TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

03/28/2008 02:46 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Good morning and welcome to another edition of your HuffPo liveblog of the Sunday morning political gum-flapping shows. There were a few of you who sent emails wishing for the liveblog treatment to be given to that shouty mastodon of Sunday punditry, The McLaughlin Group. Well, why not? Done! See? You ask, you get results. So I hope that this morning, you'll continue to send emails, and, additionally, make use of our revamped comments feature.

This Week With George Stephanopoulos

Great. Howard Wolfson and David Axelrod will yell at each other on teevee for the 993,129th time. GS wants them to talk about that phone ringing at 3am in the White House that the Bush administration has tapped anyway. Obviously, that phone rang when Clinton cast her vote to authorize the Iraq War - though she says that phone call specifically requested that the charges be reversed or something. Axelrod says Obama's shown good judgement. Wolfson says that "thirty generals and admirals" have endorsed Clinton, because each of them has drunk-dialed her at 3am and found that her judgement has been sound.

Obama has been endorsed by Danzig - the secretary of the Navy, NOT the muscled former singer of Samhain. Though I am interested in how that Danzig plans to vote. Speaking of: rest in peace, Michael Conley.

Agh. Tony Rezko. What are the questions that need to be answered? How many fundraisers did Rezko throw? What has Obama promised Rezko? What's the deal with this mysterious real estate transaction? Axelrod basically ducks the question, suggesting that this is just a resuscitation of an old issue. Wolfson basically notes that he won on that point. Axelrod hammers him on the issue of tax returns. Wolfson says he'll release them on April 15th. Oh boy. I can't wait. It's like when the Phantom Menace was released, and it was both totally, totally boring, AND made you feel like your childhood was a lie.

Axelrod is bascially left to make a weak-willed reference to Whitewater, which goes over about as well as "change you can Xerox." No wrongdoing, Axelrod says. It's been written about! It's been talked about! Axelrod basically got skunked in that exchange.

Meanwhile, GS asks about Mark Penn and his genius predictions. Wolfson says they will win on Tuesday even though she can't raise as much money as Obama. Clinton will go on to the nomination. Wolfson notes that after all is said and done Tuesday, the races will be close enough to not matter, and the lead will not shift that much.

GS is all: "What about these big states?" Axelrod correctly notes that it's not too much of a stretch to say that Democrats will win the big blue states. Wolfson and Axelrod then fight over the size of their coalitions. Women and Latinos! Broad! Diverse! The motion of their ocean. The angle of their dangle.

Anyway, the mean bad boring men are gone, now. More mean bad boring people to come after commercial!

Panel time, with David Brooks, George Will, Donna Brazile and Matthew Dowd. Expect an emboldened Will to stand up for erudite conservatives everywhere after the death of the sesquicentennialist biped sasquatch (or whatever it was the Times headline called him) William Buckley, and expect Brooks to demonstrate why we need more people like Buckley in the pundit class.

Will, discussing experience, mentions that if experience counts, consider James Buchanan. He was bad! Brooks says that Hillary has the experience of watching her husband fail back when he was the first Obama. But do people want experience? At first, yes. Later, no. Now, maybe? Anyway, doesn't John McCain beat everyone on experience? And being tortured? And what does "being vetted" really mean. Would you want to be vetted? Would you run as the most IRS-audited candidate?

"The question is: What is going to happen Wednesday?" Will Democratic "heavy-hitters" bring a halt to this? Brooks notes that Obama's camp has better morale. Dowd says that Clinton needs to go through the "stages of grief."

GS says that for Hillary Clinton to win, she will have to "blow the field." I think I can join most of America in the hopes that it doesn't come down to that.

Meanwhile, the panel takes up the issue of John McCain's many bigoted friends, like Bill Cunningham. Brooks says that McCain got to distance himself from Cunningham and his remarks. He had a "good week." Except that by the time McCain finished running away from one buddy of his, he ended up in the arms of a preacher who hates Catholics. Better keep those running shoes handy, old man!

Can John McCain become the candidate of change? Hell no, says Will. Brooks says that he'll make the "change" case on things like campaign finance and the "Gang of 14." Of course, those things don't sit well with conservatives. GS points this out, but Brooks thinks this will be a "center-left"/"center-right" election, in which Karl Rove's faulty math on which candidate takes what from whom helps McCain.

The Chris Matthews Show

Okay. After a two-week respite, it's a headlong plunge into the nonsensical territory of the Chris Matthews Show. Sounds like Chris is going to really hammer away at Bill Clinton this morning. Eegh.

Katty Kay and Cynthia Tucker are joined by somebody from Texas names Kevin Cokely and sombody from Ohio named Patrick Preston.

Cokely says that Obama is going to go Texas because he's better organized and more sympathetic to Obama's appeal. He actually notes that Clinton worked for the McGovern campaign in South Texas. Clinton, who seems to be ashamed now of having worked for McGovern, never ever mentions this.

Katty Kay says she's been hearing from young Latinos in Austin (probably because they assume she can get them Morrissey tickets), and they don't seem to have any sort of debt or connection to the Clinton campaign. She basically says that Austin and the University of Texas is Obama country.

Cynthia Tucker talks about John Lewis switching votes. Older black voters are getting excited to see white voters joining up with Obama, which is, I gather, an unexpected development.

In Ohio, Clinton has built and maintained her labor inroads, says the guy from Ohio whose name i hope is Patrick Preston. Matthews is blown away by Ohio and can name several cities. Obama, says Preston, will play well in the cities. "Is there a latte crowd in Ohio?" Matthews asks. A part of everyone's soul dies.

The guy from Texas also worked in Cleveland and patronizingly says the guy from Ohio is right. Way to horn in, guy from Texas.

Who will win on Tuesday? The entire panel thinks Obama will win Texas and Clinton will win Ohio, except the guy from Ohio, who doesn't realize that the Chris Matthews show is no place for nuance. What about Clinton dropping out of the race? Everyone agrees that small wins just won't cut it. Guy from Texas says that if Obama does really well in San Antonio, it could be a knockout punch. Guy from Ohio says that Ohio Democratic leaders have made it clear that Clinton needs to win by double digitis for it to mean anything. Still, the whole thing could easily go on until the end of April. Which means more debates.

What about Bill Clinton? Man has he done a lot to screw up his wife's chances, hasn't he? Most of Matthews pundit buddies believe that HRC would be better off if Bill had shut his mouth and stayed out of sight. Cynthia Tucker says that Bill was playing the VP's role - take the low road. But there was a backlash.

Guy from Ohion says that Bill's been very good for her in Ohio, though, and that a lot of folks in state believe that he could have made a difference for Gore in Ohio.

Tell Chris something he doesn't know. Kay says the Obama campaign will have more, smaller meetings to fight back against the "cult of personality" meme. It's the Wolfson argument! The fact that Obama is succeeding on so many levels only proves what a failure he is. Guy from Texas thinks that Texas will be close enough this fall that McCain will have to spend money to hold it. Tucker says that John Lewis will be face a primary challenge in the form of an opponent that will allege that he is "out of touch," and that this generational battle will be found all over the electoral map. Guy from Ohio says Clinton will win Ohio by a small margin and the delegate gains will be tiny.

Will the Clintons pull for Obama if he gets the nomination? Everyone says yes.

Do you want to catch a webcast of this show? No. Of course you don't.

Meet The Press

Great. Tim Russert is joined by James Carville, Mary Matalin, Bob Shrum and Mike Murphy. Why should you watch this stuff? Well, the way I see it, watching Meet The Press is a good move if you believe in atonement. Really - this is what hell is like. This show, stomping on your face, forever and ever. So it's good to watch it, just to prove you are serious about penitence. By the time this show is over, I'll have rebuilt my karmic reserves to such a high degree that I can go out and punch the very next baby I encounter in the face, and still make it to heaven. So, that's my case for watching Meet The Press. Countering that, of course, is that you could be watching The Wire with HBO on demand.

Anyway, let's see what tiresome crap this gaggle of conventional wisdom pimps has for us today.

Okay. We're not really going to call this "Junior Super Tuesday" are we? Because I will punch somebody in the throat.

Carville says that nobody can predict the outcome of these races! So cut to forty minutes of commercials? Sadly, no.

Anyone out there know Mike Murphy? Anybody? if you do, could you get a message to him? Here it is: NEW HAIRCUT. Gads, man: you look like you are patterning a combover after Darth Vader's helmet? I can't take a word you say seriously.

Bob Shrum says, "what we're really seeing is a generational struggle in the Democratic party." Wellllllllll, DUUUUHHHHH. Congrats for being the 4,000th person to say that today. He compares it to the Beach Boys and the Beatles - which, yeah...is just the way the young people are describing it! Way to go, Shrummy! He goes on to say that the Clinton supporters he's talked to hope that she either wins both Texas and Ohio or loses them both so that she'll put an end to her campaign.

Matalin though, reminds that Obama is having trouble "closing the deal," so why drop out now?

Murphy says that the Democrats shouldn't have built a primary season around proportional delegate distributions, because it's hard now to mount the kind of blowout wins you need to put the nomination away. Then everyone says they are going to "get" Harold Ickes.

Bill Clinton says that Texas has to deliver to HRC or it's over. Russert also has a good laugh at Mark Penn's prediction that the two candidates would be tied after Tuesday, and Wolfson's prediction that HRC would be ahead. Russert then reads that Clinton campaign memo that lists every one of Obama's successes - he's won eleven races in a row, has a surge of momentum, is raisiing "unprecedented" sums of money, is courting all the right people, holding big rallies, is campaigning "hard" - all of which says one indelible truth about the race: Obama is headed for an epic failure.

Carville says, "you gotta win something," and that wins in Texas and Ohio will give HRC "a compelling narrative." I guess the title of that narrative will be "NOW PENNSYLVANIA IS IMPORTANT I'VE DECIDED."

Shrum says, that's a narrative, but not a compelling one. What if Pennsylvania is close and Obama wins North Carolina and Mississippi? Shrum hasn't factored in the fact that Howard Wolfson hasn't even begun to insult the voters of North Carolina and Mississippi yet! Believe me, we'll soon be hearing about now unimportant those states are.

By the way, congratulations to Rhode Island! You all are very much on the brink of being called "the most major and important state in the union."

Carville insists that wins in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania will send the message that "something is switching out there." Except that the campaign has ALWAYS insisted that they'd win those states, so where's the "switch?" Anyway, it's a nice thought, but you can tell by watching him that Carville doesn't even really believe what he's saying.

Matalin offers her husband some half-hearted support. "He's not going to win Kansas in the general election," she says. Yeah, but he's not going to lose in New York either! I don't understand the constant referencing (and both sides do it to some extent) of primary season results as harbingers for the general election. No one really thinks that a Democrat is going to carry Utah. But someone had to carry it in the primary contest, and someone did, and right now, that someone is making the whole "we'll take California and New York and Pennsylvania and Ohio and coast" strategy look myopic.

Russert characterizes Carville's position as "whoever finishes the strongest should get the nomination," regardless of how people actually voted. Carville agrees. It's like he favors the Bowl Championship Series model for politics. But then he brings up Florida and Michigan - is adding them back "finishing strong?" Is it "finishing" at all?

Russert says, what happens at the convention if she doesn't have the delegates, the popular vote or the number of states on her side and insists she should be made the nominee? Carville's response? "How many Idahos does it take to counter California?" FOR PETE'S SAKE! How many people does he want to flat out INSULT? How many times can a person be told that he is not as important as a Californian?

Mike Murphy says that the GOP is going to be "drunk and high-fiving" each other if Carville gets his wish and the "Obama phenommenon" is stuffed "back in the box" at the convention.

The panel moves on to the feud between Harold Ickes and Mark Penn. Woooo! Brave old Harold Ickes trains his rifle on the barrel of fish! No one has much to say about this nonsense, nor should they.

We get to see all the versions of this stupid "3AM Phone Call" commercial. Good strategy, bad execution, says Murphy. Carville thought that the ad should have had an economic tinge to it. Something like this:

"It's 3AM and your children are sleeping. But the phone is ringing. It's your mortgage lender, calling to let you know that you are 180 days late on your payment for that crazy mortgage you agreed to. It doesn't matter, because your phone was disconnected a long time ago. But no worries, Hillary Clinton is working late, at some desk somewhere, doing a Sudoku puzzle maybe. And she supports a 90 day moratorium on foreclosures. What is it that's going to happen in those ninety days to solve your problem? Hell, she doesn't even have the slighest clue and she really doesn't care. But words like "90-day" and "moratorium" sure test well. 'I am Hillary Clinton and I approve this message. You have 90 days to pack up your crap and get out of that house.'"

Shrum points out that the big downside is that it brought the Iraq war vote back to the fore. Matalin feels that's good for McCain because he has experience, judgement (a lot of bad judgement, anyway), and he's stayed up late at night, being tortured and stuff.

Russert then offers a montage of White House phone-ringing moments. Matalin says "Ohhh, I still love Poppy Bush," and I imagine many of you regurgitated your breakfast.

Russert wants to relive his genius work at the debate and how his Iraq question resonated throughout the world. Obama said that the president must act in the interest of national security. McCain said, "I have some news! Al Qaeda is in Iraq." (Yes. There is a puny, insignificant group in Iraq that is referred to as "al Qaeda in Iraq.") Bush said some even dumber stuff. And Obama finally countered by mentioning that no one in Iraq aligned themselves with al Qaeda until we invaded.

What did all that prove? I don't know. It gave Russert a hard on, I suppose.

Murphy, offers some decent insight, though, suggesting that McCain's better positioned to "co-opt" the reform message and then score some soft "liberal vs. conservative" wins. The GOP "reflex" of constantly attempting to paint Obama as a liberal, however, will "turn McCain into Bob Dole."

Murphy insists, by the way, the despite who he has embraced lately, McCain does not hate Catholics. Tim Russert - you know...that BRAVE CATHOLIC LION who TELLS TRUTHS and STANDS UP TO PEOPLE, has, thus far, made no mention of it. Instead, we get more of the "Greatest Hits Of Tim Russert's Debate Moderation."

Mary Matalin's economic insights haven't grown beyond the tenth grade, except that she now feels that Canada, of all places, is a nation who's oil reserves are sufficient to hold us captive to trade agreements that may need adjusting. Of course, if you are in favor of weaning yourself from foreign oil, Canada is in that boat as well.

Shrum mentions that McCain's economic team is a "circular firing squad." For more on that, see here.

Mary Matalin says that "John's old face is the best of what this country is." Great.

Really, this conversation...I think we've almost reached to point where there's nothing much new to say. Carville says it "breaks his heart" that people don't find Hillary effervescent and warm. Carville says that the Democratic nominee should suggest that the McCain administration will be a lot like the Bush administration.

Shrum suggests that McCain's primary driver, if he gets elected, will be fear of his own impending death. Now they are talking about vice-presidents, I think? Matalin is literally muttering. You cannot even hear what she is saying. There's a lot of half-hearted crosstalk, and then it's over.

So, Russert ends the show without showing any real principles where his fellow Catholics are concerned, unless his hope is that his fellows can draw strength from his fearsome debate moderation performances. Jon Stewart recently asked Brian Williams if Russert's head was a container for a head. It's a container for something, anyway, as yet unfilled.

The McLaughling Group

Okay, after all of that, this is going to feel like porn.

And by the by, I am hearing from folks who want a little love shown to FACE THE NATION. I promise to get you guys next week. (Fact is, THIS WEEK has really had trouble lately proving its necessity, and I like Mr. Schieffer a lot.)

But, anyway, from the television set that time forgot, comes the McLaughlin Group. I do sort of want that coffee table, though.

Okay. So, the first issue they are talking about is Canada! We will lose Canadian oil if the Dems backtrack on NAFTA. Or, so says the current government of Canada, anyway, who'd rather make it sound like the situation was exactly that dire. So why did Obama and Clinton turn on NAFTA?

Pat Buchanan says, DUH, they are running in Ohio. Then he rips Bush and his trade policies a new one, saying that McCain won't be able to run on NAFTA either. Eleanor Clift says that the Democrats are responding to American's economic anxieties, and McLaughlin isn't seemingly able to accept that turn of phrase, so he bickers with her on the semantic difference of "responding to" and "trading on," and these sorts of intellectual ditherings probably fuel his superhuman immune system, which is why I won't outlive John McLaughlin and by descendants will still thrill to his floating, bellowing head six million years into the future ("ISSUE ONE! Should we follow the Jenna Bush clonebots' advice and colonize the parallel universe X-Alpha-One?")

It's okay, though: Obama and Clinton are just pandering to Ohio. Monica Crowley says that spigots are turned on and horses have left barns and GOOD SWEET JEHOVAH IS SHE WEARING A FUSCHIA TOWEL AROUND HER NECK?

Clarence Page says he's from Ohio and he's happy with Obama, even though "NAFTA is an easy issue to demagogue." He believes that Obama and Clinton both adequately appreciate the nuances of NAFTA, but that you have to use blunt instruments during a campaign. Clift goes on to shout that neither one says that they'll pull out of the treaty, just use the threat as leverage. Besides, Bush pulled out of a whole lot of treaties.

Then a lot of loud noises emanate from Pat Buchanan's throat. WE ARE DE-INDUSTRIALIZING! WE WILL BE DRIVING MEXICAN CARS MADE OF ADOBE AND PINTO BEANS! RED MEAT PROTECTIONISM! And apparently Hillary Clinton will soon be working at a Bob Evans or something.

McLaughlin apparently LOVES HIM some offshoring, and believes that Obama has fallen from "demigod status" based upon his handling of this issue. Because that's how you win elections! BE PRO-OFFSHORING. Buchanan defends him, because he's paranoid about "transnationals." McLaughlin yells, "JUST LIKE A TYPICAL POL!" Everyone laughs at the old, immortal, yelling man.


Don't get me wrong. I can see why you people LOVE this show so much. Coming at the end of the Sunday morning, it's like the entire discussion of the week, hopped up on peyote and dressed up in fright-wigs.

A QUICK NOTE ABOUT COMMENTS: As some of you have noticed, the comment interface has changed this week, dropping your typical Sunday discussion into unfamiliar territory. The change to the comments is apparently one of many significant changes coming to the site. I recommend you check out the blog post posted by Chrissie Brodigan, which details the change affecting the comments and solicits your feedback. I know that many of you look forward to having a freewheeling discussion in the comment streams. I really recommend you keep up with Chrissie's dispatches to the HuffPost community - I think that over time, you are going to find yourselves with a lot more freedom to set and pace discussions with one another, not less.

Back to the insanity. Issue two! FAUXBAMA! McLaughlin struggles with the letters S, N, and L. Why is the press against Clinton? And why is NSL...uhhh...SNA...uhmmm...the "lampoon show" noticing? Clift says something to the effect that believing that requires you to have swallowed Clinton talking points, then goes on the say that HRC is running the testosterone campaign while Obama is the estrogen candidate.

What Shakespeare character is Hillary? Is she Ophelia? Is she Lady Macbeth? Is she King Lear? Maybe she's Beatrice or Hero or Gertrude or one of three witches or one of the ninety characters Shakespeare named Helena or the frozen statue in The Winter's Tale or the bear that chases everyone offstage in the same play. Maybe she's the "dark lady" of Shakespeare's sonnets who emasculated him and caused him to say:

The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;
Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight;
Past reason hunted; and no sooner had,
Past reason hated, as a swallowed bait,
On purpose laid to make the taker mad:
Mad in pursuit, and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

Who knows? Who cares? Oh. Right. John McLaughlin.

McLaughlin seems to think that Clinton's been judged harshly for her deranged shifts in tone on the stump. "Can't a candidate say something good and something bad?" Monica Crowley suggests that one can, but that it's not good to act quite so insane. Pat Buchanan says that Peter Sellers can play different characters, but that Hillary cannot fight in the war room.

John says that the press is a wolfpack and that they've decided to offer some "affirmative action" coverage. Page says, no: the Clintons just want to have it both ways. When they're up, treat them with respect, and when he's up, subject him to scrutiny. And then Pat Buchanan says, "LIBERAL GUILT." And Clift says, "Uhm...we haven't had a woman president either!" Then there is yelling. And then John McLaughlin re-appoints himself the King Of NAFTA.

Then we get back to the whole al Qaeda in Iraq situation. Is Obama's position indistinguishable from Bush's? Everyone says, "Duh, yes." Monica Crowley includes the delusion that the surge is working. McLaughlin summons up the strength for one of his trademarked stentorian expletives: "Their positions are REL-LA-TIVE-LY INDISTINGUISHABLE!"

Predictions: Who will win Texas and Ohio? Buchanan: Obama, Hillary. Clift: Same. Crowley: Same. Clarence Page: Clinton will get both. John agrees. "Bye-bye!"

Well, I hope that was fun for everyone. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, and get ready for ANOTHER SUPER TUESDAY THAT PROBABLY WON'T END THIS RACE FOR THE NOMINATION!


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