11/26/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

Good morning and welcome to your liveblog of this Sunday morning's political roundtable freakfest. Only two more of these to go until that magical day where the Sunday talking heads subject themselves to the rigorous postgame analysis they've inflicted on so many others. Today, we're either going to hear about crazy McCain comeback plans, or calls for McCain to set about getting his affairs in order with a measure of dignity. I say: don't anybody get ahead of themselves. Also: don't anybody else attempt to win the election by faking a hate crime!

This morning, I hear loud whoops and cheers outside my window, and since these cheers are not tinged with racism and do not include mentions of socialism and William Ayers, I conclude that it's not a Sarah Palin rally, but rather the Marine Corps Marathon, and the cheers are directed at the various runners passing by. Hearing these accolades remind me of the very nice list that I - along with specific mention of this liveblog - ended up on over at Comedy Central insider. Yet, my enthusiasm is tempered greatly by the fact two of the other people on that list - Ana Marie Cox and Alex Balk - have since had their political hilarity restricted considerably by the end of RADAR Magazine. Yes, even in the midst of life, we are in death (of smart magazines and print media in general). Should you want to get in the bailout spirit, there are things you can do to help. In Ana Marie's case, you may visit her website and help her to conclude her campaign journey. In Balk's case, your options get much, much seedier.

Anyway, on with the show!

[I forgot to mention: send an email if you like!]


Tim Kaine, Tom Ridge, Karl Rove, and the Fox Panel talking bias! Oh, sweet monkey Christ, that's going to be great.

But first, Bush's Brain is here to tell us about how badly McCain is going to get worked on election day. Rove has Virginia and Ohio and Indiana in the Obama column, and a win for McCain is going to take some degree of what Nate Silver is talking about in the above link. Rove seems to think that the race is winnable for McCain if the national polls are within, "three or four...or five...or okay maybe six" points. They aren't. There's that one poll from AP/IPSOS (I think), that had McCain within one point, but that poll oversampled evangelicals and undersampled the youth vote for the most McCain-friendly LV model you can come up with.

I think Rove has a point about downplaying the early voting as an Obama advantage, because one cannot tell how much of Obama's finite numbers are coming in advance or whether the early voting constitutes an electoral expansion. If Obama's winning the early votes, I read that as winning Game One of the World Series and being up three runs in the third inning of Game Two.

Rove gets into the emerging circular firing squad that's breaking out on the right. SARAH PALIN HAS GONE ROGUE! Why isn't that sentence being beamed through our nation's air raid sirens? Why aren't I hiding under my desk? Rove thinks Palin has been "more a plus or a minus." He's wrong about that, but hey, you gotta respect the way the GOP just doesn't give a rat's ass about approval ratings or favorable/unfavorable numbers. Those guys are straight gangsta. Don't care whether you like them or not. Rove is, however, very whiny at the "pass" that Biden's gotten for his gaffes. The difference, of course, is that Biden has a history of saying strange things and yet NOT BLOWING UP THE WORLD. Whereas, Sarah Palin goes to drop a puck at a hockey game and the starting goalie for the Saint Louis Blues ends up getting injured.

Rove is, right now, criticizing the media for paying attention to polls and covering the "racehorse" and not the substance of the race, which is pretty hilarious. Also, earlier in the segment, he strenuously defended Steve Schmidt against the criticism that's levied at him in the New York Times, which isn't going to aid Schmidt in getting rid of that "Rove acolyte" label that he both hates and denies.

So, Tom Ridge's plane has been delayed, so it's just Wallace and the Eyebrow on the campaign trail. Kaine won't commit Virginia to Obama just yet, but cites some hopeful signs: poll numbers, superior ground game, and the enthusiasm trending in Obama's way. Naturally, here in Arlington, people are enthusiastic about voting, but Arlingtonians LOVE VOTING. We vote for crap, like, fifteen times a year. I've seen polling places open on Saturdays in Springtime. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's hard for me to gauge the enthusiasm of Virginia. But, everything I've heard about the Obama ground game in Virginia marks it as a superior operation, especially compared to the one that Kerry had going.

Kaine thinks that Obama can win the presidency without Virginia, but that McCain can't do the same, which is sort of a moot point since if Obama doesn't win Virginia, obviously McCain does. Unless it falls to Bob Barr.

In responding to Biden's remarks about the "generated crisis" that will be thrown at Obama, Kaine says that we're in for a "challenging Inauguration Day." REALLY? We're gonna be knee deep in the poop from Day One? Great answer, Tim!

Tim redeems himself addressing race in the race, noting that Virginia elected Douglas Wilder, and speaking of the "enthusiasm" and "loyalty" that black voters have brought to their support of white candidates, and that he doesn't believe that white voters "in 2008" aren't going to show "the same equanimity." Kaine doesn't think that race will play too large a negative role on Election Day. I think that there's likely to be no way to tell one way or the other, so I'm planning on thinking the best of everyone. Or trying to. Some of you are making it hard! Like Miss Moron Ashley Todd.

Chris Blakely writes in:

Another thing Karl pointed out -- and of course we never hear this on FOX News -- is other media bias -- even some of the media outlets where Karl has worked (Newsweek) or continues to work. This is some pretty funny stuff. I noticed Karl wasn't critical of the Wall Street Journal.

Also, Karl's main message on polls is as simplistic: Polls are bad when my candidate is behind and good when my candidate is ahead. Even more ludicrous is the statement (and I paraphrase) that we need to be careful of these university polls that may not be as accurate as the professional polling companies. Hmmmmmm... that is an interesting perspective especially when we consider the reputation that many leading research universities possess based on the use of solid methodology, designed to eliminate error and bias, versus the private sector where agendas and clients are often the driving forces behind the poll.

Chris also mentions that, despite what Rove says, Schmidt comes out okay in the NYT Magazine piece and I sort of agree. In general, I think that Schmidt comes across as being well-intended but too "outside the circle" to make his ideas work. Mark Salter is the heroic hagiographer who is the keeper of the Real McCain. Rick Davis is the bloodless, Sith Lord hack. What the article sort of fails to really point out is how none of those guys were strong enough to take their mercurial, whimsical candidate into a room, sit him down, and tell him NO, NO, NO. Bill Clinton, famously, was a candidate who deserved, and got, final edit on his campaign. For all the hype his advisors got in the press, none of them have fared very well outside his orbit. McCain's totally different. He shouldn't be given the final edit on his campaign decisions. All those competing narratives that Draper chronicles? You can't say that those aren't the ingredients of a successful presidential candidacy. More importantly, they bespeak what should be a worrying style of governance.

Anyway, Panel Time. And yeah, I forgot to mention: send an email if you like!

Oooh! Bill Kristol is totally defending his new girlfriend, Sarah Palin! He's yelling at her staff for the clothes that got bought! Why won't she do Sunday shows? That's McCain staff fault too! She needs to talk to McCain and convince him to let her do it, Kristol says! All sorts of unnamed sources that Kristol knows say Palin is great, "I believe them and she should do Fox News Sunday," Kristol says.

Juan Williams insists that Palin has been a drag on the campaign.

Hume, as desultory as ever, notes that the dissension in the McCain camp is the "symptom, not a cause" of a bad campaign, and correctly, in my estimation, captures the McCain candidacy as an "exercise in improvisation." To Hume, the story is the mortgage crisis. Liasson, however, insists that he could have run a better campaign, like, say, actually lay out a "reform" program. And there you have it: Liasson is the first of the morning to suggest that the task now is to determine how McCain should end his campaign.

KRISTOL: "If Palin was on any Sunday show today, she could talk about these issues" and demonstrate competence. YES. ISN'T IT HORRIBLE HOW DARK FORCES HAVE CONSPIRED TO MAKE THIS BRILLIANT STATESWOMAN, SARAH PALIN, NOT APPEAR ON SUNDAY SHOWS?

Hume says that the "coverage of Palin" has been way unfavorable compared to Joe Biden. I agree, Joe Biden is probably the luckiest man in the race right now - but Hume's just incorrect when he suggests that Obama doesn't get asked questions after Biden says weird things. Biden's remarks were the main brush the press tarred the Obama campaign with this week. Ironically, Fox News Sunday, with Tim Kaine just now, went really EASY on Biden! They read part of the "generated crisis" quote, but not the part where he says, "it won't immediately be apparent that Obama is right" part! I mean, we're talking about going easy on Biden...CHRIS WALLACE WENT EASY ON BIDEN TEN MINUTES AGO!

Wallace applies bad logic to his analysis of Palin's coverage. He says: PALIN IS A POPULAR GOVERNOR, thus: COVERAGE SHOULD BE FAVORABLE. What seems apparent to me is that Palin's popularity has largely been fueled by a LACK OF SCRUTINY. The funny thing about Biden is that he's been endlessly scrutinized, and has earned his reputation as a gaffe-prone guy. But people recognize: this is more to do with a sort of diarrhea-of-the-mouth situation, rather than actual stupidity. In truth, Biden's time on the campaign trail, from the convention to this past week, has actually been an unexpectedly decent period for Biden. Honestly, I think the press is so used to ONLY covering Biden at his worst, that now that they are seeing that he's able to get through sixty percent of his days without saying anything crazy, they are RELATIVELY impressed.

On the other hand, people like Bill Kristol keep saying that Palin is some sort of brilliant politician, but the reality just hasn't matched the reviews since the week of the convention.


Economic concerns are going to be the thrust of today's FTN, which features Robert Rubin and Douglas Holtz-Eakin. Then a Battle of the Surrogates between Tim Pawlenty and Ed Rendell.

But first, Rubin and Holtz-Eakin bring their otherworldly charisma to Sunday Morning. Schieffer wants to know why the financial world hasn't gotten all better since all the bailing out. Rubin, sliding back and forth in his chair, thinks that a lot has happened and that patience is needed, plus a stimulus package. Also, it's a perfect storm, we're in unchartered waters - nautical metaphors that indicate that William Ayers have prepared these remarks.

But is Rubin suggesting that it's time for a New New Deal? Rubin says: not exactly. But, "a very large program." Mainly focused on infrastructure. And tax rebates. Are we in a recession? How long will it last? Rubin doesn't know, but the "crisis of confidence" part of the meltdown can be "stemmed, within a reasonable period of time." And that reasonable period time is a "matter of months," just for the confidence part. But Rubin leaves himself a ton of wiggle room. Rubin says that Obama's "highly active" in developing public policy to help the economy. Schieffer asks if he thinks a bailout of the auto industry is necessary. Rubin's answer is basically a "YES" buried inside a whole lot of hemming and hawing.

DH-E says that it boils down to "where you place your faith...government or Wall Street," and that McCain is about placing his faith in the people! Which is why he...uhm...rubber stamped a bailout package...that...uhhh...joined the government to Wall Street. Uhm...

"Keeping people in jobs," DH-E is the Greatest Stimulus Of All, and that's it's happening to him. McCain will be a job-creation machine, with his spending freeze.

I'm really disappointed in DH-E! Come on, dude! Say "Joe The Plumber!" Don't you realize how much consumer confidence is tied to repeated mentions of his name? Everytime I hear about that guy, I swell with confidence. JOE THE PLUMBER is the BLUE-FINGERED IRAQI for the American Economy.

Now it's Rendell versus TPaw. Rendell is nervous about the lead Obama has in Pennsylvania and wants Obama back in his state. He's getting his wish: Obama's coming to Pittsburgh, Bill Clinton's coming to Philly. Palin is going to be riding around on a bus. McCain staffers will be slicing gang insignia into their cheeks, and blaming Ed Rendell.

Meanwhile, here's TPaw, the Guy Who Was Gonna Be Vice-President before everyone on the McCain team Plumb Lost Their Minds. Schieffer goes right there, and TPaw has to say a lot of pleasing things like "Palin transcends any one state" in "terms of her appeal." And yet, McCain could really use just one good state in his column right now, instead of a little uptick in national appeal. TPaw's a pretty good soldier - he doesn't actually believe anything he's saying about Palin.

Ed Rendell tries to "make it clear, once and for all" that Obama's tax plan is to cut/not increase taxes for 95% of Americans. Somehow, I don't think people on the other side are going to treat this as a settled matter!

Should the GOP give up on the White House and start to direct their money to the Senate? TPaw says, NO SILLY: John McCain is a COMEBACK KID who can't be COUNTED OUT and something about U-HAUL TRUCKS.

Emailer Daniel Smith writes: "Am I the only one who thinks Ed Rendell is THE THING?" And now coffee is blasting out my nose!

Schieffer finishes up today talking about all the DIRTY SEXY MONEY in the campaign, and suggests that Obama's haul "ends the hope of serious campaign finance reform." No offense, Bob, but to my mind it actually extends the HOPE of serious campaign finance reform, because the lion's share of that money is small donations from ordinary citizens who bought in and who are too great and too anonymous a mass for any one player to exert influence over policy. Had the GOP ran a candidate with similar appeal, they'd have opted out of "public" financing for ACTUAL public financing, too. And when they find one the market will support, they will. And I'll welcome that opportunity on both sides, because from where I sit, it just makes sense, and that this is the system that should be perfected.

Schieffer also says he wants to take a nap. Cheer up, old man! This will all be over in nine days!


Oh, boy. FTN was so steeped in financial crisis substance, that I feel like a wafer-thin mint of nonsense, so let's watch Chris Matthews why not? He's got a Palin segment today called "Baked Alaska," so you know the level of the room is going to be low. Panelists are Anne Kornblut (who won't friend me on Facebook), Clarence Page, Andrea Mitchell (who like Norah O'Donnell, is decked out in leather on Sundays - must be an NBC thing), and John Heileman.

Okay, so, is Obama a GAME CHANGER for the WHOLE DARNED COUNTRY, realigning politics, and resulting in a landslide? Well, as it turns out, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush are some Stuff White People Like...but McCain, not so much.

So, what's stopping everyone from just saying that the Democrats are a bunch of elitist twats bent on socializing the world? Heileman says, "economics trumps culture." Yeah, that's America! When the good times are rolling, we're all bent on proving our tribe is the best one and all the other tribes can eat it. Then GREAT GOD MONEY brings down the House of Atreus and suddenly we're all a-quiver with fear. Isn't it awesome, oscillating between these two poles?

Kornblut says that Obama is winning because he's reasonable and that McCain seems old and erratic, which is some REALLY ORIGINAL THINKING right there.

I still think that Andrea Mitchell Covered In Balloons is the political Halloween costume of 2008, though everyone's going to be going as Ashley Todd, now. There will be rooms, filled with Ashley Todds this Halloween.

The Matthews panel has concluded that Obama won the week, what with Colin Powell standing up for him last Sunday. Mitchell says that this week really solidified his electoral map strategy, as well.

Meanwhile, Matthews takes Michelle Bachmann out for another spanking, by replaying her CRAZY appearance on Hardball. Heilemann says that he enjoyed the moment where Matthews "eyes lit up" in realization that Bachmann was about to make news. I don't know how you discern another person's eye-lights when faced with the crazy, alien glow that drones out of Bachmann's ocular cavity. I tell you, MICHELLE BACHMANN IS JUST THE WORST. Please cap her at the polls, Minnesota! PLEASE.

Emailer Henry Kamerling says, "Everyone, yourself included, seem to suggest that the difference in coverage of the Biden/Palin gaffe fest has to do with Biden's well-known penchant for gaffes. I think this misses the much larger point that is about the gaffe set againt context of their respective public careers and images." Honestly, I think I was trying to make the same point Henry does, but, admittedly, he puts it into perspective far more eloquently than i managed:

Anyway, on all the talk show comparisons between Biden and Palin and the media's coverage of their respective gaffes one thing seems to be consistantly missing. Biden has a long (and in my opinion excellent) public track record of accomplishments. He has, over his long career, demonstrated deep knowledge of the important issues facing the nation on both the domestic and international fronts. When he says something stupid (which he does from time to time) it is said against the backdrop of a career of excellence and achievement. IMHO, both the media and the public are more inclined to give Biden a pass on his mistakes or not make as big a deal about them anyway because of his larger image and record.

In stark contrast to this, when Palin makes a gaffe her mistake is magnified percisely because she has no such comparable public record. She lacks a broad imprint with the public or the press. As a result her missteps on the public stage are actually more newsworthy and revealing. The sneaking fear out there is that Palin is not more than the sum of her mistakes.

Indeed, I think that all of this is true, and I think that one of the things that alienates people toward Palin - and that has directly led to her falling from favor and being thought of as a drag, is that she does not seem willing to account for this! She could admit to the fact that she suffers from a short profile that sets off her mistakes in higher contrast, and then remedy it by extending her profile. But she refuses to do that. Rather, she insists on avoiding scrutiny, which only increases its intensity. It seems to me that Palin wants the full faith and credit given to a political figure that people know well, but she's not willing to submit to the tests of public faith that lead to a familiarity that allows for forgiveness. Please note: when she came to the debate, most people showered her with compliments, despite her misleading strategy of only answering questions she was willing to pose to herself.

Anyway, now Matthews and crew takes up the matter. Clarence Page rates Palin as a "short term plus/long term minus." Matthews notes that "somebody changed the question" to "is Palin ready to be president?" Who changed that question? Uhm...John McCain! By selecting her! Think about it! No one would be wondering whether Palin was ready to be president if McCain had named Pawlenty of Lieberman. Heileman agrees with me: "It's always the question."

Palin in 2012? Kornblut says yes. Page says yes, via talk show stardom. Mitchell agrees, pitting Sarah Palin against Mike Huckabee. Heileman says yes as well. Well, GREAT DAYS ARE AHEAD.

By the way, why is Mike Huckabee's show called, "Huckabee?" Is it so he knows what show is his?

As always, here are the things Matthews doesn't know. Kornblut says that if Kerry had won 95% of the black vote in Ohio, he would be President right now. (Hey! Some folks would suggest that Kerry did! Both of those things! (For the record, I'm not one of them.)) Page says that Baby Boomers are the swing vote, especially old Boomers - who didn't know that? Mitchell says that McCain is going to be surrounded by his old pals in this...the hour of his political demise. Heileman says that Obama is ahead of the game in transition planning - which demonstrates that Heileman can read a newspaper. So he throws in a spicy prediction: Larry Summers will be at Treasury. That's not exactly going out on a limb.

Finally, what was the turning point for the Obama campaign? Kornblut says: IOWA. Page agrees. Mitchell says the debates. Heileman says his opposition to the Iraq War. And....HEILEMAN IS RIGHT! Absent his opposition to Iraq, Obama is unable to present any significant structural difference with Hillary Clinton, and Clinton wins Iowa, and the nomination, running away.


OH MY GOD. John McCain is going to be making his last stand on MEET THE PRESS in WATERLOO, IOWA. The man is going to be whimsical to the very end, it seems.

OK. Now with Brokaw's diction, I can't tell if it's Waterville or Waterloo - both are places in Iowa.

Does McCain feel like Costner in FIELD OF DREAMS or Clooney in PERFECT STORM. McCain says he's more like Reagan in KNUTE ROCKNE, winning one for the Gipper. The Gipper didn't believe in polls! McCain "trusts his senses," like a blind ninja! He sees intensity and passion and he's proud of his campaign, which oscillates between listlessness and crazy.

Okay, my computer just started making crazy noises, and here's why: At Ana Marie's recommendation, I have this page open, and once you browse out and open it, too, YOU WILL NOT COME BACK HERE. SUCH IS THE CUTENESS.

Anyway: McCain spent the earlier part of the week yelling at Bush, but Brokaw busts out a Gotcha Journalism Clip of McCain praising Bush and talking about how awesome it will be to campaign with him. Brokaw says, "HMMM. You sure sound different!" McCain's got the same three things that separate him from Bush: Surge, earmarks, environment. I'm just as bored with that as I am with Obama's: ethics reform, non-proliferation bill. NINE DAYS MORE.

"I've got the scars to prove it," McCain says. EVERYBODY DRINK.

Brokaw keeps busting out the bad polls, which seems like a pointless endeavor, since McCain only publicly supports polls that favor him. The only issue advantage he has with Obama is in Iraq, which leads McCain to say, "We finally found the pony." YES. THE IRAQ WAR IS INDEED A VERY FINE PONY. FOR THE BABY HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE TO RIDE. Anyway, McCain just says: "The polls are wrong, and I'm going to win." These are "fundamental assumptions that I don't agree with!" Also: JOE THE PLUMBER. Okay, Tom Brokaw? JOE. THE. PLUMBER. Also: HERBERT HOOVER. Sarah Palin will rename the Hoover Dam something like "The Joe The Plumber Water Holder Backer."

What about Chris Buckley? McCain says, OBAMA HAS BEEN JUDGED TO BE LIBERAL. He wants to SPREAD WEALTH, which is crazy! Clearly consolidating wealth into as few hands as possible is the way to save Joe The Plumber. But McCain is confronted with some more GOTCHA CLIPS. Forcing McCain to dribble on for a minute ago about the flat tax before he just says, "These are different times, my friends."

Brokaw wants to know how a bailout package that nationalizes banks and government purchasing mortgages isn't socialism. McCain says, it's about the financial crisis. There's way too much risk! Risk must be socialized! Once everyone starts profiting again, no worries--the government will find a way to keep those profits from the public!

McCain then says the word "fundamental" about ninety times, and then compares the crisis to a "drive by shooting." Which isn't playing the race card at all! And frankly, isn't an accurate descriptor of the crisis. If you could see a drive-by shooting coming way in advance - the way sensible people did with this financial crisis - there wouldn't be drive-by shootings!

Should the government give the auto industry fifteen billion dollars? McCain says, "Let's get them the twenty-five billion dollars we promised them first." And ladies and gentlemen: right there is ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW about the toxic, co-dependent relationship between our government and the auto industry. BELIEVE ME. When the auto industry asked for $25 billion, it wasn't because they sat down and said, "Okay. What's it going to take to shore up our problems, long term, once and for all, by our best and most informed estimation?" No. It was more like this:

"Hey, what's a big, yet plausible number to ask the government for?"

"You mean the taxpayers?"

"HAHAHA YES, but let's say the government so that people will feel that they are at a remove from our bullshit instead of ALL KNIT UP IN IT LIKE CRAZY because if they felt that way they might say, LET THE AUTO INDUSTRY DIE FOR ALL WE CARE."

"Let's say $25 billion!"

"OK. Are you sure?"

"Yes. After all, by their own admission, this $700 billion dollar bailout is an arbitrary number that they came up with because it sounded good. What's nice about it is that once you've agreed to save the whole world for $700 billion, saving our little part of the world for $25 billion sounds like a bargain!"

"Oh, that's so totally true. Okay, so $25 billion it is! This of course, doesn't mean we're not going to go back in a few months and ask for $15 billion more, right?"

"HAHAHA. NO. We so totally will! And when we do, we'll already have the plan in place to ask for $40 billion the next time."


"Indeed, capitalism really rules when you get to opt out of it now and then, especially when now and then basically means ALWAYS."

McCain: "Let's give 'em $25 billion and see how it goes." SEE HOW IT GOES. WOO! Let's dangle our penis near this woodchipper, and SEE HOW THAT GOES.

McCain says that American businesses pay high tax rates. One of his examples: "Ask John Chambers, CEO is Cisco," and he'll tell you that he pays 35%. KNOW WHAT JOHN MCCAIN? If you ask, here's what you'll find out (via Dan Ancona):

Cisco Systems, the second-most valuable company in America, paid no federal income taxes for its latest fiscal year thanks to a little-known corporate tax break on employee stock options.

Microsoft, which ranks No. 4 in market value, did not pay any federal taxes either, it seems.

Like many high-tech firms, Cisco and Microsoft are allowed to take a tax deduction for money their employees earn when they ``exercise'' options and buy stock in the company at a preset price.

These options have become an increasingly popular way for businesses to reward employees, but they also have huge benefits to the companies themselves.

The tax break was established decades ago, when companies doled out stock options to only a handful of top executives and the tax benefit they generated was minimal.

But now that many companies -- including Cisco, Microsoft and most other new-economy firms -- give options to everyone, the tax break is becoming enormous.

In Cisco's case, this benefit wiped out $1.8 billion in federal taxes, and probably more than twice that for Microsoft.

Some people, even those who oppose taxes, think it is unfair that wealthy companies paid none to Uncle Sam.

For the fiscal year ended July 31, Cisco had $23 billion in sales last year, $2.7 billion in net income, and its almost $400 billion market value is exceeded only by General Electric's.

``For a company that makes that kind of money not to pay taxes raises serious tax-equity questions,'' said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

He also said he believes it is ``hypocritical'' for Cisco to take this ``massive tax break'' and at the same time support Proposition 39, which would make it easier to raise property taxes on California homeowners. Prop 39 would allow local school bonds to be approved by a vote of 55 percent instead of the current two-thirds.

So, hey! Cisco! You want to go to Ireland, and pay MORE in taxes? Do it. I EFFING DARE YOU TO MOVE TO IRELAND, CISCO. Go for it! Eat a potato!

On Palin: "I don't defend her. I praise her. She needs no defense." Somewhere out there, Kathleen Parker's ears are ringing. There's simply nothing more transparent than the sight of McCain in denial.

"She has given back money to the taxpayers." YES, through a very socialist mechanism!

Why do McCain and Palin disagree from time to time? Because they are both mavericks, of course! I'm sort of having a hard time these days, at what the appeal of being a "maverick" is. If all it means is that you build a bunch of weak coalitions, undertake a number of crazy stunts, and fight vigorously with the people on your own side, then I'm not seeing how maverickism redounds to anyone's benefit.

Five former secretaries of state - four of whom McCain can remember, given two chances to do so - support McCain. (George Schultz falls into the black hole today. You'd think it'd be Eagleburger.)

So, here's the good news for McCain. One: his hometown newspaper, the Arizona Republic, endorsed him for President. Two: John McCain was shot down, forty-one years ago today! So, it's time for a little last minute hagiography!

Panel Time! Chuck Todd, Kelly O'Donnell and Charlie Cook form around the circular table.

Can Obama take Georgia? Todd says turnout among African-Americans is gigantic, and that now people are questioning whether the race isn't closer in South Carolina and Mississippi. Todd says the Obama has a better shot in the McCain-lean states than McCain does in the Obama-lean states.

The state of the GOTV effort? O'Donnell says that McCain can't match the money, but Palin keeps the personnel energized. Brokaw moves his hand up into the shot, like he's going to do hand puppets.

Cook notes that September spawned a monster called the economic downturn that shoved all the small stuff off the table, placed Obama at an advantage, and created a trend in his favor that hasn't ebbed. Todd seconds this with what he's been saying all week - Obama has many paths to win. Cook says that the only fear that the Obama camp should have is that the signs are lining up too well, and that something is going to go wrong. O'Donnell says that the McCain camp is "worried" that their message isn't getting out. I wonder which one of their ten messages she's referring to.

I know that the whole sixty-vote majority gets a lot of hype, and that the way this issue has been primed, it will be a huge disappointment if the Dems can't make it there and a relief to the GOP. In real life, those sixty vote majorities aren't easy locks even if you can line up a whole party under the banner. Certain Democrats tend to break from the herd on certain issues and their constituencies are going to allow this. On the other hand, Republicans can always be found to help bring about consensus. Obviously, the president will have to play a part in building these coalitions, and clearly, it will come easier for Obama. This is, I feel, simple reality. I'm not trying to steal a selling point from's not a selling point he owns, by his won admission. He suggests that he'll reach across the aisle - that's basically how he'll sell his compromises.

Anyway, that's MEET THE PRESS, already moving on, downticket, in Waterloo (or Waterville), Iowa. Why is McCain in Iowa, AGAIN, anyway? Who knows.

Nine days more! And one more Sunday! And no more Amy Poehler. But at least there are puppies! Have a great week!