POLITICS

TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

11/05/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Good morning, and welcome to your Sunday morning liveblog and happy belated L'Shana Tovah and stuff. This morning, we'll likely have bailout chat and discussion of our absent friend, Sarah Palin, and word of the new McCain campaign tactic which is ALL CRAZY ALL THE TIME FOREVER. How crazy is it likely to be? Well, here in Virginia, YOU MUST BE THIS CRAZY TO RIDE THIS RIDE. From Not Larry Sabato:

You need to read this column to believe it. In "humor" he accuses Obama of wanting to paint the White House black, supporting reparations, changing the national anthem to the "black national anthem", teaching "black liberation theology in all churches", and replacing the flag with a "star and crescent logo".

That's right. Things are going to get much, much worse before they get merely worse. Oh, well. Leave a comment, send an email, and let's begin.

FOX NEWS SUNDAY

We begin this morning with a battle of the surrogates, Senate-style, with Joe Lieberman and Claire McCaskill. We jump right into the New Negativity and Palin "pallin' around with terrorists." Lieberman says: "It is fair game! But look, we haven't announced" that they're going to go negative. "It's about the future...you go with the tested leader." But Wallace says, no, dude...you guys are announcing that it's all about the shallow from here on out. Lieberman says that if the shoe was on the other foot, Obama would be raising a stink themselves. Well, McCain was alive during the Weather Underground! And, okay, Joe Lieberman: KEATING FIVE.

McCaskill is accused by Wallace of similar namecalling by using the word "erratic." McCaskill points out that the campaign has, tactically, speaking, been erratic. And then BLAH BLAH STUMP SPEECH. Wallace basically won't move off his basic accusation that both sides are talking about nonsense.

Joe Lieberman, by the way? Still under the impression that McCain suspended his campaign! Maybe we should wonder about Vinegar Joe "losing his bearings." Lieberman says that McCain has "drawn a line" by agreeing to not bring up Reverend Wright, but in a false equivalency, Joe suggests that when Obama suggests a difference between the two candidates' tax plans is the same thing as bringing up Reverend Wright. McCaskill wonders why McCain can't just call up Sarah Palin and tell her to cool out with the terrorist nonsense.

Speaking of those tax plans, McCaskill doesn't seem to be able to separate Obama's tax plan on individuals versus his tax plan on small businesses. The plan cuts/does not raise taxes on significant portions, but they aren't the same portion. McCaskill is lucky that she filibustered enough to avoid getting called on the carpet. Also: she's lucky she's debating Lieberman.

Is Senator Palin ready to be president of the United States? McCaskill says, "I don't know." This is Washington, for you. Toxic at the wrong times, polite at the wrong times. The answer to the question is NO. If you had McCaskill, alone, in private, off the record, twenty bucks says she'd tell you that the answer is NO. You'd likely have to waterboard Lieberman to get the truthful answer out of him, but he'd also, under duress, say, NO. So let's not fool ourselves, here, in this forum. The answer is NO, and we know this and we aren't afraid to say so aloud. NO.

Oh, boy. Karl Rove has got his magical map, and OH NOES. Things aren't going his way. Obama's got 273 projected votes. But the campaign "ebbs and flows," Rove said, and is susceptible to rapid changes. I think that the race is probably captive to potential events in the foreign policy theater, but the underlying fundamentals of this race, established over the summer, are actually starting to unfold, and these trends are remarkably stable. The terrible economic news is solidifying this. I still say, a bin Laden mixtape could mess things up for Obama. Hope Axelrod's got a plan on hand for that.

Rove, who never met a negative attack he never liked, seems to think that McCain may have erred when he disclosed to the Washington Post that they are going on a crazy new negative advertising plan. Rove nevertheless thinks that McCain has to drive up worry about Obama's qualifications to be president. This is coming from the guy who gave us W.

Panel Time, with Hume and Liasson and Kristol and Williams. Financial "crap sandwich" edition. Hume says that the crap sandwich will take some time to work. It's got to slake through our financial digestive system, spreading its crap sandwichy goodness around the bowels of our economy, until, via explosive peristalsis, it splatters everyone, everywhere. Liasson says, "there was some confusion as to what the public wanted." I'll say! I'd have personally loved one little thing: equity. Didn't get it, did I? Equity...that's for your Warren Buffet types.

Now Hume is fighting with Williams because Williams dared to speak for more than a paragraph on how demagoguing over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. One thing no one wants to talk about, by the way: HOW IN THE WORLD DOES NATIONALIZING FREDDIE AND FANNIE HELP? Williams would, however, be better off at yelling about other examples of demagoguery.

Damn, no one wants to let Juan Williams talk at all! Chris Wallace is all, "BUT I PROMISED TO GIVE THE LAST WORD TO THE ESTEEMED BILL KRISTOL."

On to the debate. By the way: they are KILLING ME with these debates. Not even giving me a week off. Here's the thing about this Veep Debate: I think its effects on the race will be minimal. Yes, people tuned in to watch the debate. Yes, most were hoping for some sort of epic screw-up. Hume is right when he calls Palin "the excitement factor" - she is exciting, like a drunk on the train tracks is exciting. But the Veep debate was a momentary scene of comic relief among several unfolding crises. Know what's good for Obama? You don't hear people discussing Biden. That's because Biden, in the context of a train wreck that ultimately - to Palin's credit - didn't happen, didn't attract any negative attention of his own. I think Krauthammer has a good point on what's going on with this race: Obama is all about spreading calm. The electorate is growing less restless. And what's McCain doing? Tossing molotovs. I think the advantages and disadvantages in the race are pretty clear.

Naturally, McCain's all-out negative assault might work. If it doesn't though - gotta credit Hillary Clinton! Remember: the primary dosed the electorate with antibodies on some of these Obama issues. McCain would be better off mining some new territory. Mention Jeremiah Wright's name at this late date...I don't know. I go reaching for the remote. McCain needs a new "Lipstick on a Pig," not an old one.

Kristol: Palin needs to come to hostile venues. Like Fox News Sunday! Yeesh.

THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

Oh, Lord. It's a surrogate cluster-eff on this show today. When will our airwaves be free of Ed Rendell and Tim Pawlenty.

GS is leading with Palin's "palling with terrorist" remarks. Those are, indeed, some tough words from the person who will likely next face the press sometime in late November/early January.

But, whatevs! Mel Martinez: aren't you concerned about your terrible economy? No: says Martinez, because we have the olds and the Jews and the Cubans! We got us some identity politics down here! Nothing takes your mind off of your terrible foreclosure than the chance to play to cheap political division.

Sherrod Brown says McCain has "morphed into an angry, desperate candidate." He finds it, "sad," but of course, that was sort of the strategy, wasn't it? Make McCain seem like a typical GOP candidate?

TPaw, more and more, really strikes me as one of the few people who really do make Sarah Palin seem like less of an airhead by comparison. Anyway, AYERS AYERS AYERS! To which, Rendell says, "UHM, I'm changing the subject! Fie on the politics of personal destruction! Focus on the issues!" YES I AM PARAPHRASING. Deal with it, nerds.

GS brings up the fact that McCain once condemned using Reverend Wright as a campaign wedge. I guess we are going to hear about this again and again today. Look, at the time that McCain made that thoughtful, and elevated condemnation of that sort of politics, McCain was still pretty sure he'd win the election! But so much has changed! And the McCain campaign is otherwise pretty much out of ideas! Would it really be good for America for John McCain to say, "Look, America. I'm basically out of ideas. Really. I've got nothing. Let's just vote today." NUH-UH John McCain, we got a few thousand hours of newshole to fill, so YOU WILL yell about Reverend Wright.

Funny thing about Florida, actually. Know who needs to stay there? Bill Clinton. With trips to Ohio and Pennsylvania. After a month of the most tepid endorsements you could imagine, Clinton got to Florida and made a passionate case for Obama. Dig the difference: once Clinton is outside of the company of the political/media clique, and in front of normal Americans, Clinton understands that the goal isn't one of convincing his pretty, elite friends that he's still impressive. Clinton fell, naturally, into campaign trail advocacy - well enough that the Obama camp pretty much had to forgive the man his transgressions.

More importantly: no one gets across the complicated economic goings-on to average people like Clinton does. Those Floridians came to that event looking for an explanation, and Clinton, rather effortlessly, hardwired one into their brains. He's much better at putting complicated economic issues in nuts and bolts terms than Obama is.

TPaw thinks that McCain still has a chance in Minnesota. Guess he'll have more time to spend there now that he's out of Michigan. But Palin's going to Nebraska! And later this week, McCain's going to Davenport, Iowa! That's right: back to Iowa! For reasons well beyond understanding!

Chris Blakely says: "Is there anyone else on FOX News Sunday who is allowed to interrupt and pontificate to another panelist the way that Brit speaks down to Juan? If nothing else, I respect Juan for resisting the urge to jump out of his chair and punch Brit squarely in his condescending puss. Where is a Geraldo Rivera chair-throwing incident when you most need it?"

Ha. The answer is no, there is no one so roundly abused on Sundays than Juan Williams. Hume is allowed to belittle him from across the desk, and the director frequently jumps out to a two-shot of Kristol giving Williams this mocking look whenever Williams is talking. Meanwhile, does Fox ever show a shot of me rolling my eyes to the maximum apex of my ocular cavity whenever Kristol speaks? No! And I am going to pull a muscle one of these days!

Jeff P, is all up in Claire McCaskill's grill for her performance today. It was disappointing! I don't think that she's Obama's worst surrogate (I agree that Dachle is just AWFUL), but she wasn't that great today. I agree with Jeff, though, John Kerry, thanks to the remarkable dewussification process Axelrod's put him through, has really kicked some tail on Obama's behalf this season. McCain, by the way: struggling without Carly Fiorina out there.

Panel time! George Will says that Palin beat expectations! OMG! Put that on her one-sheet! "At times, she's halfway adequate!" Karen Tumulty, repping the conventional wisdom: both sides did well, not a game-changer. GS says that Biden's best moment was when he didn't correct Palin on her mistaken impression that our mission in Afghanistan is being run by the ghost of a Civil War general! YES! HEROIC JOE BIDEN ALLOWED IGNORANCE TO REIGN, because we can't have people just RUNNING AROUND, suggesting that a woman was EVER WRONG IN HER LIFE.

Oh, George Will. Why you got to stick the knife in the Cubs. Man, I feel really bad for Cubs fans.

Katrina V-H declares market fundmentalism to be bankrupt. George Will basically disagrees. KV-H is hopeful, nonetheless, that Obama can address the "inequities" of the bailout bill. I sort of think the bill is nothing but inequity. I don't know why they don't call it the "inequity" bill.

Tumulty notes that months ago, when the Obama camp was talking about campaigning in Indiana, it "was hard to take them seriously." Which basically translates as: it was hard for those of us with well-calcified viewpoints on American electoral politics to muster up the energy to go out and do any actual reporting, because lounging around spitting warmed over nonsense is so easy.

I don't know, by the way. George Will and KV-H fight a lot, but behind those eyes are two normal human beings that just might be getting it on in a coat room at the Newseum in short order. Just putting this discourse elevating comment out there!

Will thinks, by the way, that McCain going angry is a loser. On the other hand, he thinks that McCain's best shot is to make an esoteric case about the importance of a divided government. Yes: UP WITH GRIDLOCK!

Tumulty equates the old "Paris Hilton" ads with new "Angry McCain/Terrorist Obama" ads, saying that the precedent has already been set for negative campaigning. What she doesn't seem to understand is that while the "Paris Hilton/Celebrity" ads were negative, they weren't venal. And they didn't bespeak an "angry McCain." By McCain's own admission, the "Celebrity" ads were meant to be seen as JOKES. He told Obama to lighten up. That's not a possible position to take if you are going to be running angry ads.

MEET THE PRESS

Okay. Begala and Murphy will yell about the race. Chuck Todd will rock a goatee. David Gregory (Can I get a witness, by the way? Who's excited about the fact that this awful Race For The White House show has almost run its course? It's hard to find formats less inspiring then the ones you steal from ESPN'S Around the Horn, and yet somehow, R4theWH struggles to match that show's gravitas!) and Gwen Ifill and Peggy Noonan and David Yepsen - who will hopefully explain why John McCain is still skulking around Iowa.

Chuck Todd is NBC's "walking, talking Mapquest." His screen is pretty cool. Apparently, you drop a tile on the glass and the data changes. Hopefully, he won't get his electoral map tiles mixed up with his porn-stash tiles, or this show could get interesting. Anyway, the practical upshot is that the map is good for Obama and tight for McCain. The narrowness of the race in Florida, Todd says, may have prompted the pull-out in Michigan. Florida, Todd says, is getting hit "twice" economically, by housing declines and the ebbing away of tourism. I've been to Florida, and I'd say it suffers from a few other things:

--a rich tradition of consumers who buy Escalades to sit out in front of their hovels
--flatness, bleakness of landscape
--Disney is just the fracking worst thing for an economy, ever
--too much effort is expended on saving manatees, who seem to, as a species, have a higher genetic directive that compels them to suicidally juxtapose themselves with motorboat blades
--CSI: Miami. It's just so bad.
--People who call porches, "lanais." I mean, get down off your high horse.
--hurricanes have been trying to destroy Florida for years, and we just won't let them, for some reason
--sinkholes, like...EVERYWHERE
--my own terrible memories of the 1990 Citrus Bowl, with Terry Kirby fumbling the opening kickoff and Jeff George (JEFF GEORGE!) and his Illini (the FRACKING ILLINI!) emerging victorious, which made me want to set fire to Orlando, not that anyone would notice the difference. (Though I did get a chance to hang around with the woman who eventually married Tony Randall that weekend, not that I predicted that any of that was going to happen, and, indeed, was shocked to learn of their nuptials several years later, whilst thumbing through a People Magazine.
--the Fort Lauderdale Airport, which is like hell on earth
--"palmetto bugs" - which is the pleasing and euphemistic name Floridians give to giant, flying, cockroaches that are everywhere

Todd says that the fact that Obama is in play in VA and NC is all about the ground game, and the advance work made in the state primaries. I'm hearing today, by the way, that Liddy Dole is once again looking vulnerable.

What's coming? Todd says all out culture war in Pennsylvania. UGH. This sounds like a rerun of the SEVEN WEEKS we spent waiting for the Pennsylvania primary to happen. Do you remember that period of time? I'd say that it was once of the worst periods of my life so far. Top four, easily. It was probably one of yours, too. PLEASE DON'T MAKE THIS ABOUT PENNSYLVANIA.

Anyway, now Begala and Murphy are seated at the trapezoid. Murph says, "McCain's barn is on fire." He thinks McCain can win, but that he's on the losing path. Ticket splits, get out of the grind, and most importantly, FIX MCCAIN, is Murphy's advice.

Begala cites Obama's cool demeanor as a factor in his success. "Never gets too high, never gets too low." I've been thinking about what could come after an Obama win, and to my mind, I'd hope that if Obama gets to the White House, he remembers how important it is to not get "too high." There'd really be very little time for celebrating in an Obama administration, and, with events being what they are, very little cause. I mean, one of the advantages McCain would have governing, should he win, is that a vote for McCain would be a vote for resting on laurels. Obama would have to deliver a lot of heavy lifting to satisfy those who voted for him. If Barack's enjoying some effortless days on the trail lately, he'd be well-advised to recognize that they won't last.

Now, Ben Dimiero would probably point out, that on a strictly "good for the goose, good for the gander" level, John McCain enjoys the support of a guy who committed crimes, plotted murders, and planned bombings, too.

Tom Brokaw, naturally, says that the Obama-Ayers connection has been "below the radar" and that they have a relationship that's "not entirely clear." SIGH. Uhm...it was pretty above the radar a few months ago, Tom! And the reason the relationship is "not entirely clear" is that it wasn't really much as far as relationships go. I think I have forged stronger bonds with the people who work at the coffee shop across the street from me than Obama has with Bill Ayers, and heck, for all I know, those baristas are blowing up innocent people on a daily basis. I don't know! They make a mean mocha latte, anyway.

Begala points out that this story was chewed over many months ago and that McCain has been on the board of anti-Semitic organizations. And, uhm...KEATING FIVE. Murphy thinks that Obama will take a "little damage," but that the race is going to be about the economy. Murphy pretty much makes his advice clear: highlight a reform message, and suggest that McCain would be a vital check on the liberal Congress, while staying away from personal attacks. This is McCain's problem: he's not Rovey enough to win like Rove, and he's got no one in his camp that's Murphy enough.

Once again, I am objecting, globally, to the term "hockey mom." Band them together, all you want Sarah Palin. A loose affiliation of lacrosse moms can take you. And the soccer moms will take both of you. Really, I'd pick the Lawn Dart Moms over the hockey moms because of their proficiency with projectile weapons. It's like the Normals versus the Anglo-Saxons. I can't wait until "hockey moms" disappear as a political term. It's the dumbest term since "strict Constitutional constructivist."

Panel time. Brokaw warns us that they "have a lot to talk about." Peggy Noonan called Palin's performance an "effective informercial." Noonan manages to say that Palin has proven herself to be a competent debater and effectively getting across to the people. My wife says, "Wow. Peggy Noonan seems to have just now figured out that Palin was, at one time, a pageant queen." Noonan does suggest that the McCain camp's populism-as-strategy tactic is "unhealthy" for the country.

Yepsen is more realistic, at least in that he seems to be a lone voice who understands that Sarah Palin is running to be vice-president, which is the same thing as RUNNING TO BE PRESIDENT. Yepsen suggests that the performance was no game-changer, and that the people did not buy the spin that Palin was a huge success last week. Astounding. LET'S HAVE MORE OF THIS GENTLEMAN FROM IOWA, PLEASE.

Brokaw asks Ifill about the debate, to which Ifill sort of suggests there wasn't much of one, and there was very little she could do about it other than plead with the candidates to actually answer the questions. And, Ifill has taken heat from various media critics for not doing more to track the debate on target, but really, at a certain point, you just have to ask yourself, is pathetically pleading with the candidates, like Lehrer did in the first debate, really preferable?

Ifill: "Ninety-nine percent of the analysis was all about her. It was as if Joe Biden wasn't part of this deal." Ha! Just as the Obama/Biden team drew it up!

Peggy Noonan sort of looks adorable as she sits there listening to Ifill. It should be said.

David Gregory seems surprised that Biden trained his criticism on John McCain. Uhm...what did he THINK was going to happen? John McCain is the presidential nominee. Palin is a woman who happens to be in the room at the time of the debate. If Palin was importing some specific policy, or experience, or idea to the McCain campaign, one could debate that. But she's not bringing anything of her own to the table, other than what P.R. she could lend the campaign. The McCain/Palin ticket is decidedly one that has one worldview - McCain's - one set of policies - McCain's - one body of experience - McCain's. Does David Gregory think that Joe Biden was going to dig down into Sarah Palin's voting record or something? Palin's just a pitchwoman. It's as if David Gregory would substantively critique T-Mobil's calling plan by summarizing the reviews of Catherina Zeta-Jones' movies.

By the way, Palin apparently butchered a Madeleine Albright quote on the stump, saying, "There's a place in Hell reserved for women who don't support other women." So: vote for John McCain, or punch your ticket to the Tina Fey Wing of Hell For Ladies! I tell my wife and mother-in-law about this event, and what follows is praise for the comparative compassion and intelligence of Dick Cheney and Dan Quayle. The actual quote, by the way, is "There's a place in Hell reserved for women who don't help other women." Here's hoping that they let you bring your hunting rifle to hell, Sarah!

By the way, it's said that Palin got this quote off a Starbucks cup. HA HA SUCK IT JOE SIX PACK! Actually, I'm a little amazed that Palin didn't tell the assembled crowd: "Remember: contents of this cup are extremely hot, doggone it!"

Is Palin "moving the needle" for the ticket? That's the question that Chuck Todd's life has been leading to, today. There are "claims of movement" from the McCain campaign, he says. But in general, Obama's lead "has grown, not shrunk," and states where her appeal was strong are now back in play.

Noonan really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, doesn't want the campaign to get any meaner than it already is. DO YOU WANT TO HURT THIS LADY, JOHN MCCAIN AND BARACK OBAMA? You guys have already made this woman use the word "bullshit" for the first time, ever, in her life.

I have to wonder...is maybe all this talk about running negative just a front? I mean, as far as strategies go, it would be best to get blindsided by this stuff, rather than to be told in the New York Times that these attacks are coming, and get Sunday panels yapping about how painful things are going to be. I have to wonder if McCain might be borrowing a strategy from Hillary Clinton, who, during the primaries, constantly promised to unleash hell on Obama, until the cameras were on - and in those moments, especially during the debates, she was very positive, high-minded, and easy-going. (Then she's go back out on the trail and start spitting fire again.) Nevertheless, during that period of time, that strategy started to pull her candidacy back from the ledge.

Ifill responds to the calls for her to recuse herself from the debate, saying that "it only took a few mouse-clicks" to debunk the claims against her.

Chuck Todd calls the McCain campaign "a series of tactics with no strategy," a candidacy that obsesses with news cycle wins who will hear that they talked about "William Ayers on Meet The Press" and call it a win. That's a pretty good nutshelling of McCain's campaign.

Noonan really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, hates campaign strategists. I do too, Peggy!

Brokaw cracks me up, when he says that the John McCain who defames the "cocktail circuit" is the McCain they've "come to know." Yeah. You've come to know him on the cocktail circuit, Tom!

Peggy Noonan really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, thinks we should return to a nation of people who rode trolleys.

Peggy Noonan should have been a character on ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. But maybe I'm not showing the maturity and forbearance of a grown-up when I say that.

I also love how Tom Brokaw says that the candidates haven't stepped up to suggest that there will be "some pain" to endure from the American people, and that the voters themselves haven't helped things by taking out bad loans and bad mortgages. I think there's some truth to that, but I'm hardly surprised that McCain and Obama aren't running on the platform: "AMERICA: THESE PROBLEMS ARE MOSTLY YOUR FAULT, ACTUALLY." But, look: I don't recall Tom Brokaw doing a multi-part series many years ago entitled: "SUB-PRIME MORTGAGES: YOU ALL SHOULD NOT BE GETTING THESE THINGS," or "CREDIT DEFAULT SWAPS: WE'RE SORT OF UP TO EARS IN THIS CRAP NOBODY REALLY UNDERSTANDS AND MAYBE THAT ISN'T GOOD." I mean, these things are knowable. These facts were broadcastable. What was Tom Brokaw reporting on while the country was sliding into a pit?

There's a note to leave it on, as Tom Brokaw, in a sort of desultory manner, ends the show. Debate Tuesday night, between John McCain and Barack Obama. So, you have about 48 hours to get your affairs in order. Have a great Sunday, y'all!

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