TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

07/22/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Good morning, HuffPo readers and welcome to your Sunday Morning Liveblog of the flickering images and grunted sounds issuing forth from your Sunday morning talk shows. My name is Jason. Today, this liveblog will not be the most important liveblog on this site. I mean, I doubt it is, like, EVER, the most important. But today, more than ever, I commend you to the work of Nico Pitney, whose "Iran: Iran, So Far Away" liveblog has been chronicling the news of that country just as soon as he can get it confirmed. It's a titanic work. Please check in with it.

This liveblog may struggle for the same sort of relevance because it will chronicle mostly insipid Americans, yammering. I read -- and lo, I hope this is wrong! -- that Fred Thompson of all people, will be on Meet The Press today. I don't see how having Fred Thompson on circa 2009 is an improvement over NOT AIRING YOUR SHOW, but there you go. As usual, I hope I am wrong. And as usual, I invite people of all races, colors, creeds, and sexual orientations to send me emails, leave comments, or follow me on the heroic social networking service known as Twitter. Let us commence.

Fox News Sunday

SWEET. Pete Hoekstra is a meme and he is on this show today. Plus, Dick Cheney's biographer and media person Stephen Hayes is here to bitch about Obama's treatment in the media! WOO.

But first, Evan Bayh, Pete Hoekstra, and Karim Sadjadpour on Iran. This has got to be way too much for Evan "Hyper Timid" Bayh. If he were the Iranian opposition leader, he'd be saying, "No, no! Too much! Let's just take a small step toward freedom."

What is in those pictures? A general uprising? Hoekstra says it is an uprising: just like the time he ate some bad shrimp and had to excuse himself to have a "green revolution" in the men's room. According to "Bayh's intelligence" -- the protestors want a "fair election" and a "better life" and young Iranians want "hope" and "future" and the right to bog down their own legislature with pointless sops to corporate interests.

Sadjadpour believes that the regime could, even in a short term win, end up losing in the long term, because the fight for a better life is now well-instilled. He also says that Moussavi has become a different person himself "post-June 12th" and that this is a fight for a fundamentally different Iran. Wallace keeps asking Sadjadpour questions, because GAH, what do Evan Bayh and Pete Hoekstra know, anyway?

Hoekstra says that Obama should accept this as a challenge, like the time Hoekstra had to make a tough decision about what to Tivo. "This is now about America, this is about Obama and about leadership," he says, unaware that what is going on in Iran is about none of these things. So, what is Obama supposed to do? Hoekstra says he should make a speech about stuff. USE HIS TELEPROMPTERS FOR JUSTICE. And the statements must be "forceful!" Bunker busting definite articles! Daisy cutting adverbs!

Bayh's tendency toward caution in the face of every single thing in the universe serves him well here: act and fail and we look impotent, as well as looking like meddlers.

Is Obama's outreach diplomacy dead if Ahmadinejad prevails? Hoekstra says that it is. Of course, Hoekstra

What about when Obama suggested that Moussavi was not much different from Ahmadinejad? Sadjadpour says that it was a misstep, but that it had no discernible effect on the demonstrations. He says that overall, Obama's rhetoric has been well-tempered. He cites George Bush (41)'s call for Iraqis to overthrow Saddam, which led to a slaughter. He goes on to say that he defers to the leaders of this resistance movement on the matter of U.S. involvement, from whence the message is a ready, steady, constant one: PLEASE DON'T GET INVOLVED GAH WE DON'T NEED YOUR PETE HOEKSTRA CRAPPING ALL OVER THE PLACE.

Wallace asks, "Where are we headed?" WHO IS 'WE' Chris? You Iranian, all of the sudden? Bayh says, WOO I HOPE WE GET DEMOCRACY but we shouldn't meddle. Hoekstra says AHH NUCLEAR WEAPONS ARE COMING! And Sadjadpour, given the choice, endorses Bayh, because he hasn't been comparing revolution to his personal life on Twitter.

Now, once again, Fox News Sunday spends a little time helping to rehab the GOP. Today, Paul Ryan is here to warn that we are becoming Europe! Where the quality of life is high and infant mortality is low and people don't go into debt because of health care costs. OH NO! SOUNDS HORRIBLE! According to Ryan, Europeans are starved of incentives! In America, we're always so close to having to crawl off into the woods to die because we cannot afford even basic medical care.

Anyway, Ryan has a severe part to his hair and he hates the way the auto companies are being meddled with when we could be meddling in Iran. Obama is putting problems into the free market system, which was doing just fine with all its systemic bullcrap and collateralized debt obligations chopped up into fancy derivatives and subprime mortgages and ingredients from the witches' scene from Macbeth into one sick-ass burrito of free-market slopsauce.

Ryan says the public plan is like his daughter's lemonade stand competing against McDonalds. HUH!? What? I don't want either? We already have so many awesome insurance companies! Ryan says that the government cannot be the player and the referee in the same game. Can we just be the referee? What are we now? The waterboy? The jumbotron operator? The Detroit Lions?

Ryan says that the policies of the Obama administration does not match the rhetoric. Which is true! But not in ways that Ryan is going to be the corrective for. He's not going to undo the unitary executive or give gays rights.

Anyway, that's Paul Ryan. He wants to be a good father and a mouther of vapid platitudes and he is well on his way!

Meanwhile, PANEL TIME! Stephen Hayes says that in Iran, we should look for occasions where the security apparatus switches sides, and whether or not the demonstrations can continue over the next few days. Byron York says that there isn't really that much difference between Ahmadinejad and Moussavi where theocracy is concerned. He also worries that the protests are diminished, a week later.

Hayes thinks that Obama needs to meddle, meddle, meddle. Make with the meddling! Put together a coalition! YEAH! WOO! COALITION OF THE TALKING ABOUT STUFF! Maybe it could include "people from the region!" Maybe we could get Jesus and Santa and the Martians involved!

Nevermind, of course, what the Iranians want, and are going through: WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF STEPHEN HAYES AND BYRON YORK? Do any of you horrible people on Twitter, with your green avatars and your "support" for the "demonstrators" know what it is like for Hayes and York to go to their offices -- their well-appointed offices, in the media! -- each day, knowing that there's no coalition, cold spittin' some meddling rhetoric, into the world! IT IS THE EQUIVALENT OF GETTING BRAINED BY THE BASEEJ ON A MOTORBIKE.

If these guys actually did the stuff they want Obama to do, then the Iranians are fortunate that they can't.

Time to prosecute Fox's overall grievance against all other networks. Stephen Hayes, DICK CHENEY BIOGRAPHER, says that Obama's joke about rolling over in bed with Brian Williams was "more than just a joke." OMG! OBAMA IS LITERALLY SCHTUPPING BRIWI, XOXO, GOSSIP GIRL!

Hayes says that Obama is breaking barriers, and that journalists are not supposed to "allow that to affect their coverage, but they do," probably in the same way that being DICK CHENEY'S BIOGRAPHER might.

This is pretty amazing. HAYES: "There's a clear affinity for Barack Obama and his programs, and we've seen that in the debates that have taken place over the first six months. The torture debate. The [uses dickfingered airquotes] "torture" debate. There's a debate about the language to be used there. Is it enhanced interrogations or is it torture? And everybody, with unanimity, across the media, call it torture. They've made a decision. There's a debate going on, they're part of it, they're on one side."

But the other side is still popular! Hardly anyone uses the word "torture!" The Washington Post just fired the only guy in their employ who ever did!

Seriously! Can you imagine this weird example being brought up as part of the "Case for Why The Media Is In Bed With Obama?" THE MEDIA WON'T USE MY HORSECRAP EUPHEMISM FOR TORTURING PEOPLE ANYMORE! IN THE TANK!

OK. My brain obviously needs to explode for a few minutes.

This Week, with George Stephanopoulos

Sweet! Chris "Countrywide" Dodd and Lindsey "Jowly Dave Foley" Graham! What's up Jowly Dave? Jowly Dave infers from signs in Iran that the Iranians want the United States to get involved. "THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT TOOLS!" he says, disputing people like Henry Kissinger and EVERY IRANIAN IN THE WORLD in suggesting that Obama needs to get up to some mad meddlin'.

Countrywide says he thinks it's clear that the U.S. supports the protestors and whatnot. But John Boehner wants to stop gasoline sales to Iran, which would be of a real benefit to the Iranian people, really, Boehner, thanks for thinking of them!

Graham's goal is to "make sure we do not lose this moment in history." Take a picture, here. Take a souvenir. DO SANCTIONS! STAND TOUGH! STAND SANCTIONS! DO TOUGHT! WALK! SWIM! HUNT! DANCE! SING!

Dodd says that we should not "take ownership" of the opposition, and that it should stay a "homegrown, grassroots" movement.

Meanwhile, John McCain and Chris Dodd, yelling at each other! It reminded Pete Hoekstra of the Battle Of Arnhem. SO MANY GOOD TWITTERS WERE LOST THAT DAY.

Anyway, guess what? Lots of people want government health care and want to pat more taxes for it. What does Graham have to say about that? Not much, actually. He still is under the impression that people will have to "wait for health care." I am insured, at this very moment, and I have to wait for health care. Anyway, in the face of great support for the public option, Graham's response is that of a quisling: IT'S NOT JUST REPUBLICANS THAT WILL KILL THIS, SOME DEMS WILL TOO.

Dodd points out that the terrifying health care cost run-ups aren't in establishing a public option, but on standing pat.

Meanwhile, PANEL TIME, part one.

Is this a tipping point, in Iran? Are there long tails? Outliers? Is it an infinite jest? Will says Iran will never be the same, and finds criticism that Obama should be doing more to be "foolish." Bill Keller says that the movement is widespread, not just localized in Tehran or in the hands of "effete university students." Keller also says that the security forces are showing some reluctance to act, but that the Baseej forces are utterly ruthless.

Cokie Roberts is wearing lime green in solidarity, maybe? Let's just say so. She applauds the bravery of Iranian women, taking to the streets. Donaldson also thinks Obama's approach is wise. This panel is likely to feel that way, moreso than Fox's panel. So far, only Roberts suggests that Obama needs to "stay on top of it" better. She asks what the Iranians want, of Keller, who says that Iranians want "moral support" and not to "slip from view," but beyond that, no clear call for a heavier hand.

Reich thinks that Obama's Cairo speech was "electrifying across the Middle East" especially among the young. I would like to believe that is true! But here's the thing! Even if voters in Lebanon and demonstrators in Iran to a man tell us that the Cairo speech catalysed them to act, I think I'm still gonna have to be handing out the bulk of my props to Lebanese and Iranians, you know? Heavy lifting, self-sacrifice, facing the teeth of crackdown? That's the stuff I find electrifying.

Now, I think I heard something about Obama's polls "falling to earth" at the top of the show. So, for perspective, via Matt Yglesias:

And Stephanopoulos says it was a "rough week" for the President on health care. Well, if the President wants to support a public option, he'll be okay, and here's why:

Will says that Obama's health care ship took on water but is not foundering. Reich feels that the CBO hasn't fully taken the cost savings of the public option into account. Of course, this is another round table asking over and over again: "How does the president plan to pay for it?" One day, wouldn't it be awesome to actually debate the merits of a health care policy? I mean, we hear so much about the political obstacles to passing health care. And then, on the campaign trail, candidates promise to fix this. And then, BOOM: SORRY, POLITICAL OBSTACLES. And then: POW! More promises on the campaign trail! HOW LONG MUST THIS DUMBASS DANCE GO ON! If these people can't figure it out this time, then there ought not to be a single incumbent returning to office in 2010.

"How will the president pay for it." How will Americans pay for health care? Why don't we ever ask that question, on teevee shows?

George Will thinks that "we don't need a government health care plan" just like we didn't need a government computer company. But the government intervenes heavily in the computer industry! Or have all those Microsoft court cases just eluded me? And where would the computer industry be today if the government hadn't developed the Arpanet, way back when?

Reich points out that with no one else able to rub two nickels together to make a dime, government spending and concomitant deficits are a Keynesian reality. Cokie Roberts says "OMGZ THE PUBLIC OPINION POLLS THOUGH!" Public opinion polls measure perception, they do not STEER REALITY. We can't make the economy get better by measuring opinion. But this is how debates go on teevee talk shows.

George Will attempts to get me to feel bad for his Medicare costs being passed on to his children. WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE WILL FAMILY OF PAUPERS?

Will thinks that the Obama/Media relationship is a love affair, but that in reality, the "adulation of journalists" is meaningless. His programs will either work or they won't work. Keller insists that he's been given scrutiny in the press. Donaldson suggests that Obama hasn't yet made any "big mistakes." Of course, you'll get the best and most well-examined criticism of Obama from the left. (Maybe Byron York can turn the Washington Examiner into the right-leaning TPM. It would make for a better debate.)

Meet The Press

Well, time to watch this on TiVo. Sadly, nothing I say will be as entertaining as the judgement Dave "The Mir Hossein Moussavi of Twitter" Weigel of the Washington Independent has already rendered, in two parts:

As I tweeted back, Gregory probably believes he won that bet. Anyway, a preview of what's to come!

What sort of monster wouldn't follow Dave on Twitter? (Seriously, the guy is like Shaolin style in 140 characters or less.)

Meanwhile: EPIC FAIL! My Tivo, rather then capturing Meet The Press, captured half of Meet the Press and a half-hour of golf! MANY GOOD WALKS ARE THIS SPOILED. And this means I have got to crank up the internets now, to watch the first half of this show. Gah.

Okay. Watching MEET THE PRESS inside the Windows Media Player is like the Sum Of All Fails, but here we go. Iran! Batons! Crackdown! That quiver in David Gregory's voice! Gravitas! This is the moment. This is the Time! THIS IS THE HOUR! FOR FRED THOMPSON! THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING.

Can a gathering of just two people -- Chuck Todd and Nina Easton -- really be considered a "political roundtable?" It's more like a "political booth at the local Arbys."

Anyway, David Gregory begins by reporting out the latest, and again, I have to wonder, why can't Gregory use his real, grown-up voice at the top-of-show voice over?

Anyway, Iran is cracking down on communication, the demonstrations are broad-based. Richard Engel says it's hard to say whether the demonstrations are growing in magnitude, but that the regime is officially calling the demonstrators "terrorists," whihc bespeaks a certain degree of momentum. Engel says that Moussavi's invocation of martyrdom suggests that he is willing to push the demonstrations forward.

What's the administration to do? Engel says that for now, they must watch and be "cautious not to wade to deeply into this...the movement is growing steam on its own."

Meanwhile, Benjamin Netanyahu is here, praising the courage of the Iranian people for fighting the regime. He says that no one knows what is happening on the ground, other than an apparent struggle for freedom, "You don't need the intelligence apparatus that modern states have to see that..." And with that, Windows media player cuts out. RESTARTING.

In other news, Huff Po contributor David Fiderer objects to my nicknaming of Dodd "Countrywide". Because of this and this. Dave Foley, meanwhile, continues to offer no objection to my nickname of Lindsey Graham. Also, Fiderer points out:

Did you notice how Cheney threw Hayes under the bus when he admitted that there was nothing much to the Saddam-Al-Queda fantasy? Hayes wrote an entire book about that delusion, called The Connection.

Hey, as long as Hayes gets paid, I imagine he's got no objections to anything Cheney says.

David Gregory fails in his first attempt to get Netanyahu to object to Obama's "non-meddling" stance in Iran. So, he tries again, asking the question in a different way, and this time, Netanyahu doesn't even bother answering the question, other than to say that a freedom-loving government does not crackdown on protestors, they invite them to the table.

But what about nuclear weapons? Let's shoehorn some American priorities into this mess! Netanyahu, obviously, doesn't want Iran to obtain the nuke and doesn't think that the weapons represent a mere "status symbol" to the Iranian regime. He says that a "change in policy" would be a "game-changer." He doesn't stipulate one way or the other that the demonstrations represent a chance to walk back from that brink, only that he suspects "something fundamental might be happening" in Iran.

Anyway, David Gregory whips out David Sanger's book to ask, in the most roundabout way possible, whether or not Israel is going to bomb the bejeezus out of Iran. As you might suspect, Gregory's clever interrogation tactic does not fool Netanyahu, who won't stipulate anything specific except to reiterate that it's important to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Gregory goes and asks two more times if Israel will take "unilateral" action in Iran, and twice, Netanyahu doesn't answer.

Gregory then asks Netanyahu thirteen times if he's going to run for President in 2012.


Alright! Commercial over! Time for the Sam Nunn/Fred Thompson Meet The Press Coot-Off 2009! OMGZ: so much Southern Coot Goodness on this stage that if you scrape the organic matter they leave behind on those chairs you will be able to map the genomes of the KFC original recipe.

Iran! The scenes! So scary! Is Obama doing what you want? Fred Thompson says, "He's getting closer!" But he was "slow off the mark." Word! That's who you want telling you you are slow! FAMED POLITICAL SPEED DEMON FRED THOMPSON. He's fast-acting, like many over-the-counter remedies for gas! Obama was too calibrated! Not "tough" enough. Like many of Thompson's Hollywood monologues! Thompson also seems to think that Obama's actions are taken as a means of preserving his ability to negotiate with Iran, when in reality they are geared toward providing this protest movement with a shot at authenticity. UGH IT JUST SEEMS LIKE FRED THOMPSON HAS ALREADY BEEN SPEAKING FOR A JILLION YEARS.

Gregory's all, YEAH, YEAH, WHY IS THE PRESIDENT HOLDING BACK? Sam Nunn responds that Obama has condemned the regime, condemned the repression, and has been consistent. He goes on to underscore, a bunch of times, that "we are not the story." That's a really good way of looking at this. My response, upon hearing that Mike Pence, of all people, wanted to pass some kind of Congressional resolution, was to wish I could grab Mike Pence by the lapels and yell in his face, "GOOFUS DOOFUS. IT IS NOT! ALWAYS! ABOUT YOU!"

But what has tough talk gotten us, Gregory asks. Thompson says: "UHHH, BLUHH, yeah we've been losers forever." He then goes on to utter "Uhhhh" in about seventeen ways, all of which should be Auto-Tuned!

Now I can switch back to the teevee!

Sam Nunn says, "I agree with what Fred Thompson just said, this is a game changer. We're not going to see the same regime." Is that what what Fred Thompson just said? WOW. Sam Nunn is amazing. he is like the Fareed Zakaria of translating blithering Coot-Stammer into English.

Sam Nunn then says "game changer" about a million more times. David Gregory then asks the phrase "game changer" if it's going to run for president in 2012 twenty times.

Anyway, Sam Nunn says, WOO, RESTRAINT!

But what about North Korea? David Gregory's "take" is that the U.S. is in a tough position. What an amazing take! Take that take to Take Heaven, and get Take Jesus to pour Take Gatorade on it!

Health care debate! Fred Thompson! What's the haps? What's the word on Coot Street? What if we could socialize the moistening of your lips with a big spendy lip-wetness program? PRO: I wouldn't have to watch your tongue do it, at all times. CONS: THERE ARE NO CONS. Please tax me so I don't have to watch Thompson lick his lips ever again. His tongue is the Tapodong Missile of Human Secretion Grody-osity.

Fred Thompson believes that June 21st is a "late date" of the summer. UHM. IT IS THE FIRST DAY OF SUMMER. I have not yet started reading Infinite Jest yet. Anyway, David Gregory lets Fred Thompson blather on and on and on about bullcrap, because KNOWING THING ONE about health care is not his role! Shepherding Fred Thompson's spittle-snark into eternal stenography is. Anyway, here's some actual reporting from actual reporter Sam Stein about the CBO report that has "rattled" Gregory so.

Then there is like, a half-hour long coot aria from Fred Thompson.

GREGORY: Fred Thompson! Will something please hurt the Democrats?

THOMPSON: Uhhhhh...yuuuhhhhh...muuuhhhhhh.

Oooh, Then Gregory puts on his "serious" vote to talk with Sam Nunn about gays in the military. Nunn thinks it's time to take another look. Gregory: "ARE YOU SAYING IT'S TIME TO TAKE ANOTHER LOOK?" I think an essential part of the David Gregory Drinking Game is drinking everytime Gregory's follow-up question is "Wait! Did you just say that?"

OH, WATCH IT, NOW! Chuck Todd and Nina Easton are gonna break it down -- foreign and domestic -- and put it all together, like they were Lady GaGa and T-Pain up in this piece! Is Obama "passing the test" in Iran? BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT'S IMPORTANT. Obama must must must clear this arbitrary political hurdle! (Also, people are dying in the streets for freedom, but never mind! STENOGRAPHY IS AFOOT!)

Easton says that the question is "Is Obama going to let events get ahead of him?" YES, SOMEWHERE IN THAT IDIOTIC BLITHER OF SOLIPSISTIC BUNKUM IS "THE QUESTION."

Chuck Todd says that the administration wants "more credit" for sparking the revolution in Iran, citing the Cairo speech. Well, administration, I credit you with the correct response to the revolution but if you really want "credit" for it, than SUCK IT, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION. That's History's Game to play, if you ask me. And my grown up inclination is to reflect on the many ways we affect the world for which we don't receive a cookie. In fact, sometimes, the best course of action requires you to look like you did nothing at all. If anyone's skulking around the White House having themselves a big old sad because they wish they were getting props for what's happening in Iran, then there are some White House officials in need of some brainpan examinations, right about now.

Meanwhile, David Gregory puts a WaPo headline on the screen, that reads, "Obama Initiatives His Speed Bumps On Capitol Hill," saying "THAT'S REALLY SOMETHING." Yes. That's Meet The Press, circa now, where just the headlines of articles have a blinding shininess!

Nina Easton, loves that headline. "SPEEDBUMP!" she says! Nina Easton: floored by a single word in the English language! Matt Yglesias wrote a few weeks back that "One of the frustrating elements of the health care debate in the United States is that not only are the legislative options constrained by the dread 'political reality' but the actual conversation around the issue is weirdly hemmed-in by America's ideological hang-ups."

This nonsensical conversation is a great example of this. There's no party at this table even pretending to understand word one about why Obama might want health care reform in the first place. Nowhere on the Meet The Press set do you get the sense that there is an awareness of a public that is underserved by the health care industry. And whenever people like David Gregory acknowledge that the costs of the current system are crippling, it's always followed up by "but fixing it will cost money, too!" WHERE'S MY FREE LUNCH?

And so, rather than even discuss the merits of the plan, or any plan, or even standing pat, we literally have a staged-for-television circle-jerk of ostensible grown-ups, seemingly wetting their pants over a single word in a single headline, pretending that it contains multitudes, when in reality, their own imaginings are so stunted, that the mere pretense that these discussion serve a vital weekly role for the country is like a blistering insult to one's intelligence.


Chuck Todd says that some Democrats are worried that Obama is trying to do too much. MEANWHILE MILLIONS OF AMERICANS CANNOT GET BASIC HEALTH CARE WITHOUT BEGGING FOR IT.

Seriously: in this health care debate, there is not a single outside-the-Beltway thought being expressed. i don't even understand the words that are coming out of Chuck Todd's mouth anymore. People are anxious over the GM deal? Because GM is the thing people can "touch and feel?" No one was buying these cars, to touch or feel! And this how seamlessly transitions to GITMO? And Gregory saying, "Wow, I bet the Democrats wish George Bush was doing more talking, now!" It is literally an orgy of media obsessions on the teevee right now, lubed by oily conventional wisdom.

Mercilessly, it's over. I really thought the Fred Thompson part would be the worst. But that attempt at a roundtable was just an embarrassment. If there are any alien races receiving that transmission, I beg them, come to our solar system and pulverise the ever-loving snot out of us, with your laser beams.

Okay. I am spent. Continue this nonsense in the green room, people. Or go, have a life on this Sunday. Call your father, it's father's day. See you next week.

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