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TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

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Good morning, everyone. Iowa! New Hampshire! Horse race! Good God, y'all. We're in the sweet, dollopy thick of it now. Let's get on with this thing, shall we?

Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace

What a great way to start things off: with some shots of Mitt Romney getting his derriere handed to him. By Jove, John McCain hates the man! Clinton took the knives out as well. Thirty-five years of change! People: why don't you take a moment today and reflect upon the powerful changes that the 28 year old Hillary Clinton has wrought on our lives decades ago.

Wallace welcomes Mitt was a thorough clearing of his voice, and asks him what his problem with McCain is. "He's been there so long...so many lobbyists at his elbow." Oh, dear. Like there's any doubt that Romney wouldn't be a buddy to lobbyists! Then he tries to coattail on Huckabee.

Wallace brings up the Union-Leader's "undorsement" and Romney says that the charges will not "stand up to the test of time." Wallace tells him he's gunning for him at the Fox forum tonight.

Romney basically gets basic concepts of Social Security and illegal immigrants wildly wrong, and then writes it off to newspaper articles he's read on the matter. Don't have the time to figure the law out for yourself, Mitt? Well, here's a newspaper article, from the Boston Globe where Mitt says that he finds McCain's bill reasonable. Romney denies that there's any meat to it, which Wallace won't let him skate on.

Oh, jeezy creezy. These words come out of Romney's mouth: "That is a form of amnesty! Technically, it is not, of course!" Of course! THE MAN IS A MORON. Seriously. If he got the nomination, the Democrats could run a chimpanzee on a tricycle against him and it wouldn't be a fair fight.

"He said he wants to knock my teeth out and shoot me. Well, he's a colorful character! Hey, did you hear my lame, 'Don't touch my hair joke?' Well, here it is again! Also, my wife won't give me any money."

Mitt Romney in 2008: Don't Touch The Hair!

St. Anselm: the Patron Saint of Living Free and Later Dying. And Mike Huckabee is on now. "The Republican Party needs some repair."

Are you about class warfare, Wallace asks? No, Huck says, I just want to see poor people get rich. Of course, he wants to dismantle the progressive system of taxation that powers the engine of social mobility, but, never mind. Wallace disputes the fair tax on the merits, but Huckabee says that the countering analysis was the work of tax lobbyists. He says critics should tell him what they would do to eliminate capital gains taxes, dividend taxes, income taxes on corporations and individuals, and payroll taxes. I think any sane critic would have to offer, "Well, I'm not going to eliminate all those things."

Wallace takes up Huckabee's foreign policy criticisms. Wallace talks about his opposition to Gitmo and waterboarding like it was a bad thing! Huckabee's answer on torture is the right one, so kudos. Keep preaching that, Huck. Wallace, though, asks about the "bunker mentality" comment. Huckabee says that there wouldn't be a "you're with us, or you're against us" policy in his administration.

Ooh, burn! Huckabee apparently didn't get down on his knees and worship that great Golden Calf of denial, the troop surge!

Huckabee denies Ed Rollins comments that he and McCain are conspiring to take out Romney. Then he talks about what they have in common: "We've both been brutally assaulted by Romney...we have a brotherhood, here."

Where does the Huck's campaign stand now? Don't you have to stand out to a broad cross-section of voters? Huckabee insists that he is. "Most of the evangelicals supported me, but forty percent of them didn't...they don't vote in lockstep." Then he drops the "vertical politics" line. Is this a coded phrase for evangelicals? Check out what Daniel Radosh says about it.

Panel Time: Brit Hume says Hillary had to make something happen, because Democrats are "falling in deep love" with Obama. Mara Liasson says that the race has turned into a popularity contest, and that Clinton is working to demonstrate her toughness. Also, she gave a two-hour townhall meeting.

Bill Kristol thinks Obama is in good shape, which probably means Obama is doomed.

Juan Williams strings several words together, including the words "Gennifer Flowers" for some reason. It's like he thinks he's in a mumblecore movie or something. Brit Hume compares Obama to Gary Hart in a ranging historical comparison. Liasson, however, makes the more of-the-now point that New Hampshire has blued with the sorts of voters that don't remember previous elections. The entire panel picks Obama to win the primary.

The panel takes up the GOP side of things. Brit Hume says that Republicans aren't going to tolerate a candidate like Huckabee, who wants to help poor people.

Liasson doesn't think Huckabee will win the nomination, but credits him with tapping a new "vein" in the Republican Party. Williams laughs off the idea that Romney can lose in New Hampshire and carry on: "He's wrong...he loses here, there's no rationalization for going on." The entire panel picks McCain to win.

This Week With George Stephanopoulos

Okay...I'm joining this a few minutes late. John Edwards is talking about how he doesn't want to call his connections to Obama "an alliance." They share convictions, but he doesn't think you can sit around the table with corporate interests and negotiate. Good line: "This is not abstract or academic for me...this is personal." He adds, "It is not my job to sit and negotiate with lobbyists. My job is to stand up for the American people."

Stephanopoulos wants Edwards to sketch out the path to a win. Edwards insists that his message is standing up, working, getting heard, penetrating the money and "glamour" of Obama and Clinton. "I am in this through the convention and to the White House." By the way, once again, he didn't at all seem "angry."

Hey! It's Huckabee again. Stephanoloulos wants to take up the "arrogant, bunker mentality" issue. Huckabee is far less comfortable talking about this. He makes an okay case, casting his critique as one of Rumsfeld and a light versus heavy "footprint." But when it comes to a moment where he's got to prove he has respect for the president, there's a lot of pausing, hemming, hawing. Huckabee's a glib candidate. He's a flow candidate. But when he's knocked out of his flow, it really stands out. That's where his weaknesses are found.

Huckabee struggles with this Terri Schiavo question, passing a Constitutional question up to high-faluting ideas about the sanctity of life. I'm guessing that now Huckabee favors government handouts via feedtube. Make mine mocha flavored!

What's the path to a win for Huckabee? He says that he'll do better than expected in New Hampshire, and then win in South Carolina and Florida. If that comes to pass, heck, let's face it...that's a bona fide path.

And, boom: like that, Dorian Gray is with us! Romney says it's totally appropriate to criticize the President, as long as you do not use the following words: mentality, arrogant, bunker.

OMG! "I did not see my own ad!" His staff told him what it said! Did he not approve the message? Romney is basically answering the same questions he got from Wallace, and has gotten worse at answering them. Then he says he's standing by his ad--you know, the one he didn't see in the first place.

"I think the McCain campaign did a masterful job tagging me" with the flip-flopper charge. Actually--they didn't employ much "mastery" at all, Mitt!

"It's like they have a visceral dislike of you!" Stephanolpoulos says.

Romney wants you to know that he won Wyoming last night. It's a wildfire!

"Did your Mormon faith defeat you in Iowa?" Romney says no. And I agree! Chances are, it was a whole list of other, more prominent features that stand out about Romney that make people vomit in their throat that defeated him.

Panel Time! Will says that "wrong track/right track" brings out the voters, but that Huckabee benefitted from "schedule luck" in that a lot of evangelicals were on hand to vote. He describes Obama's success as a "great flinch" against the memory of Clinton. She is a "bridge back to the 20th century."

Donna Brazile, though, finds the Obama success knit up in his community organizing skills. Cokie Roberts pooh-poohs the youth vote, saying that they never turn out. Uhm...except they did. Did you just wake up from a long nap, there, Cokie? Welcome to 2008!

Sam Donaldson is talking about The Hustler now. Why? Don't know. Because the primary schedule is compressed, it may not work out for the "old champ" to beat "fast Eddie." Will is perplexed. Brazile says, "He's been watching AMC late nights."

Donaldson and Will get into a row about the issue of experience. "How can you be experienced if you don't have a past?" Donaldson is offering some vital crosscuts to the conventional wisdom, here.

Yikes! George Will calls Edwards, "today's Trotsky!" Thanks, Rasputin of yesteryear!

Roberts: "Even if voters are angry, they don't want candidates who are angry." They want bass-guitar playing happy-faces!

Donaldson says that when you have toothache, you go to a dentist who has drilled teeth for a long time. That must be why no one who's just getting out of dental school has any patients, right? I mean...that's a facile, clever sounding point, but old dentists are scary! For my part, I want a dentist who hasn't learned to enjoy causing me pain, yet.

In This Week's "In Memoriam" section, one of the people listed is Andrew Olmsted, blogger and soldier. If you haven't read his final post, take a moment today and do so.

The Chris Matthews Show

Chris Matthews is wearing a sweater! They all are wearing their winter gear. Katty Kay and Andrea Mitchell have lovely sweaters on, whilst Dan Rather (nice to see him back, bring on the similes) and Patrick Healy have got their rugged fleece tops on. Conventional wisdom: It's cold in New Hampshire! Choire Sicha, if you're out there, stay warm!

Rather starts in, suggesting that Clinton needs a "change in dynamic" here in New Hampshire, but fittingly notes that a primary loss should not be seen as a death knell for her hopes. Mitchell, though, declares New Hampshire to be "tailor-made" for Obama. Clinton has to show herself in a "different light." You can tell Matthews is savoring the thoughts of Matthews demise--he's fueled by equal measures schadenfreude and naivete, though, seizing on the most shallow aspects of Obama's success.

"Is Barack more of a threat than Monica was?" Matthews asks? Ugh. Healy reroutes the discussion to a saner location. Mitchell says the campaign is in a bad shape, and she cites Bill Clinton's answer to a question, "Tell us something we didn't know about Hillary." His reponse was to point out that she was exonerated of all charges by Kenneth Starr. Because those are the thoughts that are going to keep this campaign buoyant and optimistic! For a guy who wants to take a back seat in his wife's administration and not cast this race as his return to the White House, that is one messed up answer.

Mark Penn takes some shots from Patrick Healy. Kay criticizes the presence of Madeleine Albright on the stage with Clinton in Iowa. I suspect this will become s recurring theme when the pundits reflect on Iowa. It was a real mistake to drag Albright up on stage with her.

Mitchell, however, notes that Obama has skated on uplifting rhetoric without a ton of vetting. At some point, one wonders when Obama might have to give some clear insight into what the first month of his Presidency is going to look like, what his goals for his first 100 days are, etc.

Rather: "The press has gotten behind Obama because they see these rock star kind of crowds."

Did Rather see a black president as a plausibility in his lifetime? No. But he sees it as a good thing for the country. Matthews' pundit-meter unanimously predicts an Obama nomination. Rather wasn't on that panel, though! He says it's still early! And here's a good point, "It's best for journalists to tell people and report on what is happening and what has happened, and beware of talking about what's going to happen." If he were Obama, he says, he'd be concerned about a premature consensus. This is really great stuff from Rather--ultimately, Matthew's pundit-panel means diddly.

OH BOY! Another one of Matthews' cultural references--Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Blergh.

On to the GOP side. Rather: "Between McCain and Romney here, this campaign is going to be nasty enough to gag a buzzard." OH, YEAH, DANNY. Bring it! "Romney has to win here," he says.

Patrick Healy says that the Huckabee/McCain conspiracy is "really happening." Katty Kay says that she sees Rudy Giuliani at "the bottom of a greasy pole." Damn. That is good. Sorry, Dan Rather--I'm scoring the metaphor-off for the Beeb! That's probably the best capturing of the Life and Times of Rudy Giuliani that you'll ever hear.

The Clinton/Giuliani strategy of waiting until February 5 is termed by the panel, "not smart," "bad," and desperate.

Tell Chris something he didn't know: the quest that can potentially go on for centuries. Kay says it'll be hard for a Republican to attack Obama. Rather says that Bill's been too omnipresent, and that we'll see less of him. Clinton supporters in New York are getting hit up for money, says Mitchell. Healy says that there is some concern about Clinton's overall political image, and that those concerns may keep her from unleashing hell on Obama.

Third party run possibilities? Kay says an Obama-McCain tilt closes Bloomberg out. Rather and Mitchell thinks Obama alone keeps him out. If it's Hillary-Romney, though, different story.

Meet The Press

Why is this a "special edition" of Meet The Press? Same time, same channel. Don't get it.

John McCain joins Russert to talk about how many centuries of super-war we're going to have against Eurasia. McCain says been "tellin' people the truth," which just isn't accurate when the truth-tellin' has been bankrolled by the Swift Boat Veterans For Dung-Flecked Lips and Scumbaggery. Whatever, John. You done laid down with dogs, son.

McCain loves running against Donald Rumsfeld, but he is learning to run against Romney more. McCain will win his hundred-years war against empty shirts or die in the attempt! Unless that suit is wrapped around molly-headed tax cuts. He wants spending cuts, too, "The way did in the Reagan years!" Yeah! With huge deficits! Whoo! What great economic times those were!

"I can't account for Bob Novak's comments." Uhm, obvs!

McCain wants to round up and deport two million people. With a heroic spending cut, no doubt! Maybe we'll find someone willing to do that work for free! John McCain will not deport the grandmothers of our troops, though. Illegal immigrants will be sorted into categories...you know: Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, and Slytherins. The Slytherins will be sent home to ply their evil wizarding skills in Mexico. The rest will fight in Iraq and rebuild New Orleans.

McCain totally agrees with Mike Huckabee on the economic effects of getting rid of immigrants. So complimentary! It's almost like the two of them are in some sort of conspiracy or something!

Why were people pouncing on Mitt Romney? "You don't like him much," Russert says. McCain denies it. "He's a good familty man!" Damning with the faintest of praise.

McCain on Osama bin Laden: "I will get him! I will follow him to the gates of Hell!" This is much nicer than anything he's said about Romney. What will he do differently than Bush to get him? He will improve our human intelligence! He will find the Muslim Jason Bourne or something.

Russert asks McCain if he had to choose between getting bin Laden or not risk destabilizing Musharraf, what would he choose. McCain says this problem would never arise because he has a good relationship with Musharraf and would be in "constant contact" with Musharraf. So, in other words, McCain would tell Musharraf about bin Laden's whereabouts, Musharraf would warn bin Laden, and the hits would keep on coming!

McCain talks about the century of war he wants to wage against Iraq. It's pretty sad. "When are we going to succeed?" McCain wonders. Uhm...maybe at some point in the future, after we're willing to admit that success cannot be wrung from a void.

"Saddam Hussein was still a threat!" McCain says. Yes! Who knows what damage Saddam could have done to our American Idol voting!

McCain is meeting with "high-ranking al Qaeda operatives?" McCain doesn't want to talk about hypotheticals. Just a hundred-years of war. Here's hoping that turns out to be a hypothetical.

McCain's anti-Romney ad should have been called "Cloverfield." Mitt Romney is a monster that will tear the head off the Statue of Liberty and throw it down Fifth Avenue!

McCain on foreign policy experience: When I ran in 2000, we were not at war. Now that are, we need my foreign policy experience. I am a man for all seasons!

"We will have conducted an honorable campaign." Uhm...apparently not!

Mike Murphy fairly confidently predicts an Obama victory. The trends in New Hampshire are flowing for Obama. "They will need kryptonite to stop him" in South Carolina. Steve McMahon isn't ready to call it for him, but notes that Clinton's "firewall is on fire."

"Clinton was banking on an electability argument." That's a nutshell right there. Democratic voters got burned taking up the cause of electability with John Kerry. Doing the same thing again and expecting different results? That's madness, right?

Russert thinks that Edwards' decision to go after Clinton means he was opting for second place. At least McMahon recognizes Edwards as something other than "angry." Edwards' fight is an optimistic one, and his backers see it exactly that way. He just doesn't have sufficient backing.

Murphy "beats up on Mark Penn" for his "pollspeak" and the Clinton campaign for their "phony" post-Iowa speech. Boy, Mark Penn seems to be the real loser of the Iowa Caucus.

Bill Clinton's blaming the press, but McMahon points out that the campaign turned out a lot of people to vote for her in Iowa. They just didn't turn out enough.

Can Clinton wait until Super Tuesday? Murphy says no, and that goes for Giuliani as well. She needs to win in New Hampshire. McMahon says Obama's ability to turn out Iowans is going to help in South Carolina. Also: Bill Clinton may get his "First Black President" medal taken away.

And then, horse race, rolls, blah dee blah. Chaos favors Rudy Giuliani, McMahon says! Yeah. He's probably hoping for some more political assassinations to fill out his terrorporn B-roll.

And the "Irish Mafia" has spoken: Obama and McCain will be the nominees.

More premature consensus? In two days, that's all going to get reinforced or blown apart. Have a good Sunday, everyone!