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TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

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Good morning and welcome to your Sunday Morning Liveblog of this week's political light opera. My name is Jason. You people have spoken! Loudly! While a few of you were into the idea, mot of you were decidedly in favor of me not watching CNN's three hour John King show, like, ever. So, okay, we'll go with some variation on our conventional line up, today. Which is decidedly conventional! Again, for those of you who don't know - nothing's on in my area at nine in the morning besides Fox's tilt-a-whilr of whimsy. I'd hate to miss what's going on over at CNN entirely. Maybe we can come up with a creative way of including them. Please share your suggestions! In the meantime, if any of you who do watch it want to toss me news of what's happening there, let me know. Hell, Bonjour Tristesse and Mr. Deeds Go To Town are both on Turner Classic Movies this morning, so if you're watching that, you can let me know what's happening. What I'm trying to say is that if you're watching anything this Sunday and want to let me know about it, you can send an email with the subject, "NOT EVERYTHING THAT'S ON THE TEEVEE THIS MORNING IS KILLING THE SOUL OF AMERICA," because hey, that's good news!

And, in general, feel free to leave comments, send emails on unrelated topics, or follow me on the Twitters.

Oh, and if any of you can diagram this sentence, from Robert Gibbs:

"You will see in a systematic and coordinated way the transparency of determining and showing all involved some of the results of these stress tests."

Because, my God. Are they stress testing the English language, too?

FOX NEWS SUNDAY

CRAP. Somehow my TIVO jumped ahead. Michael Hayden is on teevee right now, complaining that no one will be allowed to indulge in torture anymore. Doesn't Obama realize that the "basic foundation of the legitimacy of the CIA" is sadism? "Agents will be stepping back from the kinds of things the country expects them to do." No, agents will be stepping UP to what is expected of them, which is to project an image of America that's not immoral and sadistic and fraudulent and which puts our own soldiers at risk.

Anyway, I wonder who's going to be on this show to take the other side of this issue - you know, the one that's not about Jay Bybee coming up with twisted, effed-up things to do with boxes of insects, as if 1984 was the field operating manual. Hayden believes that "these techniques did work," but offers no proof other than other people giving speeched about these techniques working.

From the New York Times:

The first use of waterboarding and other rough treatment against a prisoner from Al Qaeda was ordered by senior Central Intelligence Agency officials despite the belief of interrogators that the prisoner had already told them all he knew, according to former intelligence officials and a footnote in a newly released legal memorandum. [...] Abu Zubaydah had provided much valuable information under less severe treatment, and the harsher handling produced no breakthroughs, according to one former intelligence official with direct knowledge of the case. Instead, watching his torment caused great distress to his captors, the official said.

Hayden thanks God he "didn't have to make the decisions of he predecessors." Hayden really needs to consider having a longer conversation with God.

Was KSM waterboarded 183 times? The memo says so. Don't know why Hayden can't stipulate why this happened, except the fact that it sort of looks like pointless sadism.

Page 37 of the OLC memo:

The CIA used the waterboard "at least 83 times during August 2002" in the interrogation of Zubaydah. IG Report at 90, and 183 times during March 2003 in the interrogation of KSM, see id. at 91.

Zubaydah, I remind you, was the mentally ill, low-level al Qaeda functionary who, under torture, spun many a fanciful tale of al Qaeda plots. As for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, I sort of wonder what sort of time you have left in your month, being waterboarded 183 times. I guess after trying to get ticking timebomb information out of the guy for a month, we all got lucky when the 183RD TIME PROVED TO BE THE CHARM.

Anyway, Michael Hayden...this guy is one sick and demented puppy. I'd cross the street if I saw him coming down the sidewalk, if I were you.

Meanwhile, Claire McCaskill versus Lindsey Graham, also known as Jowly Dave Foley. Neither one of these people should be approving of torture. McCaskill is glad this "dark chapter" is out in the open. Graham hates the techniques, but isn't happy about the memos being released. He seems to believe that this was a strategic matter, that gave away criticial information to al Qaeda. But how could it be that al Qaeda didn't know we were torturing people? McCaskill makes this point: the terrorists knew we were doing this, and were using it as a means to recruit other terrorists.

Seriously, Lindsey, if I knew we were torturing people, al Qaeda knows. It's not like we had kept it under wraps. You have to understand that al Qaeda operates from the standpoint that everything we do is monstrous, anyway. The difference is that the citizens of this great nation deserve the truth. And we deserve the chance to say, "No, do not represent me to the world as a sadist."

As for prosecutions, McCaskill and Graham are against putting the field agents on trial, both sort of hedge on opening up prosecutions on higher officials, with McCaskill doing less hedging. Though, seriously, you do not get to shudder at the thought of Jay Bybee having a lifetime appointment to the federal bench in one sentence, and then, when asked if he should be impeached, hem and haw.

Graham, given the opportunity to take a shot at Obama's approach to Iran, backs away and takes a wait-and-see approach.

And they both get a teabagging question. Was there no reason to protest? McCaskill says, basically, WHATEVER, PROTEST IF YOU WANT, BUT YOU ALL GOT TAX CUTS. McCaskill seems to be under the impression that the Teabaggings were a "grass roots" phenomenon. Graham seems to think that there's no ongoing plan to reduce the federal deficit, and he seems to think that the Defense Budget has been cut. YES, IT'S BEEN CUT BY NEGATIVE BILLIONS OF DOLLARS. Wallace, who has a brain in his head, could step in and ask if Graham needs some remedial math classes, but naturally doesn't.

Meanwhile, Panel Time! With teabags!

Hume says it's way too early to say if this movement grows, but continues to project the idea that this was a grassroots movement, instead of something that was put together by powerful interests. The Threequel to the TEABAGGING THE FIRST, scheduled for September 12, was coordinated with Glenn Beck's 9/12 Project of Doom Room shenanigans. (It is the threequel, by the way.) July 4 is TEABAGGING PART TWO: RUINING YOUR BARBECUE. And then comes TEABAG 3 TOKYO DRIFT: THE GLENN BECKONING. And honestly, I hope there are a hundred more.

Juan Williams points out that public opinion runs counter to the Tea Party objections, and notes that the government has taken actions to shield people from an economic collapse. Hume thinks that Obama's spending programs has "united the Republican party." This ignores two facts: one, the Bush years effectively ended the non-shrill voice of the GOP in Congress. All those inclined to not participating in pure screaming-meemery got the hell up out of office. The second thing to remember is that there is significant infighting in the GOP caucus right now. The budget blueprint mess was the result of a territorial pissing contest between Mike Pence and his two superiors.

Meanwhile, torture memos. This panel discussion is going to be a dark and painful chapter in our history. Hume says that it "ends a dark public relations period" in our history and that Obama is preferring to be thought of well in Brussells and Berlin than to be an effective leader against torture. I think, however, that antipathy to torture is a mainstream position, a clearly moral position, an objectively American position, and that - far from worrying about the opinion of Belgians - ending these warped and sadistic practices send the message that the mainstream American position is a moral one, instead of a depraved and demented one.

Brit Hume is yelling at Juan Williams, basically making the case that the American people have no right to know about what was done in the name of protecting their freedom. "What are the positive benefits of America knowing?" Well, Brit, the positive benefit is that I, having a right to know the contents of those memoes, NOW KNOW IT. Also, a positive benefit is that we won't be WASTING OUR TIME WITH A BUNCH OF OF BAD INTELLIGENCE. As Matt Yglesias points out:

In historical terms, you don't look back on the Spanish Inquisition or on Stalin's Russia and say man, those guys had some crack investigators! Rather, you see that historically the function of torture has been to extract false confessions and to inspire a general climate of fear.

And people are going to look back at a period when we were waterboarding people 183 times in a month and yet acts of international terror were exponentially increasing, with the terrorists themselves digging down into increasingly safe harbors. NO COINCIDENCES HERE, BROTHER. The one, led to the other.

THIS WEEK, WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

Meanwhile, GS has got Rahm on the air. Why hasn't Obama taken any hard positions? Rahm points out that they've put forth some big policy initiatives. I don't think that the administration has lacked for "hard positions," frankly. They've taken some policy chances. Their defense budget, for example, takes on entrenched interests and powerful lobbyists in a way that's both long overdue and which promises to be a substantial street fight. But yet, I sort of wish he'd taken the same stance with Wall Street!

Rahm points out that the GOP has been invited to participates in the legislative process, but they haven't always come to make positive forays into policymaking.

An extended conversation on health care policy makes me wish I had an actuarial assessment of the Obama plan. Ana Marie Cox! Call your dad!

Will the banks get through the next period of time without having to come back and get more money? Emanuel opts to go on an extended monologue about the banks and fear and confusion and how the purpose of the stress test is to have a "clear demarcation" between the period of fear and, I guess, these illusory "recovery-like" numbers that are rolling into the press. I thought that the stress test was a rigorous way to determine the solvency of these institutions, Rahm! (Actually, I'm kidding. I have not thought these stress tests were going to test anything meaningful for a long time.)

See, bank balance sheets are the sort of things that SHOULD be subjected to enhanced techniques!

Speaking of, Emanuel asserts that torture has been a) banned to provide for a more effective anti-terror policy, b) improves our standing with the world we want and need to help fight terror, and c) didn't expose anything our enemies didn't already suspect.

Oooh. Rahm has maybe dropped something accidentally definitive here. Asked about prosecutions, he starts to answer that the field agents who carried out the techniques should not be prosecuted, and that this is the belief of the president. GS asks, "What about the people who designed the policies?" And Rahm says that the President doesn't support their prosecution either. This shuts a door that was left open by the White House last week, in which the potential prosecution of the people who constructed the torture regime was still on the table. Now it appears that it's not. That's big news.

UGH. We now rejoin the conversation with John Boehner, illiterately talking about WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT CO2 EMISSIONS? We exhale CO2! WHAT ABOUT COWS. GS is incredulous, and asks a bunch of questions, the subtext of which is, "YOU ARE AN IDIOT."

Boehner says the teabaggers are "scared to death" about the American Dream ending. I guess Boehner agrees with the prtestors that we should definitely adopt a set of policies that cut taxes for the wealthy, raises them on the middle class, extends the period of recession, sabotages long term economic growth, fosters illiteracy, and keeps citizens from obtaining the preventative health care that would keep them productive.

It's sad! There's a good critique that can be mounted against the administration's approach to the banking crisis. BUT LET'S YELL ABOUT HOW TEXAS SHOULD SECEDE FROM THE UNION INSTEAD, like we were all IDIOT MARTIANS.

PANEL TIME AT THE NEWSEUM! With George "Down With Blue Jeans, Up With Lying About Science" Will, Peggy Noonan, Sam Donaldson, and Cokie Roberts.

Can the GOP get traction on Teabagging? Will says yes, and goes on to assert that it was a protest about the blurring of the public and private sectors of the economy, Donaldson throws a hot bowl of BISH, PLS on that, saying, NO, those were "We don't like Obama" rallies.

But! Cokie Roberts says! Look at the Obama approach to GM! That's a lot of government intervention! Yes, it comes after everyone yelled about how there needed to be government intervention.

Noonan says that the teabagging was a libertarian thing and that everyone yelled at Bush and the Republicans, too. It was "anger at the ruling class!" Donaldson says, UHM, YEAH. DIDN'T SEE A LOT OF ANTI-BUSH POSTERS. I wonder if anyone at any of these rallies got away with an extended critique of Bush policy without getting booed robustly. Most of the so-called "Bush/GOP criticism" were throw away lines, tossed in as asides, to try to manufacture some "evenhandedness." There were a lot of crossed fingers, I imagine.

Now there's a lot of yammering at each other. And the punditocracy remains united in their disbelief that solving healthcare and energy and education could ever reduce costs. The idea that upfront spending on an idea that could make money in the future completely eludes them.

Wow, now that I've seen this videotape of Chavez handing Obama that book that he can't read because he doesn't read Spanish, it bewilders me that Chavez, who likes toe bluster and project an outsized image, would want to appear so sad and subservient. "TAKE MY BOOKS, MR. PRESIDENT. PLS SIGN MY NIPPLES!"

Donaldson says that everyone in the world, though, is straight up buying that Chavez book on Amazon, though! This means that everyone's going to be straight up handing Obama manuscripts now.

George Will says, of torture memos, "The problem with transparency is that it's transparent for the terrorists as well." BUT THE TERRORISTS ALREADY KNOW WE TORTURE THEM! Argh. We hear all the time that the terrorists are watching our elections and committee hearings and news programs. SO THEY'VE PROBABLY GOT WIND OF THE WATERBOARDING BY NOW.

Peggy Noonan, on prosecutions, says "some things in life need to be mysterious" and "sometimes you need to just keep walkin'" and somewhere out there Glenn Greenwald's brain is EXPLODING ALL OVER HIS MAC BOOK because my God! I want to go knock over a jewelry store and drop some of this LANGUAGE OF BULLSHIT EQUIVOCATION all over the place. LET'S LOOK FORWARD, prosecuting attorney! LET'S KEEP WALKIN'. SOME STUFF NEEDS TO BE MYSTERIOUS. I WAS JUST USING SOME ENHANCED TECHNIQUES TO CIRCUMVENT A LEGAL STRUCTURE THAT PREVENTED ME FROM ENHANCING MY OWN SECURITY.

Just so everyone can obtain a little substance on the issue of torture, let's recall two important things. One: Detainee's Harsh Treatment Foiled No Plots. That's from a Washington Post article, entitled, "Detainee's Harsh Treatment Foiled No Plots." Convenience!

When CIA officials subjected their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaida, to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, they were convinced that they had in their custody an al-Qaeda leader who knew details of operations yet to be unleashed, and they were facing increasing pressure from the White House to get those secrets out of him.

The methods succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of al-Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads.

In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida -- chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates -- was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.

Moreover, within weeks of his capture, U.S. officials had gained evidence that made clear they had misjudged Abu Zubaida. President George W. Bush had publicly described him as "al-Qaeda's chief of operations," and other top officials called him a "trusted associate" of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and a major figure in the planning of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. None of that was accurate, the new evidence showed.

Abu Zubaida was not even an official member of al-Qaeda, according to a portrait of the man that emerges from court documents and interviews with current and former intelligence, law enforcement and military sources. Rather, he was a "fixer" for radical Muslim ideologues, and he ended up working directly with al-Qaeda only after Sept. 11 -- and that was because the United States stood ready to invade Afghanistan.

Yes. That's the incredibly true story of a GUY WHO DIDN'T KNOW ANYTHING IMPORTANT BUT WHO WAS REPEATEDLY WATERBOARDED, RESULTING IN YOUR INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES HAVING TO FLY AROUND THE WORLD, CHASING SHADOWS. Useful!

By contrast, Bob Cesca points to the successful interrogation of Saddam Hussein, which did not feature torture, and which yet generated a ton of vital information.

GODS. Now the panel is SPEAKING OUT on the British lady who sang a song from Les Miserables on the teevee. Cokie Roberts is like: ZOMG THERE WAS SO MUCH AUTHENTICITY THAT I ORGASMED, AUTHENTICALLY.

Actually, if there's one good thing to come of the whole NEWS CYCLE FRENZY over this nice British lady, it's that it reminds me of the Forbidden Broadway parody of "I Dreamed a Dream":

There was a time when shows were fun

And they used bright lighting

And the shows weren't so long

And the songs weren't so biting

There was a time

Then it all went wrong



I dreamed a show in days gone by

Where all the scenery looked so pretty

I didn't sing one song then die

And all my costumes weren't so gritty

I did a tap-dance and I smiled
And pathos wasn't overstated
My lips were red, my hair was styled
I didn't act so constipated

But now that misery's in style
It's artistic if you suffer
So they tore my dress apart
And the chorus girls walk lame...lame...lame!

I dreamed a show in days gone by
Neil Diamond didn't sing my hit song
A pretty girl they'd glorify
And Act One wasn't so damned long

Come watch us grovel in the dirt
Then buy a souvenir and don it
Rich folks pay twenty bucks a shirt
That has a starving pauper on it

I dreamed a show in days gone by
Where all the sets weren't piles of rubble
I didn't have to belt high E
And be as miserable as me

Speaking of paupers, it's now time for...

MEET THE PRESS

Some emails. A good question from Jack W., who asks: "Why isn't the Obama administration going after the architects of the torture doctrine?"

I wish I could provide the sort of answer that specifically addressed "by not prosecuting the architects, here's the practical outcome we hope to achieve." I think that if we do not go forward with such prosecutions (and make no mistake, my attitude is LET'S DO IT! LET'S HAVE SOME TORTURE TRIALS!), then we deserve an explanation as to what we hope to achieve by "looking forward." Maybe there is a good tangible reason! I don't know. I'm strongly inclined to the belief that there isn't. But an attempt to articulate one should be raised. Why? Because to my mind, there are tangible benefits to prosecuting crimes - it punishes wrongdoing, it deters wrongdoing, it makes it clear that certain actions will be met with legal consequences. If bank robbery existed in the same legal grey area that torture does, right now, I wouldn't be liveblogging Sunday Morning television shows, I'd be straight up knocking over some banks!

Absent an articulated, practical reason, I'm left to assume that Obama is simply very bent on attempting "reconciliation" as a general principle. And under that principle, we all sort of agree that we kind of lost our minds for a little while, back in the oughts, but that we've come to our senses, and everything is chill again. Sounds pretty! Of course, there are going to be plenty of people who won't be able to accept the premise that we all went for a post 9-11 walk on the deranged side. At the same time, there are some people who feel very passionately about getting past this period. I think that they mean well and that they have an abundance of trust in the people who say that history will never be repeated. I'd prefer that guarantee came with some teeth.

Emailer Cynthia writes in with some good stuff to keep in mind, as far as these bank stress tests (or, as she calls it, the "Financial Fuckathon") goes:

My best guess, and I've been doing this for a while now, seen a lot of stuff, and, well blah blah. Is that these so called "stress tests" are a bit of smoke screen to keep the annual audits that are done at bay. Technically speaking, the kind of "tests" that we are talking about here are structurally the same type of auditing that are done every year on the books of every publicly traded company listed in this country (that, by the way, includes foreign companies--ADR's--too). What is the giveaway here, is who is undertaking these audits. It's a whole group in treasury that do not normally do this kind of work. So why?? I think it is part of a larger plan to further marginalize regulators. Rep. Barney Frank, for example, admitted during an interview on CNBC, that the change in the mark to market rules was pushed through congress in large part to keep regulators at bay. He said it straight out. I think that by allowing the financially linked listed companies to have their regular and annual audits to be carried out by a select group at treasury, rather by the good guys and gals that currently auditing all the other publicly traded companies as we "speak"--they are trying to keep the whole truth from coming out. It is not hard to figure out if you are in my line "work", that they simply kicking the can further down the road!

And, in her opinion:

There are still some hard truths to be told, and when it comes out, how this mess if far from over, that these steps that they are taking to "solve" the financial crisis will make it worse and last longer--it is going to spell some political trouble for the Obama administration. Beside the fact that it is just going plain hurt the ordinary citizen for longer than they should be strapped. The political side to this just makes me sick, because I seriously supported Obama and like so many other, stressed out after 8 longer chalk board scratching year of W!!

These big "shopping mall" banks are just insolvent--and we, fortunately, do not live in a world where the dead get up an walk around eating people. Treasury and Larry Summers need to stop trying to get Citi and BofA to act like movie zombies and seize them for fucks sake!! If they don't do it soon, then they really will be Zombie Banks--and prey on all of us.

That brings us to today, MEET THE PRESS and Larry Summers, Ball of Charisma.

Gregory gets right at the key issue...uhm...the Cuba embargo. Okay, in fairness, Summers is at the Summit of the Americas, but in orders of importance, it's the question I'd end on, not start with, especially since Summers can't speak to the foreign policy side of this matter. And especially since his answer is basically, let's wait and see. What's the economic case for lifting the embargo, asks Gregory. "Trade in every direction," Summers says, and then lapses into the vague, foreign policy flashcards he's been given. Wait and see, the President will do what's best for America, nothing's been decided. Blah blah.

Now Larry Summers is going to get asked about the moment Hugo Chavez handed Obama a book. I guess this is a critical economic question, since the Amazon sales of the book have taken off. As I've said over and over again, President Obama is providing the nation with substantial growth opportunities in the Franklin Minting of his brand. I hope to be able to hand Obama a copy of the new Harlem Shakes album.

Larry Summers knowa that Hugo Chavez...he's sort of a mentally diminshed international dickwad, right? What did the President "make" of the experience, of touching him? Did Obama catch "mentally diminshed international dickwad" cooties? Should we be afraid that close contact with Chavez and his book will cause him to transform into a mentally diminshed international dickwad? Summers says he cannot "speak to" the experience, but alludes to the fact that Obama is more popular in Venezuela than Chavez. I would have asked, "How does Obama intend to use being well-liked as leverage?"

Now, a question about banks, at last. Because remember, this is Larry Summers, economic advisor, on your show. Banks are reporting big earnings, and yet it doesn't seem to be a big paradisical dance of ecstacy. What's up with that? Summers says yeah, got some "mixed statistics" but it's a "long road" and we have to support the financial system, on the long road, which will end with the financial system in tact, at the end of the long road, having learned nothing, except, blah blah, long road.

"We'll have to see where things go." Aren't you driving the car, though?

Gregory asks a good question: are the positive numbers a sign of all the government intervention, or are these upticks organic, natural, repeatable. In other words, will the patient breathe on her own is we unplug the respirator. Summers says, "You've gotta give the government credit...but these have the potential to build into something self-sustaining." Well, if "self-sustaining" comes after the "but," what are we crediting the government for? How about we give the government credit when the self-sustaining stuff kicks in?

Asked to respond to Paul Krugman, on whether a Depression is still in the offing, Summers allows that Krugman is right to preach caution. "Cautions that we have a long way to go." I think, though, that Krugman is not cautioning us on the duration of the TALF experiment, but the premise of the TALF experiment.

What if the banks need more money for their capital reserves? Where is the cash coming from? Summers suggests that the "private markets" will come through - or at least be the first resort option. The second resort option is strong banks repaying the TARP/TALF money. I think, given the dimension of this crisis, we deserve to know what the last resort option is (as if we don't already know).

The producers edit in a long cut, back to David Gregory, sitting silently, for reasons that aren't apparent.

But, OMGZ TEH DEFICITS. Summers presents, as evidence of deficit shrinkage, a litany of promises and projections. I can accept the idea that the administration WANTS TO reduce the deficit. I even think that a lot of the expenditures - health care, energy policy, etc - drop costs and answer the "where will the money come from question." But Summers needs to answer this question in those terms. Saying that deficits will come down because Obama really, really, really, really, really wants it to is tautology, presented as premise.

What about all the teabaggers, yelling about raising taxes in the future? He quotes Dick Armey, specifically citing an argument that he wants to pretend was articulated at the tea parties. Summers answers a question directly: when the Bush tax cuts expire, no one making under $250,000 will have their taxes increased. Those who make over $250,000 will be taxed at the Clinton marginal rate. Summers says, when pressed, that he will not raise those taxes, to fund his policy priorities.

Without the stimulus package, Summers says, "the future would be much, much bleaker."

Gregory has a great question here: What are Summers goals, as far as the lessons we learn, the way in which we change, the extent to which the crisis calls for new rules of capitalism, both on Wall Street and Main Street. What lesson for the future, is Summers going to stand behind? Summers says there are three lessons:

--America needs a much better-regulated financial system.
--Individuals will have to save more, by hook or by by crook, (and the marketing of "addictive credit" will have to be discouraged).
--America needs a government that is a contributor of savings to the economy, rather than a drain.

No prosecutions for those who tortured the economy either, I guess!

On the matter of Summers wanting a better regulated financial system, Cynthia's earlier words sort of haunt me: "I think it is part of a larger plan to further marginalize regulators. Rep. Barney Frank, for example, admitted during an interview on CNBC, that the change in the mark to market rules was pushed through congress in large part to keep regulators at bay. He said it straight out."

Anyway, now it's time for this week's panel discussion!

MEET THE PRESS presents:
"Zítra Vstanu a Oparím se Cajem"
A scalding-hot play of pure nonsense!

Starring:
David Gregory, a safety net
Dick Armey, perfectly named!
Nina Easton, Fortune's flaxen font
Rick Stengel, HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THIS "TIME" MAGAZINE?
Steven Pearlstein, one of the nation's best Pearlsteins
Harold Ford, Jr., hyper-timid incrementalist
Me, overcaffeinated, online, stammererererer.

_______________

GREGORY: OMGZ! TEH TEA PARTIES! Dick Armey! You organized this stuff!

ME: Thank you for acknowledging the Astroturfy goodness of those things, Mr. Gregory.

GREGORY: OMGZ! AMERICANS ARE TOTALLY LOVING TAXES, RELATIVELY SPEAKING.

ARMEY: Trust me! It was all grassroots! The very fact that I get so upset about having to answer this question! I am really freaking out about that! I will vigorously protest this point!

ME: Why are you even back, so suddenly, into our lives, Dick Armey? I mean, look at you. You are like the year 2003, preserved in a dishtowel.

FORD: I am going to unexpectedly school the daylights out of you, here. Bush spent a lot of money. LOTS OF MONEY. And the return on that investment has been zero. I'm willing to gamble that the spending being done now will net a lot of return. Voters made the same bet.

ME: Harold Ford wins an award, for being the first person in a long time to argue that one can lay out money for policies that offer long term savings. I'm surprised that David Gregory just doesn't interrupt Harold Ford to go off on a tangent--

GREGORY: OMGZ! MUST INTERRUPT YOU BECAUSE MY BRAIN IS HAVING AN ERUPTION OF TANGENT.

ME: Gah.

GREGORY: OMGZ! Teh POLLS! Americans love this taxes stuff! Back me up, Steve!

PEARLSTEIN: Yes. Taxes are low right now, but Obama is making a mistake in locking in these tax reductions for people making under $250,000. It will prove to be "very limiting."

GREGORY: OMGZ: TEH PAUL BEGALAS! The teabaggers!

EASTON: Tax increased are an ANIMATING force! TEA PARTIES ARE THE NEW CONTRACT WITH AMERICA. Poorly articulated and contradictory grab-bags of political group think are really substantive!

ARMEY: We need to raise taxes on the poor!

ME: Sure! America's poor need to understand that there is a PRICE TO BE PAID FOR POLICIES THAT CONSISTENTLY OVERLOOK THEIR NEEDS AND UNDERMINE THEIR OPPORTUNITIES.

ARMEY: Also, Rick Santelli is the driving force behind the tea parties!

ME: Yes, Rick Santelli truly rallied the nation's most sympathetic people, commodities traders, to moving effect. So much so that I'm sure that all of Santelli's frenzied attempts to disown the Tea Parties are just a complicated bit of reverse psychology.

STENGEL: Maybe there's something to this idea that the country will be improved if we have a better energy policy, and better health care, and a more educated populace, though? It's an agenda that "they are not quite talking about."

ME: Are you frakking kidding me Stengel? The Obama administration has been talking about their "unified" agenda to the point of facial bluening! It's just that the press cannot seem to acknowledge that these matters are interconnected. "HOW CAN OBAMA DO HEALTH CARE?" they caterwaul. "HE NEEDS TO FIX THE ECONOMEE FIRST." Healthcare reform will be a boon to the economy. What if our auto industry could be an auto industry, for example, instead of an HMO? I mean, I am not objecting to Stengel's hypothesis here, but this guy has always got to pretend like he alone has divined the truths of the universe.

GREGORY: BUT WHERE DOES MONEY COME FROM? OMGZ. I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT INVESTING IS.

PEARLSTEIN: The president has been trying to "get us off the idea that this is just spending. Some of it is investment, and it is investment that will pay dividend down the road."

ME: And that's called Casting Pearlstein Before Gregory.

ARMEY: Nope. Nope. I'm just gonna straight up pretend to not understand what investing is. In other news, please give money to my Tea Party franchise!

ME: God. No wonder my teevee smells like mothballs. There is a good critique to be made, of the bank bailout plan, as one example of wealth that can be lost. But you can't make that argument dressing up in costumes and carrying around posters with racial invective on them.

FORD: What's the alternative? The government is the spender of last resort, here. Is a complete economic collapse preferable? What's the alternative?

ME: Well, McCain had this great idea to freeze spending, exacerbate the effects of the downturn and cripple our long-term growth? I mean, we could try that. WHO'S FOR CRIPPLING LONG TERM GROWTH, Y'ALL?

GREGORY: OMGZ! TEH TIME MAGAZINES. What will happen after the economy recovers?

STENGEL: People are recalibrating their lives! They're drinking less water...

ME: And buying fewer newsweeklies!

GREGORY: OMGZ, what if we stop spending like crazy people?

EASTON: In the short term, sure.

ME: Yes. Perhaps we can cajole people into returning to bad habits.

EASTON: It's going to be a long road.

ME: Yes, we all saw the Summer's interview.

GREGORY: OMGZ, UNEMPLOYMENT LAGS, RIGHT?

PEARLSTEIN/STENGEL: Yes.

STENGEL: It will totally go up to 10%.

ME: I'd bet it hits 11%.

GREGORY: OMGZ! The release of the "so-called" torture memos.

ME: WHAT IS WITH THE SO-CALLED PART. Do you doubt they were memos?

ARMEY: Obama needs to forget about George Bush and the way he greenlit all these immoral acts.

STENGEL: What are you talking about? There are no prosecutions in the offing!

ARMEY: "Why release the report if not to take a shot at President Bush?"

ME: You know what, Armey of Dicks? President Bush had it within his own control to prevent this "shot" from being taken. He could have said no to torture, at any time. Surely it would have been advisable after a the techniques had proven to be ineffective. But he didn't. And yes, now, we get to evaluate this horrid acts in terms of who authorized them. I mean, JESUS. Here's the argument: THE SURGE MADE AMERICA SAFER. TORTURE MADE AMERICA SAFER. WE DEMAND CREDIT FOR THE SURGE. BUT PLEASE DON'T TELL ANYONE ABOUT ALL THE TORTURE.

GREGORY: Isn't this is big debate? Isn't it a debate worth having?

ME: Why don't you count up the number of times you've bothered to have the debate, on your teevee show?

And that's MEET THE PRESS.

Jeff D. asks:

Why is it that David Gregory always calls Larry Summers, "Dr." Summers and never refers to Paul Krugman, "Dr." Krugman?

Krugman's a regular contributor to ABC News, I guess? So there's no incentive to kiss his ass?

Ryan suggests a solution to the way cows keep RIGHT ON BREATHING, endangering the planet, according to John Boehner:

Republican Solution to Cow Farts: Nuclear Powered Cows! Sure the milk and meat may be a little radioactive but then we wouldn't have to commit the sin of regulating the coal industry. Plus if we brought back the Bush EPA people I am sure they could summon the will to get it done!

The one thing I'd point out that the hallmark of the Bush EPA was how well they summoned the will to never summon their will to do anything. Getting us on to atomic cows would require them to use muscles they aren't used to using.

Finally, Joan writes:

I took heart when I read that we voted John King's CNN program out and you paid attention. I'm begging you, do the same for David Gregory.

Well, I'm pretty sure my editor would strenuously object to a plan in which I gradually stop liveblogging Sunday shows as people vote them off, since you guys, out of sympathy, would probably vote off all of the shows. But, next week, I could liveblog Dark Victory with Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart instead. So, send your emails with the subject "TOTALLY LIVEBLOG DARK VICTORY NEXT SUNDAY, FOR FUN" and I'll run it up the flagpole with my editors.

I think I will end up returning next Sunday with that flagpole, forcibly inserted inside me. But, for you all, I will make the important sacrifices.

Until next week, then!

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