07/21/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to your Sunday morning liveblog. Let's dispense with some program notes before we begin. First: Vlogs! Friday afternoon, I sat down with Ana Marie Cox, founding blogger of Wonkette/current blogger at Time Magazine's Swampland, and answered your questions. We shot about four times as much material than we needed, which means National Editor Nico Pitney, who's editing the footage, is probably cursing our names. But she and I look forward to vlogging again, so please keep sending us questions to answer.

Also, next Sunday, there will be no Sunday Morning Liveblog! I know! Sad faces! :( :( But, there's a reason for this: I will be on a plane, flying back from the Netroots Nation Conference in Austin, Texas. I have to make sure it's okay, but I plan to open up a thread so that those of you who enjoy discussing the Sunday shows can still do so. I hope you won't mind me taking one week off from the duties. I suppose of you'd like to rip my nuts off, leave a comment, or send an email. And now, the reason that I start every Sunday morning feeling slightly depressed and/or stabby...


Oh, well. I suppose I should have figured that this would happen. With the passing of Tony Snow, who was the founding anchor of this show, FNS is going to spend the next hour reflecting on his life. As with Tim Russert, I'm not going to snark this out. I'm really very sorry that Snow lost his battle with cancer. He bore up well under the yoke of a terrible disease, and my heart goes out to his family. Over the course of the show, Wallace candidly asked people to place Snow in the context of the "conservative movement," as opposed to attempting to place him within the context of being a public servant or as a member of the media, because he was neither of those things, truly, at any point in his life.

DICK CHENEY: I, frankly, agreed with him about nearly everything...I'm not sure that's saying something nice about him in some circles. I'd have to say that Tony's the best [press secretary]. He had a rare combination of intelligence, commitment and loyalty to the President...but also this great love of going out behind that podium and doing battle with his former colleagues. He had this capacity to put everything in its place, and I think he'd want us to do that now.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: He was informed, he was earnest. He would attack the premise of questions...and this made the president's supporters stand up and cheer. He had a lot to do with keeping the President's approval ratings as high as they were.

MARTHA RADDATZ: You could have those back and forths with him and it never got ugly. He had a great way of breaking the mood.

CHRIS WALLACE: Tony called the job 'the most exciting, intellectually aerobic job' he ever had.

MIKE ALLEN: He talked about [cancer] so candidly. We could see his hair thinning, his frame thinning...he talked about how optimism could be part of the cure.

BRET BAIER: He knew this was a life or death battle...he wanted to focus on the living.

RADDATZ: He always had a way of knowing that your situation was harder. He never thought of his own disease, and he made it easier for us to talk about that.

JUAN WILLIAMS: He was a different kind of Sunday interviewer...not a gotcha guy. He got criticism from people in Washington, but people outside of Washington liked Tony Snow.

NINA EASTON: As Dana Perino said to me, "I never saw him in a foul mood."

BILL KRISTOL: He was a cheerful warrior, even when his cause was not prevailing.

So, there you have it. It's regrettable that Limbaugh saw fit to cold-cock his traditional nemeses in the context of his friend's death, but I guess $400million means never having to say you're sorry. And Nina Easton slagging Scott McClellan? Was that necessary?

What would you have to do to get Dick Cheney to talk about your life? Some things are best not contemplated.


Arnold Schwarzenegger is here today. We'll see if George is smart enough to connect Phil Gramm's "nation of whiners" comments to Arnold's own "economic girly men" remark of many moons ago.

But first: wildfires! Burning down the homes of all the people Glenn Beck despises. Arnold's eyebrow is off doing some Tim Kaine stuff. This wildfire is the biggest fire in the history of California.

George brings up the Bush administration's lack of global warming effort, and how they were going to close out their term with no further legislation on the matter. Arnold says that's just as well, that he would consider any effort on the part of the Bush administration to be "bogus." He then goes on an extended jag of criticism on global warming and environmental issues. "We've been partners on a lot of issues...global warming is not one of them."

Then he says that California has no interest in offshore drilling. "Anyone who tells you that drilling, nuclear power, solar...will bring down prices RIGHT NOW, is pulling wool over your eyes. That doesn't mean we shouldn't do them." Okay...but isn't McCain promising that drilling will provide us immediate relief?

Uhm...hello? On serving in a potential Obama administration: "I'd take the call now...I'd take the call when he's President." WHEN, eh? A vote of confidence for Obama from Arnold?

And, George, to his credit, connected the dots from whiners to girly men. "Weren't the critics right?" Uh-buh-buh-huhs from Arnold.

Arnold is talking now about how McCain is great at reaching across the aisle, and the camera flashes back to George, who has apparently shoved a sharpie in his mouth and is hundrily gnawing on it. These shots on Arnold and George are so tight on their heads, that it's given rise to imaginings that they are wearing swim trunks and are really basking in a wading pool of warm, baby-seal oil.

Now Arnold is praising McCain for his honesty on the war, but I'm sorry, a comparison of Iraq and Japan is just fundamentally dishonest...beginning with the fact that Japan, at the very least, ATTACKED US. If McCain was going to be truly honest, he'd tell the American people that he will continue to appease the people who attacked us, for reasons passing understanding.

How does McCain get independents and Democrats? "You have to invade the center line." Yeesh. These Republicans, always with the invading! What are we going to invade the center line with? Milkmen? Newspaper deliverers? Aren't we going to have to reinvade Iraq to depose al Maliki soon?

Arnold thinks flip-flopping has gotten a bad rap? Oh, that's because he's mistaken flip-flopping with "making a principled change of mind based on facts."

Panel time! With Richard Stengel, Cokie Roberts, George Will, and Donna Brazile.

First up! Iran and their amazing photoshopped missiles! But we don't seem to be bombing the crap out of them! What's wrong with us? Will says we're badly overextended, militarily, and before we start a new war "we ought to do a better job" in our first two. But John McCain's going to be giving Iranians cigarettes, banishing them to "flavor country."

Oh, my. I never ever wanted a camera to get that close to Stengel. For those of you with HD televisions, my condolences.

Brazile says the events in Iraq, with Maliki calling for withdrawal is taking Iraq off the table. Roberts more or less backs that up. Will sort of attempts to push that whole Obama is the same as McCain meme we've been talking about, but his heart's not in it. Actually, I'm a little amazed at how much the Obama=McCain/Obama flip flop has seemed to finally have died.

Now they get into Jesse Jackson's nuts and Phil Gramm's whiners. GS is wrong in suggesting that the two men are "surrogates" - Gramm most definitely is, but Jesse Jackson isn't.

Will says that Gramm is right, drawing the objections of everybody else. And my IM window lights up with objections, as well, causing me to miss the next five minutes of conversation. I rejoin them, talking about Jesse Jackson, with Stengel still treating him as if he were actually a campaign surrogate. Will gets it right: Jackson isn't. He is the "enemy" and that the Obama campaign threatens to "close the parenthesis" on the Jackson/Sharpton brand of politics.

Now they are talking about whether Hagel might be the Veep. Even Brazile thinks Hagel should be on the shortlist! Maybe Hagel will be Donna's boo, too!

Now they are talking about Obama's decision to take his daughters out of the spotlight. Roberts thinks that it's important for children to give up their childhood and become miserable sots, stuck in the same political milieu she's stuck in. Oh, Cokie. Cheer up! You look like a badass today in that green, "Kill Bill" ninja frock! Stengel thinks that Obama got to have it "both ways" - the kids got to be adorable and then he got to look principled. "Children are adorable right up to the point where they think they are adorable," says Will! That's so true! It's like the Uncanny Valley of child acting.


Sam Stein is telling me that MTP is pretty boring today. i have it Tivoed. Can't wait to be bored! But wait! Claire McCaskill is on today, and Sam knows that I adore her! Also: Carly Fiorino. I love Pareene's piece on her earlier this week:

Now her job is to convince people that John McCain is business-friendly and knowledgeable about money in general. America! Lloyd Grove interviewed her for Portfolio. This is our favorite quote:

FIORINA: No, absolutely not, and it wasn't $12 then. It was twice that. [These days Hewlett is trading at around $43.] You know, I knew what was coming at Hewlett-Packard. My choices and my leadership had been completely validated by what happened from the moment I left. And by the way, the best legacy of a leader is what happens after they go. That's how you know the kind of foundation they put in place. So I still root for them. I'm very proud of them. I have a lot of friends there, and I'm extraordinarily pleased.

Hah. The new culture of responsibility--happily accepting responsibility for how well things went once you finally left.

So, we get right into Phil Gramm's nonsense. Brokaw shows clips of Obama ripping Gramm - and showing a rare humor doing so...Obama rarely tells jokes because, frankly, he's not that good at it, but the Dr, Phil line was great - and then we see John McCain trying to throw Gramm under the bus...it's another one of those optics battles that McCain is losing.

Fiorina - who looks like she's wearing one of the old costumes from Sid and Marty Croft's Electric Woman and Dyna-Girl, mentions McCain's joke on the matter - where he actually threw Gramm under a bus in Belarus. Because Americans LOVE THEM some former Soviet bloc humor!

Speaking of Belarus, I want to acknowledge our awesome intern, Bolu Adeyeye, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for winning an inter-office factual dispute on the topic of Belarus this week. I believe someone owes her some money! (Not me, of course.) I hope that when all prospective employers Google her name in the future, they find this and note it as a broad recommendation. I also hope they read none of the rest of my liveblogs, which probably undermine my credibility as a job reference!

Will Gramm continue to have a role in the McCain campaign? Fiorina says no and that McCain made that clear. Not so clear, mind you, that Gramm didn't go to the Wall Street Journal's editorial board as a named McCain surrogate! But that's precisely the sort of grasp of the facts that Fiorina has, which she put to good use in making Hewlett-Packard the titanic force of nature that it is today.

Fiorina says that Americans just don't care about the Phil Gramm mess. Americans love being called a "nation of whiners!" Fiorina says, "I was in town hall meetings with John McCain all week. Not one question about Phil Gramm." Of course, Gramm only made the comments on Thursday. Why don't you see how many questions get asked about it this week, Carly, and get back to us?

Oooh, Brokaw! Playing some tape, Russert-steez! And deployed with the same pretend relevance. "Didn't McCain say that Islamic terrorism is important? Now he says the economy? What, could there be TWO IMPORTANT THINGS?" Fiorina says, "No one could have predicted the economy would worsen, as it has." Sure!

Brokaw delves into McCain's reputation for being the flip-floppingest flip-flopper that ever kissed the business side of a spatula and said, "Let's leave principles out of this! I'm a gonna be Presidenting!" Fiorina says that McCain had his own tax cuts that were better but that he's all about cutting spending - and he's got a long list of inadequate spending cuts. Also: REVEREND WRIGHT! SCARY BLACK DUDE!

Brokaw then plays Obama saying that he would listen to commanders on the ground and withdraw troops after sixteen months. Then he plays another clip of Obama saying the same thing. Brokaw, who I don't really believe is this stupid...maybe there's something in the coffee at MTP that makes people dumb...but Brokaw is going to pretend that this represents a "flip-flop." "This confused even some of his ardent supporters," Brokaw said. Uhm...you know what confused people? The press pretending there was something different about Obama's withdrawal stance.

McCaskill says there is nothing he has said that contradicts his plan, and, as long as we're not going back as far as Summer 2007, she's right. Brokaw wants to make something of the distinction between a goal and a promise - and that's what this whole matter is - English language semantics. There's no genuine change of mind here: Brokaw and his ilk just want to mine the teensy changes in semantic nuance of the words - not the positions! - but the words of Obama here, blow them out of proportion, and heap scandal upon them. Meanwhile, John McCain jokes about murdering Iranians with cigarettes and everyone's all, "Oh, that just show what a regular guy he is!"

Conversations with my wife:

ME: Want to maybe see Hancock today? There's a 4:50 show we could make.

WIFE: Maybe. Since we have to go out to Target anyway. How long is Hancock.

ME: The movie?

WIFE: [sarcasm engaged!] No. His signature.

ME: Heh. That's actually a pretty good one.

WIFE: You're not the only one with bons mots.

FIORINA: As a business person, I do pay attention to the numbers

Really? I guess that's why you are right at home, watching those numbers decline. Everytime, Fiorina touts her business acumen, I think an angel loses their wings. Also, she talks about how McCain has been to Iraq eight times, which proves what? That he's really, really, REALLY pissed away a lot of opportunities to get Iraq right? That he's had his head buried in the sand for so long he's developed a taste for it?

FIORINA: "All of the savings from bringing troops home will be applied to the federal budget deficit he actually does know what he's talking about?"

WHAT?! McCain thinks bringing troops home is "savings?" With six brigades you get eggroll? That doesn't make any sense to me. And anyway, he doesn't WANT to bring the troops home!

McCaskill talks about Obama raising taxes on the top 1.2% of wage earners. Fiorina will probably retort by trying to paint people who earn a quarter million dollars a year look like middle-class, salt-of-the-earth types. McCaskill touts Obama's health-care vote this week as proof that he can find a way to pay for his plans - the bill made a "modest hit" at insurance companies' record profits. Doesn't Obama realize, though, that in America, all benefits are privatized whilst all risk is socialized? That's why our troops aren't actual human beings to Bush/McCain - they are assets/liabilities.

Naturally, I wouldn't go around touting ALL of Obama's voting exploits of this week! I already sort of miss my Fourth Amendment.

Fiorina says, "We can balance the budget in four years." Uhm...she better check with the McCain campaign!

Yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) pledged to balance the federal budget by 2013. "John McCain will balance the budget by the end of his first term," a McCain economic plan stated. Top economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin confirmed these plans yesterday to the New York Times, stating that McCain's "plan is to balance the budget by the end of his first term in 2013."

But on the same day, Holtz-Eakin flip-flopped on this pledge, lowering the bar for McCain by stating that the senator "has always" pledged to balance the budget by the end of his second term.

Now Fiorina's got them flip-flopping again! This campaign quite literally, cannot explain itself in the same way from one day to the next!

Carly Fiorina: great with numbers. If she becomes a member of the Cabinet, I'm changing my dollars to Euros. Or Loonies.

OK. I'm about to go off. TOM BROKAW! You wrote a book about the generation that fought World War II! How can you sit there, and let Carly Fiorina assert that Iraq is like Japan? YOU KNOW BETTER. You can call facts to dispute this to mind right now! What good are you if you aren't even going to use your own hard-earned knowledge as a push back to these empty-headed contentions? Having worked to inform people, how can you sit there, Tom, and allow that sort of ignorant dreck to go out into the world! You know, McCain doesn't even believe that, when he says it! ARGGGGHHH!

Fiorina says we can't afford to raise taxes on small businesses, like Obama wants. If you thought her remarks sounded vaguely like they were coming out of her ass, YOU WERE RIGHT:

Here's the problem. Yes, 23 million small businesses file as individuals. But Obama is proposing to raise taxes on individuals making over $250,000. And according to the Tax Policy Center (as reported by Politico) only 1.4 percent of small business owners make the cut. "Most small-business people, like most everyone else, are not really high-income," said Eric Tolder, senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center.


More conversations with my wife, in which we get down to some Real Talk on the economy:

WIFE: You know how much I paid to see Sex and the City?

ME: How much?

WIFE: Eleven dollars.

ME: Wow.

WIFE: Crazy!

ME: I know people who get actual sex in the city for less than that.

WIFE: Nice! [high-fives]

McCaskill addresses Obama's changes to the No Child Left Behind act: re-authorize it, get rid of the one-size-fits-all approach to accountability. She also denies that the teachers' unions have a veto policy over education policy. My wife, teacher, says: "McCaskill is dead right."

ME: Well, does your union have "veto power" over policy?

WIFE: Oh, GOD NO. Are you kidding me? If we did, how the frack do you think NCLB got passed in the first place? California is a disaster right now. Was their teachers' union able to stop it? They wish.

Fiorina then talks about "choice and competition" and my wife goes off! "Private schools are held to no accountability! What kind of argument is that? Let's hold public schools to an ultimate accountability, move the goalposts constantly, and then recommend that parents move their kids to schools with no accountability at all! That doesn't make sense!"

I've been sort of wondering, with school vouchers, am I going to be able to walk into the offices of various private schools and hold forth on how they're spending my tax money? BECAUSE I PLAN TO.

McCaskill counters by saying that all "school choice" means is that the private schools can "skim the cream off the top and leave public schools flailing" - and now my wife wants to move to Missouri and vote for her a million-billion times. Meet me in Saint Louis, I guess!

Emailer Joann DiNova asks if I will be reporting from the Netroots Nation conference. YES I WILL! In fact, about a half dozen of us will be running around, with schmancy video phones! We are looking forward to the bloggers and the Shiner Bock and the crazy, oppressive heat.

Panel time! Andrea "Thanks For Catching Me Scooting My Chair In On Camera" Mitchell, Harold "DLC Stooge" Ford, and Mike "I Am Not Going Anywhere Near The McCain Campaign" Murphy, join Brokaw around the Trapezoid Table.

Brokaw begins asking about Obama's litany of center-moves. They include two I think are weak, hide-in-the-center moves (FISA, DC gun ban overturning), one that's neither a move to the center or even the least bit controversial (opting out of public finance) and one that if people think is a radical change from the way Obama has historically worked, they need to have their heads examined (support for faith-base organizations). It's a mixed bag to discuss in terms of flip-flops/center shifts - but then, this is what Meet The Press understands! If you travel to Paris on a high school French education, you will disembark at Orly saying things like "Henri likes to go to the library" and "Therese is walking the dog by the swimming pool."

Ford, of course, loves the center to DEATH. But Ford's one of those types who love the "center" as a hideout, rather than a rampart. Also, this side of the conventional wisdom fence is really dispiriting...do you know ANYONE who doesn't have a variety of positions on a variety of issues? One doesn't select a point at the political; spectrum and live there - we have our own takes on things, based on our values and experiences. That's why Obama, if he wants to stake out a position that's a centrist one, should do so boldly, and demonstrate that it comes from principle. That way, even if those on left don't like the position, they'll nevertheless value the honesty. It's when the candidate squirms around that they do themselves in. If you can't reflect position, at least reflect values.

Ha! Harold Ford totally agrees with me! If only he and the rest of his squirming DLC cronies walked that walk!

I am now going to refer to the Rust Belt as the Great Lakes Metal Bending Region, as Mike Murphy does here. Murphy also says that Phil Gramm is heading for the witness relocation program. Murphy thinks Tom Ridge is among the people getting "first-class" consideration for President. I heard earlier this week, someone - can't remember who - bemoaning that McCain could pick Ridge and wrap up Pennsylvania, but won't because he's pro-choice. How sad is that? McCain wouldn't advantage himself, increase his own chance of victory because of that one issue! I mean, you'd THINK that the Tom Ridge choice would be evidence of some...what's it called? Oh, yeah: MAVERICK THINKING.

Good stuff from Mitchell! Obama's veep choice will be less tied to the electoral map, and he'll be free to think solely in terms of complementary attributes. Also, she captures l'affair Jackson as a generational divide.

I'd go further: the Obama-Jackson divide is one of government and the role it should play in our daily lives. Obama believes that self-reliance is the pre-eminent need in the black community, where Jackson thinks that the need is for more government solutions. See: here is a fine example of Obama taking turf, boldly, and reaping the dividends for doing so! He should have done the same thing on FISA!

Murphy, on Hillary-as-Veep: "On every level it's a crazy wrong pick...We're scared of Tim Kaine."

Well, folks. That's that. We're back in two weeks with more livebloggery of this Sunday Morning Sandbagging. Look for the Huffington Post at Netroots Nation in Austin this week, and have a great Sunday!