TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

03/31/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Well, good morning and happy Easter to everyone out there in HuffPoLand. Nothing says mercy, redemption and grace quite like four more hours of chat about Reverend Wright and superdelegates, does it? There are still five weeks until the Pennsylvania primary, and every Sunday is goin to feel like the Stations of the Cross up until then. As always, we hope that you can help break through the ruthlessly banal by dropping an email here and there or leaving a comment - Bill O'Reilly tells me y'all are planning the burning of the Reichstag or something! I don't believe him, of course - he's the same cowardly git that won't meet with our homeless veterans!

Fox News Sunday

Really. Why do I even get up for this show? Would any of you blame me if I slept in an extra hour on Sunday? Probably not. But this morning's FNS might be mildly interesting, if only because last week, Chris Wallace started his "Obama Watch" clock, tracking the time it takes for Senator Obama to appear on his show. Since then, Wallace has criticized his own network - and the daily moron-fest known as Fox and Friends for "Obama bashing." Brian Kilmeade got upset at his other "friends," too, and walked off the set. Chances are, Kilmeade and Wallace will "repudiate the words but not the man" - just like someone else we know - and return to the Fox congregation.

But first, battle of the surrogates, with Governor Ed "Dope" Rendell and Governor BIll Richardson. Wallace asks Richardson if Clinton is really a "McCarthy figure." Richardson says no, thankfully - it's defining McCarthyism down to suggest that behaving like a jerk is "McCarthyism." Dope agrees, obviously, and further offers that Clinton's remarks were wholly innocent. Richardson says there's "been negativity on both sides." Richardson's brand of surrogacy has a little "January 2008" to it. The faces of supporters! The hope! I know you just jumped on the train, Bill, but join the campaign in the locomotive!

Wallace asks Dope if Reverend Wright's comments have hurt Obama's chances? Rendell says "maybe at the margins," but that Pennsylvania's just leaning Clinton, and they've been doing so for a long time.

Wallace brings up Carville likening Richardson to Judas. "I'm not going to get into the gutter like that," he says. And he mentions that many of Clinton's supporters are basically jag-offs, and he couldn't be more right. She'd have probably won the nomination outright if he had replaced her current staff, with, say, the average counter staff of a Dairy Queen. He then mentions that Obama is "bringing races together," but it sounds like "bringing racists together."

Dope predicts that Clinton will not win by seventeen points. Which is weird! Doesn't she have to win by that much to take a large chunk of pledged delegates?

Wallace asks, doesn't no revote Florida and Michigan mean it's going to be impossible for Clinton to win? Dope launches into a well-practcied speech about superdelegates and how they should vote and how Obama has prevented the two states from entering the popular vote count. I personally think that Obama would have been well served to include the state and prove he could hold the lead - but let's face it, it's not Clinton or Obama's fault that these states aren't being counted - it's the state party officials who defied the will of the DNC who are to blame. The candidates' responses have always been precisely calibrated to how each is advantaged - if the roles were reversed, and Obama had won the two discounted primaries, you can bet your first-born that Clinton wouldn't be calling for revotes. And you really couldn't blame her for doing so.

Dope and Richardson then fall out into some argument about polls that is of no interest to anyone.

Wallace mentions the Obama-watch. It's too bad that he doesn't bring up the incident of last week, though! He could have put the matter in context, and demonstrated that his rebuke of Fox and Friends is evidence that he'd be fair. Right now, the Obama camp thinks of Fox as the network that has allowed two hours of shallow bashing.

Lawrence Summers and Glenn Hubbard will now speak on the economy. Hubbard says everything is down, but that we're on the rebound because of the administrations monetary policy. Summers says we're in a recession, and that policy has been "behind the curve."

What about the Bear Stearns fiasco? Did we pass a threshold in government intervention? Hubbard says yes, and it's awesome! Let's do it again! Summers is all, "What about regular people, blah blah...losing their homes and their money." Wallace wants to talk Wall Street versus Main Street - shouldn't the government work for the little guy? Summers finds a verbose and dull way of saying, "Yes, maybe, we should study it." Hubbard responds by saying, "SNORE. Bring liquidity back, recapitalize banks, do something about housing, be cautious." This is why people watch Jim Cramer!

Wallace brings up the fact that the Fed keeps whittling the interest rate down to nothing. Wallace doesn't seem to understand that no one wants to make a loan right now, and they can't be rate-cut into being foolhardy again. Anyway, Summers thinks it's all fine and dandy - like most political-minded economists, it all more or less starts and stops with preventing inflation.

Anyway, panel time with Brit Hume, Bill Kristol, Juan Williams, and Jill Zuckman. No Mara Liasson? Oh well. Can Clinton still win the nomination? Hume says no - not many superdelegates are going to swing the vote away from the popular vote/pledged delegates. Jill Zuckman's all, remember all the surprises though? Who thought Clinton could have won Ohio and Texas? Uhm - everybody? Kristol says that she has to "run the table" and "thread the needle" to win.

Williams is asked about the whole "big state" theory - Williams says that the superdels wouldn't be out-of-bounds making such considerations, but that they probably won't risk alienating the base. He joins Zuckman in the whole "don't count her out" crowd. Hume finally makes some sense: "Does anyone think these states are going to vote for McCain" just because it's "Obama, not Hillary?"

Wallace asks, "Is the fact that Clinton has $3 million to Obama's $30 million a factor?" Uhm, duh. Yeah. Probably. Kristol says: "That will make it hard for her to run the table."

Should we expect "bloody, hand-to-hand combat" up to the nomination? WIlliams says yes. He then says Clinton has had a "Surge." Could we find another word - a synonym, maybe - other than "Surge?" The overuse of the word "Surge" is probably the Bush administrations ONLY accomplishment in eight years.

Meanwhile, John McCain's been traveling the globe, making senile statements about foreign policy. Big deal or blip? Hume says blip, but a bigger one than he'd prefer, and one that could bring age into the race as a factor. Zuckman thinks it's crazy that the Democrats made a big deal out of it. Oh yeah! That was crazy! Suggest that a guy who makes the same basic mistake five times in one week and who's founded his whole presidency on being right on foreign policy and the Iraq War might be OVERSTATING his experience and knowledge? Sure...THAT'S what's crazy.

Apparently, welcoming a religious bigot into your Presidential campaign is not as bad as knowing a kooky preacher and repudiating their views as a part of the campaign. McCain's just never going to ever lose in the media's eyes no matter what idiots he clings to. Hume says that the Wright stuff will linger because it will prompt "scrutiny of Obama's record." Jeez, IF ONLY we could spend time scrutinizing his record! Anyone's record! Policy history! Legislative leadership! That would be wonderful!

Oh, and Eli Manning won the Superbowl and thinks people should get more exercise, the end.

Face The Nation

Sunday LiveBlog veteran Chris Blakely says:

You have got to love James Carville!

"Mr. Richardson's endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic," Mr. Carville said, referring to Holy Week. (from the NYT)

I'm not a big fan of Easter, but the above quip sure made my holiday!

Me too! And these "Body of Clinton" wafers are DELICIOUS! Packed with experience, this is transubstantiation that's YUMMY ON DAY ONE!

Is this guy named Chip Reed? Where's the Scheef? We're talking Iraq and the second string is in?

Lindsey Graham is excited and happy. So glad that De-Baathification is getting reversed. "That means that some of the people who worked under Saddam Hussein can have their jobs back." Uhm...awesome? Oil production has doubled! Why notg say it's quintupled? Zero times five is zero, after all!

At least I've heard of Lindsay Graham. Don't know who the Democrat is. Also named "Reed" I think. My TiVo is off right now, so, nothing I can do. Anyway: Iraq War, he's agin' it.

Lindsay Graham says that an Obama or Clinton presidency is a complete disaster. "Right now, the biggest loser of the surge is al Qaeda." If you say so, Lindsay! I say that al Qaeda's got us in one of those situations like, say, if Clinton or Obama could keep it close in Texas. McCain would have to spend money to keep the state. Only in al Qaeda's case, they force us to spend kabillions, AND they get to occasionally kill us, AND they get to add recruits AND they don't get harmed because they're all kicking back and cooling out in Pakistan.

Dave Foley would make a good, sketch comedy version of Lindsay Graham, by the way. If only Graham were important enough to be imitated.

Senator Reed notes that the Iraqis are getting a better stimulus package than we are. Man, he makes a good point. Remember way back before the Iraq War started, and we were trying to get the UN Security Council behind us? At the time, we needed the vote of, I believe, Papua New Guinea (I may have the country wrong, sorry) - anyway, the administration, trying to influence their vote, dropped a BOATLOAD of money on them. A massive amount of taxpayer dollars. I took that money, and divided it by the adult population and found that they were getting about a hundred dollars more per person than we were in our first, $300/head stimulus package.

What can I say? Bush doesn't really like America that much.

Panel time! Roger Simon says Clinton will go into Denver as a survivable train wreck and will club the superdelegates like baby seals. Ana Marie Cox (full disclosure: we often drink wine and watch debates together) agrees, and Ana, your glasses are awesome. Awesome.

Bill Clinton and Tony McPeak got into their tiff over patriotism. Was Clinton trying to dig at them? Doyle McManus says yes, but he was trying to do it as subtle as possible. He says that the Clintons have run out of Jeremiah Wright clips and they have to move on to some new dirt and damage. Roger Simon thinks that the Wright matter won't go away, but that Obama's speech will rise in importance toward the fall.

Can the GOP Swift Boat Obama? AMC mentions that if they do it, they are going to keep "McCain's fingerprints" off of it, and notes that just this week, McCain shed a staffer who pimped some dirt into the marketplace. She says that McCain is very serious about running a civilized campaign, but that the "RNC doesn't see it it that way."

Next, they get into the McCain Iraq-Iran gaffe. McManus says McCain is lucky that the public was paying attention to other matters. Uhm...or that the media was giving other matters greater play. This week, sadly, might be known next year as the Second Anniversary of Reverend Wright YouTube clips instead of the Sixth Anniversary of the Iraq War.

I would have liked to get AMC's take on McCain's week, but instead, she gets a question on Bill Richardson's endorsement (and Carville's Judas comment). "Not as big a news story as the Obama camp wants it to be," she says. And based upon his attempts at Obama-support from this morning - maybe not as big a deal as a surrogate, either: Richardson was obviously sincere, but he didn't add anything energetic and new to the body of Obama Support. He's nice, he's hopeful, he's a new brand of politics, and he brings people together - all well and good - but the Obama camp could really use an interesting NEW take on his candidacy. Richardson's a Hispanic, he's got some foreign policy expertise, and is a former Clinton insider. He brought more to the table as a disser of other Clinton-insiders than as a supporter of Obama.

From an emailer, Bruce Lindner:

But even though many of my liberal brethren disagree with me, I think Tim Russert is an exception. While it's certainly not out of line to say that he's occasionally lopsided in his zeal, and he is CLEARLY not very good at follow-up questioning, I truly believe that he's the closest thing to a "fair and balanced" (can I say that?) interviewer. He's as tough on the conservatives as he is on the liberals, and that's what I want to see. I am so thoroughly convinced that my side, the progressive side, comes from a more righteous position, that I welcome a tough inquisitor. And I am so equally certain that the neocon nut cases that often get booked are so incapable of fielding an aggressive question, that they usually crash and burn right before our eyes. One need look no further than Russert's interview with Cheney a year or so ago for proof. That has in fact been Russert's record, though admittedly, he's far from perfect. And on that topic, the same can be said for Bob Schieffer at CBS -- not perfect, but an honest arbiter of the facts. But compared to Faux News, both of the above mentioned programs are outstanding.

Well, we'll see what other commenters have to say about that, but that's a fair defense of Russert on the matter of even-handedness. I think though, that my problem with Russert is that he'd much rather make a politician squirm over some small point (a misstatement, an inconsistency) and blow it into a dramatic "Gotcha" moment, than build a long, prosecutorial case against somebody. Russert's the kind of guy who's likely to, say, try to give Cheney crap over his "ast throes" statement. But is he the guy to turn to when the case needs to be made that the Iraq War was an unprincipled use of power and a decision detrimental to the national interest in the first place? No. He's just not capable of that sort of journalism. You can't attack the foundational flaws of the Iraq War with a "Gotcha" piece of video, and, as such, Meet The Press has a lousy record of attacking the foundational flaws of the Iraq War.

I do like Bob Schieffer, though. Lots of HuffPo commenters think I'm wrong, there, too.

Anyway, this is as good a segue as any to:

Meet The Press

Erin Burnett and Maria Bartiromo will sex up the unsexy economy, plus Panel pushing.

Bartiromo says the "tight credit environment" is our biggest challenge. Businesses and consumers have over-extended themselves. How'd that happen? Burnett adds that the credit problem should be thought of as a tumor. We are attempting to cure it with economic chemotherapy. I say, yes, let's think about it as a tumor, only reflect on the sorts of behaviors that lead to tumors in the first place!

"This too will pass," says Bartiromo, who thinks the passing will be within "months." I think that home prices will continue a precipitous drop through the end of 2009. We'll see whose right!

Erin Burnett says that Bernanke is "throwing the kitchen sink" at the economy. I had no idea that the economy had that close a relationship with Reverend Wright! "As far as I know," Burnett says, "The economy is not a Muslim. As far as I know, anyway."

By the way, does anyone doubt that Chris Matthews is somewhere off stage, engaged in a vigorous session of self-pleasure right now?

"I'm a lot more positive then most people," Bartiromo says. But it's tough out there, especially for the CEOs she's had on her show. That reminds me! I haven't said a prayer for the preservation of CEO's today, yet. The same will be true a month from now, by the way.

Is calamity on the way? Burnett says yes, but that the Fed saved everybody. "They can print money! And that creates problems down the road, but it will avoid Armageddon." Err. Great?

Bartiromo says, "Hey! Maybe we should all be prudently invested! Just a crazy idea I had just now!"

"Everything is cyclical," she says. I bet she says that to all the people whose homes have been foreclosed on!

Bartiromo: "You have to believe that all of this stimulus will take effect at some point!" Oh, well! I didn't realise that I was REQUIRED to believe this! Let me pause for a half-hour to clap so that Tinkerbell can live! Come on, HuffPo readers! YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE!

Email from Don Wick, on the ground in Pennsylvania:

Philadelphia in the east, Pittsburgh in the west, and Alabama in the center. Living in central Pa., I recognze the analogy well. My brother, a prison guard, maintains Sen Obama is a Muslim. "Where did you hear that," I ask. He responds, "Hell, everybody knows that, Don." I know, he heard it from the pulpit.

The Politico had an interesting way of viewing Penna politics: "unique amber-preserved culture."

With that, it's panel discussion time for MTP. John Meacham, Peggy Noonan, Eugene Robinson, and Chuck "Delegate Whisperer" Todd join Russert today.

Senator Obama gave a speech on race, but first, let's watch some tapes of Wright yelling at America! And let's show Obama, "no more disowning" Wright...grandmother...cringe.

Okay, pause. Look. This whole speech cannot really boil down to Obama's unwillingness to burn Wright in effigy for Pat Buchanan's benefit, can it? I'd personally like these two sections of the speech to get the "Let's play a minute of the speech on my roundtable show" treatment:

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances for better health care and better schools and better jobs to the largest aspirations of all Americans, the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man who has been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means also taking full responsibility for our own lives. By demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism. They must always believe -- they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American and, yes, conservative notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright's sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help requires the belief that society can change. The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society, it's that he spoke as if our society was static, as if no progress had been made, as if this country, a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black, Latino, Asian, rich, poor, young and old, is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past.

And second:

Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

I mean, in the first matter, Obama wades into the waters with not just Wright, but the black community, and says that the time for complaining is long past, it's time to take responsibility for yourself and work to the betterment of the entire nation. This isn't as harsh as a Pat Buchanan-type wants it, but it's a significant admonishment from a black leader. And in the second passage, admitting that working-class whites are justified in their feelings that governmental concern for affirmative action have left them behind is a sea-change statement from any Democratic candidate - let alone a black candidate.

This stuff is a lot more interesting than one guy who's unwilling to set his pastor on fire for public spectacle (as if there was a rich tradition of parishoners standing up to the pastors in the first place!) I think that Obama's charted a course that could make Wright's occasional altar garbage obsolete. It would be nice if we can admit this, and move back to issues of policy and record.

In fact, going back to those Central Penna voters, I think that if you're a working-class voter in Central PA, you shouldn't be demanding an explanation from Obama on Reverend Wright. You should be demanding an explanation from Obama on JOBS. The Ohio superdelegates are withholding their endorsement until they've received a concrete plan for job retention, and Pennsylvania voters ought to add their voice to the matter. The simple fact is this: Reverend Wright has been saying what he's been saying for two decades, and the Republic has survived. These Democratic candidates need their feet held to the fire on matters that do threaten the livelihood of Americans.

I hope that they do. And I hope that history will reflect that when the press had a chance to spend seven weeks confronting the economic issues of a state whose middle class has been sliding into a ditch, that they passed. Which is why it'll be four more years before the next opportunity occurs. Unless Pennsylvania gets their own Hurricane Katrina or something.

Anyway, thus endeth my ill-informed rant-ette!

Peggy Noonan says, outside of his concerns as a candidacy, Obama's speech was a good beginning. Obama "added height and grace" to the conversation. "I don't know how it's going to work in a political way."

But why didn't he leave the church, Charles Krauthammer asks, a question he could ask about seventy percent of my Catholic friends. Eugene Robinson says that Wright has been portrayed as an "exotic fringe figure" and that those snippets have been portrayed "as his whole ministry" and that "neither is true."

And really, between Noonan, Krauthammer and Robinson, haven't we covered the entire range of opinion on this matter? 1. Speech was good, maybe won't help politically. 2. Speech was good, but it won't hurt him, and the criticism was unfair. 3. Speech sucked, and Obama should have taken a dump on Reverend Wright on stage in front of everybody. That's about it, right? Pick your side and have fun!

Meacham says the problem is that now the Republicans can attack Obama and suggest that he's liberal and "outside the mainstream." OH NOES! RILLY? I was TOTALLY CONVINCED that this time, the GOP wouldn't use the tactics that won them the presidency for the past eight years!

Hooray. Eugene Robinson got the essence of what I talked about above mentioned on the air. Noonan says that one of the strengths of Obama's speech was that it made note of how different generations have a different take on racism. Noonan also notes that Wright's speeches, on the video, doesn't seem to be a big hit with the assembled audience - they're "bored" and "passive" - and wonders if there's something there to be said for the way Wright's "throwback" ethos doesn't mesh with a congregation of a different generation.

Moving on: McPeak calls Clinton a McCarthyite. Yergh. This is also pretty damn stupid. You want to talk generations! Clinton's been, as Todd says, a "distraction" and a detriment to his wife's campaign for a long while, but there's nothing neo-McCarthy about it! McCarthy isn't imfamous because he said a bunch of inept stuff.

You know, I will say this for Bill Richardson: the facial hair is working for me. Gives him a little more ruggedness. I can see this guy in New Mexico, now.

Meacham says the endorsement is big for Obama because he represents a "Superdelegate conventional wisdom." Peggy Noonan looks like she's struggling to stay awake. She says Richardson's beard makes him look like Rod Steiger in Doctor Zhivago. Which is kind of awesome, isn't it? Otherwise, Noonan's excited by the downfall of the Clintons and that's about it.

Ah. Bosnia. Sniper fire! I'm sure Howard Wolfson will tell us in his next conference call that "sniper fire" is a Bosnian term for balloons and cake!

Chuck Todd says, "For the life of me, I don't know why they've pushed this story."

Chuck Todd says the key to winning the nomination is breaking serve. They first person to win in a state they're not expected to win will take the nomination (or at least have a really good case).

"May 6 is D-Day," Todd says, referring to Indiana and North Carolina. "If they split, Obama's probably going to be the nominee. If one of them sweeps, the race will end the next day [if Obama sweeps], and if [Clinton] sweeps, [Obama]'s got a huge problem."

Noonan says she "knows" that Clinton is "surrounded by people who would ADORE [emphasis hers, believe me] the chance to be for Obama." Uhm, really?

Wow. She goes on: "One of her top aides, who kind of privately makes it clear that he knows that he himself is an insurgent character and that it would be wonderful to be a part of Obama's insurgency but that he is backing Ms. Clinton."

I don't know who that speaks poorer of: that Obama cannot close the deal with someone who'd work on their campaign or that Clinton's machine has Borgified everyone who's come near her. Or maybe Noonan's just speculating/making this up/vastly overstating this/sexing it up unecessarily. "I don't think Obama's people will go for Clinton," she says. Ah, maybe so. But if this matter gets settled in June, and Clinton is the nominee, Obama-supporters can take the next three months to do nothing but sulk and get over it by the time the general election rolls around and it's clear that the other candidate will be planning to send their offspring to one of many hundred wars.

Wow, I'm realizing that Monica Crowley has more or less stolen all of her hand gestures from Peggy Noonan. Also: her tendency to wear ugly blouses.

A commenter takes issue with something I said earlier:

"it's the state party officials who defied the will of the DNC who are to blame" ???

Maybe in Michigan, but in Florida it was the Republicans who forced the Democrats to choose between an early primary in defiance of the DNC and PAPER BALLOTS. They chose paper ballots, thank God.

That's a fair point. And I second the support for paper ballots. So, let's look at this another way: the DNC had a position, Florida and Michigan ended up violating that, and it fell to the DNC to punish those states. I think maybe we can agree that a different punishment - one that left the voters, and the candidates out of the fight - should have been the way to go. If it's the fault of state party leaders, then sanction them. If you've got to make a row over delegates, why not halve the delegation instead of eliminating it. Lots could have been done to assure that Clinton and Obama could have stayed above this fray.

And now, for a fray that we can all remain above...

The McLaughlin Group

Uhm...or maybe not! Somehow, my TiVo decided to record only one minute of the show, leaving me nothing more than a commercial for Proactiv. Which on most days, is eminently reasonable. Argh! Grrr! Does NBC put this show on Hulu?

Well, now my Easter has lost a lot of its meaning, since there's nothing quite like the McLaughlin Group to help with that last-minute Lenten atonement. Sorry to end this on a disappointing note. Though if five of our commenters would like to recap the show, each assuming the persona of one of the panelists, that might be the greatest single achievement in the history of the Huffington Post! And I'll buy you pies, maybe! Anyway, have a great Easter, and not to be a homer, but GO HOYAS!

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