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

TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning and welcome to yet another edition of your Sunday Morning liveblog. Today, we have presidential candidate Barack Obama making a long sought after appearance on Terry McAuliffe's favoritest news channel in the whole wide world, Fox News, where he will meet Chris Wallace and put the "Obama Watch" clock in dry dock. Not sure how smart that is, but the early reports are that their conversation was "friendly." Plus we'll have other things! Potentially boring things!

First, bask in some good news. A look at last Sunday's ratings for the network chat shows reveals something pretty wonderful. This Week With George Stephanopoulos continued to compete well nationally with Bob Schieffer's Face The Nation, but, among the people that Stephanopoulos really cares about - the inside-the-Beltway types he longs to impress - This Week was a BIG OL' FAIL last week! Here are the DC ratings, from FishbowlDC:

Meet the Press: 3.2
Face the Nation: 2.2.
Fox News Sunday: 2.0
This Week: 0.8

Ha ha burn, you non-substantive debate hosting nerd!

And with that, on with the liveblog. Send emails, please, or leave a comment.

Fox News Sunday

Well, the Obama Watch is over. Would have been a lot more effective, Fox, if 24 was actually on the air, and not scuttled for reasons pertaining to the writer's strike. Not that I mind: all the various rumors of this year's series - featuring the return of long-dead characters and a storyline where Kiefer Sutherland and Janeane Garofalo waterboarded global warming - made it sound like the show needed a deep rethink.

Wallace apparently trooped up to Indiana to meet with Obama. The two do, in fact, seem perfectly friendly over the whole Obama Watch thing. But they get right to it, with Wallace asking Obama why it is that white people in Pennsylvania hate him so damn much. Obama notes that Clinton was well-regarded in Pennsylvania, and staked out a twenty point lead. He closed the gap, and post-PA polls indicate he'd do just fine in the general, with "only a couple of points" whwre HRC outperforms him. Obama won the same voters in Wisconsin, Virginia, and Iowa. So chill, Chris.

Chris says, "Barry, yer too professorial!" What about Joe Lunchpail? What about Clinton's toughness. Obama says that's the chit-chat of the "anguished columns" that sprout up after a primary is over. Shrewdly, he includes his own post-Iowa success among the hyperbole, modestly downplaying his own post-Iowa hype while reminding viewers of it.

"It's not like I've only been winning in states that have black voters or Chablis drinkin' limousine liberals." People still drink Chablis? Cause you can bet Shiraz that I don't touch the stuff. Also: Colorado. Obama won those meat-packing snow bunnies. But, Obama says, he has to work harder, knock on more doors, meet more people.

What about the existence of racism? Won't that make it hard to get elected? Obama won't touch that directly - he says polls show that he can beat McCain. He believes the race isn't a factor. "If I lose it won't be because of race, it will be because of mistakes I made on the campaign trail..."

What about Bill Clinton? Is he making a deliberate effort to play the race card? Obama says he takes the President at his word. To which Wallace retorts, "Which one?" Reminder: the tone and tenor of this interview could all hinge completely on Wallace's antipathy for President Clinton. But Obama says that Clinton is just being a spouse, the Democratic party will come together in August yadda yadda blah dee blah.

Wallace brings up Reverend Wright, who went on Bill Moyers show over the weekend to make some public comments about the whole kerfuffle. "Do you think Wright is just a victim here," Walllace asks Obama. "No...people were legitimately offended. The fact that he is my former pastor makes it a legitimate political issue," Obama says. He adds that "I think it's also true" that he was "simplified and caricatured." Obama denounces the specific comments again, but adds, "I go to church not to worship a pastor but to worship God" and the church does nice things for poor people, and Wright isn't all bad.

Did Obama talk to Wright about his recent public appearances? He says that they've talked about how Obama regrets so many churchgoers getting caught in the middle of things. He doesn't mind Wright defending himself.

What about other controversial statements, like the ones Obama alluded to (sorry for the "eluded" error!) in the speech? Ahh! Now the games afoot! Obama first says that Wright can speak about the black community in very blunt terms. Wallace is all: "You think I care about the black community? What mean things did he say about America and the white people what founded it?" Obama says that Wright often catalogued the bad of America without "lifting up the good." Did Obama ever confront Wright? Smack him in the mouth? Say, "Well, I declare, Mr Preacherman, your sermon gave me the vapuhs!" Obama says he was not up on some pollitical soapbox, and anyway, it's a generational thing. Then Obama throws MLK under the bus, reminding everyone that his sermon at Riverside Church is filled with jarring comments.

Wallace says that all these flag pin questions are only trying to help America get to know you. So Obama rattles off a bunch of really nice things he's done. He says that the Reverend Wright issue is "legitimate" but that the reporting wasn't always so. He says he'll wear flag pins sometimes and other times not but he'll always love the country, and his speech at the Democratic Convention was totes patriotic.

But what about William Ayers and Tom Coburn? Was he drawing a moral equivalency? No, Obama says, he was just trying to suggest this crazy idea...so radical really...I'm not sure that I with my high-toned degree in English can do it justice, but here's an attempt:

IT IS POSSIBLE TO 'KNOW' SOMEONE - AND EVEN BE 'FRIENDLY' WITH SOMEONE - WITHOUT AGREEING WITH THAT PERSON ON EVERYTHING.

ZOMG, what a deep thought THAT WAS. My brain hurts so much! Better calm it down with some Chablis or something!

Wallace returns to ask Obama about how he plans to unite America by planting post-racial arugula. Are there areas where Republicans may have better ideas? Obama says that the Republican party's view on corporate regulation isn't bad and that teacher merit pay is vital. But Wallace aint having it. Why wasn't he part of the Gang of 14? What about partial birth abortion. Do you want GOP support or surrender? Obama says he's been attacked by the left and is seen as too accomodating to Republicans by many observers. And anway, he's friends with Tom Coburn!

"I do not think the Democrats have a monopoly on wisdom," Obama says, offending roughly two-thirds of the liberal blogosphere.

A question about how Obama will fund his own programs leads Obama to issue a paragraph or two attacking McCain. This is the first part of the interview where Obama's seemed actually sure of himself, unbound. I think he's recognizing that he's out of the Wright/Ayers/flag lapel pin zone.

On to foreign policy questions. Obama will vote to confirm Petraeus - a mistake, in my mind, if Petraeus will not agree to abide by the mission set by a future Commander-in-Chief. Obama says as much - going far enough to say that he'd listen to Petraeus, but either doesn't know that Petraeus has hedged on the issue or he doesn't care. I think it's the central question to Petraeus' confirmation.

Why is he ducking a debate in North Carolina? Well, he's had a ton of debates! (And he could say something dumb during one.) Obama will not name a VP. What happens if the superdelegates overturn the pledged delegate count, will the young people freak out? Obama says the frustration will not be felt just by the young.

What has Obama learned? He says he has the right temperament to be President, that he errs when he talks too much, and that he misses his family.

And that's that. I think we can all agree that Wallace went really, really, easy on Obama. So much so that Obama will likely regret that the interview wasn't seen by anybody who might vote for him. Maybe Wallace is reserving his bite for a second interview.

Wallace says though, that the interview proved that Obama really "wanted to reach out to people who watch Fox." Hume says he was engaging and genial and nice, and possible to be loved by white people. Hume says he skated by on some things - so suck it, Wallace!

I guess that the panel is basically going to do a mixed bag of defending Obama because they hate Clinton and pretending that Obama's never won the votes of white working-class voters.

Did Wallace just call Karl Rove a "noted Obama supporter?" Rove is an ADVISOR TO THE MCCAIN CAMPAIGN!

Kristol criticizes Obama for not being substantive enough. Let's pause to note the irony.

What about Hillary, after Pennsylvania. Hume says she's behind and no one expects her to win. She gets points "on sheer doggedness," though.

Juan Williams goes out there, suggesting that Reverend Wright might be trying to sabotage Obama's chances to prove that America is as bad as he's said it was. He and Bill Clinton are the saboteurs of the paranoid media! Hume actually defends Wright.

Kristol is criticizing sexism now. Take a day or two, and note the irony.

The Chris Matthews Show

Today, Chris is joined by Norah O'Donnell, Joe Klein, Cynthia Tucker, and Patrick Healy, where they will be discussing what sounds like a long agenda of Clinton hating.

So, Pennsylvania apparently says something about "big states" and "key voter demographics" and NOT the value of having a powerful network of intra-state kiss-asses to serve as your machine? Or does it? And who cares? Isn't it a good thing that we don't have to think about Pennsylvania again for a while?

Healy says Obama will get the help of the powerful Clinton kiss-ass machine. Matthews wants everyone to know that he knows Pennsylvania better than anyone. ANYONE! He loves him some Pennsylvania! O'Donnell says women love Hillary, unless they don't. Joe Klein says Obama needs to wear five, maybe six flag lapel pins. And people hate hope or something.

Klein literally says a collection of sentences that make no sense. He says that "people were sick of Bill Clinton in June of 1992, but then he named Al Gore his Veep and it changed. The only people sick of Bill Clinton during that time were people like Klein. Klein has disdain for Democrats that say they are "fighters," but Hillary says that and has "proved the value" of the technique, to Klein's surprise. Uhm...doesn't the fact that she's going to finish second in the race for the nomination actually prove Klein's disdain correct? I could find more prescient political wisdom sifting through my stool.

Tucker thinks that the "elite" argument has "come full circle" and that he needs to "use humor" and not "anger." (You know...even though being a fighter has just had its value proven! So, stop being that simmering ball of festering rage, Barack! That's McCain's schtick!

I wish I could say that any of this was exciting. It's not. We've been talking about Pennsylvania for TWO MONTHS. We're still talking about it. Fox really scored with that sit down - it's so far the only thing that's both newsworthy and focused into the future. I mean, to sit here and listen to everyone pretend that they are mouthing words that have never been mouthed before...I could be in bed right now.

Klein says that Obama "went into the lion's den" by going on Fox. But those were some tame and sedated lions! Obama is talking about McCain more than Hillary. Tucker says the Republicans are "licking their chops" over Reverend Wright. Really? I had no idea? And Matthews sums up by saying: Wow. Obama gets hit for being elite on one hand, and being too street on the other hand. It's almost as if the people who set the tone and tenor of the discourse are too shallow to refrain from indulging in stereotypes. Coming up next week: Hillary Clinton: will her ovaries allow her to continue the War On Terror?

Matthews moves on the chronicling Bill Clinton's most recent emotional meltdowns, which he compares to Bobby Knight. The panel has a good laugh at Knight's coarse ways. "Tut-tut!" they say, "how devilishly working-class white of that roundball coach! Pass the chablis, please!"

Chris Matthews suggests that placing Osama bin Laden in a political ad is a sign of "toughness." But all of Matthews' powdered panel want him to remain on the high road. Klein says that the Obama campaign might use surrogates to fight the below-the-belt battles AS IF THAT'S NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. Cynthia Tucker recommends that he not be seen as beating up a woman. Patrick Healy has apparently done enterprise reporting from the nether zone between waking and sleeping in the mind's of voters. Either that, or he's been sneaking into you bed. I'mn sure several of you wouldn't kick Healy out of bed for leaving cracker crumbs, but I'd warn him that I am bitter and cling to my gun and my vengeful religion.

Tell Chris something he doesn't know. O'Donnell says that Indiana is 70% urban. Klein says that there might be a Syrian-Israeli peace accord is the Bush administration would stop blocking it. Tucker says Bob Barr might run for president as a Libertarian. Healy says Hillary's not getting a lot of movement from superdelegates.

Oh, hey. It looks like I left an open BOLD tag.

Fixed.

You know, I hope that one day, panel shows like this one help to point out just how difficult it should be for McCain to dodge being thought of as an elitist. I mean, he's filthy rich, has got this Teresa Heinz Kerry thing going on with his wife, except she's in a perpetual Klonopin daze, they threw an intern under the bus on this whole recipe thing because it's always the help's fault, and the candidate is only now endeavoring to see how the poors live by taking the Straight Talk Express on the Poor Tour 2008. Trust me, America, McCain has sucked down his fair share of arugula. So, one day, it would be nice if we had a lengthy discussion about just how toxically out of touch McCain is with America. But I don't hold my breath.

Meet The Press

Russert has Howard Dean on, and thank God Dean is out of that room at the DNC that makes him look like a washed-out zombie with the lips of a Fred Thompson.

Dean hopes that the race will be over by June because there needs to be a time to heal. He says it took three months for him to bring his supporters around to supporting John Kerry. Dean also doesn't agree with Ed Rendell on pledged delegates being "undemocratic." It is, indeed, much easier to convince people that Rendell is a dope than it is to convince people to vote for John Kerry.

Russert learns a new word: gestalt.

Dean emphasizes that the race will be one by the candidate who proves themselves the best over the next eight weeks. This potentially puts both candidates at odds. All of Clinton's "big and important state" wins have already taken place - California, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, etc. All of Obama's wins with the white working class - Virginia, Iowa, Wisconsin, etc - have already taken place as well. Neither candidate is likely to be happy to have to write off so much of the past story. But, under Dean's suggestion, it's advantage Clinton.

Clyburn calls the superdelegates "greybeards." With deference to my fellow Lord of the Rings nerds, they're more like Treebeard. The superdelegates aren't going to act until someone's forest is on fire. Once there is a clear pretext for them to get behind, they will finally act. Until then, they're just slowly shambling through the wildnerness.

Dean says the pledged delegates and the superdelegates represent the will of the people. He refuses to stipulate a criteria for the superdelegates to follow. But Dean reminds that he cannot remember a time when the Supers didn't side with the Plebes. Dean also won't get into the candidate's positions on the process.

But about unity? What will black Americans do if the superdelegates overturn Obama's lead in pledged delegates. Dean says that's a hypothetical question with many "if's." But Clyburn says that blacks have "bellied up to the bar" - you know, like Irish people do! - and supported Democrats. Can Dean afford to lose their loyalty. Dean isn't worried.

Russert keeps asking the same question about superdelegates. What are they going to do? Who will they support? What will it all mean? Really, America, so far there's been no reason to watch this show.

Florida and Michigan. Same questions. Same answers. Nothing you've not heard already. Dean says: "These are the rules." Russert's all: "But what if! But what if! Michigan is mad at you." Dean says, "Yes, well, they are dirty rulebreakers." Dean compares Florida and Michigan to people who cut in line, but says he is determined to see their delegations seated.

The DNC has an ad out on McCain, which the McCain camp objects to. I'm sure this comes as a surprise to everyone.

McCain's people say that when he said we would be in Iraq for 100 years, that those 100 years would be spent teaching the Iraqis to square dance and make blueberry pie and enjoy the hit comedy How I Met Your Mother and stuff. It's would be 100 Years of Love and Mutual Appreciation. Dean actually does a better job cutting through the BS of comparing Iraq to occupations in Japan and Germany by saying: "Does anyone think who is watching this show that if you keep our troops in Iraq for a hundred years, people won't be attacking them...won't be setting off suicide bombs...won't be having militias going after them?"

Russert mentions that Dean promised that a Democratic majority would result in the capture or death of Osama bin Laden. Dean says that he was wrong to make the promise, because Bush has no interest in supporting that mission. Russert looks incredulous, "You don't think George Bush is interested in captureing Osama bin Laden?" Dean responds, "Well, the proof is in the pudding, it hasn't happened."

That said, Dean is wrong when he says the Senator McConnell filibustered to stop the plan for withdrawal. He threatened to filibuster. I'd like to see the Senate Dems make them go through with it.

Mega-Panel time, with David Broder, Gwen Ifill, Richard Wolffe, John Dickerson and Andrea Mitchell.

First, though, one commenter described George Stephanopoulos today (who we did not watch, unfortunately) as so: "He's pushing me to the pipe today." Hilarious! If GS succeeds in driving any of you to smoke crack this morning, remember the words of Marion Barry!

Another commenter asks: "And pray tell, I am 'perplexified' (ah am only a poor returded injuneer without any degrees in English Lit). So are you praising Obama here or "throwing him under the bus", as it were ? Or, as the literary Brits say, you are killing / damning him with faint praise ? Please clarify."

Uhm, gosh! Darling, I wasn't aware it was required of me to do any of those things! Apologies for using the word "eluded" incorrectly. Sometimes I still misapostrophize "its" as well. I think that everythings going to be totally okay though! If it stresses you out so much, take a nap or something.

David Broder thinks the Democratic race is "up in the air" and likely to stay there a long time. Dickerson (whose magazine runs something called a "Hillary Deathwatch" - and, for the sake of propriety, I'd like to say: WTF, Slate? "Deathwatch?" Really? You had a similar widget for Saddam Hussein, and you refrained from terming it a "Deathwatch." Do you guys think that maybe...just maybe...the same idea could be conveyed without the toxic dickery? Just wondering, Slate.) says Clinton's road to the nomination (and proving Broder's illusory idea that this race is "up in the air" when it's actually been largely decided, involves convincing undecided superdelegates that a pretext supporting her nomination exists (like a way of counting that gives her a popular vote edge) or that Obama does something to sabotage his nomnination (like...I don't know...sodomize a bald eagle with a flag lapel pin or something).

Dickerson is saying now, actually, that it doesn't look like Clinton is even successfully making this case, and that very few perceive this race as a dead heat. Mitchell says, though, that people are taking a harder look at Obama and calling for more "meat" in his speeches (all of which could, and perhaps should, be happening to Obama regardless of what Clinton is doing), but that if Obama wins Indiana, it could be significant enough to chase her from the race.

Russert gawks at the Newsweek's cover "Obama's Bubba Gap," and I'd like to point out that while Russert had no problem identifying the arugula on the cover, Mr. Lunchpail struggled to identify the amount of beer pictured on the cover: "Is it a pint of beer?"

Gwen Ifill offers up the best piece of analysis I've heard, in...WEEKS, maybe? She notes that the voters who the media have obsessed over in Pennsylvania have actually heard very little about their concerns from either candidate, and that Obama stumbles worst when he tries to fight the primary battles by the terms she dictates. She also astutely notes that the Dems are ceding the "issue debate." I'm not doing it justice in summation, but I can tell you, Broder is staring at her dumbfounded.

Clinton wants more debates and is willing to debate it. She wants UNMODERATED debates - and I'd love to be able to agree, because the moderators of these things have been pretty awful at times. But I don't thing two hours of yelly free verse from the two candidates will do the voters a whole lot of good right now. I do think that Obama would have been smart to make sure that date with CBS stood up, though. CBS would have likely gone to great lengths to be the anti-ABC, and that would have been of benefit to all the parties who were wronged by the ABC debate - by which I mean everybody.

Andrea Mitchell notes that even as Hillary "hits her stride" ("you don't hear the shrill sounds," she says), Bill comes along and screws it all up. She and Ifill don't think Obama gains anything at this moment from debating. He did poorly at the PA debates and has a challenge to resonate with working-class voters. Obama can't achieve improvements in either area by debating. Broder thinks that debates are the only way to reach superdelegates. Someone needs to introduce Broder to cellular phone technology.

Dickerson says the long campaign is bad for the Democrats and good for McCain. Yeah...I'll believe that when I see evidence that McCain is not currently tied with the two candidates. What if McCain's support has already plateaued?

Apparently Tom Hayden, writing for the Nation, has pointed our all sorts of radicals that Hillary Clinton was associated with a ton of radicals in the past. Of course, if you're an Obama supporter, that's nice of Hayden to do. Yeah, her husband pardoned some folks from the Weather Underground. But McCain doesn't have the same connections. Someone needs to strategize their way around McCain's associations, not Clinton's.

Wolffe wonders if either candidate will put forth the effort that Dean exhibited in support of Kerry. I predict: no. But I'd be really happy to be wrong about that.

Can I just say? I'm really shocked that none of these shows took up the issue of the rhetorical escalations between Iran and Condi Rice. I thought that by avoiding the most obvious "battle of the surrogate" segments that were scheduled for Sunday, it might come up. Didn't. Only the Obama interview got Petraeus' promotion mentioned, and Obama wasn't walking as hard as I would have liked on that matter.

Oh well, Kudos to Ifill for at least mentioning that there were important issues in the race, even if she didn't mention them herself. She gets points. Maybe we should have a complicated points system on this liveblog? Where commenters award/subtract from pundit/guest performances? I have a feeling it would end with the winner being someone who scored -10,393,397 points with me finishing last. Though, maybe that is as it should be! Anyway, commenters, have at it. Enjoy the rest of the day, and if it's Sunday, it's me, watching Meet The Press, and despite the outward appearance, not drinking Chablis. Fox can now reset their Obama Watch clock!

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