SOLOMON: And Now ... "Whitewashington Week in Review"

Welcome to another episode of "Whitewashington Week in Review."MODERATOR: "Thanks for joining us. I'm your host, Ben Mode. As always, our panel of esteemed journalists will toss around savvy questions that aren't softball or hardball. Get ready -- some very lofty beach balls are about to float across the table! So, let's begin. The White House had a busy week. Clara, can you make sense of it all?"CLARA AKCESS: "That's my job. Leaks put me in the know. Lately, I've excelled at leaks that dispute other leaks. Many of the leakers appreciate my work and keep me supplied."MODERATOR: "And how do people inside the White House view this latest scandal?"AKCESS: "Well, some people think it will blow over. The ones that don't -- well, let's just say they're updating their resumes."DAVID BROODER: "But, Clara, don't the people up there at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue worry about the long-term implications for democracy?"AKCESS: "Sure. I mean, I suppose so. Well, maybe. But in the meantime, they have a job to do."MODERATOR: "As do we here at this table. David, you've been covering the scene in Washington for several decades now. Is that why they call you the dean of American political reporting?"BROODER: "That's one of the reasons."TOYL McNANMOUS: "If I can interject, I think it has to do with wisdom as well as longevity."MODERATOR: "Well said. So, David, have you ever seen anything like this before in your illustrious career?"BROODER: "Actually, this reminds me a little of the time I was covering the West Virginia primary battle between Jack Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey."MODERATOR: "Back in '60."BROODER: "Yes, 1960. That was also very historic. It was one of those times that tried men's souls. And women's, too, I now know enough to add."MODERATOR: "Indeed it was. And it did. And you certainly do. Now, we turn to the other big story in Washington this week -- what to do with the upcoming budget surplus. Steve?"STEVEN HILLBERTS: "This is an amazing twist, with members of Congress arguing about how to use extra tax revenues. I can't say what they're going to decide, but I'm confident they won't return to Great Society programs. Unlike defense spending and pandering to the middle class, the anti-poverty fixation proved to be a washout."BROODER: "Well, it did some good. In its day. As this century nears the end, we know that our priorities aren't quite right. To be frank, social conditions are vaguely troubling. So, it's no wonder that some of us feel a bit anguished. But fortunately, not too much."AKCESS: "David makes a good point. At least it's hard to disagree."McNANMOUS: "Of course, whatever happens, people love to bash the news media. With good reason, sometimes. I may be sticking my neck out here, but I think we're suitably self-critical. Overall."BROODER: "True. But it would be even better if we were even more self-critical."MODERATOR: "Clara, you wanted to say something?"AKCESS: "Yeah. I pretty much agree."MODERATOR: "OK. Before we go, let's talk about the situation in the Middle East. Tom, your bailiwick."THOMAS FENDMAN: "Right. When I think about all the tyrannical countries that surround Israel, I'm reminded of a ceremony I observed a few days ago at my child's school in Washington. The kids recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and in the process, they underscored in a very profound way that -- in the long run -- civilized values make all the difference."BROODER: "Absolutely, our hope for the future."MODERATOR: "And on that optimistic note, we here at Whitewashington Week in Review are out of time. Thanks for watching. We'll be back soon, civilized as ever."Norman Solomon is a syndicated columnist. His most recent books are "Wizards of Media Oz" (co-authored with Jeff Cohen) and "The Trouble With Dilbert: How Corporate Culture Gets the Last Laugh."

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