elected the sitting Governor Paterson.

CONAN: And you could imagine the television picture, as I was looking at Ken to tell him to keep his mouth shut, as he started to think of jokes about Governor Spitzer coming back. Anyway, Justin, thanks very much for the phone call.

JUSTIN: You're welcome.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we go next to Kate(ph), and Kate's with us from Patchogue, also in New York.

KATE (Caller): Hi, I think Governor Paterson should run. I think it's unfair for the Democratic Party to decide for the people who is going to bow out or not. I think that's unfair, and I think he should be able to run.

CONAN: Even if that means - are you a Democrat, Kate?

KATE: I am a Democrat, yes.

CONAN: So even if that means a Republican wins the next race?

KATE: Well, should that matter? Should we automatically say I choose party over person? Is that really fair?

CONAN: I guess that's the question that people are being asked.

KATE: Well, I personally think no. I think we should be able to choose person over party. And I don't think it's fair of the Democratic Party to step in and say we want to assure a place in New York state, and therefore you have to bow out because you're not sure to win.

CONAN: All right, Kate, thanks very much for the call, appreciate it. And I guess that mirrors opinion in the state, and Ken, I think this matters also because the Democrats in New York state are worried about a strong Republican candidate next year.

RUDIN: Right. Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, who still remains very popular - as a matter of a fact, a poll shows he's more popular among Republicans than Michael Bloomberg, who looks like he's going to win a third term this year. But I suspect that part of Giuliani's popularity is based against David Paterson, that if Andrew Cuomo were the Democratic nominee, one, Giuliani's numbers wouldn't be as strong, and two, I suspect that Giuliani might not even run.

CONAN: And we have to go back to our guest, Irene Jay Liu, and point out that the beleaguered Governor Paterson did have one important victory this week. He's got a lieutenant governor now.

Ms. LIU: He does, and against all odds, really. The lower courts had ruled against him, but yet now New York state has a lieutenant governor. There is succession.

CONAN: Let's see - Richard Ravitch, the former head of the MTA. Let's see if we can go next to Tara(ph), Tara with us from Utica, New York.

TARA (Caller): Hi. I think that Paterson should be out. My husband is a corrections officer, and he is really messing up the corrections department. He's cutting jobs where there should not be jobs cut. He's putting people's lives in danger because there's not going to be enough corrections officers to cover the amount of inmates that they've got. They went to Albany to protest what he wants to do, and he doesn't want to have anything to do with them and doesn't even want to listen to what they have to say.

CONAN: So he didn't have an open door and didn't even want to hear from a delegation?

TARA: No, no. And I'm afraid for the security of the corrections officers. He's making cuts that are not necessarily in an area that really needs all the people that they can get.

CONAN: Well, the state budget is in terrible shape. He's got to make cuts somewhere.

TYRA: Yeah. Well, I don't think it should be putting people in danger when he does.

CONAN: Tyra, thanks very much for the call. We hope everything works out okay for your husband.

TYRA: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we can get another caller in. And this is Dave(ph). Dave with us from Memphis in New York. Where's Memphis?

DAVE (Caller): Memphis is in Onondaga County west of Syracuse.

CONAN: Okay. I've spent a fair amount of time in Onondaga County, but I've never been to Memphis.

DAVE: Well, it's there. It's an old canal stop on the Erie Canal.

CONAN: Okay. Well, what do you think?

DAVE: I think he ought to step aside. I mean, if he's a team player with the Democratic Party, he ought to let somebody else get in there that can actually win. But I should - warning the Democrats, that, you know, if they can't get anything done despite the fact that they have the governorship and the Senate and the Assembly, you know, they better get some stuff down out there in Albany.

CONAN: All right, Dave. Thanks very much. Appreciate the phone call.

DAVE: Thank you.

CONAN: And there's another kind of primary, Irene Jay Liu, and that is, of course, money-raising. How much money has Governor Paterson been able to assemble for a primary and then a general election, which will not be cheap in the state of New York?

Ms. LIU: Oh, yes. And especially, with the New York City market, TV time is incredibly expensive, and so money is what you need for a statewide race. At this point right now, Andrew Cuomo, in his position as attorney general, has raised 2-1 over Governor David Paterson. You know, there are reports that over the weekend, after these announcements came out, that he was trying to, you know, rally the troops - Governor Paterson was trying to rally the troops to try to close that gap. It's a very tough time.

On the other hand, at the moment, he still does have one more round of budgeting. And, you know, as a key player in both the budget as well as all the state contracts, he will be able to raise money. He is still governor. But, you know, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has been going gangbusters in terms of trying to raise money. He's had lots of, you know, a-thousand-plate fundraisers and he has a very, very, very strong campaign operation going right now. So, it is going to be very tough for Governor Paterson right now to try to close the gap.

CONAN: Irene Jay Liu, thank you very much for your time today.

Ms. LIU: Thank you.

CONAN: Irene Jay Liu is a political reporter for the Albany Times Union and a blogger called Capitol Confidential at the timesunion.com. And she joined us today from our bureau in New York. Ken Rudin is here, the political junkie. You can read his column and listen to his podcast - as if this wasn't enough - at npr.org. And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION coming to you from NPR News.

And Ken, there's a few more items of news that we really wanted to catch up on. One, the former head of eBay, Meg Whitman, has formally now declared, no surprise, that she wants to run for the Republican nomination for governor in California.

RUDIN: She would be the - she's a first-time candidate and, of course, women have tried to be elected governor of California - Dianne Feinstein, Kathleen Brown - but have failed. But she's the kind of person I think Republicans are looking for: less ideological, more business oriented. And she could have a shot, especially if the primary in California gets nasty on the Democratic side.

CONAN: And how many people would be on her side? She's got some competition.

RUDIN: She does. She has the state treasurer who's also a multimillionaire, who's more conservative. It seems like whatever influence Arnold Schwarzenegger and the so-called moderate Republicans have left - I would think they would be behind a Whitman candidacy.

CONAN: Earlier we made a passing reference to the book by the former George W. Bush staffer, mentioning among other things - asking the question of Sarah Palin, what is she, the governor of Guam? And mentioning that the then-candidate Obama was clueless, and some harsh words for a lot of people. But, in fact, there is another book coming out that has absolutely terrible things to say about the former presidential candidate on the Democratic side, John Edwards.

RUDIN: Well, John Edwards has not had a stroke - a good time of it lately on the news. And, of course, the announcement for Rielle Edwards, his campaign videographer, who basically - the word is out there that John Edwards may be days or weeks away from confessing that he is the father of her child.

CONAN: After denying that up and down.

RUDIN: And on that famous tell-all interview on ABC's "Nightline" where he told everything. Well, of course, he denied that, and that could be bad. And plus the fact that there's so much - there's a federal investigation going whether to see if he spent campaign contributions to either hush up the affair or to try to buy off Edwards - I'm sorry -Rielle Hunter regarding the child. So, there's a lot of bad things going on over the head of John Edwards. Somebody who had such a limitless future, I thought, is certainly…

CONAN: And the damning quote that he told his paramour, that after his wife died he would marry her.

RUDIN: There are so many wincing comments that have come out on this story. The fact that - first of all, politically, the fact that he was still running for president or trying to be vice president on an Obama ticket, if that had come out in October, the Democrats would have been sunk.

CONAN: Also, Jenny Sanford, the wronged woman in South Carolina. She's inked a deal for a book. Who knows what will come out with that, but, really, the story of the week had to be the appearance on "Dancing with the Stars." Tom DeLay, the hammer, and let's listen to a little bit of what he had to say about that.

Mr. TOM DELAY (Republican, Former Representative, Texas): One thing I wasn't prepared for in learning to dance is getting in touch with my feminine side. So my biggest fear is that I might embarrass myself. I feel like a complete douche.

CONAN: Well, did you catch the act?

RUDIN: I did, and there was also another wincing thing. I mean, I do remember watching Richard Nixon play the piano on "The Jack Paar Show." This is somehow different. The thought of Tom DeLay - and as the early clip said, moving to your left, to your left, to your left, which is so unlike Tom DeLay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: It was pretty remarkable stuff. It makes me wish for the good old days Rob Blagojevich.

CONAN: Yeah. When politicians had dignity.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: Exactly.

CONAN: Exactly. And finally, Ken, I guess we have to think about - well, there was actually somebody who had - was even less thrilled with Tom DeLay's performance than Tom DeLay. Somebody actually got fewer votes than Tom DeLay did.

RUDIN: Who is that?

CONAN: The former Dallas Cowboys' wide receiver? Oh, you didn't know this?

RUDIN: No, no…

CONAN: No, no. No, no, no. Well, you'll have to figure that out on your own. Ken Rudin, thanks very much for being with us today.

RUDIN: This day in history: Richard Nixon, the checkers speech. This day.

CONAN: Ah, just the Republican cloth coat.

RUDIN: I got chest pains when I think of it. Thank you.

CONAN: All right. The great moment in history. Thank you very much. Ken Rudin is our NPR's political editor, joins us every Wednesday as the political junkie right here on TALK OF THE NATION. And again, you can read his blog and his - listen to his podcast at npr.org.

Coming up, is it the end of Wikipedia? We'll talk with Farhad Manjoo about the future of crowdsourcing and why Wikipedians are like a field of bunnies. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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