Special: Our Panelists Give Thanks

Nov. 21, 2014 AT 2:07 p.m. EST

On the Webcast Extra, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, our panelists pause to think about why they're thankful. From family to politics and even bicycling, 2014 has been a good year for our reporters and they have a lot to be thankful for. We at Washington Week are thankful for you, our viewers, and hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

GWEN IFILL: Hello, and welcome to the “Washington Week” Webcast Extra. I’m joined around the table by John Dickerson of Slate Magazine and CBS News, John Harwood of CNBC, Fawn Johnson of National Journal, and Jeff Zeleny of ABC News.

It’s the end of November, and our ponderings are turning to cold nights and hot turkey, gravy, and giving thanks. Reporters can be a skeptical if not a cynical bunch. But as we approach the end of an eventful year that was chockfull of war, peace and politics, I thought I’d turn to our crew here tonight and ask what they’re thankful for; maybe a good story, a twist of fate, a hunch confirmed, or a bad tip avoided, or something that has nothing to do with our jobs at all.

John Dickerson.

JOHN DICKERSON: Oh, you’re starting with me.

MS. IFILL: Yes, I am.

MR. DICKERSON: You know, I’m sure there are things in the professional world that I should be thankful for. But in election years, what happens is you’re on the road so much that Thanksgiving comes after the elections are over and you’re finally back at home for more than just to change your suitcase.

And so the thing that – it would be impossible not to be thankful for the family that’s there when you, you know, haven’t had any sleep. You need to, like, rush in and out, and you’re just kind of short –

MS. IFILL: And they go, Mommy, who was that man? (Laughter.)

MR. DICKERSON: Yes, exactly. So, yeah. So I’m – it’s the boring Thanksgiving family reason.

MS. IFILL: I think I actually hit a soft spot when I said that Mommy-who-is-that-man part; or worse, if the kids say – oh, never mind. (Laughter.)

MR. DICKERSON: And it’s worse if I’m saying it.

MS. IFILL: (Laughs.) It is worse. It is worse.

What do you think, Fawn?

MS. JOHNSON: Well, I was thinking about this, but actually the one that – this is going to be surprising, but I was really thrilled by the reaction to the Courtland Milloy – the Washington Post columnist’s column that he raised all the hackles of bicyclists around the country when he wrote his column about bicycle terrorists.

And I ride a bike often, so I was among them. But I also cover transportation. So I was very interested in a professional level as well. And then the fallout from that started to be stories about bicycle ambassadors in Washington, D.C. And, in fact, there are these networks of bicycle ambassadors all over the country. So that made me start to think a little bit about how I behave on a bike, and I realized that maybe I’m not so nice. Then –

MS. IFILL: Do you stay in the bike lanes, or do you get in front of me in traffic? That’s –

MS. JOHNSON: No, I stay in the bike lanes when there are bike lanes.


MS. JOHNSON: But I don’t wear a helmet, and sometimes I blow through the stop signs.


MS. JOHNSON: But I thought that – but I also have noticed that I get very angry at cyclists when I am driving, and I also get very angry at pedestrians when they walk in front of me when I’m driving, and I get angry at cars when they’re driving – when I’m walking.

MS. IFILL: So this is focusing your anger?

MS. JOHNSON: This, it turns out –

JOHN HARWOOD: (Inaudible.)

MS. JOHNSON: - it’s all about civility. It’s about civility on the roads and it’s about how we live as urban, you know, residents. And as it turns out, the Transportation Department is doing some things. So I learned just last week that – did you know that 70 percent of pedestrian - in pedestrian crashes that happen with cars, happen outside of a crosswalk?

MR. DICKERSON: So don’t jaywalk.

MS. IFILL: I did not know that.


MS. IFILL: Jeff, what are you thankful for?

MS. JOHNSON: So just, you know –

JEFF ZELENY: I’m thankful for good health and family, but I’m also thankful for, as we head into - my favorite year of the political season –


MR. ZELENY: - is the year before the presidential campaign. I think any year right before – if it’s 2003, we saw the rise of Howard Dean on the Democratic side; 2007, we saw the surprising rise of Barack Obama. So 2015, we do not know who is going to be the storyline. And it is my favorite thing as a political reporter –

MS. IFILL: Before it all gets –

MR. ZELENY: - before it all – because the actual presidential year is much more formulaic and decided. So I think the best year of the cycle as a political reporter is the one right before. So this is my fifth presidential campaign, and I’ll be very excited to see who we’re talking about here a year from now.

MS. IFILL: Look it, you get younger every year.

MR. ZELENY: Except the gray –

MS. IFILL: Yeah, except for that.

MR. ZELENY: - which I color in, by the way.

MS. IFILL: (Laughs.) John. I thank you for sharing. (Laughs.)

MR. HARWOOD: I agree with Jeff’s assessment, and also John’s about the post-election blessings that you have.

I would say two things. One, in terms of the country, I’m thankful that for all the problems we have, all the political fighting we have, all of the mess and dysfunction in Washington, we still have an economy that is the envy of industrial countries around the world, which means that the average person, while they’re not moving ahead, they’re not suffering in the same way that many, many millions of people are in the rest of the world.

And then, beyond that, I’m thankful that I’ve got 16 people coming to my house for Thanksgiving dinner, and I’m going to put on a meal for them and it’s going to be great.

MS. IFILL: And they’ll all live to talk about it the next day.

MR. HARWOOD: Exactly.

MS. IFILL: I am thankful for the fact that I’m here, my 15 th year here at “Washington Week,” shockingly, and that every year gets to be more fun, more interesting, more engaging, trying to explain what’s happening in Washington to people.

It also helps me to get out of Washington and to do things. I had an opportunity this year, like go to Ferguson and have a town-hall meeting and actually talk to the people involved in the discussions and the debates, not just the politicians who get on their soap boxes and rant about it.

So every time I get to do that, I feel excited and I feel reinvigorated, actually talking to real voters and real people whose lives are affected by the things we talk about around the table every Friday night. So I feel like somehow what we’re doing is worthwhile when I try that out.

And I also want to thank those of you out there watching this webcast, because we’ve done a lot more with it. We hope that you’re engaged and you tell your friends and you send it out in podcast and stroll the beach and listen to us, because we always have more to say.

While you’re online, check out my take this week on how sometimes, when something walks and talks like a duck, it’s only a lame duck.

And we’ll see you next time on the “Washington Week” Webcast Extra.


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