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

TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning and welcome once again to another liveblogged version of your Sunday Morning political poindextery. We begin today on a note of potential sadness, bitterness and dread. As many of you know, the McLaughlin Group left its home at my local NBC affiliate to CBS and WUSA. Today was supposed to be the first iteration of the show at it's new home, but when I look at the TiVo guide, I see only "Paid Programming - Shopping." I'm sorry...shopping? NO THANK YOU, SIR. Not unless you mean shopping at the MARKETPLACE OF IDEAS, thank you very much. Not unless you mean shopping at the JOHN McLAUGHLIN HOUSE OF STENTORIAN WISDOM.

Oh, man. If the McLaughlin Group is not on today, I just don't know what I'm going to do with myself. All we can do, is wait and see. Pray for us, America. In the meantime, let's get this thing started. As always, please feel free to partake in the leaving of comments and the sending of emails.

Fox News Sunday

Howard Dean is on hand to discuss the "long, tight race." And Wallace starts right off by asking Dean, why he is distorting John McCain's "100 years" comment. Dean's like: Look, dude. You think we're going to be able to stay in Iraq without being the focus of roadside bombs, et al? Plus, the American people don't want us over there for a century, even if we're playing Parcheesi. Wallace figures he'll show the original clip. South Korea! No casualties! And look, FactCheck.org hates you! Dean says that this isn't what the American people want. Wallace whines and whines. Dean tells Wallace that the American people don't want it.

Wallace is all about yelling at Dean over ads, though. The next one is the ad where McCain says that things are great economically. Wallace shows that at the debate, McCain offered some "straight talk" and said that the times economically are tough. So, what did that prove, Chris? That John McCain cannot keep a consistent thought in his addled brain for more than two minutes at length? Don't do the candidate any favors! Dean responds by pointing out that McCain concluded that particular remark by going back to pitching the Bush years as good economic news. So there you have it: Fox cannot prove the DNC distorts without distorting things themselves. Yaaaaah, Wallace, yaaaaah!

What about the long, tortured nomination process? Bad for the Democrats? Dean is pretty happy expanding the party's voter rolls, thank you very much. What's more, he's getting his fifty-state strategy. What about the Reverend Wright's affect on the downticket races? Dean says he won't take up the Wright matter, and that McCain is going to be a bigger effect downticket. Wallace says that it sort of sucks that Obama's being disavowed by Mississippi candidates. Dean says, look, this is race-baiting. Wallace is agog because Obama said that Wright was a legitimate issue. Dean says that Obama "can say whatever he wants, I'm going to say whatever I want."

Navelgazing time. Why have Dems suddenly jumped on Fox News. Dean is surprisingly honest, saying that the Fox audience is important to the Democrats. Wallace mentions that groups like MoveOn haven't been happy about it. But Dean counters well: Fox's news division is biased, Dean says, but he feels Wallace has been fair, and now that Republicans (read: Fox Watchers) are disaffected with their own party, it's a good time to move in and start appealing to them.

Cagey answer, Dr, Dean!

Plus, he held the line on Fox's obvious biases, which is more than can be said for one of their next guests, fawning dipstick Terry McAuliffe, who has a permanent case of brain diabetes.
McAuliffe battles Joe Andrew in yet another battle of the surrogates.

Wallace asks about the matter of Reverend Wright, is he becoming a drag? McAuliffe says no, that's not the issue, the issue is how awesome Clinton is. Wallace says, yes! True! How do you account for two polls in two states which on one occasion say Obama would lose a couple of states? Andrew basically says, "Uhm...these polls change every week." McAuliffe says that "the demographics are all turning our way!" Yes, and if there were upcoming primaries in twenty additional states, that would mean something!

Andrew talks specifically about Indiana - Hoosiers losing their lives in Iraq, and a previous flirtation with a gas tax holiday - as being a part of his decision to switch to Obama. McAuliffe is confronted on the switchers, and McAuliffe parries it by saying that "you don't get everybody."

Andrew then predicts that Obama will win both NC and IN. McAuliffe says both states are too close to call and that he's been outspent three-to-one, which, in North Carolina, isn't true.

Overall, that was a pretty genial face-off. McAuliffe downplayed Reverend Wright's effect downticket, which is smart because the Dems just picked up a seat in Louisiana in which the Wright factor was non-existent.

Panel time! Hume, Liasson, Kristol and Williams, as per usual.

Hume says Obama's momentum hasn't been stopped because his problems are more geared toward a general election. Okay! At what stage does McCain's embrace of scumbag John Hagee start to hurt him? Does it ever? Liasson disagrees, up to a point, saying that it's been enough to prolong the Democratic primary, and that maybe superdelegates can be convinced to jump ship.

Kristol thinks that Clinton could win in North Carolina and that Wright has hurt Obama there, which Wallace corrects by noting that his poll numbers have actually held up in North Carolina all this while. Williams says that Wright's definitely hurt Obama, unless he didn't.

Hume waxes melodramatical: HE WILL NEVER ERASE...the STAIN! Why did he sit there for twenty years? Then the panel says some more stuff, but my brain can no longer receive it because I have heard all these questions asked and answered before.

Instead, we return to Fox News Sunday's navel-gaze-a-thon. Why are Dems coming to Fox? Hume says it's all about adding to their take. It was shrewd for Edwards to draw a line because he needed a boost, but now the Dems need the voters and they are coming to Fox. Not sure if Fox still has the "largest" audience in news, still, but that's why we have TVNewser. Liasson says that eschewing Fox for a time, returning to Fox of late--it all makes common sense.

Kristol, of course, equates coming on Fox with things like ending the Iraq War. Wallace, naturally, doesn't take up the fact that Howard Dean just maintained that Fox's news division continues to be biased. Recognition of the Fox's bias is sidelined as a viewpoint shared by a leftist fringe (MoveOn almost exclusively exists now to represent this viewpoint). The fact, Fox's bias is an accepted truth among the American mainstream. Good God, man: the right recognizes Fox's bias just as much as MoveOn, does!

Juan Williams says, "Obama hasn't won since February 22." Uhm...he won JUST YESTERDAY. Since February 22, he's won Texas, Vermont, Mississippi and Wyoming!

They run a letter from a Kentuckyian named Rob Burton, who says of Obama, "I am starting to think I made a mistake and am rethinking my vote." Really? Uhm...your mistake, Rob, seems to have been casting your vote BEFORE YOUR STATE'S PRIMARY HAS HAPPENED.

Face The Nation

Drat. I wanted to get This Week today, but, because of TiVo, and my need to pause Fox a lot, we're checking out Bob Schieffer instead.

And here's the GOOD NEWS people. There's a ticker running across the top, saying unequivocally that John McLaughlin's booming voice and fractious panel WILL BE ON CBS today!

Okay. Now that my orgy of personal celebration is over, we pick up Schieffer and James Clyburn, already in progress. Is there anything more that Obama can do to separate himself from Reverend Wright? Clyburn says no, but one has to wonder if perhaps Obama should say, PANTS Wright. Or put a "KICK ME" sign on his back. Or egg his house.

What about Clyburn's comments on the "Clinton conspiracy" - Hillary's hurting Obama now to make a run in 2012? Clyburn says that he never said anything of the kind--he encountered students that felt that way and related their concerns. "We shouldn't be tamping down their enthusiasm."

So what would Clyburn think if Obama had the nomination thrown to Clinton by the superdelegates. Clyburn says, "Who knows?" He says that they are free to make their own decision, but that they shouldn't go against the will of the people. Sigh...whatever, Mr. Clyburn. Look, the SD's are likely to rubberstamp the primary/caucus results. But you really can't suggest that the SD's are allowed to to vote their mind as long as they are of the same mind as Obama's supporters.

Battle of the surrogates. Doug Wilder versus Evan Bayh. Evan Bayh is on his cellphone, for some reason.

Wilder is asked about the superdelegates throing Obama aside. What would happen? "That would mean a riotous convention," Wilder says, quickly adding, "Not in the streets!" He says that Clinton needs a landslide and that the superdelegates will almost certainly "do the right thing."

Okay, Bayh's on his cellphone because the sound is out.

Bayh seems to recognize the tightening Indiana polls as a Clinton advantage. Oh, it's because he's under the impression that she has been down in the polls. She's been up there for a while. Anyway, the song "Tubthumping" is about her and people like that song and so they like her.

Wilder is asked if Clinton should stay in the race. Wilder says that of course she can stay. Wilder then goes off, suggesting that the right-wing is attempting to "drive voters to Hillary Clinton" because they know they can beat her.

Bayh notes that Obama voted for a gas tax holiday thrice in the Illinois legislature. Wilder points out that Obama came to understand that his decisions on that regard were incorrect. He doesn't touch the whole "GOP push for Hillary" theory that Wilder tossed out there, and good for him. Hillary has plenty of supporters who are clearly not the unwitting tools of the right.

Wilder revisits Obama's lesson-learned on the gas tax holiday, and places obama in the INDIANA STATE LEGISLATURE. Man...remember how bad Geoff Garin was a few weeks ago. The Obama camp has to be beating their heads against the wall watching Wilder err his way through questions and advance silly conspiracy theories. Wilder's the early frontrunner for this month's Worst Surrogate Performance.

Schieffer then launches into a commentary on Lurita Doan's depature, broadly wondering if we can ever look at the supposedly candid statements of the government in the same way again. Can we expect that the truth we're told is the whole truth? Jeez, Bob: why don't you ask the head of your news division why they haven't come clean about their use of "message force multipliers?"

This Week

Okay. I'm going to try to watch the previously aired episode of This Week on my computer, because getting stuck with Mssrs. Clyburn, Bayh, and Wilder was such a huge letdown. Wish me luck.

My screen, by the way, is tiny. So you can imagine how small GSteph is. Got a joint town hall in Indiana and North Carolina. GS actually discloses the fact he worked for the Clintons.

Gas tax. Obama says it's a nutlog idea. Clinton says: "We'll make the oil companies pay the tax!" Yes! We will induce the demand for a product with a finite supply, and then sit back and watch as the cost of that commodity DOESN'T rise in keeping with standard economic practices. Also: we'll go "straight at OPEC." Then she basically calls economists "elite." Know what? As cartoonist David Rees says, if not being "elite" means being a DUMBASS, then I'm with the elites! Clinton then says she won't listen to economists.

Clinton may as well take out a piece of paper with the words "35 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE" and tear it into a million tiny pieces. Following McCain off the brink of the cliff with a gas tax holiday? THIS IS AN IDEA THAT'S MAKING BUSH LOOK INTELLIGENT.

Some voter says, "Call me crazy, but I listen to economists." She's then transforms into a female and Indiana version of my friend Ryan Avent, complaining that in addition to not making a lick of economic sense, it's an idea that is out of step with environmental policy. Apparently, I could save seventy dollars and truckers will save two billion dollars.

GS mentions that tons of people think that Clinton is dishonest. Clinton says that she keeps getting re-elected to the Senate, so she guesses that there are people who trust her. She says that she knows more about how to achieve change, and she maybe has a good point, because the first thing she changes is GS's position - forcing him to get out of his chair and stand. "I have a history of standing up for people," she says. And getting people to stand up, too!

A voter asks Clinton if she thinks that jobs will or will not be coming back to Indiana. She says that while we may not bring jobs back, we can take measures to stop the outflow of jobs, and perhaps create new manufacturing jobs. She'll end tax incentives, make trade agreements that enforce labor standards. What about MagnaQuench? That sale took part during the Clinton administration? Clinton says that Evan Bayh told Bush that he "had the power" to keep the jobs in the U.S. and that Bush=FAIL, like always. Why didn't the protections account for the future, then? Clinton says that there was a lot of things they didn't know then that she knows now, and if only she hadn't torn the "35 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE" card into a million little pieces ten minutes ago.

Clinton says that she and GS were two of the people in the former Clinton administration who opposed NAFTA all along. This is a fact that GS neither confirms or denies. He does ask how she can take credit for all the good things of the Clinton administration without taking responsibility for the bad. Who's dumb enough to do that, though?

By the way, my colleague Sam Stein has checked in with us to remind that the official position of the American Truckers Association on the gas tax holiday is, "DO NOT WANT!"

Argh. Sorry about that, folks. My power just went out for some reason. It's a beautiful day today in DC, so I don't know why.

Anyway, Clinton speaks of her time spent working for education and health care reform and her passion for working on behalf of children, which all goes to starting to tape together her shredded up "EXPERIENCE" card. Highlight: emphasis on pre-school education, and effective means of closing the education, and later, the income gap.

Speaking of gaps, GS wants to know how she expects to stay unified if the superdelegates overturn the will of the pledged delegates. She says that either candidate will work for the other if they're the nominee. Still, in her opinion, Obama was just stupid to take his name off the Michigan ballot. Because you see, that means he gets no votes! I'm hoping that a delegate at the convention hijacks the whole thing on behalf of "UNCOMMITTED." But, I don't know. Those UNCOMMITTED backers don't really seem like the most solid individuals.

Someone outside my apartment keeps blowing their car horn in lengthy, staccato jags. NOT A SMART THING TO BE DOING TODAY.

Is Clinton going out of her way to help John McCain? She says that she's comfortable fighting McCain, and she never said that Obama wouldn't be either. Here's what bothers me most about this exchange. It's not that she is, was, or may one day again put Obama down. It's that she says that "people will assume" that McCain is experienced enough to be Commander-in-Chief based on elements of his biography (war hero, lengthy Senate career). Rather than just let that stand, shouldn't Clinton attempt to challenge these assumptions? And not support them?

Meanwhile, Iraq. Clinton says the troops have done everything they were asked to do. She's right! Excellent way of putting it. The troops also succeeded in ridding Iraq of WMDs by virtue of them never being there in the first place. Clinton's is of the opinion though, that a free Iraq would harden along nationalist lines and repel the influence of Iran. I disagree with her on that. There's no evidence that Iraq is going to unify and then get nationalistic about a nation that none of the warring sects believe in. I think that Iraq will harden along sectarian lines, and that some of those sects will be amenable to engaging with Iran.

What about, then, say, I don't know, OBLITERATING Iran? Clinton says that it's all about applying "upward pressure" on Ahmadinejad to turn away from seeking nuclear arms. I believe, however, that some might suggest that being told that you are going to get obliterated might only further foster the desire to get yourself armed to the teeth with something in a nuclear sort of vibe.

Clinton responds to criticism of "obliterate" and extending the umbrella of deterrence by pointing out that we have permanent bases in Bahrain and Kuwait. Now, I think that it's disingenuous to equate those bases with staying in Iraq for a hundred years (we aren't getting into hot, insurgent conflicts in Bahrain and Kuwait), but I promise you that the McCain camp just saw that and plan to walk it out the next time they feel like defending their "100 years" position.

GS asks if an "attack on Riyadh is an attack on Indianapolis." Clinton talks about how awesome it was to cower in fear under their desks during the Cold War. She points out, rightly, that the vast majority of Iranians are good people who are undone by their irrational leaders. Naturally, I don't know how the "good" Iranians get spared a pending "obliteration." Maybe our bombs are a whole lot smarter than I think they are? Anyway, that's a trifle inconsistent, and GS allows the Riyadh-Indy question to go unanswered.

Some guy from Durham launches into a well-thought out question about the role of farmers in energy policy, and global food shortages. Clinton applauds the question, and I'd like to take a minute to point out that it is way better than anything George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson came up with in their preposterous failure of a debate. Yaaaaah, Gibson, yahhhh!

Clinton knows the score on the food crisis, citing Haiti, which is the most desperate nation in our hemisphere (the destitute have nothing to eat but flavored mud). She says we need to "accelerate our research" and figure out how much biofuels can be supported by waste materials, so it doesn't undermine food production.

An Indiana student (a Republican! and Obama supporter!) asks if it's time to move on from Reverend Wright. Clinton says, "We should definitely move on." Aaaaaaaaaaaand...she sort of does. She mentions that "people" are talking about it. Maybe even superdelegates. She thanks the voter for coming to the Democratic party and quips that Rush Limbaugh has always had a crush on her.

Stephanopoulos takes a moment to remind me that I still have to watch Obama's entire...hourlong...appearance...on Press My Meat With Tim Russert, which I hope is just sixteen questions on Reverend Wright that I can sum up with a long snore. Clinton re-emphasizes that an Iranian attack on Israel would result in "massive retaliation." And, "tremendous cost."

Some dude with a massive emo haircut asks Clinton if she would consider being Obama's vice-president or take "him as yours." Clinton says that's all "premature" but that each would work hard for the nominee. I am sort of expecting emo haircut to rip open his shirt to reveal an Abercrombie and Fitch tee-shirt, but it doesn't happen.

Meet The Press

Russert jumps right on the Wright matter. Obama's latest version of the answer he's been giving: It's the Church, not the pastor. Also, from before, he tried to give Wright the benefit of the doubt, but didn't anticipate Wright downing a bottle of kook-ass, crazy pills to stage a media-blitz bit on minstrelsy, so the repudiation had to come bigger, stronger, faster, better.

Obama remains in the Trinity Church, so I hope their new Reverend wears vestments sewn entirely of flag-lapel pins or that Trinity has done what they should have done in the first place and STOPPED YOUTUBING THEIR SERMONS.

Russert asks why Wright re-emerged, but since Obama is not a mind-reader, he cannot answer.

Why did it take Obama so long to kick Wright to the curb? As Russert states, there was a point when Obama said he could not possibly "disown" Wright. "What happened in those five weeks?" Russert asks, because Russert apparently is allowed to ask THREE QUESTIONS that require the specific knowledge of what happened in the past five weeks, then suddenly turn on a dime and PRETEND LIKE HE DOESN'T KNOW.

Obama basically says what he's been saying all along: he felt he knew Wright as a better person than the three instances of YouTube, that his career in the military and the community spoke to a more fundamental aspect of his characters, but then he went crazy last weekend, leaving a trail of offense in his wake, and so Obama had to Superman him. The central question though is, this: was Obama ever present for a controversial sermon, or did he manage to miss all of those?

Naturally, I sort of think it's impossible to go to church and avoid controversy from the pulpit. Church is supposed to be home to provocative thought. And there isn't exactly a rich tradition in America of parishoners shunning their church as a result of hearing something controversial from the pulpit, so it remains unclear to me why Obama has to be different from everybody else in this regard. It seems to me, for example, that American Catholics are happy with the way the Vatican has dealt with the whole pedophilia matter!

Russert asks Obama why he didn't break completely with Wright when he was saying the things that he said in Rolling Stone Magazine - that did lead Obama to keep Wright from the campaign trail. Obama reiterates his commitment to the Trinity Church. More importantly, Obama finally gets around to suggesting that his own character is revealed in his DEEDS - saying, "it's in my DNA" to believe that we are "the same under the skin", and that his career as a community organizer and legislator bespeaks that.

This is the answer that he should have been giving all along. It's what he'll need to refer to if the Ayers matter ever comes up. And when people talk about not knowing Obama well, this is the aspect they don't know. They know the basic biography. They can obtain the substance of his policy proposals. Obama's folks need to add a new wrinkle to the campaign, and it needs to pull heavily from the THINGS I HAVE DONE file. That's the only compelling way to reveal character.

Obama knows this, saying that his "life is an open book" and that people have the "right to kick the tires." But you can't just be passive about this exchange! Obama has the right to actively demonstrate how well that car runs. He's got the right to point out the chapters of that open book that he'd like people to read.

As Morrissey says, "Shyness is nice, but shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you'd like to." And Obama's problem right now is that Jeremiah Wright, while clearly an idiot, is not shy.

"In 2004, John Kerry was Swiftboated," Russert says. Cue an examination of whether Russert vigorously worked to expose those lies or if he stood back and equivocated! Sorry. If you participated in the Swiftboating, you don't get to use the third person plural form of the verb "to Swiftboat." You get the first person plural.

Obama is happy to have a debate on patriotism, as long as it's not a televised debate.

Obama smartly invokes Russert's dad in his paean to middle class values, because nothing means more to Russert than being able to place himself within some working-class narrative. Bet you the questioning gets a whole lot easier from here on out.

Or maybe not. Russert defines the gas tax holiday as "relief." Republican terminology alert! Obama calls the gas tax holiday a "gimmick" and a "political solution" to a problem. He goes on to say that part of his experience includes having tried a gas tax holiday in Illinois, and seeing firsthand that it didn't work. Russert steps in, "And you voted for it!" Russert: You mean there was a time when you didn't have the correct answer immediately? Obama radically suggests that one's mistakes might actually be a factor in one's "experience." Also: a radical suggestion that the principles of supply and demand are more real than the average tooth fairy.

"Is it a pander?" Russert helps ("He mentioned my dad!")

Russert brings up ethanol and how it is affecting food costs. Obama notes that there is a global food crisis, that there are environmental factors, and that biofuels may be contributing...then he vagues it up for a while, eventually gets around to talking about using waste materials. Overall, on the same matter, Clinton had the better, firmer answer on this matter today.

Props for noting that fuel-efficiency will be "our expert market" and for mentioning his "Sister Souljahing" or Detroit on this matter. But this was a golden opportunity missed to connect the "expert market" with renewing the American manufacturing base.

We are, apparently, "the Saudi Arabia of coal." We're also the "America of strip mining!"

But is Iran the Iran of "Iraniness?" Yes. Obama won't take military responses to various Iran-esque examples of Iranitude, but he's going to recalibrate our strategy in the Middle East into something that includes some of the following ingredients: efficacy, intelligence, and making a lick of frakking sense.

Russert asks, "Some people say that a genocide might happen if we withdraw from Iraq. Would you factor that in?" Timmy: would YOU like to FACTOR IN the fact that many of the humanitarian disasters people talk about occurring if we withdraw have, in fact, HAPPENED ALREADY? Massive internal displacement of citizens? Check! Overwhelming ethno-sectarian cleansing? Check! Obama says, that of course he would do things like TAKE GENOCIDE into consideration. In fact: the next President who seriously contemplates the humanitarian disaster that Iraq has become WILL BE THE FIRST PRESIDENT TO DO SO.

On "obliterate," Obama likens the language to George Bush and mentions that Clinton's scolded him for his lack of caution previously. But what would Obama do if Israel were attacked? He would "act forcefully and appropriately" but shift from "cowboy diplomacy" and I guess that means no obliteration. As far as nuclear deterrence goes, Obama's says the language is "troubling." But if anyone has got five consecutive sentences about the Middle East that AREN'T on some level troubling, I'd like to hear them.

Obama is in favor of focusing on Afghanistan. Do we have to call it a "surge" though, Tim Russert?

Next there's this:

RUSSERT: I have a process question.

OBAMA: I have a stump speech.

What would Obama do if the superdelegates don't give him the nomination? He'd work to get the Democrat elected. But he doesn't believe the superdelegates will do that. He then tries to mount an attack on McCain, but Russert's more interested in making Obama attempt to some sort of superdelegate seer.

And with that, Meet The Press is over. I'll spare you all a recap of McLaughlin. FOR THIS WEEK ANYWAY. One commenter says that "John McLaughlin's dentures no longer fit. Pat Buchanan was raving about Obama and his Weatherman Bomber Friend." Also: Clarence Page was up to his eye-popping ways. So, I'm going to save this for my private viewing. I'm just glad it's still on the air.

Both their candidates have had their say and now it's up to the good people of Indiana and North Carolina to do what's expected of them: which is to split the share of votes between the two candidates and ensure that this race never, ever ends. But as much as this prolonged primary is killing me right now, sapping my will to live, driving me to stronger and stronger drink, crushing my hope for the future...I can report today that the most miserable participants in this primary process are the people who are poised to stage a recount of the Guam primary. I mean, can you imagine? A whole recount that will not alter the fact that each candidate won two delegates! I feel downright fortunate by comparison.

No worries, though! The good feelings will not last! See you next week.

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