Good morning and a happy period-between-Hanukkah-and-Christmas to everyone. Some of you may be lucky enough to have snow on the ground right now. In Washington, DC, it's overcast and gloomy. Today, John Edwards is all over the place on the teevee, looking like a coordinated push to keep himself in the Democratic horse race. This is even as the GOP side of things gets more interesting. Last week, Rudy Giuliani was picking Florida as his primary safe haven. Since then, his situation in the Sunshine State has started to look less set in stone.
There's something still "on-the-defensive" to me about Romney...Huckabee's feeling more and more like a boomlet approaching the end of its course...and Giuliani ebbing in the polls. I'd love to hear some commenter opinion on this: John McCain--does he still have a puncher's chance at the nomination?
In the meantime, we go to Fox News Sunday. Because there's nothing else on.
Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace
And to begin the day, we have George Mitchell and the steroids-in-baseball story. I used to wonder what team Roger Clemens would go into the Hall of Fame as - no need to wonder about that anymore, is there?
Mitchell makes a case for leniency: "we all make mistakes...I've made more than my share of mistakes."
How badly has baseball been hurt? "I'm not going to stop going to games...in the end, baseball needs to do something." I guess I'm the exception: I've soured on baseball A LOT over the past ten years - and the underlying sense that the drug scandal was at least as widespread as the Mitchell Report concluded was a big reason why.
Hoekstra and Harman on torture tapes. Hoekstra wants to hold "the community accountable" and will subpoena. Harman: "it smells like the cover up of the cover up." She shoots down Hayden's excuse - that he wanted to protect the identities of the interrogators...why tape them at all? Hoekstra: "no faith"..."a systemic problem"...he's labelling them "incompetent," bringing in the NIE, bringing in Plame. Wow. Hoekstra's killing it. Harman "distinguishes between the workforce and the leadership"--which allows her to praise the NIE findings.
It's pretty clear that both Hoekstra and Harman are more or less digusted. They're not that impressed with waterboarding's alleged successes. Good for them!
Wallace tries to storyline: "Obama could do nothing wrong! Clinton could do nothing right! (...except, by the way...Clinton won the Des Moines Register endorsement...)
Brit Hume: [snort] No one knows what the hell is going on.
Bill Kristol throws some water on Clinton as the "experienced candidate."
Juan Williams tries to say something nice about Edwards: he's got a "hidden" network, he won the Register's endorsement four years ago. Ehh...I would have said it's remarkable he's still in the picture even with such a dearth of advantages. The voters who gravitate toward Edwards at this point are doing so because the message resonates - not because they're concerned about his "electability."
Clip of Giuliani, needing to look at his notes in order to remember his campaign refrains: "I'm tested in [looks at paper] crisis...ready to [looks at paper} lead." How do I explain his slide? He doesn't really believe any of the story he's selling. And how could he?
Kristol gives Rudy the shaft, calls it a "backward looking" campaign--which is hilarious, considering that Rudy has to be the great neo-con hope.
In side-by-side quotes, Wallace equates Huckabee's retrograde Christian beliefs to his criticism of George Bush's foreign policy! Hume terms them both "huge boulders." Extraordinary! Critiquing the President is on the same dimension as a backward piece of religious doctrine! Wow. Thanks, Fox!
Hume: "It seems that Fred Thompson's campaign has gotten very little traction...it's almost like it peaked when he announced." Uhm...that's right, Brit! Welcome to December, 2007, buddy!
Chris Wallace sniffles about how Obama and Edwarda haven't appeared on his show yet. Let's switch to one of those shows Edwards will be on, This Week.
This Week With George Stephanopoulos
John Edwards is put on the spot for his lack of "positive" message. Doesn't that depend on your point of view? If you hate all the skin that's in the political game, the lobbyists...the corporate interests...doesn't Edwards resonate positively with you?
"I'm not talking about battling with politicians...I'm going to be the President who understands there is a fight against well-entrenched interests, for the greater good." Edwards: can't work in their system, can't compromise with them.
Fundamental distinction he makes with Obama: Obama thinks you can compromise, Edwards thinks you need to fight. And: "I'm 54 years old." O RLY? Someone else is playing the "experience" card.
Hoo boy. Alan Greenspan. That's a radical aesthetic shift in guest. Greenspan on Edwards: The middle class faces economic threats, but "his remedies will make them worse, not better."
Oh, by the way, we're in a recession. Merry Christmas.
Roundtable with George Will, so expect some wheezy opinions on the Mitchell Report.
Will and Brazile pooh-pooh the Clinton claim to "experience." Will notes that's it's the Nixon pose. Brazile tut-tuts, "Clinton's been the establishment candidate." Jay Carney is sitting there, looking like he's trying to shove his entire fist in his mouth.
Claire Shipman: "You can't be the candidate of inevitability and then the underdog." Sure you can! When the media paints you as inevitable, then paints you as the underdog, it sure damn well can happen!
Brazile: Edwards "has the most loyal supporters in" Iowa. She also notes that the Edwards campaign should be the savvy, post-viability deal-cutters in the caucus.
Giuliani: "I expect miracles." Jeez...I'm really not sure from what school of thought this message comes from. I don't think the glazed-eyed weirdies who come on TV late at night trying to convince me I can make millions of dollars selling classified ads are crazy enough to tell me that they "expect miracles."
Brazile notes the corporate, technocratic acumen that forms the foundation of the Romney campaign, and how it helps his ground game. The real question though: why did Romney feel like he had to refashion himself as a social conservative when he was strongest as the technocrat, CEO candidate?
Here's Will and Brazile on baseball. Carney and Shipman look on, lost. But none of them would vote Clemens into the Hall! Snap!
Okay. No offense to Brad Pitt - and really, he's doing good work down in the Gulf - but who knew he had a "passion for architecture?"
The Chris Matthews Show
We're going to the TiVo now: Chris Matthews. Who calls Edwards a "populist white guy." And Dan Rather's on the panel! Let the metaphors and similes flow with the fierce urgency of now!
Rather: Edwards is the "undervalued stock that could surprise."
Katty Kay and Andrew Sullivan are going to battle it out to see who has the best British accent today.
By the way, Andrew totally hearts Obama still!
Rather: "Don't taunt the alligator till after you cross the creek." YES! Thank you. And you shouldn't! He also gives Obama praise for defending Biden in the Iowa debate. Sullivan notes that sparing the attack paid big dividends for Obama. The panel goes 3-1 predicting Obama as the winner, with Rather picking Edwards.
This all reminds Matthews of the movie Election. I'm just so glad this has stopped reminding him of Cat Ballou!
You know, Mike Huckabee didn't invent the line about gun owners being the front line against government tyranny. That's a line that "mainstream" gun organizations use.
Katty Kay, in theorizing a Huckabee nomination, basically bases her case on the principle that at any moment, we could all just lose our minds completely. Could happen, I suppose.
Andrew and I appear to be of the same mind as McCain. I maybe give McCain a little more chance to win in New Hampshire.
What Republican do the Democrats want to run against? Rather and Kay say Huckabee, O'Donnell and Sullivan say Romney. The reverse? Kay says Edwards, the rest say Clinton. Sullivan says that he can't vote for Hillary, "never, ever, ever."
And now, the ritual self-abuse of Meet The Press. Now with 50% more Mitt Romney.
Meet The Press, with Tim Russert
Romney: "Freedom requires religion and religion requires freedom." Terrible quote, by the way. One of the most objectionable things he said during the speech. Romney basically says he paraphrased John Adams - but it would be more accurate to say he took a wild whack at it and missed it entirely. Russert gets Romney to admit that atheists are allowed to participate in public life, government, etc. All of which is great...but doesn't this undercut his speech? (Or was there anything in the speech of real conviction in the first place?)
"Finally time for someone outside government to take the reins." Uhm....you aren't "outside" the government. You were the governor of Massachusetts!
Oh, pish! What does Bob Jones know about the "skills and background" required to be president? What does Bob Jones know about what's right for America? I look forward to the day Jones and his pretend-university are no longer a campaign stop.
Now Russert is grilling Romney on race, and, in spite of what you've been led to believe is possible, managing to do so without full-tilt screaming at the camera like Will Forte's Zell Miller imitation. "Could not have been more pleased to see to change that occurred" in the Church's position on race, says Romney. Great. Now, what about gays, Mitt?
More importantly: Russert gives it to Romney on abortion with his patented video clips. "I was always personally opposed to abortion, the question is what is the role of government." Basically, he had an opinion...and then THE THEORETICAL BECAME REALITY. What cowardice! "I suddenly realized, when I became governor, that I might have to start GOVERNING!!" With an answer like that, I'd almost respect him more if he just said, "Yeah, I changed my position out of pure political calculus."
Gotta leaven the Romney with some commenter support for Edwards: "Famous faces on television repeating what corporate-owned media, with interchangeable boards of directors, has told them - a bore - except that Dan Rather is right. Edwards is going to win the Iowa primary because he has the health of the people, the checkbook of the people, and the peace of the people as the core of his campaign message. He's the real guy, and the people of Iowa know it."
Sounds to me like Edwards message resonates quite positively with people. The only question is, will it be enough people?
Romney wants to make sure "the crazies" don't buy guns. Thanks for the nuance!
Now we'll get into Romney's sanctuary mansion. It was NOT PINK! Okay, America? Romney would not have a pink house! "I assure you."
Why are Mitt's sons always running cover for him? One son talks to the landscapers for him. Another son owns a gun that is apparently kept at Mitt's house. Then there's Tagg...you know he's up to something.
Do you want to give Mitt Romney your "biometric" information?
Another nice comment: "Funny how athlete entertainers and their drug use are spewed on about and seemingly of some great impotence [spelling intended] while there was no mention that the US delegation in Bali was booed and told, 'If you aren't willing to lead, get out of the way.'"
Good point. All the hand-wringing this week over the Mitchell report--it's just a game. Covering the Iowa debates, we worried that the cable news networks were going to drop off and cover baseball instead. Didn't happen of course, but it's telling that it was even a worry.
Romney's nickname was "Fee-fee." "A fee is different from a tax...we had fees that hadn't changed in decades." Okay...a fee is not a tax, but I think that people look forward to paying fees about as much as they do taxes.
Russert: "Could you be elected governor of Massachusetts on your current platform?" Good question, Romney doesn't answer it, Russert doesn't follow. This is the most disappointing thing about Russert - he'll fight to the death to get a piddling point made, but when he's got the good question, the stark relief question, the lay-it-all-bare question, he's got the tendency to back off! "Don't want this to hurt," he seems to say. Agh. Make it hurt! Test somebody!
This should be spotlighted:
RUSSERT: Bottom line: All the positions you laid out today as a Presidential candidate, can you assure the voters that you won't flip back to the positions you had as the Governor of Massachusetts.
ROMNEY: Of course.
So, he is willing to cop to being a lousy opportunist.
Romney says our Iraq policy was "unprepared, unplanned, undermanaged, understaffed...we made a number of errors and that the difficulty we face today is due to those errors." But he feels that Huckabee owes the president an apology for the relatively tamer statements that the President is "arrogant" and "has a bunker mentality."
Well, I personally saw nothing in Romney's performance that shifts my prior position--that he is a relentlessly unserious candidate for President. Naturally, this was through no fault of Russert's!
Well, we're going to call it a day on the liveblog. I find myself wishing there had been more discussion in the vein of Hoekstra and Harman from this morning, less horse race talk - and certainly not as much baseball/steroids talk. One correction: it's been pointed out to me that Brad Pitt does have a "passion for architecture." Sorry, Brad!
With nine days to go before Christmas, I'd like to wish everyone the best. Take care!
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