10/08/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning and welcome to the most beautiful Sunday of the calendar year. No: not the first post-convention welcome to the campaign Sunday. And, no: not the everyone on the ticket is on the air Sunday (one person I'm told is somewhat consequential is sitting this Sunday out, I'm told (though she'll probably tell everyone she participated, because that's what she does, apparently)). No, today is the first Sunday of the National Football League! I'm not even going to pretend that many of you won't try to lose your cares and concerns in the fall pastime. Please, do. I back the Washington Redskins myself, so I enjoy this Sunday morning political horrorshow because compared to my home team simply because it's not as big a trainwreck.

Speaking of, here comes...


We begin Sunday with dueling consultants, starting with David Axelrod. How will Obama counter Sarah Palin? Axelrod says, "Uhm...we'll actually go ahead and counter John McCain." And then on comes the elevator speech about how awful the economy is. But does Obama REALLY BELIEVE he has precious executive experience. Axelrod is all, "Nobody knows about the enduring mystery that is Sarah Palin! Who knows what experience she has?" Okay. Interesting tack. Why can't the answer simply be, "Yes. Obama has more leadership experience." That's Axelrod's second answer. I don't get the game. They ask you if you have enough experience, the answer is yes.

But isn't John McCain the real agent of change, because he was tortured?

WOO! Obama worked on putting caps on Katrina rebuilding! Hooray?

Wallace basically says, "Yes. But there are other issues that Obama didn't fight his party on!" What's the point of even answering these questions?

Axelrod points out that McCain's campaign is being run by lobbyists, like Rick Davis. And Axelrod gets deep, stupidly deep in the weeds on the "Surge." Along with Obama. As has been documented, the decrease in sectarian violence is attributable to the sectarian cleansing that went on contemporaneously. Axelrod is right that there's a "much larger discussion," but he needs to have it in a more simple way. I'd focus on the the fact that the "surge" has led to higher casualities in Afghanistan, it's led to al Qaeda's resurgence, it hasn't impacted Iran's increasing role in Iraq, and Iraq is clamoring for Obama's withdrawal plan anyway.

Axelrod, not good today. Got to reinvent some of these old sales pitches. "More of the same" is already feeling hoary. His counterparts on the right respond and react to everything, even the stupid things - even stupidly! But at the end of the week they've got a sense of what works and what doesn't, and filter new rhetoric through old message.

Anyway, here's Rick Davis. What about all the lobbyists that make up the campaign? David says it's hilarious. Hilarious enough to not answer the question.

Anyway, Palin reinforces the maverick brand somehow, even though she's a devourer of government pork and a supporter of bridges to nowhere and Ted Stevens. Davis says that the pork was in place before she became mayor. That's actually a big fat lie! Public records show that Palin INTRODUCED earmarks to Wasilla.

When will Palin agree to an interview? Rick Davis says, not yet! But in the meantime, watch Fox News glowing hagiography. Then he says that this past week wasn't a good week for the news media. Really? What did the media do? Besides uncritically report on the RNC? Wallace is all, "You're right, we were awful!" He says that what the media has said about Palin is not "objective journalism" because it doesn't fulfill the "objective" of getting McCain elected.

So, Wallace asks about the whole statement that Davis made about how this election is not about issues, but about a "composite view" of the candidates. I guess that's scandalous, somehow. But it's also correct! The election will be won by who presents the clearest composite view and whichever composite view reflects people's values the strongest will win the election. I mean, issues are great, but I can easily see us getting to 2012, and the Democrats just updating their "For eight years things have sucked!" message as "For twelve years things have sucked!" And they'd probably be well served to plan the "For sixteen years things have sucked!" message in advance.

Boy, Davis pretty much worked over Axelrod this morning. As fatuous as "Country first" versus "Me First" is, you can actually say it in one breath. That's the difference! Composite view.

Anyway, panel time with Hume, Liasson, Kristol, and Williams. These four...it's just so hard to spend Sunday morning with these four. They are just like cancer of the eye.

We take time out to give Kristol props for correctly picking Palin. It's the first thing he's been right about in maybe 47 years, so, stand and give some clapter. He'll return to producing mistake-ridden columns and backing policies that will get you and me killed later this afternoon.

Liasson says that Palin's not going to fade, even if she's not ready to be Veep. She'll either implode or explode. I more or less agree. On Jezebel this week, I summed up Palin as someone who'd lack of accomplishment is more than offset by a clear abundance of talent. The GOP has anointed a national figure, and incited a cult/celebrity phenomenon of their own. I have to imagine that gets the party, finally, invested in McCain, because even if McCain loses this particular battle, he's positioned the party for the future. And, strangely enough, going into the convention, I don't think the GOP was well-positioned for the future.

Of course, that future holds some of the shallowest identity politics you can imagine.

Anyway, I agree with Brit Hume that there's just no reason for the Democrats to even talk about Sarah Palin. He's right. She's the vice-presidential candidate, for crying out loud. And not a Veep in the Cheney mold. And she'll be outranked in a McCain White House by Lindsay Graham, Joe Lieberman, Mark Salter and that crew, and a host of party operatives. Unless the Obama camp gets proof that Palin's going to screw up the country at one of the many ribbon-cutting ceremonies she'll be attending, it's best to concentrate on the distinctions that can be made of the two candidates values and style of governance.

So, what to expect in the last fifty eight days? Williams says it's going to be THIRD BUSH TERM vs. MAVERICK. Hume says that it's close, Obama's the favorite, and the McCain campaign needs to get serious on the economy. I'm not sure he's right that the Democrats are poorly positioned on energy, because that Pelosi energy plan really pins McCain in. Liasson thinks that its amazing that McCain's made it this far without a clear economic message and that the Obama ground game is better.

OH, BRIT HUME. He thinks that there's been great job growth. A "huge number." Uhm...no.

Anyway, Brit Hume thinks the public doesn't "give a fig" abotu Sarah Palin answering questions. It's sad if he's right!


Where is Obama doing this interview from? A farm?

He thinks the new Republican team came roaring out of Saint Paul? So did the rest of everyone! My twitter is filled with people relieved to be done with the tear gas capital of the North.

Anyway, Obama on his taxcutting farm. Ol' McCain done been spinnin' yarns about taxocratz like Obama, but he says that he's cutting taxes for some 80% of the country. McCain's wars will blow a hole through the budget, Obama says. GS says: "So, even if we're in a recession, you are going to do your tax increases." Obama says, uhm...I said tax cuts!

Obama isn't keen on answering questions about Palin, other than she's a skilled performer, with the best two drink minimum shows since the Yiddish policeman's union came to Sitka. But what about issues, and stuff? GS, is all: Sarah Palin bravely commands the Alaskan National Guard, to bravely defeat caribou. She's definitely fought the caribou to a draw in Alaska. "This whole resume contest...is not what the American people are looking for."

GS asks what Obama thought of the "boos and laughter." I'm glad that Obama does not answer such a touch-and-feel fest. Anyway, Obama was a community organizer, but made the mistake of organizing black people, instead of caribou, and earmarks.

Obama is asked about whether he ever considered to join the military. He signed up with Selective Service, and thinks the military was great, and he'll take care of the troops.

Three changes that would be unpopular with the Democrats? He'd promote accountability in education and pay for performance. He'd increase the size of the military. He'd reduce litigation costs in health care. Plus, he'll to an audit on government spending - he cites Medicare funding as something that needs to be reviewed. Yeah. A lot of that stuff won't be popular with the Democrats. I'd love to hear that question put to McCain, though? He'd probably answer it: "I lived in a box and was tortured and stuff."

Surge much? Our troops have reduced violence, Obama says! But why does McCain "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory" by not supporting the timetable for withdrawal. "It's amazing to me that people are so focused on the right year and a half and not the previous five." That's a good answer. A better answer would be some Attackermanese: "JOHN MCCAIN WANTS YOU TO BELIEVE THAT THE SURGE ZEROED THE BALANCE IN IRAQ. IT DID NOT." But I'll say this: Obama's come closest to the argument formulation in my own mind today.

Was the "above my pay grade" answer too "flip?" Obama says "probably." How about definitely?

Why are there no animals on this farm? Has Sarah Palin aerially hunted them all and sold them on eBay?

Now, Obama's trying to answer about who said what about who's pregnant daughter and Muslim heritage. Why not simply say that the conservative blogosphere has been promoting these attacks, and that they are for all intents and purposes, part of the McCain campaign? The McCain campaign is essentially saying the same thing about the Bristol Palin stuff.

Finally, Obama will be willing to play Palin in basketball, so long as she doesn't bring her gun. No problem! I hear her guns are mostly pointed at Levi Johnston these days, anyway.

Man. It's so hard to find anything funny to say about this stuff after using all my best material on Twitter for the past two weeks. I actually cannot believe that anyone going to a political convention for the first time would take in the breadth of that experience and say, "Yes! I will do this again in four years!" What is it? Do people like the taste of mace or something? Going to utterly crappy parties with the same utterly crappy people in different cities?

It must be watching television in tents.

Anyway, they're talking about Sarah Palin. She's energized the party! I can't wait until she goes to conservative hotbed San Francisco for a fundraiser with noted po' folk Stacy and Tom Siebel! Mayhill Fowler will be there, taping Palin when she says that liberal women "cling to their uteruses and silly sense of autonomy."

The panel discussion is continuing on the show. I haven't been paying attention to a word of it? George Will just said something about "moxie." Palin has it. She has a old, carbonated beverage that tastes like malted transmission fluid.

GS says that Palin will inspire two different gut reactions: which I take to mean 1) explosive reverse peristalsis and 2) pancreatic ulcers.

Commenter aznurse asks: "Why do I feel like this whole election is some sort of science project??" Because those projects end up in science fairs, where adults wander around and hand out ribbons and pretend to be impressed, but in the end, you've just rewarded a bunch of children who really don't know what the frack they're talking about, only we're actually putting them in charge, which is why all of our domestic policy is about as serious as adding baking soda to vinegar. WOO VOLCANO! YAY PRETTY!


After the nation got maced, the nation gets faced, unless of course, they want to aerially hunt McCain's Veep pick, in which case, they are on a bridge to nowhere, which she supported. My hope is that the first question they ask Palin is, "Are you planning on voting for Ted Stevens? Yes, or get the eff out of here?"

Anyway, here's loveable Bob Schieffer, coming to us live from a crypt in Colorado Springs. John McCain has been on the show a lot, because he's a member of the DC cocktail circuit clique who go on these shows rather than do things. McCain surpasses Viagra spokesman Bob Dole for number of appearances, McCain says it's an honor to follow in his footsteps, and I'd bet that many of you out there in commentland hope he keeps right on that path.

Anyway, McCain tells Sheef that he's close to death, too, so shut up.

BS thinks that McCain did an extraordinary thing standing up to his own party, and then something about goats. McCain says he's stood up to goats and has reached across the aisle to other goats, and supports a goat-like surge. McCain is eager to deflect attention onto his running mate. Of course, then he talks about running a "unity" government. "You have to." How will he do that with a running mate who's only made splashes by reinforcing the partisan division?

McCain says that he's going to have the smartest people in America in his cabinet. Shouldn't the smartest people in America be teaching America, with competitive wages?

So, Charles Krauthammer says that Palin is an empty vessel and not ready to be Veep, and McCain's riposte is that, "She's so popular!" So, celebrity is a good thing, now?

"She's not just exciting our base, she's excited all Americans." McCain's right. She's personally been responsible for a 10:1 donation ratio in Obama's favor over the last two days of the convention. Also, she was a point guard! She's ready to lead the box-and-one on day one! She'll have many double-doubles, and she'll defeat neighboring Russia in FIBA. She will field dress the New York Knickerbockers, and their elitism.

Okay. I love how McCain is complaining about lobbyists, cronies, "quasi-governmental organizations," and the fact that people at Freddie and Fannie made mad bank as CEOs. He's going to fight that? He's going to catapult into that culture and change it? NEVER GONNA HAPPEN. You know, Franklin Raines got drummed out of Fannie Mae amid just the sort of scandal that a guy like McCain, if he was a real reformer, would decry till he was blue in the face. Guys like Raines should be made to feel some real heat, some real shame. But it's never going to occur because ultimately, people like Raines will crony up with people from the McCain campaign, and everyone will get rich on their empty headed board of directors slots, and nothing will ever change because the first rule of business is PROTECT THE WEALTH OF THE WEALTHY.

Don't believe me? Well, where is Frankin Raines now? He's on the board of directors of Steve Case's Revolution Health. Would you like to know one of his colleagues at Revolution? I should EVER SO GLAD TO TELL YOU: Carly Effing Fiorina, folks! That's right. Now, if Fiorina and Raines can happily coexist on the board of Rev Health, how serious do take McCain when he says he's going to change this political culture?

If you answered, "I take it very seriously!" you may as well kick yourself in the fracking face right now, to get used to the disappointment. And people, Fiorina and Raines just sort of leap to mind. I'm guessing we could run a similar game with the Obama campaign, as well. And people think the candidates' pastors give us insight into their thinking! It's never about Jesus, people. It's about the moneylenders.

"When the housing market starts back up, the taxpayers are going to be reimbursed." GOOD GOD MAN! When the housing market starts back up there will be trillions of dollars of mortgages that will have reset! Even the people that don't get foreclosed on are going to have to scrape by and survive. There are many Americans who won't ever be moving from their homes! There are many Americans who won't be buying a new car, won't be taking a vacation, won't be buying the new HDTV, won't be buying that MacBook Air, won't be sending their kids to college. But yeah, when the housing market "starts back up again," Hanry Paulson says everything will be fine, and everyone will get a few hundred dollars back.

Sheef asks McCain about the whole community organizer slurs, with "important responsibilities." McCain says that he loves community organizers, especially when they are wealthy and do not have presidential aspirations. McCain's stance is that Obama "denigrated small town mayors" first. HE STARTED IT! He should have done those town halls with me! PLEASE GIVE ME ALL YOUR NUCLEAR FOOTBALLS.

McCain still will not acknowledge that going into Iraq, as opposed to avenging the deaths of our countrymen by fighting terrorists, was wrong.

"I'll have to convince [minorities] that I'll be the president of everybody." Good luck with Palin on your ticket, Mac.

How will you do that? He will say the word "education." He will say the word "economy."

Ezra Klein and Alex Pareene were getting at something here in their discussion on Daily Intelligencer:

A.P.: It just seemed odd last night to have Obama speaking on Iran and Pakistan and McCain basically doing the old John Edwards "I met a struggling family working 100 jobs" routine. When McCain does that routine, there's an odd break where you wait for him to explain what they wanted John McCain to do about it.

E.K.: Yeah, with him it's empathy for empathy's sake. "My friends, I too have known hardship..." It's interesting, the theory of why people vote on character issues is that we don't have time to get deeper and we use people's personality traits to assume their policies and agendas and priorities. But McCain has a tendency to not even try and signal that. He signals some empathy, but no interest in even gesturing toward his compassionate or attentive response. It's sort of rare for a politician.

That's the thing with McCain: he does talk a lot about people's hardship! I believe him, at least at some level, when he says he's saddened by it! But McCain basically believes the solution is: Send A Guy Who Was Tortured For Five Years and Now Owns Seven Homes. He believes the inspirational figure he might cut is sufficient. Basically, McCain promises America that he will draw a cross in the dirt for them, and after that, you're on your own. Meanwhile, yes: our enemies will continue to bask in their continued appeasement from America, but as soon as McCain joins bin Laden on some other metaphysical plane of existence, he will give him a stern talking to!

Anyway, my Face The Nation recording ends here, so, Meet The Press, I guess.


People are saying, by the way, that Robert Gibbs was better on teevee today than David Axelrod. Know why? Gibbs is better suited to presenting the "overall composite" of his candidate. Gibbs is a guy who's got values appeal. He's looser, less wonky and mopey, and exudes charm.

Anyway, Tom Brokaw, Joe Biden. In Delaware. Biden, dropping his foreign affairs cred in an offhanded way.

Biden calls Palin "smart, tough, formidable," which is all about playing the expectations game. Then Brokaw wants to know about the tick-tock: "Who'd you call after you saw Palin's amazing speechifying?" My proctologist, I guess? Anyway, Biden is used to debating "tough, smart women." But he doesn't know what her policies are, and assumes they are the same as John.

What about the fact that women seem to be flocking to Palin. Biden basically says:

What about Hillary? Is she going into the campaign? Biden says that she's "big player" and he hopes that he can go with. I think it's probably pretty smart to not send Clinton specifically as a "Palin-buster."

Lots of people tuned in to the convention! But how many will watch Lou Dobbs "independent convention" next week, for zenophobes with gigantic estates that can be seen from space? That's the real question.

Biden explains why no joint town halls: it significantly constrains your ability to campaign where you want.

So, what about the Surge? Biden says, look, the Surge wasn't half as effective as the Anbar Awakening, and anyway, it's all irrelevant, because TIMETABLZ 4 WITHDRAWALZ: YOU CAN HAZ THEM. And only John McCain is saying: "DO NOT WANT."

Biden is actually smart to future-focus this issue. Instead of this wack-ass chase for credit, who's going to set up the next stage.

OH NOES! Joe Biden just mistook Shia for Sunnis! And Tom Brokaw called them, "Sheee-eyes." These foreign people confuse us, with their funny hats.

Biden is killing it, actually. Speaking plain truth about the fact that the Iraq we've built is crazy in love with Iran and Ahmadinejad. Look, it should be said: the Biden experience is every bit, every inch of the complement that Obama needs. He's got a breadth of knowledge and an encyclopaedic command. And when Biden's talking policy - especially foreign policy - he's NOT saying crazy things about how Delaware would have been a slave state.

I wish that Obama and Biden would make fun of McCain for saying that there would be a "lifetime ban" on members of his staff from lobbying. Because that was the McCain stance on lobbying that made me just laugh, and later cry, and then turn to drink, and by drink I mean Clorox, because BISH PLS! No one, no way, no how is some sort of "lifetime ban" on lobbying going to be enforces on anyone! Damn, son! When John McCain is pushing up the daisies, how the eff do you presume Rick Davis is gonna get PAID? You think he's gonna open a chicken shack or something? Hell, no! The man is gonna lobby, crony, itching-palmy his ass off! That's what you do when campaigns end and candidacies fade and your bood leaves office.

Anyway, Biden is neck deep in lobbydom himself, and his son is too. So: PLEASE TO EXPLAIN? Actually, let's give Brokaw twenty minutes to get through his question. Anyway, Biden says that his son could have had a better job, which doesn't seem relevant, and that his son's bank's total contributions are 2% (which only makes me wonder who's contributed the other 98%), and that he blocked the bank's bill three times prior. Yeah. Well, in the end, that was a pretty bad bankruptcy bill, and if it's totally going to work once we have national health care, let's have the health care first.

Biden says that lobbyists would continue to "have a voice" but would no longer be allowed to write legislation. The bad news is: that means all the idiots in Congress are going to have to START writing it, and I don't think most of the people America elects can even READ.

Well, okay. Biden can obviously read, since he's dropping the Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas as a part of his abortion rights answer.

Should Lieberman be welcomed back in the caucus? Biden says that Catholics believe in redemption. That may be true, but the church doesn't sell indulgences anymore, either.

Then, a half-hour of Thomas Friedman follows, which I believe is a milli-Friedman unit. Anyway, he has a book and a mustache.

So, four shows, three candidates, and a noteworthy absence. That's Sunday. Conventions are over. I'm burnt but recharging. Time for a break. Watch some football today, people! Be glad the Redskins aren't on today! We'll see you next week!