TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

10/29/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Good morning and welcome to a special "F Romo" version of your Sunday Morning Liveblog. Today's topics will probably include the debate: which candidate dispensed platitudes with greater reck and abandon, who looked at who and why, Jim Lehrer, existential pain, unspinnable mediocrity, mediocre spin, and probably some mentions of last night's Saturday Night Live. Fun, right? Right. Anyway, send emails. leave comments, explain what one does after you lose to Duke (DUKE?!) by thirty points, and enjoy the last forty or so days until this is all over.


Top advisors to both campaigns will apparently answer who won the debate, so were starting off Sunday with a real deep dive into existential uselessness, aren't we? Well. The good news is that some sort of "deal" has been reached on the bailout package. So John "Treebeard" Kerry and Lindsay "Jowly Dave Foley" Graham are here to talk about it. Jowly Dave, who always speaks as if he's about to start crying, is glad that everyone is "holding hands" bicamerally and making sweet love. Yes: this bailout package has been like Nights In Goddamned Rodanthe for our beloved Congress. Anyway, Kerry loves the bill, too. He and Jowly Dave will probably start making out.

Anyway, onto the Presidential race! How big a role did McCain play? Jowly Dave says that McCain was critical! Especially in the House, where John doesn't work! It was up to John McCain to stop ACORN, who are way too left wing and African-American to give money, too. McCain offered some platitudes! And, hey, John Kerry, Obama never came back to DC, like John did, after making several NYC appearances. Treebeard says all this. OH BUT JOWLY DAVE IS NOT OVERSELLING THIS: McCain looked people in the eye! THANK GOD JOHN MCCAIN BRAVELY REFUSED TO GO ON LETTERMAN!

Meanwhile, the debate. The public sort of favored Obama! Jowly Dave offers: "It's Sunday and I'm tired, Obama did well." WOW. I mean, Graham goes on to offer a little bit more in support of McCain, but the fact that McCain's most fervent supporter is saying nothing more than that he's TIRED. Wow. I'm a little blown away! I'm blown away enough to not even care about the next hundred words out of Treebeard's mouth!

Wallace sort of puts the wet blanket on the whole earmarks issue. It's a really small amount of money. Graham says that the "big deal" with earmarks is that "people are in jail." But the fact that some people from Congress are in jail is, to my mind, a really excellent start! If earmarks can get the rest of them put in jail, then let's get Van Gogh! Wallace accuses Graham of being an earmark hog himself, and Graham says he is "part of the problem" and that he wants to be "part of the solution!" "Can't we just start over?" Graham asks. And there's a mention of Bear DNA. Man, I wish I had copyrighted "bear DNA" before this election started!

Wallace "invoked cloture" to send us to commercial.

Back, and there's more about the debate, and we're going to talk without preconditions about talking without preconditions. Obama misquoted Kissinger. Crocker is talking to Iran. Graham says Obama makes no sense. I just don't understand how firmly showing foreign douchebags the back of our hand "cheapens our nation" and "elevates dictators." Kerry defends Obama in the grounds that Obama talked about "preparation," and the willingness to negotiate, and Obama has always promised to send William Burns to Iran. And Kerry talks to people when he's bored.

Now, Kerry and Wallace are arguing over the 2004 race. Ugh. Time for more coffee.

Anyway, Joe Biden, sometimes says some dumb things/ But shouldn't we be against "clean coal?" I mean, it's called "clean coal!" This sounds like something that con men say! Anyway, Kerry is relatively sure that Biden will remember his stance on clean coal and not talk about FDR's sing-a-long blog.

Palin: also a complete, everloving idiot! Jowly Dave says that "all she was trying to do" was demonstrate she lived near Russia. Because who can trust maps! The rest of the argument is a false equivalency between Palin and Biden, and if I were Kerry, I'd just let this stand without comment. Palin is digging her own grave. And Kerry, smartly, uses his rebuttal time to defend the ticket, rather than tear down Palin. That's Tina Fey's job.

Meanwhile, Panel Time! With the regular Sunday group of Hume, Liasson, Kristol and Williams. Is the financial deal a good deal? Hume says that it should "unfreeze" the market and that it's great that no monies will go to ACORN. Jeez! What did ACORN do to become Fox's Sunday Morning bitch today? Is everyone upset that they got the whole issue of deregulation right? I think that members of the media should maybe think longer and harder about the ways they've aided and abetted this crisis over the years, primarly by standing by and saying nothing. You'd think that the first time anyone saw someone get in over their heads on the dotted line of a kookytown mortgage, the press would have gone crusader for the public good. Didn't happen. So lay off ACORN.

What was "the McCain factor?" How much did he help? Hume says that in the beginning, he didn't help at all, and that no one on either side wanted McCain to take credit or show anyone up. But, he thinks when "all is said and done" he'll be seen as bringing House GOP around...but then he says it's not a done deal that House GOP will even vote for the deal? Huh? Does that make sense? McCain deserves credit for convincing a group of legislators to come to terms on a deal that they may ultimately reject? That sure sounds Maverick, to me! And by "maverick," I mean, "seven course horseshit dinner."

Who won the debate? Kristol says McCain. Williams says Obama. Wallace says McCain "missed a lot of opportunities." Hume says McCain missed even bigger opportunities, especially on the matter of Fannie and Freddie. Wallace notes that McCain never mentioned "change." Liasson says he never mentioned "reform" either.

Oh, man. The vice-presidential debate is this Thursday. Kristol thinks that more Palin appearances on teevee are the answer! It is the answer! To the lack of hilarity in my life, anyway. Williams actually wins a point against Hume on this matter. THAT'S HOW AWFUL PALIN IS.


Let's cover all the same topics with George Stephanopoulos, shall we?

John McCain is in the Newseum with GS, so let's see how things are going with the Senator. McCain says that he's swallowing hard, or something, and that he's happy with the bailout bill that his party apparently isn't going to vote for. I hope we see the next great McCain stunt today! Cook up some barbecue in the nude, John McCain! Hang-glide down Pennsylvania Avenue! Get Minor Threat back together! Come on John! DO SOMETHING CRAZY! Business incentives? Supporting taxpayers? COME ON, JOHN. Swallow a sword or something. Sex Mutombo!

McCain says that he hates the earmarks that tarted up the bailout bill. He would have tried to stop them! But he would have then voted for them! And then he would have CRIED! "WHY MUST THERE BE THESE HOBSON'S CHOICES?" he would wail! "WHY CAN I NOT EVEN STAND BY MY OWN PRINCIPLES, and vote against these EARMARKS!?"

McCain is worried about the continue decline in home values, specifically his own seven homes.

GS calls his decision to suspend his campaign, "extraordinary." OH BISH PLS STEPHANOPALYPSE! The campaign was never suspended! It was extraordinary, but only in that it was a transparently stupid stunt. "I'll let you be the judge of me," McCain says, knowing full well, apparently, that GS has already offered his airheaded judgement: "OH, that was EXTRAORDINARY! I've never been SHINED ON like that, John Sidney! Please continue to jam that MAVERICKNESS down my throat, John. I want to feel you in my esophagus!"

By the way, I think that I am rendering this exchange with about 1000x more excitement than is actually happening here. This appearance from McCain is strangely listless. He's gone from not looking at Obama to not talking about him. He keeps comparing himself to Teddy Roosevelt, who would have frankly chewed McCain up and spat him out.

GS finally shoves Obama in McCain's face, noting the lack of concern for the middle class in his debate remarks. "Who did he think I was talking about? I got better things to worry about?" Well, GS, what about your taxing the heck out of health care bennies? McCain says that his health care plan will allow people to buy their own health care plan for $5,000. Because you can buy a lot of health insurance for your family for five Gs.

Why didn't McCain not look at Obama, because he is dreamy? McCain says "that's foolishness," and that he's been in many debates and often doesn't look at people. Cue a nation of liberal YouTube hounds to start leafing through old McCain debate footage!

Now McCain is decrying people sticking microphones in peoples' faces, and recording their statements. "That's not a definitive policy statement!"

McCain's response to Kathleen Parker's call to pull Palin from the ticket is to say that "it's a free country" and that he's "excited" at all the attention Palin is getting.

HAHA! Is it fair to suggest Obama had close ties to Franklin Raines? McCain's answer is that "he was listed in the Washington Post, I'm told." HA HA!. I make my decisions through third-hand accounts of articles I don't read. And then the Auld Lang Whine: "Obama wouldn't do my beautiful town hall meetings! Doesn't Obama realize that this was supposed to be my fantasy election run? It was supposed to be historic! I would have dropped out of the race if you'd only agreed to town hall meetings with meeeee! WON'T SOMEONE DO A TOWNHALL MEETING WITH ME?"

Hey, McCain will be back on the campaign trail tomorrow, even though the bailout deal isn't done yet.

Time for debate chat with the THIS WEEK panel of George Will, Robert Reich, Steven Pearlstein, Newt Gingrich. Will is concerned about the "anti-Constitutional" aspect of the bill that gives power to the Executive Branch. YES, AT LAST, TODAY IS THE DAY TO FINALLY WORRY ABOUT THAT!! For Pete's sake! In fairness, Will's probably registered some outrage toward other aspects of Bush's radical take on unitary executive power, but let's make connections! The executive branch has taken and the legislative branch has given, and actually, it's had a pretty deleterious effect on the country for years now.

Anyway, no one really like the bill. Gingrich would "vote reluctantly" for it because at bottom, he's a tool for whom the bottom line of every equation measures the likelihood of staying in power.

Will says that this solution is "psychotherapy," like the TSA lines in the airport, and the hope is that people will start lending again. Reich says that the debts are going to keep mounting, and unless relief comes in the form of unemployment insurance or foreclosure relief, these problems will continue to mount. Pearlstein objects and says foreclosure relief is in the bill. Reich continues to object. Now it's being defined as a "solvency/liquidity problem." Reich disagrees. I do too! I think the underlying problem is one of asset valuation! But then, I'm not an expert. Let's listen to the experts!

Reich is right that there's been too litte regulation and too little oversight. Well, look, Newt, if we agree that the overall problem is one of greed, there's only one way to solve the problem - TERRIFY THE ACTORS. You have got to put the fear of God into these people to get them to behave correctly.

Reich things that people weren't earning enough as far as incomes go. Pearlstein thinks that the problem is that people were living on too much debt. Why they can't make the connection between the two problems is beyond me. Will says that American people need to give over the wish-fulfillment in the culture and stop behaving like children. Welcome to the apex of the Baby Boom generation! Thankfully, they're on the downward slide. You must do everything in your power to outlive them.

I have to give the panel and the show credit for something: they could have had the same cotton-candy discussion on who won or who lost the debate, and they passed. Kudos to THIS WEEK for putting forward a serious discussion.


But still! This is Sunday morning and I expect some obtuse people to spit nonsense at each other! SAINTS BE PRAISED FOR THE CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW.

Chris is joined by Katty Kay, Eugene Robinson, Andrea Mitchell, and David Brooks.

Wow! Chris Matthews thinks McCain kept his cool? I guess for John McCain, getting through a day without murdering Obama and his surrogates is a successful day. Anyway, let's throw platitudes at platitudes. David Brooks says Obama came off as suitably Presidential, and that now people can imagine him as president. Andrea Mitchell says a "prominent Republican" told her that Obama did meet this threshold. I'm guessing that she and this "prominent Republican" maybe then spooned? Or ate chocolate off of each other? And it was maybe kind of gross? Do you see what I am driving at here? But Obama should have talked about gas lines and poor people and manufacture some emotional populism.

Robinson says McCain was "grumpy and dismissive" of Obama. Probably because he just wanted everyone to say he won the debate before it happened.

Nevertheless, Brooks thinks that was the best performance McCain has ever given in a debate. He's apparently quite the aficianado.

Will the bailout benefit anyone? Robinson says that the economy benefits Obama's candidacy, but could hamstring both after election day. Mitchell points out that both men "punted" on this issue during the debate.

Everyone seems to think that Obama should have been overwrought in his emotional defense of the middle class, but frankly, they're wrong. This was the "foreign policy debate." I know it ended up being a sort of hybrid. But in the foreign policy setting, McCain's main strength is that independent voters trust him, because they have an emotional - NOT A RATIONAL - and EMOTIONAL investment in McCain. They like him, accept his biography as heroic, and think he has qualities that should be imitated, and that these qualities manifest themselves whenever the issues elide closely with his story. Had Obama walked into the room and spat fire all over McCain, in this particular setting, it would have gone very badly for Obama. People would be saying that he failed the "Commander-in-Chief test" today. The liberal blogosphere is full of people who think Obama doesn't attack enough - by which they mean that Obama doesn't level their cool zingers at McCain. But all those people, on election day, are gonna vote for Obama anyway. He needs to get the people who aren't emotionally invested in tearing McCain limb from limb to vote for him.

If Obama gets into a debate that promises to run truer to economic concerns, he can trot out some more populist rhetoric. But he was smart to not raise the temperature of the room too much in a foreign policy debate. (Frankly, I think Obama took some real chances in that regard, and am glad they didn't backfire.)

Katty Kay says that McCain's people are largely surprised at their candidate's debate performance. Make of that what you will! I tend to think that they might have expected it to be a disaster. Brooks wonders about McCain's ownership of podia. He has many podia in his many homes.

So, apparently, "conservative thinkers" are now worried that Sarah Palin might not be up to the task of being veep. So they're figuring this out! See, this is why you don't leave expired milk out around conservative thinkers.

My thoughts on Sarah Palin run like this: In the days that followed hard upon Sarah Palin being unleashed, unexpectedly, into our lives, the big story was how the press was in mad pursuit of the Alaska Governor, desperate to get within fifteen feet of the vice-presidential candidate, let alone ask her a question or two. Everyone was doing their best to beat a path toward her.

But now, let's face it, I fully expect reporters to start racing away in the opposite direction. I just don't know where Couric gets the fortitude to go on and on, interviewing this woman. From what I've seen of the Palin/Couric interactions, Couric demonstrates that she's made of sterner stuff than I. I can tell you, with certainty, that within three minutes of talking to Flailin' Palin, I would have stood up and said, "Look. Ms. Palin, no disrespect, but I just cannot go on like this. I have got to be kidding me. My God. You can't possibly want this to continue." In the spirit of not wanting to watch tiny woodland creatures get strangled, we simply cannot continue to point cameras at this woman.

I'm a little surprised that David Brooks is bagging on her, since she's precisely the sort of socioeconomic moron that Brooks thinks should take precedence in our society. Palin must make Brooks' head spin.

Oooh. Kathleen Parker will be on this show next week! I never thought I'd be EXCITED to see Kathleen Parker on teevee. She must LOVE Sarah Palin, actually. Palin makes Parker look like an intellectual titan. This is perhaps the only time in my lifetime that something Parker has written has been greeted with something other than a pitiful sigh and a call for maybe taking up a collection.

My wife exclaims: "Sarah Palin is the Lauren Conrad of politics! Why is this country so interested in examining people who are proud of being the lowest common denominator?"

Brooks says Palin will rise to the level of mediocrity. In a sane world, the press wouldn't just sit arounf kibbitzing on this point, they'd INTERVENE.

Well, let's add to Chris Matthews' encyclopedia of what he doesn't know. Kay says that McCain, in making Iraq sound like a demi-paradise of surgey goodness, may have oversold things just a tad. Robinson says that the Washington Post's webtraffic suggests that there are a lot of new voters. Andrea Mitchel talks about Sarah Silverman's ad for the Great Schlep, which Brooks thinks is funny, too. Brooks also says Republicans are furious with Bush, Cheney, and Paulson. Who didn't know that?

Speaking of unremitting anger, Tom Brokaw is getting horrible reviews from all of you AGAIN. So, great. Can't wait to watch the continuing decline of MEET THE PRESS.


Axelrod versus Schmidt. That ought to be the sort of conversation that causes woodland creatures to die. My wife groans.

Oooh. How brave, Tom Brokaw! The big winner was Ole Miss! Whoop-de-doo. Ax is "glad McCain came."

Schmidt starts talking, causing my wife to say, "Oh, I don't think I can do this today." Just wait until Ax starts plodding his way through his talking points! At least Schmidt projects some bold nonsense. Like: "The reason Senator McCain suspended his campaign..." NOBODY SUSPENDED THEIR CAMPAIGN!

Axelrod says that Obama has been on the phone with Paulson and McCain's been all over the map. "It's a little bit of fiction to now claim credit for it." It's a little bit of fiction to suggest that either candidate is leading on this issue, and that both hope they can wait it out without getting scalded.

Axelrod says that the bailout will not affect their programmatic plans or their policy plans. And McCain never said the words "middle class." Schmidt says that Obama never used the word "victory." Neither recommended the new season of Pushing Daisies. Neither expressed any carnal desire for their wives! Neither suggested that our children are the future. Neither gave birth to a bald eagle! How can we trust this process?

I think that Steve Schmidt would like to fight somebody. Axelrod, Brokaw, the boom doesn't matter.

Oh, Tom Brokaw. You really need to watch these debates. Insisting that Obama never named a program that he'd cut during the debate, Axelrod notes that he mentioned the Medicaid Advantage program. Poor Tom! Had he been RIGHT, he could have asked, "Should we take you seriously, only naming ONE program for cutting?"

Both Ax and Schmidt have rejected a premise today! This is a bad day for premises!

Schmidt is all: "OBAMA LOVES TAXES AND LOSING WARS." Axelrod slumps in his chair for a few minutes, then says that Afghanistan is the central front in the war on terror. Axelrod is doing his "invasion of the personal space" thing with Schmidt, which takes balls, I have to say. He keeps shooting his right hand over into Schmidt's airspace.

Brokaw notes that David Petraeus hasn't been that bullish on victory, leading Schmidt to say that victory in Iraq means: an Iraq that's capable of defending its borders (it's pretty clear this work is being outsourced to brigands or Iran), that moves forward on its path to democracy (elections: put off till next year, can kicked down the road AGAIN).

I find it hilarous, this insistence that McCain's opposition to Rumsfeld and his support of the surge constituted political risks, or were things he did by his lonesome. Neither is true! Plenty of people wanted Rumsfeld dismissed. Many Republicans were shocked when it happened because it could have greatly benefitted their electoral hopes if it had happened sooner, when many people wanted it to happen. And McCain was not one of the architects of the Surge. He and Joe Lieberman were the undercard at a press avail that featured the Surge rollout by its actual authors - Frederick Kagan, John Keane, and Kenneth Pollack. McCain didn't push Bush into accepting the Surge, either...the administration was actively looking for a way to counter the Iraq Study Group. There's a reason why I continually ridicule McCain for being someone who's been putting on a big show, attempting to take credit for things over which he had no effect. It's because he truly doesn't deserve credit for any of these events!

That's why Axelrod is technically wrong when he talks about the problems we face because of the "misbegotten decisions of John McCain." These were actually the misbegotten decisions of other people! Why John McCain wants credit for them is a mystery known only to John McCain.

Now, MEET THE PRESS will put Bob Schaffer and Mark Udall through a Senate debate. For some reason. Anyway, do they like the bailout? Schaffer says he doesn't like it, but it's necessary. HOW BRAVE.

Now Brokaw is going on and on and on and on and on and on. Ask a question, dolt!

Why should the United States have to bail out Denver? Mark Udall decides he's going to answer a different question. And he says that he did try to regulate Fannie and Freddie.

And now they are talking over each other. Good luck Colorado. These two are horrible jerkwads, apparently. I'm not liveblogging this nonsense. I sort of hope a piano falls on both of these people. If that happens, I can catch it in fast forward. Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd, NO. Sorry, everyone, Mark Udall and Bob Schaffer left Meet The Press today under their own power, despite a nation's fervent prayer that both men's bones get ground to dust and spittle under the weight of a downward descending baby grand piano. Better luck next time, to everyone except Mark Udall and Bob Schaffer, who bore me senseless.

Now it's time for Tom Brokaw to talk with Bill Clinton. Will private philanthropy dry up in the wake of the financial crisis? Clinton says no. What did you expect him to say? "No Tom, I feel like my charisma driven philanthropy is in trouble."

Wow. Clinton comes close to complimenting Obama! He's intelligent, has good instincts, and "keeps getting better." Hillary says "he's got real skills." And, look: Clinton finally gets his exuberant support for McCain into an acceptable context - an admiration that is "developing." Naturally, it would help if Clinton would stop leaning on his palm, looking bored.

Will Bill Clinton work for Obama: "I will do my very best to do every single thing he asks me to do." SUCH PASSION. Could you imagine being in a job interview and using that line? I WILL TRY TO DO THE MINIMUM AMOUNT OF WORK.

Will Palin peel away support from Hillary? Clinton says, "Maybe some." His advice to Biden is to "make the case for why he and Barack Obama should lead America." And that he and Barack should recognize that independent voters like McCain. Well, now, obviously, I agree with all of that! I just think it's weird that Clinton is MORE complimentary of Palin than he is of Obama. Whatever, that's the problem. Clinton just doesn't like Obama, and I can't say that I'd like someone who beat my wife out for a job, either. But the fact that we're even here, talking to Clinton, again, is because the press knows that they can keep injecting this drama into a race that frankly, has enough drama that actually MEANS something to America! Bill Clinton's personal animus is just not a foundational aspect of this election. But this will be the context of every interaction with Bill Clinton from now till November.

Wow. Is that it? It would seem so. Time for lunch, maybe! Don't forget, this week is Palin vs. Biden - the debate that McCain is so terrified you'll watch that he'll probably take hostages or something. Have a great Sunday, and pour one out for Cool Hand Luke, because, my God - there was a man, people.