TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

01/28/2009 05:12 am 05:12:01 | Updated May 25, 2011

Good morning and welcome to your Sunday Morning liveblog! And Merry Christmas or Happy Hannukah or Pleasant Other Seasonal Slash Religious Holiday to you all. Also: Happy New Year. This will be the last of these liveblogs of 2008, which is exciting. Time to put 2008 behind us and get started on a fresh, new, terrible year in 2009. From my Christmas presents, I can tell that my wife hopes one of my New Years resolutions will be to read more novels, and less terrible political books. Reading for fun? It could happen! Today, I'll preview Curtis Sittenfeld's American Wife with Fox News Sunday's sit down with Laura Bush. Plus, whatever Obama spokesmen remain in the Washington, DC area will be on This Week and Meet The Press. Or NONE OF THAT, because it's GO TIME on a super new war in the Middle East. Wow! Has "democracy" taken root up in that piece or what?

Anyway, leave a comment, send an email, pray to someone for some sort of "future."


Well, things are bananas in Gaza: a second day of airstrikes (because airstrikes have long been the answer to everything) that have killed 275. Wallace says a Palestinian rocket has gotten further into Israel "than ever before," which sounds real authoritative.

But first: Laura Bush! Laura was happy to learn that being First Lady comes with a certain amount of clout. As if the "media" wasn't willing to hand her a megaphone, through which their gaping 24 hour maw could be fed by someone...anyone, really...talking. Anyway, Laura Bush hated the way women were treated in Afghanistan, which is actually sort of nice. And no, her attention hasn't managed to solve the problem, but no one expects that much from a First Lady, and she's been following through on her efforts and I've no doubt she's quite sincere, so all-in-all, I'm going to just generally say that Laura's been a mitzvah, because I'm not interested in getting all angry about what she has to say today. Peace on earth, mercy mild and stuff, and it's not like she's been running around with the nuclear football or personally vetting Douglas Feith for hire.

Or, hey, I can be nice up to a point. She says that the shoe-throwing incident was an assault, and it should be treated that way, and that Saddam Hussein would have carved the shoe-thrower up and fed him to rats. Yes: one should not be allowed to throw shoes at any POTUS without some sort of legal punishment But, it's not like the Iraqis are treating that guy like it was a simple assault, and Laura's wrong to say that the shoe-throwing incident is a sign of a freer society. The Daily Show is a sign of a free society. Shoe throwing is a sign of s desperate society.

Laura apparently has told George to "tone it down, buster." Chain smoking sure has mellowed her out. Also: Xanax.

Now we are going to go through the events of the presidency, to get her brief reaction.

9/11: Tragedy! She was hanging with Senator Kennedy. There were too many picnic tables on the White House lawn. And then: anxiety! Worry was everywhere! Bob Woodward, always hanging around, like a jerk.

Katrina: She feels terrible! Sorry the response wasn't faster! The U.S. Coast Guard, though was awesome, and they never get enough credit. (BOTH ARE TRUE.) The media sucked.

We stay in Iraq: That came from Bush's "really tough inner core." That hard, husk of an "inner core" that lives in the place where I keep what is known as "my soul!"

Troops: They are awesome because they volunteer to fight for the country, even in meaningless ways!

Anything else she wants to "get off her chest?" No.

What about this terrible failed presidency? Laura says it's not a failed presidency, and that history will judge. That's what wives say. When I ruined dinner a few months ago, my wife told me that history will not deem me a monster either. But the broccoli knows the truth, and they still sing my name as if I were a war criminal.

Laura is excited to be returning to Texas, and to Dallas specifically, because she no longer has to pretend like she lives on a pretend ranch in the middle of nowhere.

Also, she cannot cook a decent meal, and George W. Bush hates the prospect of eating her food, but that's about as close to "justice" as we're going to get! Laura Bush's salmon mousse is our stand-in for The Hague.

Oh, hey. Here's a veer! Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. What does she need to achieve in Gaza before the airstrikes "succeed?" The strikes will CHANGE REALITIES. They will last long enough to CHANGE REALITIES. Does she want a cease fire, or the destruction of Hamas. In so many words...the latter, unless Hamas gives up their regional plans. Hamas' regional plans, by the way, include KILLING EVERYTHING and then KILLING IT AGAIN, expecially Palestinian moderates.

But, Livni says, these strikes aren't being launched to address the politics of the matter, they are being done to CHANGE REALITIES. Wallace asks if the goal is to "degrade" Palestine's ability to launch attacks. Livni says, they want to CHANGE REALITIES. It is like she's a Scientologist or something. Will she launch a ground attack? Livni says that "the last thing she wants to do is to tell Hamas through the press what Israel intends to do. Just know: REALITY IS ABOUT TO BE CHANGED, through terrible, violent airstrikes.


Well, folks, this is a disappointment. Due to a hiccup in my internet connection, I just lost my entire commentary on the Fox News Sunday panel. I've tried to retrieve it, to no avail. I'm very sorry for this. It was a pretty terrible panel. They talked about sports, and Kate Winlet, and the Hills. Anyway, we now rejoin THIS WEEK, in progress.



Anyway! We join Jake Tapper, in the seat for George Stephanopoulos, asking Senator Sherrod Brown about whether or not he's upset about the TARP money getting "lost" by the banks, who cannot account for every dollar they were given. He's outraged! Yes, Sherrod Brown I don't think did anything to ensure oversight of those monies on his end, so NATURALLY, that's what banks should have done with the billions of dollars they were handed, without strings attached, other than the hope that they might lend it, maybe, if they could, because it would be really nice!

Tapper wishes Corker the best, seeing as his state is submerged in coal slurry. You'd think that would be, you know, NEWS. But instead, let's talk to Robert Gibbs!

Does Gibbs feel bad about waiting so long to tell everyone about their contacts with Blago? Not really! Worried about Bill Richardson getting confirmed? Not really! Worried about entering the "sphere of fame" that comes with being the press secretary? Not really! Gonna move the country forward, with the Change!

Jake Tapper shows some Godfather clips, asking whether he's Sonny Corleone or Tom Hagen. Gibbs is not worried! But he's such a "knife fighter," according to Tapper! Maybe he needs the advice of terrible press secretaries, like Dana Perino and Scott McClellan.

"That's difficult," Tapper asks, "to speak with so many people." I think that's what he said. This is the dumbest interview ever. Tapper asks if there are risks to having a Cabinet full of strong personalities. He means HILLARY CLINTON, doesn't he? Yes. How is Hillary going to get along with Robert Gates? Uhm, probably pretty well, Jake! Gates wants the State Department to receive more funding and play a bigger role! Tapper makes sure to refer to the State Department as "Foggy Bottom" because he wants to show off that he knows all the insidery press lingo that no news consumers actually care about.

Now Joe Lockhart is talking. Shut up, Joe Lockhart!

This interview, by the way? Much, much stupider than the interview with Laura Bush and Chris Wallace. Honestly. Bill Sammon had more substantive things to say about The Hills. I wish that the internet had killed this part of the liveblog, because that was just horrible.

Okay. Panel time with a bunch of people filling in for the usual people who are probably on vacation, and the people who traditionally fill in for the usual people, who are also on vacation. This is like the third string panel. It consists of John DIckerson, Kurt Andersen, David Brody and Alison Stewart and a tape recorder, and a parade float, and a scarecrow, and a frisky sea otter, and a broom with a wig on it.

Caroline Kennedy and I share the same linguistic tic: the tendency to say "you know" over and over and over again. My voice teacher used to make such of me! And I wasn't rich or connected enough to have her killed, like the Kennedys do.

Dickerson says the case for Kennedy is money. Scads of money. Lots of money. Stewart says she's a serious person, because she rides the subway in New York City, and knows what stations operate at rush hour only. Brody, naturally, draws the connection to Sarah Palin, and how the Kennedy roll-out has been a big mess. Stewart says that the fact that Kennedy said she was 'volunteering" would be a turn off. That doesn't make much sense. Andersen says it's a positive that Kennedy hasn't been "scheming" for the seat.

Tapper uses the word "scheming" to transition to a discussion of Blagojevich. Dickerson makes the incredible point that the Obama team did a better job with their transition picks than with the Blago matter - ALMOST AS IF THEY WERE TOTALLY IN CONTROL OF THE FORMER, and SUBJECT TO EVENTS IN THE LATTER. Anyway, Obama was terrible at transparency! The way he followed Patrick Fitzgerald's instructions to the latter was treasonous! The way that those transcripts almost exactingly paint the picture of the Obama team's total lack of wrongdoing is terribly, terribly suspect, and maybe the should all be killed, by Israeli airstrikes, because the Obama team is Hamas. Why didn't Jake Tapper strangle Robert Gibbs, for justice.

Now, predictions. Stewart thinks that Obama will have a longer-than-usual honeymoon period, despite being responsible for all Chicago Machine Corruption, like the Great Chicago Fire and the cancer caused by Deep Dish Pizza. Brody says that there will be a new moderate power center in the Senate that will call itself "Hawaii 5-0," because Brody's cultural references are all from 90 years ago.

Meanwhile, this panel is going to make dumb non-political predictions, like the Fox Panel. Kurt Anderson EXPLAINS what the movie Wall-E is, as if the rest of the world hasn't figured that out. Brody says that Kanye West will be on a "fatherhood panel," teaching dads to be self-reliant, and to use AutoTune. Stewart says that people will go mad for a cell phone that is just a phone, which is DUMB. She also says that there will be a DC reality show "that will follow staffers, maybe?"

No. The planned DC reality show is called BLONDE CHARITY MAFIA and it is about dull-witted boutique owners and the unemployable gang of weak-tea boys that travel in their wake, getting set up with Capitol Hill jobs by the parents. They all go to six bars that no one else goes to because they're all terrified of actual DC residents, and they chronicle their tepid sexual exploits on the internet. Hopefully, this show will never air, because it will make Washington, DC look so insipid that the only alternative will be to call in terrible Israeli airstrikes, to CHANGE REALITIES.

Stewart is also a Fred Armisen hater, despite the fact that he's gotten quite good at his Obama imitation and is just as mixed race as Obama is. Brody is talking about poop.

It's the last show of the year, where no one is even trying to produce a broadcast of even minimal quality.


Did you know that if you pause the opening sequence of MEET THE PRESS just so, it looks as if David Gregory's face is exploding with the radiant, golden light of a thousand angels? It's true. Awfully presumptuous of NBC, in my opinion. Especially after his terrible interview with Condoleezza Rice last week. I guess today he'll be totally giftwrapping questions for David Axelrod, right? IT'S THE LAST SHOW OF THE YEAR. THERE ARE NO STANDARDS!

Gregory starts with reportage on Israel and Palestine. Events warrant this, but it should be noted that leading off with a reported segment is a move that Slate's Jack Shafer strongly suggested NBC make with Gregory at the helm of MTP. Gregory notes that a ground offensive seems to be in the offing, that Palestine has issued a call for suicide bombers, and that the Israeli cabinet is meeting in emergency session. Also Tzipi Livni is back, and we'll see if she runs the same game as far as CHANGING REALITIES and IMPROVING CONDITIONS and helping Palestine get rid of its BODY THETANS through airstrikes goes.

"Israel decided to leave Gaza Strip and we got Hamas in return," Livni says, PERHAPS glossing over what's already been said - that she was a proponent of that move. PROBABLY glossing over Israel's continued control over that region, which has never really made for a clean "return of Gaza." And DEFINITELY glossing over how much the Bush administration, by ratcheting up tensions in the Middle East and invading Iraq and calling it a crusade and a "clash of civilizations" has a lot to do with "giving Israel Hamas in return." Hey! We also helped out Hezbollah and the fundamentalist regime in Iran, too!

"Aren't you making the case for removing Hamas from power?" Gregory asks. Let's hope that's the sum and summa of Israel's case! Livni insists that Israel is doing what they can to avoid civilian casualties. She's in talks with Secretary Rice, who's in no position to caution anyone on avoiding civilian casualties, herself. Anyway, Livni's in an appreciably tough spot, seeing as how Hamas is, to put it mildly, intransigent, and seeing as everything going forward will impact her politically and electorally. But Gregory does a pretty good job in this interview, all the same: unlike the Wallace interview, Livni doesn't continually repeat her WE WILL CHANGE REALITIES line over and over again. So. good news: a strong case for Shafer's suggestion that MTP lead off with a bit of reportage! And, bad news: War is back in a big way in the Middle East.

Now, we transition to Axelrod. Axelrod says Obama has spoken with Rice and he is monitoring the situation, but he reminds that there's only one President at a time. That's true, but, let's face it, I think Henry Paulson is the only thing America has that comes close to a sitting President at the moment, so, no ones going to really begrudge Obama from taking initiative. Axelrod reconfirms that Obama is very much opposed to CONTINUAL ROCKET ATTACKS ON ISRAEL. I'm reminded of all those commercials that ran during the debates, about what America would be like is Baltimore was continually attacking Washington with rockets. That would be just like Baltimore! Anyway, I'd say it's pretty much okay to be anti-getting-shelled-with-rockets-every-day.

So, with that out of the way, we turn to Blagojevich. I have a question: does the press just keep rerunning that footage of Blago jogging, or does he go out in a black tracksuit to run one block every day?

Anyway, the Obama team exonerated themselves of wrongdoing. They'd have loved to do so earlier, but were "frustrated" for some reason. What was "frustrating" them? And why didn't the Obama team offer more details of all the interactions which authorities involved in the investigation have taken pains to assert involve no wrongdoing whatsoever? Shouldn't the Obama team at least maybe agree to cop to some fake wrongdoing, on the grounds that it would restore the public faith in a press that seems to largely wasted their time covering all the wrong aspects of this story?

Axelrod, of course, blames Patrick Fitzgerald for asking the Obama team to release their information with respect to the investigation's timetable. Obama, naturally, would have been a lot better off defying Fitzgerald and impeding the investigation. I think that when America voted for "change," the one thing they wanted to retain from the Bush years was an administration that showed no respect at all for legal proceedings! Anyway, Axelrod says that there was no quid pro quo. Hopefully, the Obama team got the news that Fitzgerald has HOURS OF AUDIOTAPE DOCUMENTING EVERY CONVERSATION BLAGOJEVICH HAD ABOUT THIS STUFF. The media seems to understand this!

I don't understand the logic of Gregory's next move. Fitz has Blago on tape, loudly complaining that the Obama team wasn't going to give him anything but appreciation, for considering Obama's suggestions on who to appoint to his Senate seat. Then he has this daffy USA Today op-ed, which asserts: "This doesn't explain how Blagojevich knew that all the Obama people intended to give him was appreciation. Doesn't that suggest that the governor or his aides at least hinted at wanting something more?"

Uhm, maybe? How is that anyone's fault but Blago or his aides? I mean: OH NOES! Someone working for Obama might have HEARD HIM SOME BAD SOUNDING SUGGESTIONS! Their ears are dirty forever! Of course, is there a criminal statute that addresses "hinting?" And anyway, did any of this impede Fitzgerald from getting all of this on tape?

"You have an answer to that?" Gregory asks Axelrod. Axelrod politely says no. Axelrod seems aware that there is an ongoing investigation, and tapes, transcripts of which have run in newspapers. This is not something to which anyone in the press have caught on.

Then there is this dumbassed exchange:

GREGORY: Bottom-line. Does the president-elect believe that the governor of Illinois was attempting to sell his Senate seat in effect to the highest bidder?

AXELROD: Well, David, I'm not going to answer that question! Obviously, we are all reading the same accounts, and this is the subject of a criminal investigation, so we'll see how that all turns out. It wouldn't be appropriate for me to answer that question.

And, in fairness, the answer wouldn't be relevant either, since the investigation is either going to assert wrongdoing or it isn't. And Blago will either be charged or he won't. And he'll either be found culpable or he won't. And those events will play out in their course, whether or not Obama or anyone on his team has an underinformed opinion or impression to register.

Gregory now needs to turn to "issue one" for America, the economy. Which, as Issue One, still needed to wait for a crap-ton of Blago-blather. Gregory notes how the Obama camp seems bent on finding long-term economic solutions. His question, then, is basically: "But tell us: surely you guys have a quick fix in mind, too? I mean, you are going to solve this in two weeks?"

OH GOD. "Has the president decided to put off any tax increases? Or even a middle-class tax cut, as he talked about, for the short term?" PLEASE NOTE: a "middle-class tax cut" is thus equated with a "tax increase." What Gregory is basically asking is "Surely these economic conditions are such that Obama has reconsidered the whole idea of taxing the top five percent of Americans while giving the middle class a break." By the way, were economic conditions precisely the opposite, Obama's plan would be treated with similar skpeticism, because the accepted media trope where taxation is concerned is that the sort of economic conditions that would necessitate the sort of tax plan Obama has promoted do not exist and have never existed.

Axelrod answers, humanely, "We feel it's important that the middle class gets relief now and we've promised a middle class tax cut."

Gregory, with increasing desperation: "WILL YOU HOLD OFF ON ANY TAX INCREASES?!?!?" Axelrod says that they are going to let the Bush tax cuts expire. Gregory replies: "OKAY! BUT THAT IS AN INCREASE! IT IS! SERIOUSLY! ARE YOU SURE ABOUT THAT! THAT'S AN INCREASE! GOOD GOD, NO! AN INCREASE! SERIOUSLY! OH MY STARS AND GARTERS! ARE YOU SURE? SURE YOU WANT TO DO THAT?"

"We'll make that decision going forward."


Axelrod says, "I also want to stress that what the President-elect talked about during the campaign amounted to a net tax cut."

I have to applaud Axelrod for actually indulging Gregory's nonsense, because usually he just jumps to the indefatigable reality that despite proposing increases on SOME taxpayers, the net effect is a tax cut. A tax cut. A tax cut. A tax cut. I am pretty sure that someone on the Obama team CAME ON THIS VERY GODDAMNED SHOW and said that. I would, at this point, if I could, storm this stage with my own gotcha footage and make David Gregory watch this explanation, given by various people on the Obama campaign a MILLION BILLION times, and just ask: "David? Are you just thickheaded or something? Could we use your cranium as a powerful shield against radiation maybe? Is your skull the densest material known to man? Does it have it's own, special, gravitational field or something?

Gregory moves on, to Rick Warren. Here's a hint, David. When you broach a subject with a phrase like, "I don't need to tell you that THUS AND SUCH HAS HAPPENED," it's not necessary to then launch into the whole Wikipedia entry on the matter. For example: if it's true that you don't need to tell David Axelrod that some of Obama's supporters are unhappy with the choice of Rick Warren, then logic dictates that you ALSO DON'T NEED TO TELL DAVID AXELROD that Warren is a pastor, or that he's from California, or that he's opposed gay marriage, or that Obama's asked him to give the invocation at the Inaugural. David Axelrod KNOWS ALL OF THESE THINGS. So does your audience. Okay? Ask your question.

Of course. He doesn't really have a question, other than: "What do you think about Frank Rich's column?" Axelrod says BLAH BLAH dialogue YADDA YADDA they have disagreements, and what happens when you have no real question is that I revert to my well established talking points! But Pat Robertson praised Obama! Isn't that bad for progressives? Ugh. The only reason Pat Robertson praised Obama is to rile up progressives. Pat Robertson, trust me, will substantively oppose the Obama White House, but why not sow some discord in the meantime. Anyway, Axelrod filibusters his way to the end of the segment, his talking points sufficient to withstand the cool, easy breeze masquerading as a journalistic headwind.

It's a little sad, and telling, that Gregory is passionate about ensuring Obama won't go through with his plans to tax the rich, but has to outsource his Rick Warren outrage to Frank Rich. For my money, I'd have rather watched Frank Rich interview Axelrod. For example: I know that Rich comes by his opinions independently of Pat Robertson's provocations.

My wife points out that if you pause NBC Nightly News' promo in just the right place, Brian Williams looks lamentably silly, posing as if on the cover of Playgirl.

Panel time, with Richard Wolffe of Newsweek, Todd Purdum of Vanity Fair, RIch Lowry of the National Review and Michelle Singletary of the Washington Post.

Anyway, the economy is so bad that you can clip headlines and create a collage of bad news, for the first time, ever. What does is all mean? Michelle Singletary is glad we are in a recession because "we were on a path that we could not get off." Uhm...great? But, she says, if people learn from these mistakes, we'll be okay. And right on time: Lowry is here to tell us that Hoover was an "activist president."

Wolffe says that the Obama team is focused more on bolstering the growth of the economy rather than bolstering confidence in the economy. But what about regulation? Putting the brakes on? I spoke to a relative in the hedge fund industry this holiday who put it like this: the regulators are complete morons, attempting the police people who are stunningly more intelligent and possessed of a limitless capacity for evil. Oh and by the way, Obama's selection for the head of the SEC, Mary Schapiro? HORRIBLE HORRIBLE VERY BAD. Scary in her overall no-goodness. John McCain's going to want to fire her, maybe, too! So when Wolffe talks about conservatives putting their faith in an IDEOLOGY that hasn't worked, you should know that the Obama team is putting their faith in regulators that have a similar, or worse, track record.

Anyway, Rich Lowry keeps saying paradigm shift likes he wants us to drink everytime he does so. So, I'm going to start doing so, retroactively to the start of this panel.

Michelle Singletary than goes a little crazy! "Obama's got to get in there and make decisions!" She insists on this! She's just not going to accept a President Obama that's going to not DO THINGS. Let it be known! Michelle Singletary is INSISTENT.

Rich Lowry, I think, just blamed the Federal Reserve for the water main break in Bethesda, Maryland, which for all I know is true, because PARADIGM SHIFT. It's a flood of liquidity, pushing cars into ravines.

What about the Bush legacy? Purdum says, "missed opportunity" is the key phrase. Think about all the gravestones in Arlington cemetary that are so enscribed! Singletary says his economic legacy is "selfishness" and a "failure on so many levels." "He should be ashamed with what he's left us."

Lowry says that Bush was just running on his agenda and trying to get it passed, and that what happened is that Bush ran into a "revenge culture" in Washington. NOT HIS FAULT! According to Lowry, SOMEBODY said, hey, let's get revenge for Iran-Contra! You know, because EVERYONE GETTING OFF SCOTT FREE FOR THAT WASN'T ENOUGH? And so, those people amplified the Monical Lewinsky scandal, because REVENGE WARFARE. And here's naive, innocent George W. Bush, walking into that terrible terrible culture.

And you know what, to a dumb outsider, it may look as if Bush actually benefitted from a Beltway culture in which the participants had long ago given up any pretense that they'd ever be held accountable for their actions. But that wasn't it at all! Bush just didn't have any chance in that virulent REVENGE CULTURE! So, what's a President to do except start an illegal war and torture people and let a major U.S. city drown? If only the culture of Washington DC from when I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL had been different! It's not as if the President has governnance of his own actions!

Lowry says Bush was "much better as a decider than a persuader." Which is I guess one way of saying that Bush DECIDED TO DO A WHOLE BUNCH OF INDEFENSIBLE THINGS.

Richard Wolffe then starts making all sorts of sense about U.S. foreign policy and how it's maybe asinine to take credit for allowing ONLY ONE MASSIVE DEVASTATING TERRORIST ATTACK during one's Presidency, while allowing the terrorists every opportunity to grow and become entrenched and regionally powerful.

Richard Lowry admits that maybe loudly insisting that freedom is awesome doesn't do enough to solve our foreign policy problems. "There are other driving forces," Lowry notes, standing in the wreckage of an economy decimated by those drives.

Wolffe continues to make sense, though, so Lowry's got to start countering that with nonsense, insisting that Wolffe is "exaggerating" how al Qaeda is getting stronger. His countering evidence? That al Qaeda has "suffered a huge defeat in the Arab heartland of Iraq." WOO! We have almost put out one of the fires we started! Anyway, Michelle Singletary gives Lowry the harangue he deserves, even if it's given in the same spirit of not making much sense.

Again. This is the last iteration of these shows this year, and everyone's on vacation. Including me, it seems! I'm really sorry for the lost commentary. In actuality, the Fox panel discussion might have been the best one of the day. At least Chris Wallace predicted that Kate Winslet would win two Oscars, which is something I can get behind. Anyway. That's it for 2008. I hope everyone has a safe and giddy New Year's Eve, and I'll see you in 2009 with improved practices to guard against data loss.

And yeah. I sort of miss Brit Hume, and his essential Napoleon Dynamite act, already.

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